EARJ PYP Candidacy Consultant Visit

November 9, 2021

There is an extra air of excitement across both campuses this week as EARJ welcomes our International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) Consultant. The two-day visit on each campus will provide an opportunity for the consultant to meet with the Barra and Gavea leadership teams, teachers, students, and parents. The consultant will review progress in our work towards meeting the requirements for PYP authorization, which is set for the end of the next school year. Each school is unique and the consultant’s visit will be focused on guiding EARJ according to our particular identity and Brazilian context. This visit is a fantastic opportunity to show off the PYP  implementation in action with input from all members of the learning community.  Below are a few standout examples of what we are excited to share with the Consultant.

Student Community and Action

EARJ students have embraced the opportunity for increased voice, choice, and ownership in their learning across both campuses. Students are demonstrating their understanding of inquiry-based learning by asking questions, conducting research, and taking action on what they’ve learned. Highlights in Gavea include the creation of the Panther Leaders, a student action group focused on how to improve the lower school experience. One student-created event is an upcoming dodgeball tournament during recess. Over on the Barra campus, highlights in student action initiatives include the creation of a virtual company and charity raffle for SUIPA and Kids for Saving Earth campaigns around promoting sustainability through recycling.

Teaching Community & Professional Development

Teachers across both EARJ campuses have been fully immersed in ongoing professional development around inquiry-based teaching and learning. Teaching teams will meet with the consultant to share how they have contributed to the development of each campus’ Programme of Inquiry and their specific units. Literacy has been an area of focus during our candidacy. Teachers have revisited reading assessment practices and reflected on how they are building connections and consistency between curriculum standards and Literacy within the PYP framework. Updated systems for reviewing student learning data are also in progress. The Brazilian National Curriculum is being considered within each unit of inquiry to further align teaching and learning across all subject areas. We are very proud of the work our PYP teachers have contributed to the development of a rigorous and challenging program.

Parent Community & Reflection on the Process

Parents are a key part of the PYP journey and the consultation process offers a unique opportunity for parents to share their perspectives and reflection on the process with the consultant.  Focus group meetings offer great insight into how parents have embraced the PYP and their partnership as part of the learning community at EARJ.

The PYP journey requires a great deal of work in curriculum alignment, assessment review, and building the Programme of Inquiry on each campus.  This critical work would not be possible without the strong leadership of our two outstanding PYP Coordinators, Anna Cottrell, and Sue Loafmann.  After a year of planning, we are ready for this huge milestone in our journey. This is the next important step in our commitment to adopting the IB Continuum across all divisions and becoming a fully recognized IB World School. We are thrilled to celebrate this accomplishment with the EARJ community!

Interested in learning more? Get to know the PYP.

Doreen Garrigan and Kirstin White
Gávea and Barra Lower School Principals

The Arts Matter

October 26, 2021

At EARJ, we focus on guiding students to develop a conceptual understanding of learning objectives. This is accomplished through an approach to teaching and learning that does not aim to merely transmit knowledge but that requires students to demonstrate levels of thinking that will allow them to formulate understandings that they can retain in order to transfer the acquired skills and knowledge to new circumstances. This approach to learning takes place in all subject areas, many of which you would anticipate and others where you may not.

The Performing Arts

Student learning in drama and other performing arts classes epitomizes the conceptual approach to learning where students learn about on-stage performance and its associated skills and develop the ability to apply them in a number of scenarios. Additionally, according to Barra Upper School Drama teacher Fernando Pisani, students also learn how to respond creatively to solve problems through emotional control and sense awareness. In these areas, in particular, the performing arts make a difference in the lives of students, as through drama, students recreate and examine people’s actions, including their own. By testing and resolving human predicaments, drama activities help students to successfully face emotional, physical, and intellectual challenges in their own lives. Further development of the 4 C’s of 21st-century skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) requires real-time problem-solving and readiness to respond proactively in stressful situations. Responding effectively under pressure in real-time is the very definition of all performing arts and develops skills that all students benefit from developing in their everyday lives.

Future Readiness

A survey of 400 human resource executives of major U.S. corporations identified the top requirements of new recruits as being oral and written communication skills, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, professionalism/work ethic, teamwork, and collaboration skills (Trilling and Fadel, 2009). The importance of similar skill sets have been developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and are also the subject of numerous books including The Global Achievement Gap (Wagner, 2010). The Performing Arts can and do play an important role in the development of these skills and help to support students by contributing to their overall academic success and future career opportunities.

The Road Ahead

The EARJ community has consistently supported the Arts and has done so recently through participation in virtual exhibitions, live Zoom concerts, and recorded dramatic activities. At present, the students on both campuses have been working hard on theatrical productions that they are excited to share the details about.

Barra Campus

Barra Upper School drama students have been working hard rehearsing and look forward to performing Agatha Christie’s, “And Then There Were None” in the Barra campus gymnasium. The play is an adaptation of the mystery novel that was first published in the United Kingdom in 1939. With more than 100 million copies sold, “And Then There Were None” is the world’s best-selling mystery novel and one of the best-selling books of all time. The school production promises some surprising twists and turns that will keep everyone guessing about, “who dunnit?”

Gávea Campus

The Gavea Upper School is pleased to announce that they will be bringing the musical Mamma Mia! to the stage. Mamma Mia! takes place on a mythical Greek island in the present day, and centers around a young girl named Sophie who dreams of a white wedding, with her father giving her away at the altar. The problem is, she’s got three possible dads and has invited them all to the wedding! The high school production of Mamma Mia! is an undertaking that will also include the participation of both Middle School and Lower School students. The show is a real crowd-pleaser that will have everyone wanting more!

The Arts matter and so does our appreciation of them. EARJ thanks you for your support of the Arts and looks forward to your attendance at future events in the Lower and Upper Schools as circumstances allow.

Scott Little
Barra Upper School Principal

Creating a Positive School Culture

August 24, 2021

What type of school culture or school environment do we want at EARJ? I care about this as a principal because the culture or environment of a school can have an impact on the well-being of students, faculty, staff, and parents.

Many years ago I coordinated a program in a large school district in Washington state. My job included visiting many of the district’s schools on a regular basis. A number of the schools had the same architectural design, including layout and floor plan. But regardless of the almost identical nature of one school building to the next, the difference in school culture and environment I felt by walking through the doors of one school as opposed to another was palpable. In some cases, a school felt warm or welcoming or positive or even joyful, while in other cases walking into another school could feel ominous or sterile or chaotic or just depressing. Every school has a culture and environment, whether the school is intentional about this or not.

Thousands of schools around the world have drawn upon research and practices that grew out of the business context to create the culture and environment they wanted. Marcus Buckingham, in his classic book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, drew upon interviews from more than 80,000 managers and more than one million employees. Among the top 10-12 characteristics he found for a positive and engaging workplace environment were such things as: employees knew what was expected, received recognition each week for good work, had a supervisor who cared and paid attention, received encouragement to contribute and improve, could identify someone at work who is a “best friend”, saw people around them committed to doing a good job, felt they were learning new things and getting better at what they did, and they had the opportunity to do their job well.

Now go back through that same list above, but instead of thinking about managers and employees, think about teachers and students. A positive school culture and environment is created when students know what is expected, receive regular recognition for good work, have teachers who care and pay attention, receive encouragement to contribute and improve, can identify a “best friend” at school, see other students around them committed to doing a good job, feel they are learning new things and getting better at what they do, and have the opportunity to do well as a student.

Schools that have successfully focused on building a positive school culture, have taken the elements list above and summarized them as follows; A positive school culture is created when the school environment is predictable (including a common understanding of expectations for everyone), the school environment is positive (including regular recognition for positive behavior), the school environment is safe (violent and disruptive behavior is not tolerated), and the school environment is consistent (the adults, such as faculty and staff, use similar expectations for students). One simple strategy that I have emphasized with my faculty is to ensure that they are acknowledging positive behavior among their students three times as often as calling out negative behavior. Schools that do this consistently see dramatic improvement in overall positive behavior among students.

While I am pleased that students, faculty, and staff can already enjoy many aspects of a positive culture at EARJ, I look forward to a continual focus on further developing and enhancing a positive school culture and environment, so every day can be a joyful place of working and learning together.

Howard De Leeuw
Gávea Upper School Principal