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IB @ WMS The Art of Collaboration

Collaboration: to work jointly with others especially in an intellectual endeavor.

In education, teachers exchanging ideas and sharing resources to reach a common goal leads to a more cohesive learning experience for students and a more satisfying and supportive working environment for staff. Interdepartmental collaboration facilitates creativity in lesson planning, translating to more meaningful experiences for the students.

Evidence of team collaboration can be found in most disciplines at Westlake Middle School, including, but not limited to, the art department. One project they are currently collaborating on is the “International Peace Poster Contest” sponsored by the Thornwood Lions Club. WMS art teacher and IB Coordinator Susan Cowles explains “This truly is a collaboration, not only between all the art teachers, but also the art department and the Lions Club. The theme this year is ‘Kindness matters when promoting peace.’ Essentially it’s a chance for kids to reflect on what peace means for them.”

Before the project kicks off, the 7th art teachers, Cowles, Claudia Abate, Lauren Morris, and Claudia Papazian, discuss how they are going to approach the project, what materials will be used, and how they will introduce it to the students. Even though each instructor will each have their own unique way of presenting the material, they collaborate by taking on the same theme and same group of students (all 7th graders in this case). This multi-week project not only focuses on art, but also incorporates social studies and history lessons. The teachers explain why the peace poster contest is important by discussing the role of the UN and looking at major conflicts around the world and some of the underlying causes. They talk about what individuals can do to be more understanding of others that are different from them. The students then use this background knowledge to inspire them to design a poster to promote peace. The results are truly impressive, going far beyond the cliche peace sign or dove.

This is but one example of teacher collaboration at Westlake Middle School. Through the IB Middle Years Program, all WMS faculty regularly plan and coordinate their units of study as a department and by grade level within their discipline. Having all the teachers on the same page sets the students up to be successful. Instructors have a deeper knowledge of the material and more confidence in presenting it. They can bounce ideas off each other if conflicts arise and work to come up with solutions together. Demonstrating the importance of collaboration to students highlights what can be accomplished when people work together for a common goal.

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