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South African school uses the outdoors to work, learn and play

This article originally appeared in IB Global News, which provides an array of news and information about IB programmes, professional development and research.

Hout Bay International School, located in Western Cape, South Africa, enjoys a unique setting of magnificent scenery and a rich community. The school provides students with a wide range of learning environments.

The outdoor education group of Hout Bay International School on a hiking trip

The outdoor education group of Hout Bay International School on a hiking trip

Q: What distinguishes Hout Bay International School as an IB World School?
We are located right at the foot of Africa and work with a diverse group of students from both the local townships and the international community. As a consequence of our work to develop authentic relationships with students outside the international school setting, our school is well integrated with the surrounding communities.

Q: As the only PYP school in South Africa, how do you collaborate with other PYP schools and educators?
We are delighted that many teachers take the opportunity to share best practices and ideas with us during their visits to our beautiful city. The programme resource centre also plays an important role in keeping us connected to the rest of the world, both in sharing our work and in forum discussions. As a professional learning community we seek out blogs and other school websites to stay in touch. Fortunately, our head of school and PYP coordinator continue to develop strong relationships with other schools through their work as part of the IB Educator Network (IBEN), allowing them to share observations and learning experiences.

Q: How does the school cherish and incorporate the proximity to nature?
The outdoors and nature play a huge role in our everyday school life. This ranges from the daily feeding of our free range chickens to the challenge of conquering the five mountain peaks of the valley. Our students have the opportunity to hike, mountain bike, snorkel, orienteer and surf as part of the programme – we use the outdoors to work, learn and play.

Q: How has the school’s role within the community evolved?
Hout Bay Valley represents a cross-section of South African culture. Through the element of “Action” the school has become both an active part of, and more integrated into, the community through student and whole-school initiatives. Relationships have also developed between several of the smaller communities within the valley through school projects. For example, as part of a PYP exhibition project, our students identified the need for children in our local fishing community to improve their literacy and develop their personal learner profiles. Our students invited the younger children to join a weekly community outreach programme that includes the IB learner profile and developing life skills such as baking, arts, sports and literacy activities. Consequently, we see authentic relationships and service developing between children of different local communities. Thanks to this initiative, our school is no longer seen as a privileged island but as an authentic part of the greater community of Hout Bay.