An independent co-ed IB school (JK to Grade 12) in North Vancouver, Canada
Programme of Inquiry
The Primary Years Programme is an international, transdisciplinary program designed to foster the development of the whole child, not just in the classroom but through other means of learning.  It focuses on the total growth of the developing child, encompassing social, physical, emotional and cultural needs in addition to academic welfare.  The PYP provides an opportunity for learners to construct meaning, principally through concept-driven inquiry.  Traditional academic subjects are part of the PYP but it emphasizes the interrelatedness of knowledge and skills through a trans-disciplinary programme of inquiry.  
The Programme of Inquiry lists six units of inquiry for each grade level. Each student will study one planner in each of six organizing themes throughout the year. All units are transdisciplinary and are characterized by their global significance. There is an emphasis on ’big ideas’ or ideas that transcend time and place, and on inquiry questions posed by the teacher as well as on student interests and wonderings.
   In the PYP a balance is sought between acquisition of five essential elements: 
  1. knowledge;
  2. conceptual understanding;
  3. demonstration of positive attitudes;
  4. approaches to learning; and
  5. taking of responsible action.


The organizing themes involved in building knowledge include the following:

  • Who we are: An exploration of the nature of the self; of our beliefs and values; of personal health: physical, mental, social, spiritual; of our families, friends, communities and cultures; of our rights and responsibilities; of what it means to be human.
  • Where we are in place and time: An exploration of our orientation in place and time; of our personal histories and geographies; of history and geography from local and global perspectives; of our homes and journeys- actual and spiritual; of the greater journeys of humankind- the discoveries, explorations and migrations; of human achievements and the contributions of individuals and civilizations; of the descent and ascent of humankind; of the state of the race. 
  • How we express ourselves: An exploration of the ways in which we discover and express our nature, ideas, feelings, beliefs and values through language and the arts.
  • How the world works: An exploration of the physical and material world; of natural and human-made phenomena; of the world of science and technology.
  • How we organize ourselves: An exploration of human systems and communities; of the world of work, its nature and its value; of employment and unemployment and their impact, both personal and global. 
  • Sharing the planet: An exploration of our rights and responsibilities as we strive to share finite resources with other people, with other species; of individuals and communities, human and animal; of the relationships within and among them.


The Key Concepts provide a framework to guide students’ questions and wonderings. Along with the concepts come an overarching question to provoke inquiry. Every unit of inquiry is filled with questions in each of these categories and it is these questions that drive the instruction.

  • FormWhat is it like?
    • The understanding that everything has a form with recognizable features that can be observed, identified, described and categorized.
  • FunctionHow does it work?
    • The understanding that everything has a purpose, a role or a way of behaving that can be investigated.
  • CausationWhy is it like it is?
    • The understanding that things do not just happen, that there are causal relationships at work, and that actions have consequences.
  • ChangeHow is it changing?
    • The understanding that change is the process of movement from one state to another. It is universal and inevitable.
  • ConnectionHow is it connected to other things?
    • The understanding that we live in a world of interacting systems in which the actions of any individual element affect others.
  • Perspective What are the points of view?
    • The understanding that knowledge is moderated by perspectives; different perspectives lead to different interpretations, understandings and findings; perspectives may be individual, group, cultural or disciplinary. Perspectives may be individual, group, cultural or disciplinary.
  • Responsibility What is our responsibility?
    • The understanding that people make choices based on their understandings and the actions they take as a result do make a difference.
  • Reflection How do we know?
    • The understanding that there are different ways of knowing, and that it is important to reflect on our conclusions, to consider our methods of reasoning, and the quality and the reliability of the evidence we considered.


While recognizing the importance of knowledge, concepts and skills, these alone do not make an internationally minded person. It is vital that there is also focus on the development of personal attitudes towards people, towards the environment and towards learning, attitudes that contribute to the well-being of the individual and of the group. By deciding that attitudes need to be an essential element of the programme, the PYP is making a commitment to a values-laden curriculum.

  • Appreciation: Appreciating the wonder and beauty of the world and its people.
  • Commitment: Being committed to their own learning, persevering and showing self-discipline and responsibility.
  • Confidence: Feeling confident in their ability as learners, having the courage to take risks, applying what they have learned and making appropriate decisions and choices.
  • Cooperation: Cooperating, collaborating, and leading or following as the situation demands.
  • Creativity: Being creative and imaginative in their thinking and in their approach to problems and dilemmas.
  • Curiosity: Being curious about the nature of learning, about the world, its people and cultures.
  • Empathy: Imagining themselves in another’s situation in order to understand his or her reasoning and emotions, so as to be open-minded and reflective about the perspectives of others.
  • Enthusiasm: Enjoying learning and willingly putting the effort into the process.
  • Independence: Thinking and acting independently, making their own judgments based on reasoned argument, and being able to defend their judgments.
  • Integrity: Being honest and demonstrating a considered sense of fairness.
  • Respect: Respecting themselves, others and the world around them.
  • Tolerance: Being sensitive about differences and diversity in the world and being responsive to the needs of others.

Approaches to learning 

Within learning throughout the programme, students acquire and apply a set of approaches to learning: social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, research skills and self-management skills. These skills are valuable, not only in the units of inquiry, but also for any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom, and in life outside the school.

Approaches to learning include the following:

Social skills

  • Accepting responsibility: Taking on and completing tasks in an appropriate manner; being willing to assume a share of the responsibility.
  • Respecting others: Listening sensitively to others; making decisions based on fairness and equality; recognizing that others’ beliefs, viewpoints, religions and ideas may differ from one’s own; stating one’s opinion without hurting others.
  • Cooperating: Working cooperatively in a group; being courteous to others; sharing materials; taking turns.
  • Resolving conflict: Listening carefully to others; compromising; reacting reasonably to the situation; accepting responsibility appropriately; being fair.
  • Group decision-making: Listening to others; discussing ideas; asking questions; working towards and obtaining consensus.
  • Adopting a variety of group roles: Understanding what behaviour is appropriate in a given situation and acting accordingly; being a leader in some circumstances, a follower in others.

Communication skills

  • Listening: Listening to directions; listening to others; listening to information.
  • Speaking: Speaking clearly; giving oral reports to small and large groups; expressing ideas clearly and logically; stating opinions.
  • Reading: Reading a variety of sources for information and pleasure; comprehending what has been read; making inferences and drawing conclusions.
  • Writing: Recording information and observations; taking notes and paraphrasing; writing summaries; writing reports; keeping a journal or record.
  • Viewing: Interpreting and analysing visuals and multimedia; understanding the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas, values and beliefs; making informed choices about personal viewing experiences.
  • Presenting: Constructing visuals and multimedia for a range of purposes and audiences; communicating information and ideas through a variety of visual media; using appropriate technology for effective presentation and representation.
  • Non-verbal communication: Recognizing the meaning of visual and kinesthetic communication; recognizing and creating signs; interpreting and utilizing symbols.
  • Presenting research findings: Effectively communicating what has been learned; choosing appropriate media.

Self-management skills

  • Gross motor skills: Exhibiting skills in which groups of large muscles are used and the factor of strength is primary.
  • Fine motor skills: Exhibiting skills in which precision in delicate muscle systems is required.
  • Spatial awareness: Displaying a sensitivity to the position of objects in relation to oneself or each other.
  • Organization: Planning and carrying out activities effectively.
  • Time management: Using time effectively and appropriately.
  • Safety: Engaging in personal behaviour that avoids placing oneself or others in danger or at risk.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Making informed choices to achieve a balance in nutrition, rest, relaxation and exercise; practising appropriate hygiene and self-care.
  • Codes of behaviour: Knowing and applying appropriate rules or operating procedures of groups of people.
  • Informed choices: Selecting an appropriate course of action or behaviour based on fact or opinion.

Research skills

  • Formulating questions: Identifying something one wants or needs to know and asking compelling and relevant questions that can be researched.
  • Observing: Using all the senses to notice relevant details.
  • Planning: Developing a course of action; writing an outline; devising ways of finding out necessary information.
  • Collecting data: Gathering information from a variety of first- and second-hand sources such as maps, surveys, direct observation, books, films, people, museums and ICT.
  • Recording data: Describing and recording observations by drawing, note taking, making charts, tallying, writing statements.
  • Organizing data: Sorting and categorizing information; arranging into understandable forms such as narrative descriptions, tables, timelines, graphs and diagrams.
  • Interpreting data Drawing conclusions from relationships and patterns that emerge from organized data.


The action component of the PYP can involve service in the widest sense of the word: service to fellow  students, and to the larger community, both in and outside the school. Through such service, students are able to grow both personally and socially, developing skills such as cooperation, problem solving, conflict resolution, and creative and critical thinking. 

These actions are ways in which the students exhibit their commitment to the attributes of the learner profile and to the attitudes that we seek to engender within the PYP classroom. In fact, the actions that the students choose to take as a result of the learning may be considered the most significant summative assessment of the efficacy of the programme.

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