Two Tulsa schools hope to offer a rigorous educational program for middle school students. Wilson and Carver Middle Schools are working to implement the International Baccalaureate program within two years.
As Carver 7th graders discuss a novel, their teacher asks them to examine more than plot and setting. They're looking for connections among people, subjects and situations. Making those connections is the focus of the International Baccalaureate or I-B, Middle Years program. "When you hear 'The Middle Years Program," you think it might be something totally special,â€ said Carver Principal Cleta Driver. â€œBasically, it is simply good teaching."
The program is based around five areas of interaction students learn to use in all their classes. They analyze situations from several perspectives, looking to see how they're related. For example, a weather study including tornadoes that hit Oklahoma this year. "It would be very easy for you to see how it would connect to the community,â€ said Carver I-B coordinator Billie Barger. â€œHow it would connect to health, relate to the environment, and how creativity is involved the clean-up. Itâ€™s making a connection,â€ she noted.
The shelter building project at Carver incorporates the I-B philosophy. Students designed and built the waterproof shelters out of natural materials. They learned problem solving, decision-making and cooperation in the process. The program is a different way of learning, but students say they like it. "It's just more logical thinking,â€ said student Hannah Phillips. â€œYou've just got to remember that you've got the connections to make." And every time a connection is made, students place their name and connection on a leaf, applied to trees placed in every classroom.
It's a five-year program in grades six through ten, meaning Carver and Wilson students would have to attend Booker T. Washington High School to finish. Booker T is the only Tulsa high school offering the I-B diploma for the junior and senior years. Taking part in the middle program doesn't require students to go on for the I-B diploma. But many of these students say they may want to, because they say it opens their minds to the world and each other in new ways.
The International Baccalaureate Organization is based in Switzerland and will evaluate Carver and Wilson programs before authorizing them to participate. Only four U-S schools are certified for the Middle Years Program.