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Middle Years Programme at Somers Middle School

three gorls at school tableOne of the key components of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme is student choice and autonomy. And that’s exactly what Somers Middle School sixth graders like about it. “I like how I can study a topic that I am interested in,” said Allison.

Choice and autonomy on research projects are options that students in Jenna Schettino’s Social Studies class have as part of the ongoing preparation for Somers Middle School to become a Middle Years Programme Authorized School.

Schettino’s students, who are currently researching a UN Sustainable Development Goal as part of their first unit, embraced that choice. Each student chose one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to research and decide within that how goal to approach it.

Working together, Allison, Hazel, and Alexa, chose to focus on Gender Equality, with each researching different subcategories: women’s sports, women’s rights, and discrimination and preventing violence against women. “I like the choice we had on this project,” Alexa said. Some of the other Sustainable Development Goals include Poverty, Living Good and Healthy Lives, Clean Water and Quality Education.

The MYP is designed for students aged 11 through 16 and works to inspire them to connect their studies to real world issues and situations. The philosophy helps students hone skills in many areas including inquiry, knowledge, risk taking, communication, and critical thinking. 

Teacher leading a group of students

Somers Middle School continues to inch closer to having all students and staff immersed in the rigorous intellectual challenge that comes with being an MYP authorized school. Principal Jeff Getman and Schettino, the MYP Coordinator and sixth grade social studies teacher have been working to bring the school from candidate to member school status through a multi-year authorization process that includes training, professional development, self-reflection on best practices as educators, and new and creative ways to tackle subject matter. Both Getman and Schettino are hopeful all necessary components will be in place in late 2022.

“The MYP framework is one that houses so much of what we are doing already,” Getman said. “We are not changing any of our standards. It’s a different way of teaching and learning that promotes inquiry, connection, student choice, and engagement.” He added that with the MYP philosophy teachers encourage their students to show what they do know rather than assess them on what they don’t.

The MYP requires at least 50 hours of teaching for each subject: literature acquisition, language and literature, individuals and societies, sciences, math, art, physical education and health, and design. The inclusive nature of MYP means every student regardless of interests and academic abilities will see the benefits from their participation. “We are looking to have the philosophies permeate through the whole school, not just in each unit,” Getman added.

As MYP Coordinator, Schettino has undergone hours of training and professional development and has begun using the MYP philosophies with her sixth graders. “MYP has made me stop and think about everything and every learning experience I give the students,’ Schettino said.

Critical thinking, justifying their stance, and coming up with debatable questions are some of the ways students are inspired to learn under this model. Schettino also said there is a wonderful use of student reflection as well as feedback to peers and their teachers that is included in their classroom practices. “This promotes teachers as learners,” she said. “It promotes risk taking and that is something that is honored and encouraged through the MYP.”

The MYP at Somers Middle School is a five-year program that spans 6 – 10th grade and will seamlessly take students into the IB Diploma Programme, which has been in place at Somers High School since 2018.