The Falls Church News-Press has partnered with George Mason High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Lasso, to bring its readers some of the top articles appearing in the student-run digital paper. This regular feature will appear monthly in the News-Press during the school year. The Lasso can be found online at www.fcpps.org/lasso.
Students & Teachers Prep for Big Changes With Middle Years Program
By Nhari Djan
George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School will soon be bridging the gap between the IB programs in the elementary school and the high schools by introducing the Middle Years Program (MYP), which is a pre-IB program for grades six to ten. MYP will not only continue the philosophy of IB throughout FCCPS, but the idea is that it will also prepare students to pursue the IB diploma or take IB courses in grades 11-12.
“We were approved as a candidate school [the year before last]. Which meant that we could start exploring MYP officially,” said Kelly Brown, IB coordinator. “We could start seeing how MYP would fit with our curriculum, we could start writing and adjusting our curriculum to match with the MYP focal points.”
To prepare for this change, teachers have to plan ahead to incorporate IB into their curriculums.
“The teachers are spending part of their professional development time on short Wednesdays putting their current curriculum into the MYP framework. They’re [teachers] are not planning a new curriculum, MYP is more of a pedagogical focus, which is the teaching style and how you teach it and how you approach the content. MYP has what are called ‘unit planners’. It’s really just a way that teachers organize the content that they’re teaching,” said Brown.
MYP won’t only change core classes, but classes like Physical Education and electives will also have to adapt.
“P.E. is going to change a lot. It’s going to be more reflections [and] more assignments, with papers rather than [only grading] participation,” said P.E. teacher Brandon Dye.
It is not only teachers, but also students who have to prepare for this new style of teaching and learning.
“I think [it’s] unnecessary,” said Caleb Parnell, a seventh grader, in response to hearing about the changes in P.E. “But for core classes, I think it’s important so we’ll be prepared or the IB courses when we take them.”
Thinking about the future opportunities the IB program as a whole may offer, eighth grader Harmony Lajeunesse said, “I know that it’s [the IB diploma] good if you want to go to school out of the nation and it’s the only other diploma [we have] than the standard diploma. For me personally, I like it because I want to go to a school in a different country, so I’m definitely doing it.”
“I think it will be good for the students because it will help them to be prepared and transition better to the high school program,” said sophomore Lindsey Stegenga. “I would have liked to experience this program in middle school, but I’m glad my younger brother will get to.”
William Stewart, biology teacher adds that the program will not be too much of a change because our schools have already been adapting IB methods.
“My expectations are that it’ll fold pretty seamlessly into what happens in the classroom already, because it’s not a radical departure from how we do things normally in my opinion,” said Stewart.
Flipped for Flipped Classrooms?
By Dorian Charpentier
A flipped classroom is a class in which the lessons are embedded inside online videos for people to watch at home, so that class time can be devoted to problem sets or labs.
Some classes at George Mason High School use the flipped classroom model either partly or entirely. Teachers spell out the benefits, whereas a portion of the students oppose it. They cite, most notably, the lack of opportunity to ask questions during the videos.
Sam Stern, a senior who takes IB Physics said, “Being able to ask questions during lectures is valuable.”
Douglas Bossart, a junior and classmate of Stern, said, “I think it is working because we have more time in class, but we should do more review at the beginning of classes.”
Meanwhile, teachers enumerate the benefits such as more class time for problems and labs and more flexibility in class planning. This also avoids teachers having to spew definitions which can just as easily be copied down from videos, and they might be time savers for students as well. Harris pointed to one understated advantage:
“We used to get a lot of the kids who used to go home and work on the WebAssigns or practice problems, and they come in and say they spent 45 minutes on one problem,” said GMHS science teacher Mr. Bryan Harris. With flipped classrooms, “[Students] can ask questions as soon as they get stuck.”
Flipped classrooms are occasionally used in mathematics but mostly in science classes at higher levels. Courses in the IB sciences ask that students take one year in whichever science the student wants to pursue.
“People in IB should have a passing familiarity with the material […], so there’s less foundation work that has to be done,” said Mark Sokolowski, who teaches IB Chemistry.
Most material in IB sciences is covered in precursing courses, albeit the content in IB is much more detailed, and it includes additional topics. That is why students in these courses have an easier time absorbing the lessons.
Ultimately, whether one will like flipped classrooms depends on his or her style of learning. Independent learners can come to love it, but those missing the interaction seem to dislike it..
These articles plus more from The Lasso available at www.fcpps.org/lasso.