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Transdisciplinary Learning

IPS Hilversum uses the Primary Years Programme framework to support the teaching and learning of our school curriculum. The Primary Years Programme, or PYP for short, is one of four programmes offered to international schools by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

The PYP curriculum framework is structured around the idea that students learn best when their learning is relevant significant, engaging and challenging. Traditional subject areas retain a role across the curriculum (language, mathematics, science, social studies, arts as well as physical, social and personal education) and overall expectations for each subject area are identified for each year level.

A distinctive feature of the IB PYP is the way in which these subjects are taught through 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 our orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships 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, 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 ourselves

An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure 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.

Rather than being seen as distinct and unrelated, subjects are woven together through the exploration of a central idea that connects back to one of the above themes. Therefore, specific subject understandings, skills and attitudes are taught in a context that is relevant and significant for students. The themes themselves are issues that have meaning for, and are important to, all of us, as humans and this global significance creates a “transdisciplinary” framework that encourages and allows students to “step up” beyond the confines of learning within subject areas.

Since these ideas are related to the world beyond the school, students see the relevance of the content and connect with it in ways that are engaging and challenging. Teachers have a responsibility to design learning experiences that ensure that students are engaged and challenged at all levels.

Every transdisciplinary theme is explored and re-explored in units of inquiry at each year level, usually through a different angle or “lens”. Each unit of inquiry is taught for approximately six weeks and ends in an evaluation week when students and teachers reflect together on the unit outcomes as well as any actions (whether already taken or about to be) that result from the learning.

All of the year level units of inquiry collectively form the school’s

Programme of inquiry“.


For a deeper understanding of the PYP, you might want to read the PYP Standards and Practices of the PYP and the General Regulations

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