The International Baccalaureate was once just for high school students, but no more, because  Missoula's Lewis and Clark Elementary now offers the Primary Years Program.

Lewis and Clark Principal Susan Anderson broke the news on Monday.

"Lewis and Clark Elementary is the very first school in the state of Montana to offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program for our students in grades K through five," Anderson said. "It's curriculum-framed work for young learners ages three to twelve. We really recognize a child's natural curiosity and creativity and their ability to think about where they fit into their world, their community, their state and in the larger world."

Anderson said the program is based on 'guided inquiry'.

"We have several themes, who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, and sharing the planet," she said. "So, we're guiding students to ask questions guided by the teachers,but often instigated by the students. We've not only infused the Common Core state standards into these units of inquiry. The IB standards are research-based practices that really are good teaching."

Anderson said the students are encouraged to interact with their parents about the subjects the IB program is teaching.

"Because we have a component called 'Action', once kids learn things, we like them to show action in their community or in their world, how can they affect where they live," she said. "We often hear 'at the dinner table we talked about goods and services', and that's at the kindergarten or first-grade level."

Anderson said parents and the public are invited to an open house at Lewis and Clark on Tuesday, September 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. along with a ice-cream social in the playground at 7 p.m.

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