FAQ Elementary School
The International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Program (PYP) is a curriculum framework designed for young learners (ages 3-12) in international schools. Over 250 schools worldwide currently use this program, which is sponsored and funded by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). It focuses on the development of the whole child through an inquiry based learning approach that expose children to worldwide perspectives while ensuring their full academic development within solid core curriculum.
In the PYP we believe that children learn when they connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. The role of the teacher is to provide opportunities for students to build meaning and refine understanding through structured inquiry. In the process the children learn social, thinking, research, self-management and communication skills necessary for all learning.
In the PYP the students learn about globally significant issues through units of inquiry. There are six units in the Vorschule- grade 5 and four in the Pre-School. The essential elements around which each unit is developed including concepts, skills, attitudes, knowledge and action. They are applied in a context defined by the six trans-disciplinary themes:
- Who we are
- Where we are in time and place
- How we express ourselves
- How the world works
- How we organize ourselves
- How we share the planet
We have used a whole school approach to develop a Program of Inquiry (POI) that provides students with experiences that have logical sequence and build upon each other from year to year The Units are based on science, social studies and personal and social education. However to be truly educated, students must make connections across all the disciplines, discover ways to integrate the separate subjects and ultimately relate what they learn in life.
All students study the classic core subjects such as Math, German, English, Art, PE and IT. In the PYP it is necessary to balance the program of inquiry and any core subject. Consequently the homeroom teachers plan the units of inquiry together with all core subject teachers. Whenever possible the core subjects are integrated into the unit of study for content and concept.
Example fourth grade:
The students inquired about how lifestyle has evolved over time. The concepts they were exploring were causation (why it is the way it is) and connection (how it is connected to other things). One of their investigations involved changes in school life over the years. Their German writing piece was a fantasy story about school 100 years ago (content). They also looked at the language arts topic of word roots connecting the conceptual understanding with the question: From where do words originate? In Math they worked on diagrams using examples from the development of traffic. It is a real life, inquiry-based on the causation question: Why was the data displayed in this form? When teaching large numbers the teacher used the example of growing population, before strengthening the skill in a math book. As an art connection the children worked on collage material and created collages of themselves in clothes that children would have been worn 100 years ago.
The PYP promotes the development of a list of behaviors that we call the learner profile. The PYP supports that children become inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective. The PYP also lists attitudes to be developed in the children that will contribute to the student profile. These are: appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, and tolerance.
The IB promotes the use of a range of assessment strategies, which are designed to provide a picture of your child’s progress. These progress reports will be reported to you regularly, both verbally and in writing. Once a year we also have student-led conferences, where the children present their accomplishments as well as their goals for the future.
By developing the trans-disciplinary skills, investigating the trans-disciplinary themes and addressing the various needs of the child- physically, socially, intellectually, aesthetically and culturally- the PYP ensures that the learning is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging, so that the child can reflect on the connections between life in school, life at home and life in the world. By helping the child make the connections and see that learning is connected to life, the PYP establishes a strong foundation for future learning. The trans-disciplinary themes have global significance; they promote an awareness of the human condition and an understanding that there is a commonality of human experience.
- Help them with their self management (organizational) skills by assuring that their homework is done (check their homework planner)
- Inquire into what they are learning and communicate your knowledge
- Support what they are learning in school by helping them at home (example: when they learn to read the clock at school, ask them to tell you what time it is at home)
- Support classroom learning through family fieldtrips
- Reflect on their portfolio together
- Visit their website.
- attend IB Information meetings
- Speak to PYP Coordinator
- Speak to your classroom teacher
- Read info mails from the office and your classroom teacher
Ideally, our children start out with preschool or pre-K where they are immersed in the German language by participating in circle time and playing with other children. After two years, non-native speakers are usually fluent in the German language. We also provide help for students new to the school by tutoring them in English (ESL=English as a second language) or German (GSL=German as a second language). It is up to the principal’s discretion to admit a child to first grade whose language proficiency in German may be insufficient.
The German-American International School is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Our German program follows the curriculum of various German states while our English Program (English, CA History, US Social Studies, US History and US Government ) complies with the curriculum of the State of California. In addition, GAIS is an authorized IB World school for the PYP.
Experience has shown that our students do not have any difficulties reintegrating into the German school system when returning to Germany or any other German-speaking country. They also integrate very well into the American school system. For more information, please review the student testimonials on our Website. The IB program does not detract from the German curriculum but adds to it. Thus it will allow for a smooth transition to American or German schools or other foreign schools.
Our school was founded in 1988. In 2002 the GAIS explored International school models. It was easily decided that the International Baccalaureate (IB) provided a curriculum framework for inquiry based learning that would be the perfect fit for our International school. In 2007 GAIS succeeded in becoming authorized for the Primary Years Programme (PYP). GAIS is also the first IB World School taught primarily in the German language. Please find more information about the history of GAIS here.
As the second strongest exporting country worldwide, following the United States, Germany is an important business partner for the United States. For example, most of the American high-tech companies have transferred their European headquarters to Germany, which has established Munich as the European Silicon Valley, due to the local infrastructure advantages. Increasing temporary international assignments and student exchanges bring cultures together, with the language building the bridge for communication.
Our school is known for its caring, family-oriented atmosphere. “Newcomers” at preschool feel integrated in no time. They start blossoming through the variety of activities offered and our teachers’ high commitment, love, dedication and endless patience. The children’s growth continues to foster in school where the instruction is child-centered. The child is encouraged to participate proactively by voicing his/her opinion through contributing to class discussions, presentations in front of the class, on stage and in front of the society. Project work, often accomplished in teams, is part of practicing cooperation. Awareness of the world is increased through a strong multicultural emphasis and community service projects. Interdisciplinary and cross-curricular studies are thematically arranged for the student to gain a broadened and international perspective. The program boosts self-reliant, independent, critical thinking, which is based on the belief that language is the base for communicating, learning and thinking.
We have a 70/30% split with German being the language taught in the core subjects. Besides English, CA History, US History, US Government and US Social Studies (CA curriculum), Music and Ethics are taught in English following the German curriculum. Both English and German are taught as native languages by native speakers starting in the first grade, which brings the children up to speed quickly.
The level of proficiency your child achieves in a language may also depend on your parental involvement, support, practice and exposure to both languages.
We usually offer a variety of afternoon programs for our students as well as classes for adults. Please look at our website for additional information. English and German are introduced in the first grade and taught as native languages by native speakers. Spanish is introduced as an optional third language in the third grade, and French as a fourth language in the fifth grade and taught by a native speaker.
In addition to being qualified IB teachers, all of our teachers have either German or California teaching credentials or both. Most of them have been with the school for at least five years and quite a few of them have had international work experience before they joined our school. All teachers have the credentials to teach more than one subject. Thus they instruct the children more often during the week, which creates a favorable, close working relationship between the teacher and the child.
Parental involvement is required to keep our tuition and fees at a reasonable level. Our school community is very active and every parent is required to take over an area of responsibility throughout the year. There are three different ways to fulfill your voluntary work contribution: Become a board member (elected by the society) which manages the school; become a parent representative (PTA) which is elected by class parents; join a committee of your choice or choose one independent job which is suitable to your time schedule or a monetary contribution.
The German-American International School values tolerance and the respect of people and things in our environment. Relationships with other members of the community and especially with other students must be based on these principles. A set of House and Recess Rules refer to these principles and are binding on everyone enrolled. In order to ensure that students observe the House and Recess Rules, appropriate disciplinary measures may be employed. The goal of any disciplinary measure should be to encourage positive behavior and produce a safe environment for all students. The most effective discipline plans, though, are the product of mutually supportive parent-school partnerships.
Registration usually starts mid-February, but applications are accepted year-round. Please see more information about the admission process here.