Those enrolled at the St. James Learning Centre in Mississauga this year will be the first students from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic school board to attend an authorized International Baccalaureate elementary school. Photo/courtesy of Bruce Campbell

Dufferin-Peel offers first primary years IB program

  • August 20, 2016

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. – Some of Mississauga’s youngest Catholic students will make history this year as the first students in Ontario to attend a Catholic school authorized for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.

“The board has been groundbreaking in being the first publicly funded English Catholic school in the province to offer the Primary Years Program,” said superintendent Tim Lariviere of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Three years ago the board first introduced the Primary Years Program with the opening of the St. James Catholic Global Learning Centre. In June the Learning Centre, a regional school for students from kindergarten to Grade 8, formally became an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) school.

Designed for students aged three to 12, the program is an inquiry-based approach to learning which draws on six “trans disciplinary themes.” Those themes are: how the world works, how we organize ourselves, sharing the planet, who are we, where we are in place and time and how we express ourselves.

“They ask us to teach in this methodology to ensure that the kids are asking questions and wondering around six central themes,” said principal Brian Diogo. “The International Baccalaureate supports us with a curriculum frame and a structure.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Education, along with supplementary resources from the Institute for Catholic Education, still provides the curriculum content for the Learning Centre.

“We take our curriculum, we fit it into those themes and then we approach the kids and ask them what they’d like to offer,” he said. “It has been a journey to have taken the Catholic curriculum and infuse it under the headings.”

It’s been a relatively smooth journey, he said.

“It ties really we’ll into the Catholic teachings,” said Diogo. “That was one of the biggest reasons that the board sought the International Baccalaureate.”

Another huge factor for the board seeking the IB status is the persistent demand for and trend towards inquiry-based learning.

“Dufferin-Peel wide we’ve been moving towards an inquiry-based approach where we do have the kids formulate questions around their wonderings,” he said. “This is a mandate board wide.”

When the Learning Centre, formerly known as St. James School which closed in 2009 due to declining enrolment, first opened in 2013 there were about 180 students. Last school year enrolment grew to 217 and there is room for up to 279 students.

“There certainly is interest” in the program, said Diogo. “Enough interest that we’ve created wait lists for each of our grades.”

It isn’t just the IB program at the Learning Centre which has been grabbing the attention of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic community.

Marianne Mazzorato, director of education at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, said parents and students have expressed a “great deal of interest” in each of the board’s IB schools.

Currently three of the board’s high schools — St. Paul and St. Francis Xavier in Mississauga and Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in Brampton — offer IB programs. Mazzorato expects that within the next couple of years there will be an elementary IB school in Brampton.

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