Program has elementary pupils thinking globally

By age 7, pupils are to begin learning a foreign language.
BEXLEY, Ohio (AP) -- Elementary school pupils in this Columbus suburb are pioneers in a curriculum designed to promote intellectual discovery and better problem solving.
District officials say Cassingham Elementary School is the first Ohio primary school to offer the International Baccalaureate program. The curriculum, used in nearly 2,000 schools worldwide, is designed by an educational organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Teacher Sonja Hutchison urges students "to make your question deeper" under the program that encourages students to become self-motivated learners by researching instead of being lectured to.
IB is best known for its challenging college-preparatory courses for high-school students bound for the most prominent universities in the country. Three Franklin County high schools -- Columbus Alternative, Upper Arlington and Westerville South -- offer it.
Cassingham is targeting a much younger set. It took three years for staff members there to set up the program. Last week, IB representatives visited the school to consider certifying it as an official IB school. The decision will be made this summer.
Fastest-growing program
IB's elementary-school method was created in 1997 and is its newest and fastest-growing program. The number of schools using it worldwide has more than quadrupled to 309 since 2001.
The method requires that pupils begin learning a foreign language by age 7, and thinking globally is stressed in each lesson.
Kindergartners in Hutchison's classroom recently learned about Mexico. Now, the 5- and 6-year-olds can identify it as the country below Texas and explain the importance of its customs.
"It's not about food, flags and festivals," said Cassingham Principal Barbara Heisel. "These are big-picture things that the children think about."
The district paid nearly 9,000 in application fees and travel costs for the IB representatives. If approved, Cassingham, with 367 pupils, will have to pay an annual 5,220 fee to remain an IB school.
Some critics say the nonprofit IB organization's program costs too much and it does not provide grants. Others say its global focus leans too far to the political left.
Both criticisms came up in a heated debate that led a Pennsylvania school board to eliminate its seven-year-old IB program. The program was reinstated last year on a trial basis.

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