Transdisciplinary Learning in Primary Years

We might wonder what transdisciplinary learning looks like in elementary school through the lens of the IB PYP and Montessori philosophies.

Our journey begins with an expansive theme such as “How does the world work?” that captivates young minds. In the nurturing environment of small, collaborative groups, students are encouraged to unleash their curiosity. Guided by key lessons that blend IB PYP’s inquiry-based approach with Montessori’s hands-on learning, they dive into a world of exploration. They investigate natural and scientific phenomena, ecosystems’ beauty, energy principles, and the forces shaping our physical world. These explorations are not merely academic but are gateways to understanding life’s interconnectedness.

Success criteria are co-created with students, framing their achievements in terms of “I can” statements. This empowers them to:

  • Utilise scientific methods to pinpoint elements of nature.
  • Examine how patterns support environmental sustainability.
  • Engage with and evaluate both natural and human-made systems.
  • Appreciate technological and ecological innovations that enhance quality of life.
  • Analyse and compare various systems to understand their functionality.

The foundation of this educational experience is built on the students’ previous knowledge, promoting confidence and a sense of familiarity. By weaving together different academic disciplines, we ensure a holistic learning experience that respects and builds upon Montessori’s principle of following the child and the IB PYP’s emphasis on global contexts and conceptual understanding.

Our educators create dynamic, responsive learning spaces where students choose their research paths, reflecting the true Montessori spirit. This autonomy is supported by a wealth of resources, from inviting experts into the classroom to arranging educational visits to museums or libraries. Every step is an opportunity for students to assert their agency, reflecting the PYP’s aim to develop internationally minded individuals and Montessori’s goal to foster independent, thoughtful learners.

Discussions in class go beyond simple Q&A to become forums for deepening understanding and exchanging perspectives. This prepares students not just academically but socially, nurturing empathetic communicators and critical thinkers.

In this vibrant educational tapestry, each child is an explorer, a scientist, and a steward of the earth, equipped with the tools to inquire, innovate, and inspire.

Small group discussion: Hexagonal patterns – small group discussion continued with small group work. Students researched how a hexagon is made, hexagons in nature and in the man-made world, and made a collaborative hexagon poster.

Group discussions to discover patterns in nature. Search and reflect on their purpose and function.

Discussion of patterns in nature and how they are different. Students do their research and discover that just as human fingerprints are unique to each individual, individual patterns or markings on an animal can be unique to that animal.

Students research tectonic plates and make geographic maps relating them to areas with active volcanoes.

Introducing the Fibonacci pattern. What’s interesting about these numbers when we look at this pattern?

This sequence is also present in the natural world around. I have brought you some pictures as an example. You may want to learn more…

Inspiration students make their own examples and large-scale work.

Exploring patterns of shapes in nature and recreating them with the power of geometry.

Exploring patterns in mathematics – common multiples.

Exploring patterns in sentences.

Independent study of reptiles.

Parallel work – searching for interesting facts and sharing the key findings.

Using a variety of resources in the classroom supports diverse inquiry and critical thinking.

Students supplement their research by searching digital sources after gathering information from classroom books and encyclopaedias.

In the classroom, the main languages of teaching and learning – Bulgarian and English – are complemented by the mastery of Spanish. Students enrich their vocabulary, understanding, and communication using a second foreign language with each transdisciplinary theme.

Learning happens beyond the walls of the classroom. Students use their skills to organise outings at school, such as nature walks, visits to museums, or the zoo. They plan, organise, reflect, and write about their observations and discoveries.