What is an International school exactly?
"We are trying to overcome the stereotype that Americans are ignorant about world issues, and have a low level of fluency in other languages," explained Jamie Duis, International Baccalaureate coordinator about one of the goals of the IB program.
Two middle schools in Park City have become the first fully authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP) schools in the state of Utah, according to Treasure Mountain International School (TMIS) principal Bob O’Connor. It was announced this week that the two schools have met the requirements and are now officially accredited schools.
This honor may sound prestigious, but what does it mean exactly? The International Baccalaureate is a program is a 40-year-old program that began in Switzerland, explained Duis, who works at Treasure Mountain. There are currently over 656,000 students in 2,401 schools in 129 countries that are part of the IB program.
Some students at Treasure Hill are more aware of what it means to attend a globally oriented school than others. A few students said that they didn’t think anything was different. Keeley Ruttan, a TMIS student explained that, "the classes are cross-curricular. In history we learn about ancient mathematicians and we learn about writing scientific notation in science class, which is English."
Tiana Aplanalp, a Treasure Mountain Spanish teacher, organized a project last year in which she and her students put together 100s of hygiene kits and sent them to orphanages in Afghanistan. Aplanalp explained that she used the exercise and other similar projects to help her students understand what it means to be a world citizen.
Several years ago, the Park City School District recognized a lack of opportunities for motivated students at the middle school level, which is why they decided to implement the program at the middle schools instead of at the high school or elementary schools, Duis explained.
TMIS and Ecker Hill International Middle School (EHIMS) became pilot members of the IB program six years ago. As pilot schools they began incorporating the ideals of IB and encouraging students to work towards earning their MYP Certificate.
Students who wish to go above and beyond are encouraged to earn their MYP Certificate. The certificate is like graduating cum laude, Duis explained. In order to earn the certificate, students must finish a personal project in ninth grade, complete a certain number of hours of community service, and demonstrate competence in core classes. The ninth grade project can be artistic, service, or academic based, and Duis said students can choose to work on anything that interests them. Last year about 50 ninth graders earned their certificate, but Duis said that number could double this year.
One common misperception Duis pointed out is that many parents ask if their child is part of the IB program. According to Duis, just by attending classes at Ecker Hill or Treasure Mountain, students are exposed to and benefit from the IB ideals.
Another component of the IB program is that it encourages students to take a second language. Duis explained that about 87 percent of students at Treasure Mountain were enrolled in a second language class last year.
Ray Timothy, district superintendent explained that being an IB school increases academic rigor at the international schools and helps students transfer easily between other IB accredited schools. Being part of the IB program costs the district about $5,000 for a membership fee each year, Duis explained. Additional costs include salaries for two part-time coordinators, and other incidentals.
Duis explained that as international schools, Ecker Hill and Treasure Mountain have a more unified curriculum and a more holistic teaching philosophy. Duis referred to the program as a context to put their curriculum into, and she explained that the schools still teach the subject matter determined by the state of Utah. The difference is that classes at the middle schools overlap thematically and have a strong focus on developing learners that have an open-minded and educated world view. Curriculum at the local "world schools" aims to develop students with certain learning qualities. This goal is accomplished, Duis explained, by asking students to do a lot of reflection. Students are asked questions like why they’re here, what they’re doing, and is it meaningful, as part of the reflection process, Duis explained.
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