Curriculum

La Paz Community School’s core curriculum, based on International Baccalaureate, US and Costa Rican standards and benchmarks, is supplemented by the following philosophies and programs.  For more detail about specific course offerings for the 9th-12th grade program of studies, please click here.

StudentFamilyHandbook2013-2014

Learn more about the IB Learner Profile by watching this short video. 

International Baccalaureate Learner Profile from International Baccalaureate on Vimeo.

Dual Language Program 

Our dual language program integrates Spanish and English in a meaningful, authentic way that supplements and correlates with the classroom curriculum. Both Spanish and English are respectively taught by native language educators. Spanish and English teachers collaborate together to plan academic content based on schoolwide themes.

La Paz follows a dual language model entitled “90/10.” This model has been adapted to the La Paz learning environment. It begins with the prekinder (ages 3-4) program where students spend half the day in Spanish immersion and the other half in English immersion in order for students to achieve conversational levels in both languages (regardless of native language). Literacy instruction increases in Kindergarten where the local language (in this case Spanish) is 30% and the non-local language (in this case English) is 70% of the day. Each academic year, the amount of Spanish instruction increases as follows.

Pre-k = 50% Spanish / 50% English
Kinder/First Grade = 30% / 70%
Second/Third Grade = 35% / 65%
Fourth/Fifth Grade = 40% / 60%
Sixth Grade and up = 45% / 55%

Students have ongoing opportunities for natural Spanish language usage and expression, such as daily community meetings, our Specials program, and Community Outreach/Service Learning. In addition, students receive daily formal Spanish instruction. The younger grades (K/1st) focus on a more conversational and play-based approach, while the older grades (2nd-8th) are taught a more explicit Spanish Language Arts/Social Studies currriculum. Students first learn to read and write in English in order to form a solid base in one language. Explicit instruction of reading and writing in Spanish begins in 2nd grade.

Through curriculum that promotes academic instruction in English and Spanish, students receive a bilingual and bi-literate education. This also develops cross-cultural understanding, and provides a variety of opportunities for positive interactions among families. While sharing our cultural heritages, we cultivate friendship and respect among the diverse ethnic and linguistic groups represented in the school community.

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Environmental Approach

La Paz educates children about the value of ecosystems and how to manage them properly; the children then share this knowledge with their families and the wider community. Innovative programs teach students to be respectful, responsible stewards of natural resources and protect threatened ecosystems. Parents on the school’s “Green Committee” collaborate with teachers and administrators to identify opportunities to incorporate environmental lessons into daily school life. Examples include:

  • Students manage the school’s organic composting and recycling programs, collecting materials throughout the community. Recycling is woven into math and science classes, including weekly measurements of volume and mass. La Paz serves as a model for public schools nearby and helps them implement similar programs.
  • La Paz promotes the use of reusable shopping bags to reduce plastic waste. Students explain the benefits of the bags to community members and sell them, donating profits to the scholarship program.
  • La Paz students and teachers have planted over 1,000 trees in neighboring towns.
  • La Paz holds community clean-ups regularly to remove garbage. One clean-up of an unofficial beachfront dump collected 12 tons of trash (20 truckloads) that had been accumulating for ten years!
  • La Paz educators frequently take students on ecological field trips. Recently, third-graders visited a town disposal site to examine its contents and evaluate what they could do to reduce waste in their own homes. Another class visited an organic farm to study water trapment systems and other organic practices.
  • Students build public awareness by creating and posting signs with environmental tips throughout Guanacaste and distributing relevant information at community events. These efforts empower residents to take simple actions every day to conserve natural resources.
  • Teachers incorporate environmental issues into the curriculum- students study climate change, create models of alternative energy projects, and learn to live within the earth’s physical limits.

Service Learning 

La Paz Community School firmly believes that service learning is an essential component of a community-based school. Through the use of individual strengths and cooperation, service enhance the students’ connection between self, community, family and world. Students utilizing their time, talents, energy, and other resources can reflect the school’s commitment to benefiting the local and global community, both in the present day and in the future. Service learning also teaches students how to balance the rights of citizenship with the responsibilities of community membership; while integrating the current educational reform recommendations with critical community concerns. According to experiential education guru, John Dewey, the mind is social, not individual and thus learning comes from social activities. Dewey also believes that students who actually do things – who engage in activities related to school subjects – learn more efficiently, more effectively, and remember what they have learned much longer than students who don’t. This allows students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom environment to authentic experiences. Service learning includes classroom generated ideas, as well as individual service projects that include identifying the need, objective, developing a time-line, method, and evaluation.

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Cooperative Program

Each family contributes at least 18 hours/year (6 hours/trimester) of volunteer time. Family donation time can be categorized in some of the following manners:

  • Office/Logistical Support: This may include answering phones, making community connections, fundraising, organizing business logistics
  • Transportation/Errands: Organizing/attending field trips, running errands for materials and/or supplies, etc.
  • Classroom Support: In classroom assistance, project help, one-on-one support with students
  • Specials: Leading activities that you are passionate about or that coordinate with classroom studies
  • Extracurricular Activities: Volunteer to lead an after school activity

Place Based Education

  • “Place-based education is the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and other subjects across the curriculum. Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this approach to education increases academic achievement, helps students develop stronger ties to their community, enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world, and creates a heightened commitment to serving as active, contributing citizens.”

- David Sobel, Place-Based Education; Connecting Classrooms & Communities. Place-based education allows students to address the questions: Where am I? What is the nature of this place? What sustains this community? It fosters not only knowledgeable, but responsible, contributing citizens in both the local and global community. In order to accomplish this, children must focus on self at a younger age, and broaden that focus to family, community, and eventually world, as they grow older. “Love of nature, one’s neighbor, and community is a prime motivating factor in personal transformation.” (Sobel ii)

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Thematic Approach

The La Paz curriculum utilizes monthly themes as a unifying factor across grade levels to ensure that all material, regardless of subject matter, be taught in an interdisciplinary matter.  By focusing on themes, the subject matter always has relevance to the big picture and aids students in the understanding of their place within the broader context of the world.  The 8 themes for the school year are Peace Ambassadors, Sustainability, Origins, Land and Sea, Wellness, Energy, Creative Expression, and Gratitude.  

Assessment

La Paz Community School’s assessment focuses on process as well as product in student development of knowledge, attitude and skills. Students are responsible for creating assessment portfolios with samples of student work, student and group reflection, and student self-assessment in addition to teacher and peer feedback. Preschool assessment is primarily narrative, and kindergarten –12th grades include both numerical evaluation, narrative assessment and portfolios. Across grade levels, student work and social development is assessed with a grading rubric from zero to four (0: No Evidence, 1: Emerging, 2: Developing, 3: Proficient, 4: Exemplary). At the secondary level (grade 6-12) final trimester grades include a personalized comment from each teacher, a behavior/effort grade, and an academic grade based on the students’ ability to understand and apply the content as per Bloom’s Taxonomy. During progress reports the two grades are combined for one general report.

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom created a classification of learning objectives known as Bloom’s Taxonomy, which consists of three categories: cognitive, which focuses on mental skills (knowledge); affective, which focuses on growth in feelings or emotional areas (attitude); and psychomotor, which focuses on manual or physical skills (skills). According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, after a learning episode, the learner should acquire new knowledge, attitude, and/or skills: the learning happens more easily/readily based on creating, evaluating, analyzing, applying, understanding, remembering.

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Co-curricular Program

Our Co-curricular program truly relies on volunteers and community members. This is the ideal avenue for parents, teachers, and other community members to share their talents and passions with our students. For example; a volunteer could sign up to teach yoga to 10-12 year olds for an hour each week over the duration of one trimester (about 3 months). Or, another community member could come in for a special mural project that would only last a few weeks. This is flexible, based on the volunteer’s needs and schedule. If you are a parent in the La Paz community, participating in the Specials program will aid in fulfilling your 18 hours/year donation requirement.

Some possible activity ideas include: yoga, arts (painting/drawing/collage/mural), sports, drama/theater, music (singing and instruments), pilates, dance, gymnastics, science experiments, crafts, snorkeling, creative writing, journalism, technology, keyboarding/typing, storytelling, language study (other than English or Spanish), cooking, photography, graphic art design, nature studies – anything that you would like to share with the La Paz Community.

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