International Baccalaureate PYP

When you walk around the Primary campus there is significant evidence of inquiry learning taking place. The students in Year Six are currently finalising their presentations for the PYP exhibition and have many great ideas about taking action to help our world become a better place. Some students are investigating food waste, another group has identified screen addiction as an area that needs attention and other groups are working on important issues such as sun protection, air pollution and forest preservation.

For the Year Six students, the PYP Exhibition is the culmination of their learning. It is an opportunity to share their ideas with the community and to take action on issues that concern them. The Exhibition will be open to our College community on Wednesday 5 September and each primary class will visit during school hours. Family members are most welcome to visit the Exhibition when it is open after school from 3.30 to 5.00pm.

Every class from Year One to Six completes six Units of Inquiry each year, while Kindergarten and Prep can participate in four or five instead. When you visit the different classrooms you can see evidence of student learning associated with the Units of Inquiry. For example, the Year Two students have recently inquired into Forces, such as push and pull. They constructed playgrounds or games to explain concepts associated with different forces.

In Year Five rich tasks in Mathematics had students creating domino games containing fractions. By the expressions on their faces they were clearly thinking about the task and applying their knowledge in new ways. Experiences such as this help our students to develop deep thinking and understanding, not just simple memorisation. There is a difference between real mastery and knowledge. For example, children can often remember their times tables by practicing them over and over again and they can give you a quick answer to a simple multiplication question. They clearly know their times tables. However, this does not mean that they have mastered multiplication or can apply the knowledge they have in different ways. Real mastery and deep understanding is evident when a student can use the knowledge they have, such as times tables, to solve problems and apply this knowledge in a variety of situations.

Similarly, with reading, children can read quite fluently and have the ability to decode words so that they pronounce them correctly. However, they may not comprehend, or understand what they have read because they do not know the meaning of the words or how to use them in other texts. We must be careful not to assume that just because a child knows a word, he understands the word.

Traditional teaching models often focus on the imparting of knowledge and limit the students’ opportunities to ask questions and think deeply. At St John’s our teaching programs are very different with a real focus on encouraging our students to inquire, question ideas and reflect on their learning. We believe this student focus leads to the development of greater understanding.