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The Primary Years Program at Columbia Elementary

Columbia Elementary School is an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World school.

IB World Schools share a common philosophy—a commitment to improve the teaching and learning of a
diverse and inclusive community of students by delivering challenging, high quality programmes of
international education that share a powerful vision.*

*Only schools authorized by the International Baccalaureate can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years
Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate
status gives no guarantee that authorization will be granted.
For further information about the IB and its programmes, visit

**Mission Statement from the IB
The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who
help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end
the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging
programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students
across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people,
with their differences, can also be right.

Primary Years Program

Information For Families

What does the PYP program look like at Columbia?

Columbia Program of Inquiry

Program of Inquiry: The PYP is structured around six transdisciplinary themes that make a school’s program of inquiry (POI); within these themes at each grade level, students explore Units of Inquiry that promote investigation and critical thinking. All PYP schools use the same six transdisciplinary themes:


WHO WE ARE: An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social, and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.

WHERE WE ARE IN PLACE AND TIME: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationship between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations from local and global perspectives.

HOW WE EXPRESS OURSELVES: An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

HOW THE WORLD WORKS: An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.

HOW WE ORGANIZE OURSLEVES: An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and function of organizations; societal decision -making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.

SHARING THE PLANET: An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them. Access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.


Units of Inquiry: A unit of inquiry is a deep exploration of a big idea within a transdisciplinary theme. Students will inquire into 4-6 units of inquiry in a grade level. Units of inquiry give a framework to mathematics, language, science, social studies, art, PE, music, and social emotional learning. Students use knowledge, skills and understanding of different subjects to deepen their understanding of the big ideas within the unit of inquiry.


Grade level standards and benchmarks: Grade level standards and benchmarks are a written description of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a particular grade level. Each subject has a set of standards that outline how a student might typically develop skills and understanding within a subject area.


Central Idea: Each PYP unit of inquiry has a central idea. The central idea is one sentence that supports students’ understanding of a transdisciplinary theme. These central ideas are the focus of learning within a transdisciplinary theme at a particular grade level. Teachers have created the central ideas at Columbia from our grade level standards and benchmarks and examples from other PYP schools around the world. Central ideas are open and broad enough that there are different ways to learn about this big idea.


Lines of Inquiry: Lines of inquiry give teachers and students a specific learning focus. Each unit of inquiry has 2-4 lines of inquiry that define the direction of the unit of inquiry. Lines of inquiry clarify how the central idea will be explored at a grade level. Understanding of these lines of inquiry is assessed throughout the unit of inquiry.


Concepts: Concepts are big ideas that are universal, timeless, abstract and transfer across subject areas. The PYP is a concept-based curriculum framework. Learning is organized through seven PYP key concepts which include: Form, Function, Connection, Causation, Change, Perspective, and Responsibility. Each unit of inquiry includes 2-3 key concepts that connect with the lines of inquiry and make sense in relation to the central idea. In each grade level, all seven PYP key concepts are explored within different units of inquiry. There are also related concepts within units of inquiry. These align with the PYP key concepts but are usually more subject specific. For example, migration, imagination, patterns, or systems.


Approaches to learning: The approaches to learning (ATLs) are broad groups of skills that can be developed and practiced across all subject areas. They include a variety of specific skills organized into thinking, research, communication, self-management and social skill sets. ATLs are identified, taught and assessed within a unit of inquiry. These skills are revisited every year in the PYP.


Learner Profile: The learner profile is a set of attributes that define an internationally minded person. The attributes of the learner profile include: Caring Thinker, Principled, Knowledgeable, Inquirer, Communicator, Open-minded, and Reflective. These attributes are developed over time in the PYP and form the center of all the IB curriculum frameworks.

Columbia students and staff strive to embody the IB Learner Profile. Below are links to collections with books that examplify the IB Learner Profile:






Risk Takers

Open Minded