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Parents Become Students for an Evening of IBDP Mini-Lessons

Friday, October 6, 2017

Like most schools, Stanwich’s hallways are commonly quiet after the last bell has rung, and students and faculty depart after a full school day. This certainly wasn’t the case on the evening of Wednesday, October 4, when nearly 100 Stanwich parents and Upper School students attended an Evening of IBDP Mini-Lessons. Stanwich is completing a two-year process to become authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) to students in Grades 11 and 12, beginning in the fall of 2018. Presented by Upper School faculty, the mini-lessons allowed participants to experience the excitement of learning in an IBDP classroom.

Participants attended two “mini-lessons” — 20 minute classroom simulations designed to highlight the distinctive IBDP curriculum and approach to learning.  Ranging from Art to Biology, from Psychology to Math, the lessons invited participants to witness first-hand how the IBDP encourages students to think critically and independently.  Afterwards, the assembled group participated in a “Theory of Knowledge” lesson, a signature element of the IBDP, during which students examine not only why they learn, but also how they learn. 

“It was traditional teaching, but the content delved deeper. There was an emphasis on understanding how to learn,” said Mindy Nagorsky Israel, parent of a Grade 5 student.

Echoing the positive feedback from fellow attendees, Michael Estock, parent of students in Grades 12, 8 and 3 said, “It seemed like the teachers were listeners. It wasn’t a one-way lesson, it was conversational.”

Alison Bevan, parent of a Grade 10 student said, “I love the idea of ‘what do you think’ instead of ‘here is the answer.’”

“I have two sons who graduated from Stanwich … and I recognized that the teachers are already teaching this way. This is a really great program,” said Jackie Rivera, parent of a Grade 10 student.

Students who attended the mini-lessons also walked away excited about being enrolled in IBDP classes next school year. “I actually thought the lessons would be more difficult. I liked how it correlated with the regular academic study we already have here. I feel that I’m ready and will really enjoy the program next year,” said Nicole Roldan, Grade 10 student.

Pointing out the important role classroom teachers hold, Grade 10 student Dylan McCormick said, “One thing I noticed, which is already great about Stanwich in general, is where the teacher/student connection in the lessons was deep, which is not like other schools.”

It is widely believed that high student achievement and strong school performance depend heavily on a school’s program and quality teaching. At Stanwich, exemplary faculty deliver focused, individualized attention that challenges students to achieve their personal best. The Stanwich graduating class of 2020 will be the first to graduate with both a Stanwich School diploma but also an opportunity to earn the IB Diploma, recognized as a gold standard of a quality secondary school education around the world. 

The IBDP is a curriculum taught in over 2,500 schools worldwide to students in Grades 11 and 12. The IBDP aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are prepared for living and working in a complex, highly interconnected world. The programme is known for its academic rigor and emphasis on students’ personal development. A “holistic” educational approach, it aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge – students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically. The principles underlying the IBDP are ideally suited to Stanwich because of their shared emphasis on the essential elements of the Stanwich mission: academic rigor, holistic learning, and improvement of the world.  

IB Diploma Program courses place a particular emphasis on independence, creative thinking, and information synthesis. “The program creates an environment that fosters independent learning and an autonomy that is critically important when students progress to higher learning,” said Jerome Murphy. “All of our research and all of the feedback that we have received supports the claim that students who participate in the Diploma Programme are far better prepared to succeed in college than those who do not. The program is highly effective at preparing students not only for college but also for life. ”

The requirements for the IB diploma conform to an international standard and include the completion of seven rigorous classes across a spectrum of subjects. The program also requires two long-form essays and self-selected extracurricular projects that are designed to promote engagement with the larger world.

“Pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma is an amazing opportunity. With a changing landscape and the uncertainties of the 21st century, more than anything else I believe an International Baccalaureate education for our oldest students is necessary for their success,” said Head of School Charlie Sachs.

Ending the evening with group reflections, Grade 10 parent Robin O’Hara summed up her main takeaway by saying to the attendees, “Our children are always asking us ‘how is this relevant,’ so now I can go home and say (the IBDP) will prepare you for college. That’s how it’s relevant.”

Click here for pictures from the evening.