CURRICULUM

PaRK IS’ curricula respond to our mission of guiding and inspiring students to be successful and happy in their adult lives. We have designed our curricula taking into account our three pillars of Innovation, Happiness and Responsibility as well as creating experiences to develop all the skills outlined in our Student Profile.

 

Early Learning School (1-5 Years Old)

According to scientific research, children develop their intelligence in the early years. For this reason, at PaRK IS we have created a programme that enables the child to explore and maximize their individual skills, so that they feel ready for the challenges that lie ahead.  

Children explore the world through the five senses – touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight – throughout the process children discover new interests, meanings, concepts and realities. The child is an active participant in this process: with play at the centre of the programme the child has an active role in choosing the activities that interest him/her the most. Children are guided as they gain awareness of their skills and capacities and challenge their comfort zones. We place a great importance in individual pace, in order to ensure that at the same time we are promoting individual self-esteem. From early childhood we provide them with challenges they can understand and relate to while teaching them that their attitude is crucial for their success. The atmosphere and routines are carefully planned and prepared to respond to all developmental stages.  

Classrooms are organised by areas of interest (corners), with different resources and materials at their fingertips. The objectives and nature of each area dictate the type of activities that can be performed there. To better organise the space, it is necessary to select the fundamental areas: role-playing (big house, garage, small house and farmhouse), visual arts, reading and writing, mathematics, science and group meetings and daily routines (attendance tables, guardians of the day, word, number and “I know!” challenges, calendars – month, day and weather -, and enrolment sheets in each of  the corners).

The child’s own personal rhythm and personal motivation always shape and influence their learning programme. Each journey is supported by the love and positive reinforcement of our team. Guided by our staff, children gain the confidence and skills to put into practice the knowledge, attitudes and skills acquired in a holistic manner.

A fundamental axiom of our programme lies in the relationship that children establish with their homeroom teachers. Another fundamental aspect lies in the high variety of stimuli that we provide. These two premises contribute to the development of a child’s cognitive skills. The nature of the child’s relationship with the homeroom teacher and constant atmosphere of play facilitate a healthy social behaviour as well as motor, cognitive and emotional skills.

By providing different opportunities, we provide the child with the opportunity to explore and experience what surrounds them in their daily lives. In this simple way, objects of their everyday life can serve as instruments for acquiring manipulative and cognitive skills, which are fundamental to their development.

Thus, project work emerges as an active work methodology, which implies and involves the child in research processes, feeds his/her natural curiosity and promotes the taste for expression and communication, from early ages. A great emphasis is given to the child’s communication and presentation skills – our methodology develops their capacity for argumentation and explaining their reasoning, thoughts and opinions. In this process, different devices are made available to the child and technology is integrated along the development of the projects as another work tool.

All these principles are experienced by our children from 3 Years Old under a bilingual umbrella. Children are guided by both a fluent English teacher and a fluent Portuguese teacher during activities and playtime. It is evident that understanding and speaking two languages is beneficial in our increasingly globalised world. In recent years, scientific research has shown that bilingualism has a profound positive impact on the brain. Bilingual individuals are much more than better conversationalists. Studies show that this skill has a profound impact in other areas of knowledge. Bilinguals have a higher capacity to understand mathematical concepts, a higher concentration capacity, better memory and are quicker at making decisions than their unilingual counterparts.

Lower Junior (Grades 1-4)

Grade 1 is when children become students. It is important every child gain the confidence and strong foundations for the years to come, as well as the love for learning. The individualised learning is crucial to have success in the future and to enhance every child’s learning experience.

Our Junior School pedagogy has at its core the concept of active learning. We guide each student as they build their individual learning journeys. We strive for an atmosphere where learning is enjoyed and believe that students must be active seekers of their own knowledge in order for this to be achieved. All curriculum materials are addressed in a holistic and multidisciplinary manner. Themes and projects may guide various year groups and always integrate the diverse contents of knowledge that the students must grasp.

PaRK IS’ pedagogical project also has at its heart strategies that promote autonomy, responsibility and academic excellence. We design processes that demonstrate that learning occurs beyond the classroom walls and school grounds.  The curious mindset, the capacity for critical thinking, the ability to independently seek knowledge and to commit are characteristics of the learner’s personality that must accompany them throughout life.

In our dynamic and ever changing society our students will grow as autonomous and dynamic learners. They will demonstrate that they have high critical-thinking skills and high communication skills and therefore understand themselves and those around them.

Lower Junior School (Grades 1 to 4) offers continuity to the bilingual education started in the Early Learning years. It is our goal that by the end of Grade 4 students are bilingual in comprehension, speaking, reading and writing. We follow the Portuguese Ministry of Education Curriculum coupled with the Cambridge Curriculum for the English subject; Portuguese and Mathematics are taught in Portuguese while Social Studies is taught in either language depending on the object of study. All other subjects – English, Physical Education, Arts, Dance, Drama, Music and Information & Communication Technology – are taught in English.

Our exclusive programme is based on:

Project Based Learning: Children learn by researching the answers to their questions and finding solutions to set problems. An inquiry based student profile is cultivated. By working in groups and using projects as a source of knowledge we combine various subjects’ syllabus under one umbrella theme. The syllabus is then taught by the students as they present their work/findings to the class.

Communication: Great importance is placed in the presentation and communication of all student work. Larger projects or smaller activities such as a written text are encouraged by the teachers to be shared. Arrangements are made so that students share their presentations and collaboratively work with other year groups as well as with parents and the school community. 

Individualised Education: At PaRK IS we believe that every student is unique, has a different rhythm, different motivations and different learning needs, which we must respect. Core subjects are taught in smaller groups in the early years – a complimentary teacher is present to ensure foundations in Portuguese and Mathematics are well consolidated. This allows us to adapt the curriculum to students’ interests, abilities and different levels while allowing teachers to establish real goals that will help children actively construct their knowledge always in pursuit of academic excellence.

Autonomous work: One of our most distinguished routines is TEA (Tempo de Estudo Autónomo = Autonomous Study Time). Every day Primary School students have a scheduled moment when they study by themselves. Students plan their study with the teacher and those with no difficulties can move on, doing Portuguese or Mathematics exercises, working on their Social Studies projects or helping other students with their work. Teachers have this time to help students in need of extra attention and can adapt the work to each child’s necessities. 

Technology: Technology is one of the strongest areas of our programme. Technology is integrated in all projects and themes. It is a resource (among others) that is naturally offered to students despite the subject area. Students learn how to code from Grade 1. From Grade 4, with our one-to-one iPad programme, students learn to use one more tool to explore knowledge, in a safe environment.

In an every day busier world it is important to know how to stop, so we introduced Quiet Time, a daily moment where children meditate. By doing this we teach students how to focus, stay calm and stop to reflect whenever needed.

Upper Junior & Lower Senior School (Grades 5-8)

In Grade 5 students make the transition into the International Curriculum. Students from Grade 5 to Grade 8 follow the Cambridge International Curriculum (Key Stage 2/3), a renowned international curriculum that gains an academic advantage over national curriculums because of the flexibility of its syllabus. The open ended character of the curriculum allows us to continue to emphasize the Portuguese Language and History while at the same time implement the Cambridge International programme. We recognise that our pedagogical model is of great value. We therefore keep working under the same axioms which have built our school: project based learning, one-to-one teaching and learning, focus on communication and technology. We continue to mentor children to become innovators, responsible and happy adults with the necessary skills of the 21st Century and our globalised world.

The main objective of implementing an international programme goes beyond the scope of its syllabus. We essentially want to mentor children to be curious, knowledgeable, caring, empathic and driven for success. We hope that our students grow with the objectives of creating a better world and while practicing respect and comprehension for other people and cultures.

Students are encouraged to experiment with different approaches to learning and take responsibility for their own educational progress. Our pedagogy helps students make challenging questions, to think critically and to develop their research capacity.

During their last years of middle childhood, between the ages of 10 and 12, children exhibit a natural willingness and enthusiasm to accept challenges. This natural state should be valued as a catapult for creativity, critical thinking, effort, perseverance and the desire to try new things. Upper Junior School is therefore a phase where students use this energy to establish profound meaning to the knowledge they have acquired. It is a phase that promotes high levels of autonomy and project work. Project work continues to connect subjects together and challenges students even further. Upper Junior School School places a high importance on the intellectual dimension of the programme as well as in its effort to create well rounded caring individuals.

Our teaching and learning practices can be organized under four pedagogical axioms:

Project Based Learning: Project learning involves researching themes or finding solutions to set problems. An inquiry based student profile is cultivated. Fieldwork is often carried out. Projects combine various subjects’ syllabus under one umbrella theme. The syllabus is then taught by the students as they present their work/findings to the class.

Communication: Great importance is placed on the presentation and communication of all student work. Larger projects or smaller activities such as a written text are encouraged by the teachers to be shared. Arrangements are made so that students share their presentations and work collaboratively with other year groups as well as with parents and the school community. 

Autonomous work and Individual Learning Improvement: Gaining in depth knowledge of subject contents. Producing intellectual material under the guidance of the subject teachers. Teachers will be available to students that need individual learning improvement.

Management and Organisation of the Year Group: Class Management and Social Skills are moments to discuss the daily life of the Year Group. The weekly plan is designed and reviewed as a class and specific tasks are assigned to students on a rotating basis and students will evaluate and be evaluated for their involvement in school life.

The academic structure is supported by two areas which we find fundamental for raising a thoughtful and productive citizen: Global Perspectives and My Time. 

     – Global Perspectives

Grades 5 to 8 students have a weekly time dedicated to Global Perspectives. Global Perspectives is a unique, transformational programme that helps students develop outstanding transferable skills, including critical thinking, research and collaboration. This innovative and stimulating skills-based programme places academic study in a practical, real-world context, tapping into the way today’s students enjoy learning, including group work, seminars, projects and working with other students around the world. The emphasis is on developing students’ ability to think critically about a range of global issues where there is always more than one point of view.

These collaborative activities emphasis more about the process rather than on the final product. One of the main objectives is to develop an understanding of the relationship between the curriculum subjects and their influences in various areas of knowledge. Students have the opportunity to collaborate with the other classes, share their ideas and receive their comments. In particular, it stimulates in each the ability to evaluate alternatives and calculate risks and, above all, don’t be afraid to fail. Projects will vary along the school year to also include developing actions that affect the community and the world, where the student plays a starring role and not be a mere listener. In our curriculum we consider the service as a reciprocal and collaborative engagement with the community in response to a genuine need. Through these activities, students develop and apply personal and social skills in real-life situations involving decision-making, problem-solving, initiative and responsibility for their actions. Students are involved in the decision of what to do and how to do it and witness the consequences of their actions. This learning occurs naturally and the students respond to specific needs identified in the community. 

     – My Time

Once a week, Grade 5 and 6 students will have the opportunity to work in the areas they like best. The school offers a wide range of activities – sports, art, music, robotics, programming, laboratory, maths, debate and school newspaper – and each student chooses the activity that meet their interests. MyTime is optional.

Upper Senior School (Grades 9 & 10)

The IGCSE Programme (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) is an international programme, recognised worldwide due to  its academic excellence for students of 14 to 16 years (Grades 9-10). It is a rigorous, flexible, consistent and diverse programme, with an international approach but maintaining local relevance. This curriculum develops a solid foundation of knowledge and skills and facilitates progress and success in the next stage of the course, the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

IGCSE curricula, developed specifically for international context, allow students to develop their skills in a wide range of disciplines, demonstrating an understanding of the content, ability to apply the knowledge in differentiated situations, intellectual curiosity, research capacity, flexibility and ability to adapt to a changing world and cultural awareness, at a local and international level.

In science and in mathematics, PaRK IS follows the Edexcel and Pearson IGCSE curriculum; in all other disciplines, we follow the Cambridge IGCSE Curriculum Assessment International Education (CAIE). These institutions supervise and validate the educational practices of schools that are test centers and that, consequently, they represent.

At PaRK IS, Grade 9 and 10 students have mandatory courses – English & English Literature, Portuguese (First or Foreign Language), Maths, Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), Physical Education (non-curricular discipline) and Information & Communications Technology (non-exam) and three IGCSE electives, to be chosen from a wide range: Geography, History, Business Studies; Global Perspectives; French; Spanish; Art & Design;  Design Technology; Computer Science; Physical Education; Music; Drama. These disciplines are taught during this two-year cycle, ending with external examinations set by Cambridge or Edexcel Pearson International examination boards.

Thus, the Cambridge IGCSE is an excellent base in preparing our students for the final phase of high school following the  International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB).

Technology and Innovation

At PaRK IS we have technology integrated into the curriculum, giving our students a number of tools that can be used in problem solving and in their academic career. From Grade 4 we have a one-to-one iPad programme so that students learn to use one more tool to explore knowledge, in a safe environment.  Children who entered Grade 1 in September 2016 are the same age of iPads and it is a part of their daily life – all students are now native users and we have to adapt our curriculum to integrate the technologies used in the real world. 

Our teachers have ongoing training with certified Apple techs. PaRK IS is the first (and only!) school in Portugal with official content published in iTunes U. This means that our teachers are composing syllabi that can be used worldwide. We also have our books on iBooks.

We are very proud of our iPad Manager, Kyriakos Koursaris, who was invited by Apple to be an Apple Professional Developer. The school was also selected for the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) following the work done with Minecraft.

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