School Spotlight: JPPS

Principal Marnie Stein is proud to be a part of the unique school that is JPPS, a Jewish K-6 Elementary school that offers an English Section, with instruction in English, a Section française, and is currently a candidate school of the coveted International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. At JPPS, learning is a life-long journey where each child is treated like an individual and every experience serves as a guide to help the child navigate a path to success. Here’s what she had to say about the school’s mission and their exciting student life.

What is your school’s mission and why does it help you stand out?

What we are most passionate about and what we really believe is our mission, is to find each student’s shine. We’re a small school with one class per grade so no one gets lost in the shuffle, everyone stands out, and we work on building their confidence and understanding their unique gifts and talents as well as areas where they need guidance.

How do you cater the curriculum to individual students’ needs?

Students are exposed to what they are learning via the International Baccalaureate programme – they’re not learning in silos but seeing the interconnectedness of all their subjects. For example, in Grade 6 they are studying a Transdisciplinary unit entitled “Sharing the Planet” whereby the students were tasked with creating a company in order to solve various environmental issues. Working in groups, they research the issue in Science class, which is taught in French. In STEM, they create a model of their solution using the 3D printer or other materials. In art, they study logo design and create a logo for their company, in English class they film public service announcements, and the list goes on… It culminates in the students taking action and raising money for clean water for a village in Kenya. The IB-PYP opens their eyes to the world around them beyond Cote Saint-Luc and beyond Montreal. Children as young as five years old learn that they have a responsibility, an obligation and the ability to make a difference in the world.

Why are the teachers at JPPS so special?

There is constant professional development with our teachers, as we are very much an inquiry-based program. Our starting point is what the students are interested in and curious about. It’s no longer where the teacher is the keeper of all the knowledge and dictating what they’ll learn – kids are exposed to so much and have so much knowledge that we want them to start the questions so they’re very engaged in their learning.

Give us a peek into student life at JPPS.

We have a lot going on, and the school is constantly buzzing. We have a lot of extracurricular programs at lunch and after school, and it includes everything from chess, handball, mixed martial arts and basketball to music and our amazing theatre program. We run a boys group and a girls group at lunch where students can drop in and learn how to navigate their social circles, as we guide them in making good choices. Our school culture is based on character development, kindness and respect, so we offer students an outlet to discuss social and emotional issues at an age-appropriate level, while engaged in various fun activities.

How are you using technology in school?

When we moved into this building three years ago it was very purposeful that we didn’t build a computer lab. We feel that technology should be integrated seamlessly into the pedagogy. It’s easy to take out an iPad and use it without a purpose in mind.  We are very careful about finding that fine balance so communication and written skills aren’t lost, yet students develop the skills to navigate a variety of technological tools.

Do you teach students about internet and cyber safety?

Yes, we do. We have a Good Choices Policy, which is all about good character and one of the components is digital citizenship. We hired a Family Life Educator this year for exactly this purpose: to go into classrooms and educate our students about cyber bullying, your digital footprint, the message that whatever you put out there never really goes away, etc. It’s integrated into the library program starting in Grade 3, and our librarian spends a good portion of time working on digital citizenship. Technology is a wonderful tool and the apps are amazing, but we have to be very vigilant that they’re being used responsibly.

How do you help students stay active?

We give everyone the opportunity to move around. We have bicycle desks and standing desks in all of our classrooms, and last year we introduced the Brain Break Boogie where teachers have passes and students can have a 10-minute brain break pass. They set a timer and go to any of the physical activity stations throughout the hallways. There are trampolines, yoga areas, scoop ball.  In addition, the French teachers incorporate Marche Sante where during the week they go outside and introduce them to sports and games.