Dianna Rubey working with students

Category : Academics

In-Depth: Quail Run Elementary’s International Baccalaureate

Monday , November 08 , 2021

Reading time: 6 minutes

To showcase the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP), we’ve met up with Dianna Rubey, PYP Coordinator at Quail Run Elementary School, to get a first-hand look into this exceptional program and how it benefits our students.

Dianna, being the IB PYP Coordinator at Quail Run Elementary School encompasses a lot, but if you had to narrow it down to just a short sentence about what you do for Quail Run Elementary School, what would you say? I’m here to help teachers implement IB and develop units of inquiry by modeling lessons and providing resources and professional development. I also encourage students to become inquisitive and develop the skills needed to become lifelong learners and assist parents with developing their understanding of the PYP. 

Since 2010, Quail Run Elementary has been an authorized IB World School. Can you tell our readers who may not be familiar with IB more about the program? IB programmes aim to develop internationally minded students who can work with others to create a better and more peaceful world. IB has 10 learner profile attributes that encourage students to become the best they can be. These attributes are embedded in everything we do at Quail Run and truly embody the IB mission. We also encourage students to look for ways to take action, which can be taken individually or with others. We encourage students to consider how they might take action by asking, now that you know, what are you going to do?

IB PYP is the beginning of a progression that carries forward through middle school and high school. How does this program lay the foundation for student success throughout the school experience? That’s a great question. IB PYP helps students explore learning through an inquiry-based focus. While we address state standards, we also go beyond to encourage curiosity and challenge students to search for answers, developing a deeper understanding of concepts. Encouraging students to explore their interests leads to them being more involved and engaged in their learning. The collaboration, problem-solving, reflection, and critical thinking skills our students gain help them successfully transition to middle school no matter where they continue their learning journey. 

At Quail Run, every student participates in IB PYP. Can you provide a snapshot of how the program is incorporated into the curriculum? The PYP, like all IB programmes, is transdisciplinary. Students learn across subject areas while investigating big ideas. We want to create authentic, rigorous learning experiences to nurture curiosity, creativity, and the ability to reflect and foster a lifelong love of learning in every child.

There are four main components of the PYP framework: knowledge, skills, learning, and action. Knowledge and learning come from six transdisciplinary themes, conceptual understandings, and student interests. Skills refer to the academic skills all students need to help them grow into independent, self-motivated learners. The action component helps students develop their potential and responsibility for learning and caring for the world around them. Throughout these framework components, we place emphasis on collaborative inquiry and integrated learning that honors the curiosity, voice, and contribution of students.

Students in IB Programme at Quail Run Elementary SchoolYou briefly touched on the six transdisciplinary themes. Can you explain how these themes are taught? The six transdisciplinary themes are significant and relevant regardless of where students are in the world. Students learn about significant concepts through these units. The themes are: 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. 

PYP units of inquiry interweave subject areas such as mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. This approach encourages students to make their own connections between what they learn in core subject areas and how it relates to the world around them. These units include skills that assist our students in becoming collaborators and problem solvers who are prepared to explore the world both locally and globally.

PVSchools is fortunate to have the IB PYP available to all Quail Run Elementary students. Dianna, how do students benefit from this program? Through their journey as IB learners at Quail Run, our students evolve into responsible and productive members of our community. Their experiences build their skills over the years. As sixth-grade students, they culminate their PYP journey with an Exhibition Showcase where they can apply their skills in asking questions, researching, collaborating, reflecting, and taking action. They present their learning to our entire school community. Our students leave Quail Run ready to succeed in any setting.

For the past 11 years, thousands of Quail Run students have benefited from IB. During your time as coordinator, are there any student success stories you can share with us? Wow, there are so many! Two that come to mind immediately involve fifth-graders during different years. After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, this particular group of students discussed the event and decided to help those affected. The students researched ways to help and contacted the Red Cross, who had never been approached by students before. The children donated their own money and took it upon themselves to set up a booth at our spring carnival, where they shared their learning and asked for additional donations. A Red Cross representative came and thanked them for the $400 donation. The teacher still talks about the students who pushed to do this and how they followed through with every idea as a group. 

The second story is about an entire fifth-grade group of students who created a plastic bag recycling program at school. When the students visited the City of Phoenix Recycling Center, they noticed that plastic bags were jamming the machines. The children returned to school and discussed how they might stop this from happening. They planned, advertised, and took charge of encouraging their parents and teachers to bring in plastic bags and not put them in their recycling bins at home. The students visited classrooms and asked other children to talk to their parents about being careful with plastic bags. 

Another great example at Quail Run is our annual food drive. Our first-graders explore farming long ago and today as part of the Where We Are in Place and Time unit. They visited a farm and were able to pick food from the ground. As part of this unit, we discuss how others get food and help them realize that not everyone has the same access to food. We ask them to talk with their families about how they, as first-graders and other children at our school, could help people get food. The children came up with the idea to hold a food drive, and we are now able to donate 100 boxes of food to the Paradise Valley Community Food Bank each year. 

Can you explain how it prepares students to transition into the Middle Years Programme (MYP) at Vista Verde Middle School and the Diploma Programme (DP) at North Canyon High School? That’s a great question! I reached out to some former Quails to help me respond to this question and spoke with a couple of our Diploma Students at North Canyon High School. 

Max Votruba, a junior at North Canyon High School, shared, “The Quail Run PYP prepared me for the MYP and DP programmes in middle and high school by making IB the forefront of our lessons and discussions. I was exposed to the phrases and core ideas of the program at a very young age, which allowed me to remain interested in IB. I had never not been learning in an IB way, and you could see that reflected in my studies. Basic concepts of learning come naturally to me. Some may say that IB at an elementary level isn't very important, but I argue it is perhaps one of the most important places to have it. IB is about broadening students' minds to what learning is and can be, and as a student at Quail Run in the PYP, I was able to explore and discover myself. These lessons I learned have carried me to where I am today.”

Alyssa Cook, a junior at North Canyon High School, shared, “Apart from helping me develop into a well-rounded individual capable of achieving any goal I set myself, the one thing that has helped me the most are the friends I've made in this program. IB is a wonderfully tight-knit community that works together to better ourselves and our community. The latter we did through projects, such as our sixth-grade Exhibition Project. For me, this project was daunting at the time; after all, I'd never had to do a project without clear directions from my teacher before. By learning how to work together with my peers and create a project that was all our own, I learned valuable lessons about teamwork and self-discipline, skills that I apply almost every day in high school, and which I used again for our Community Service Project in middle school. Overall, I feel that I benefited immensely from my time in PYP at Quail Run and would gladly advocate it for all other lifelong learners!”

Dianna, you have certainly provided an in-depth glimpse into the IB program at Quail Run. If someone was interested in a school tour, how could that be arranged? Our doors are always open to families, and we offer school tours several times a month for prospective families. If you have questions, please visit ibo.org, our school website at www.pvschools.net/qres, or email me at drubey@pvschools.net.