Nellie Muir Elementary School has been named an International Baccalaureate World School, the 11th elementary in Oregon to do so

by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Nellie Muir Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rosa Floyd asks her class what IB means last week. Students responded by saying, 'IB means we're special and we're learning about the world.' The school has been named an International Baccalaureate World School after an intensive four-year process.After four years of shifting curriculum, professional development and site visits, Nellie Muir Elementary School is now the 11th elementary school in Oregon to be named an International Baccalaureate World School.

The distinction is for a globally-recognized academic program that differs from traditional curriculums because it focuses on a constructive teaching approach, specific alignment across grade levels and classrooms and focus on the student’s character.

“It’s not about, ‘You listen to what I say,’ but there’s more engagement,” said Nellie Muir Principal Todd Farris. “It’s encouraging students to think on their own, to make assertions and be able to say why or how they came to that conclusion.”by: ROSA FLOYD - Daniela Hernandez discusses a project with a classmate in this photo taken last year when she was in kindergarten. This IB science project required students to research different frog species and share what they learned with the class.

He pointed out that Woodburn School District as a whole focuses on this model, but IB is different because the curriculum is structured into units called transdisciplinary themes: who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organize ourselves and sharing the planet.

Even Nellie Muir kindergartners know they’re learning differently, answering the question, “What is IB?” with, “IB means we’re special and we’re learning about the world.”

IB also identifies specific words and learning methods.

“It makes it more powerful for the kids, that it resonates for all K-5 students,” Farris said. “If we’re aligned as teachers we’re more efficient and effective.”

IB also requires an action piece, meaning that at the end of a unit, students have to demonstrate something to show what they’ve learned. Sometimes it’s as simple as journaling about their experience, while other times they carry out projects or community service.

“A lot of schools struggle with that action piece, and when we had our site visit, that’s one thing they recognized that we do well,” Farris said. “We value and intentionally make time and space for activities that show we appreciate the world around us.”

One of the most recent examples of this is Jessica Firestone’s second-grade class holding a Valentine sale to send money to the Savalee Children’s Home in India. They raised $270.

The process to become an IB school has taken four years of refocusing the curriculum, providing professional development and hosting site visits. Being named an IB school, with its seal of international approval, doesn’t come cheap: The annual fee is $10,000, and that doesn’t include the teacher training.

“Every licensed staff member has to be trained in IB,” Farris said. “It’s to ensure that level of quality.”

Being an IB school also provides opportunities to collaborate with other IB schools around the world.

“We have that seal of approval; we’ve passed the test,” Farris said. “It means we are entering into a partnership and we agree to follow the IB framework, to learn more and to share with the community.”

Woodburn High School already offers IB at the junior and senior levels in three of its small schools. A student who graduates with an IB diploma enters college as a sophomore and can attend any university in the world, according to Lynn King, International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement coordinator for the Woodburn School District.

“This curriculum is what students worldwide are learning,” she said. “The IB program provides the skills our students need to compete and succeed in a global economy.”

Former Nellie Muir Principal Sherrilynn Rawson, who began the IB process at the school, is now co-principal at the Heritage-Valor campus, and that could position her to take on an IB middle years program, which the district has identified as a goal in its strategic plan.

“We are extremely proud of the administrators and faculty at Nellie Muir for this achievement,” said Superintendent Chuck Ransom. “This is a huge accomplishment that will benefit our students and the community.”

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