ISB Students Inspired By New Interdisciplinary Courses

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( — April 15, 2019) Beijing, Beijing —

“We’re designing these courses to increase student choice and different learning opportunities, and we’re really seeking to offer courses that are more aligned to real-world experiences and take learning outside of the school walls,” said Kelsey Giroux, one of the leads in an innovative program of interdisciplinary learning at the International School of Beijing (ISB).

What Giroux is referring to are the new, interdisciplinary course choices ISB is offering students, courses which combine different traditional academic disciplines in an innovative approach to learning.

As ISB nears the end of its pilot year for the two courses – Science and Engineering and Action Research – the school is introducing two more in the academic year beginning August 2019.

And with the sign-up period for course choices having just closed, students are looking forward to some exciting opportunities.

Next year, ISB will offer Science and Engineering, currently only taught to Grade 9 students, to Grade 10s. They are also going to offer the Action Research course, currently taught to Grade 10 students, to Grade 9 students as well.

The Evolution of ISB’s New Interdisciplinary Courses

Close to five years ago, ISB started their Futures Academy in the Middle School, which didn’t change what the students were learning, but instead how they were learning.

As the program grew, the school started one in the High School with a different approach.

“Students designed their own projects and experiences, and it was based on their passions and interests and we helped facilitate that,” Giroux said.

With a full-day time commitment, the program didn’t attract many students, though they liked the idea of interdisciplinary learning.

And since ISB has its own curriculum, it has the flexibility to adapt and change its programs to best meet the needs of the students and ensure its future is a successful one.  

“We discovered what was important in those classes were some aspects of interdisciplinary learning, students having a voice of choice and that real-world context,” Giroux said. “We kept those as cornerstone pieces in these new courses.”

The new courses are in-depth, year-long programs which take up a double block rather than the full-day. Students receive credit for a core content area plus an elective credit.

“The elective is what gives us flexibility in these course designs,” Giroux said.

And according to ISB student, Noah M., the new courses offer a more hands-on approach to learning.

“When I was choosing courses, I noticed a course that took up two blocks and was a lot more hands-on than the other courses,” Noah said. “You also got to go on two trips to Cambodia.”

He chose to enroll in the Action Research program.

New Courses Offer Different Pathways to Students

“Every student is unique and we want to offer different pathways and opportunities to each student,” Giroux said.

According to Giroux, the new courses give students the ability to have choice in their learning.

“I think for some students they learn better when they can make connections across subject areas or some students really learn by doing or creating,” Giroux said. “My class took two trips to Cambodia, you don’t get much more real-world than that.”

And it’s this hands-on experience that has truly stuck with Noah.

“I found the course really great because it makes the stuff we’re learning applicable to our lives because going there and seeing things first-hand such as how people live, the amount of money they live on, the resources they need, the facilities they have and what we can do to help, it makes my research much more personal,” Noah said.

“Currently, I’m looking into solutions to the water crisis in Cambodia and how that can be fixed in a realistic and feasible way.”

Noah, in addition to having his eyes opened to real-world issues, has gained better researching and writing skills through the Action Research program.

“Learning how to combine my personal passion of history and social studies with writing and research, it’s enabled me to be a much better writer in English, but also a critical thinker and researcher for social studies,” Noah said. “It’s really applicable to everyday life and helps prepare me for my future.”

And as the teacher of the Action Research program, Giroux has seen the effects on these students, with many wanting to volunteer to help out next year’s classes.

“For them to be involved next year, that’s their choice, that’s not a class they’re taking, that’s them personally saying, ‘I’ve been really engaged in this work and I want to continue with it’,” Giroux said. “The conversations I’ve had with students who want to come back next year, those have been the ‘wow’ moments for me because, in some way, shape or form, it’s had an impact on them.”

And that is the purpose of a strong education, creating a learning environment where students actually want to learn.

“Our goal at the end of the day is always what is best for students and how can we improve student learning,” Giroux said. “That is the goal in education, so it always comes back to that.”

To learn more about these new interdisciplinary courses, click here to watch ISB’s video.

( — April 15, 2019) Beijing, Beijing —

About International School of Beijing

The International School of Beijing offers an academically rigorous, balanced and engaging learning environment enriched by being in China and strengthened by collaboration with parents and external partnerships. It cultivates inspirational and creative opportunities to develop each student’s unique potential. It nurtures confidence and intellectual curiosity through experiential learning and innovative applications of knowledge and skills.

International School of Beijing

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Shunyi District
Beijing, Beijing 101318
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