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Turning on the lightbulb of learning with the MYP Community Project

Through the Middle Years Programme (MYP) students have the opportunity to complete a Community Project and a Personal Project – both of which encourage students to reflect on their learning and the outcomes of their work.

The MYP Community Project provides an important opportunity for students ages 13-14 to collaborate and pursue service learning. It gives students an opportunity to develop awareness of needs in various communities and address those needs through service learning.

We spoke to East Nashville Magnet Middle School about their first Community Project, following their successful authorization of both the MYP and the Diploma Programme (DP):

East Nashville Magnet School – a history

Opening in 1932, East Nashville Magnet School has a deep and storied history.  It has consistently been a beacon of education and resilience for the city of Nashville. From its desegregation in 1965, to its development as a Liberal Arts magnet school in the 1990s, to today’s most prolific academic advancement as an IB MYP/DP community.

This historical strength, vitality, and an intractable tradition of progress is deeply embedded in the culture of the school. Embracing the ingrained ethos of civic engagement, personal agency, social care, and advancement, Executive Principal Bruce Jackson envisioned an IB partnership that would allow students and faculty to be active participants in an international community of caring and dedicated thinkers, learners, and communicators.

The IB authorization process

Our journey through IB authorization is unique. We began pursuing authorization of both the MYP partnership and the DP during the same window beginning in 2019.

“The MYP experience has been extremely valuable for our young scholars at East Middle. The ability to provide students with a rigorous academic program rooted in conceptual learning that is reinforced by promoting understanding of larger communities and the roles they play in them has been a driving force for growth and achievement.

Seeing the lightbulb of learning turn on is every educator’s goal and motivation. I truly believe that the infusion of Middle years programming in our curriculum has pushed our students to new heights academically.” Executive Principal Jackson

Not far into authorization process, the school year was disrupted by a devastating tornado that came within a few hundred yards of the school campus in March of 2020. Somehow spared from the devastation of our surrounding community, the school was used as a staging area for the Red Cross during this time. One week later, due to the encroaching Coronavirus pandemic, the district moved into quarantine. All told, East Nashville Magnet School remained virtual from March 2020 until October 2021.

Thankfully, during this completely novel and trying time, the school was paired with a set of consultants (Nicole Blackmon and Rick Searing) who provided invaluable feedback and helped us move toward the authorization visits while reaffirming the work in aligning the school to meet the program requirements while living up to the revised school mission. In addition, the many friendly and supportive people who form the International Baccalaureate — most especially our authorization teams — worked to provide flexibility and feedback so that East Nashville Magnet stayed true to its original timeline of authorization. Despite the challenges, East Nashville’s enthusiastic and resilient school community earned authorization of both programs and has been consistently working to further embody what it truly means to be an International school community.

Our first MYP Community Project exhibition

The 2022 MYP Community Project represents the most visible and affirming evidence of the journey and realization of the school’s mission to date. Driven by a committed 8th grade team, students began development of their Community Project in November 2021.  From the outset, the students were excited and willing to be risk-takers, even though they had never even considered an educational experience of the type on which they were about to embark.

The students slowly recognized their power and agency. Reactions to the demands of the project evolved naturally as it progressed. Where some student groups knew right away the community they wanted to support and identified the authentic need, others worked closely with their advisors to develop their goals more slowly and cautiously. The project organization by Mr Adam Knight created an environment that prioritized commitment to progress and consistent feedback from advisors. High expectations were set for everyone involved which made clear that this would be an important and special event for our school. For months, students took risks to meet their goals and as the exhibition date moved closer in the spring of 2022, the work became more serious and more committed.

The entire 8th grade team made sure the students knew the exhibition would be a formal event and planned a very special day of presentations and ceremony. Every student in the school was invited to visit, community members and district representatives joined to participate, and parents came to celebrate and see the products of their student’s hard work.

Mr. Knight established a set of awards that will be given out each year based on IB Learner Profile traits of Communicator, Risk-Taker, Caring, and Balanced, as well as a student choice award. Our school repaired an old, hidden trophy case that had been hidden behind a bulletin board just to be able to display the awards for future project award winners.

To say that this first Community Project was a success would be an understatement. After the challenges of the previous years, students made the most of the chance to showcase their hard work and ideas and rose to the high expectations set by our school community.

Scott Wofford (IB Coordinator), Adam Knight (8th grade Language and Literature teacher), and Bruce Jackson (Executive Principal) have worked together (along with many others) to build a unique IB program at East Nashville Middle School beginning in 2019. Scott Wofford has been in education for 19 years and has experience in teaching in the IB Diploma Programme across several schools. Bruce Jackson has been a educator for 21 years and believes that student success occurs when opportunity and understanding match individual motivation. Adam Knight has been an educator for 15 years.

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