When Willowbrook opened in 1998, we designed our curriculum based on the research of Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, Howard Gardner and similar researchers who value play and creativity in early childhood. Beginning in 2002, we began to implement an inquiry- based curriculum. In an inquiry-based classroom, the teacher is not the source of all knowledge. Instead, the teacher takes the role of facilitator, encouraging children to explore, research and study. In this way, children are allowed to create their own knowledge in a way that is most powerful and meaningful to them. In 2017, Willowbrook became an IB (International Baccalaureate) world school and we have been implementing the PYP (Primary Years Programme) framework in our existing Willowbrook inquiry-based curriculum.

Classes

Willowbrook classes are divided into Regular (English) and Dual Immersion (English and Japanese) programs. The ages, days and hours available are in the chart below.

Class Age Days Available Hours Available*
Regular Program
Kaze (Wind) 15m-2y M-F, M/W/F, T/Th Half day, Full day
Yuki (Snow) 2-3y M-F, M/W/F, T/Th Half day, Full day
Tsuki (Moon) 3-4y M-F, M/W/F, T/Th Full day
Hana (Flower) 4-5y M-F, M/W/F Full day
Dual Immersion Program
Yama (Mountain) 2-3y M-F, M/W/F, T/Th Half day, Full day
Take (Bamboo)
Takenoko (Bamboo Shoots)
3-5y M-F Full day
Matsu (Pine)
Matsubokkuri (Pinecones)
3-5y M-F Full day
Sakura (Cherry Blossom)
Sakuranbo (Cherry)
3-5y M-F Full day

*Half Day 8:15-12:30; Full Day 8:15-2:00

Curriculum Goals

The five essential elements of the PYP are:

1. Knowledge which is both disciplinary, represented by traditional subject areas (language, maths, science, social studies, arts, PSPE) and transdisciplinary
2. Concepts which students explore through structured inquiry in order to develop coherent, in-depth understanding, and which have relevance both within and beyond subject areas
3. Skills which are the broad capabilities students develop and apply during learning and in life beyond the classroom
4. Attitudes which contribute to international-mindedness and the well-being of individuals and learning communities, and connect directly to the IB learner profile
5. Action which is an expectation in the PYP that successful inquiry leads to responsible, thoughtful and appropriate action.

The aim is to develop children who are:
- Inquirers
- Knowledgeable
- Thinkers
- Communicators
- Principled
- Open-minded
- Caring
- Risk-takers
- Balanced
- Reflective

Children will learn subject areas such as math, science, literacy, the arts, social/emotional, and physical education by engaging with real-life experiences which they investigate through units of inquiry, instead of learning as isolated subjects. Units of inquiry are developed under six transdisciplinary themes.

1. Who we are - An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures, rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.
2. Where we are in place and time - An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.
3. How we express ourselves - An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.
4. How the world works - An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
5. How we organize ourselves - An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.
6. Sharing the planet - An inquiry into the rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.

For further information about the IB and its programmes, visit www.ibo.org

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Assessment

Willowbrook uses a variety a methods to assess children’s learning, such as, observation, documentation, portfolios, progress reports and student led conferences. Overall, we believe in each child's ability. Our role as educators is to start with a positive and optimistic mindset around the capabilities of each child. Each child deserves to be respected for where they are at, so that their world is full of possibility. As teachers, we listen, observe, dialog, inspire and facilitate the children’s learning. Students, parents and Willowbrook staff members benefit from the following reporting cycle each year:
- October/November - student-led conferences
- November and May - parent/teacher conferences
- November and May - written progress report
- January-May - unit of inquiry celebration (a student-led presentation)