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The Talking Head

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Our Vision for Learning at ICS Addis

If you’ve joined ICS recently, or if you are returning for another year, I hope you’ve had a chance to pause and reflect on the vision for learning that we share in this community. Two years ago we adopted a new schoolwide vision statement. It was adapted from the statement that our Board of Governors used for several years as their own vision for the future of learning at ICS.

Our vision for learning at ICS includes:

  • engaging learning experiences through inquiry and reflection
  • a broad range of local, global and virtual opportunities
  • innovative and flexible use of resources

Engaging Learning Experiences

If you visit any of our classrooms on a typical day of learning you will see active learners, asking questions and seeking answers. Learning today is different than when we went to school. Minecraft in Social Studies classes? Science experiments at an elementary student’s desk? Reading and writing workshops? Student portfolios in a math class? These are just a few of the ways our teachers engage students daily.

Inquiry and Reflection

We all know that curiosity leads to learning and innovation. That’s why inquiry is a primary method for organizing units of learning at ICS Addis. We are a PYP candidate school and expect to be authorized in the fall of 2017. We know reflection is also critical for learning, for both children and adults. At the end of teaching units, ICS teachers collaborate and reflect on the unit, to make sure it’s even better than next time. They also build time into their daily and weekly schedules for students to reflect on their learning as the unit progresses.

A Broad Range of Local, Global and Virtual Opportunities

We include students who have learning challenges at ICS Addis. That provides opportunities for learning that were not offered at our school eight years ago.

But, beyond being inclusive, some of our students are taking IB Diploma courses online, from experienced instructors around the globe. We cooperate with the Born Free Foundation, the Mekdela Primary School (across from our soccer pitch), the Gullele Botanical Garden and other local organizations and NGOs to provide authentic learning experiences. In normal years we travel safely in Ethiopia for Week Without Walls trips that provide unique, even life-changing learning experiences. Model UN students and middle/high school language students can travel with ICS teachers and learn in other countries and other cultures. Our teachers also attend the best possible training workshops globally, to help them refine their teaching and to improve learning in our classrooms.

Innovative and Flexible Use of Resources

Our resources include time, space and materials. We use classrooms for activities, and the upper commons in our cafeteria for assemblies. The new Sports Pavilion will add much needed flexible space for PE and after school programs. The middle and high school will be “off timetable” during the school year for project-based learning experiences on campus. Second grade students might have a “maker day” to build with cardboard. Our secondary computer lab is transformed into a “Maker Space” with 3D printers, laser cutters and robotics equipment.

Is It Your Vision for Learning Too?

Of course, all of us want our students to learn to read, write and calculate very well. We want to know that they’re reading at or above the expectations for their age. I can assure you, the data on our students’ performance and growth using traditional measures of learning is very, very good. Students are finishing the Measurement of Academic Performance (MAP) tests now to establish baselines on those traditional measures for the beginning of the year. In May we’ll repeat the MAP assessments to see how they’ve grown.

When I walk around the campus and see what is happening, when I see the how our students are learning, when I watch how our teachers are teaching, I am proud to be in a school with a forward vision and fine results for learning.