Academics Overview ES
GAIS is accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) from Preschool to Grade 4.
The IB PYP is an international, academically rigorous, transdisciplinary program that is recognized worldwide. In the Elementary School our aim is to inspire students to achieve their potential in a stimulating and caring environment.
Philosophy and Methodology
The philosophy of the PYP is based on a commitment to inquiry-based teaching and the development of the whole child; socially, emotionally and intellectually. A core belief is that children learn more effectively when they connect new knowledge with existing knowledge in real-life contexts, in other words when learning is relevant and engaging.
The role of the teacher is to provide opportunities for students to build meaning and refine understanding through structured inquiry. In the process students develop critical thinking, research, self management, communication and social skills.
The IB PYP’s teaching methodologies are designed to:
- Involve students actively in their own learning
- Build on the student’s prior knowledge
- Pursue open-ended inquiry and real-life investigation
- Use a range and balance of best strategies and teaching practices from around the world
- Foster 21st century skills
GAIS’ small class sizes and nurturing environment ensure that the teachers and staff can focus on students’ social and emotional as well as intellectual development. Students are encouraged to become interculturally aware, independent, life-long learners; to inquire, wonder and investigate.
They are encouraged to be actively involved in the learning process and through differentiated teaching, a range of interests and learning styles, as well as abilities, can be accommodated.
The Elementary School curriculum is based on the relevant standards from the International Baccalaureate Organization, the State of California, and German-speaking countries.
Six transdisciplinary themes provide the framework for the Program of Inquiry and guide the development of six units of inquiry at each grade level.
The units are not subject-specific but make connections across all the disciplines; hence the term transdisciplinary.
The units provide students with experiences that have a logical sequence and build upon each other from year to year in connection to each theme.
All teachers responsible for students in a particular grade level plan the units of inquiry together. Whenever possible the core subjects and the single subjects are integrated into the unit of inquiry. Further information about individual subjects can be found under the Course Overview tab.
The PYP program promotes the use of a range of assessment strategies, which are designed to inform the teaching and learning process. Information about student progress is provided informally on an ongoing basis, Student report cards are sent out twice a year, there is a parent teacher conference in the fall and student-led conference in spring.
During the student-led conference children reflect on their learning over the year as well as their goals for the future.
Field trips are a valued part of GAIS’s inquiry-based, real world education. Each grade level undertakes a number of field trips that are directly linked to the units of inquiry.
Recent field trips include:
- Stanford Lively Arts
- The California Academy of Science
- San Mateo County History Museum
- Marine Science Institute
- Art Museum San Jose
- Hidden Villa
- SF Exploratorium
- Chabot Space and Science Center
A fundamental belief of the IB that is also reflected in GAIS’ mission statement is for students to become internationally-minded and this is embodied in the attributes of the IB Learner Profile.
The emphasis is on explicitly teaching and encouraging the following attributes: inquirer, thinker, communicator, risk-taker, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, balanced and reflective.
We encourage all members of the GAIS community to exhibit and foster these attributes; students, staff and parents.
The teachers at GAIS are committed to providing an excellent education for our students. They are recruited from around the world, are highly qualified and many have previous experience with the IB PYP.
IB training is an ongoing expectation that GAIS supports, as part of staff professional development. Further information about individual Elementary School faculty members is available under the ES Team website tab.
At GAIS we believe that a strong parent-teacher-student partnership is critical. Regular grade level newsletters are sent home and parents are invited to volunteer for class activities such as field trips. Parents are also encouraged to be actively involved in the wider GAIS community.
Community Service & Action
Successful global education leads to responsible student actions with the aim of making the world a better place. Students demonstrate this action in the school community (e.g. organizing events), local community (e.g., food/clothing drives), and globally (e.g. through fundraising).
Students should expect to spend between 20 to 40 minutes on homework plus reading per night depending on their grade level. GAIS offers a homework club as an extra-curricular activity.