"When we dug into it a little bit deeper, we saw that this really was kind of on the cutting edge of education," Kekkonen said. "It was more proactive and more forward thinking."
Kekkonen says it is easy for people to see the word 'international' and think that a global perspective is the main thrust of I.B. programs like the one at the newly named Patterson International School in Lakewood. It is important, but Kekkonen says the real key to I.B. is turning students into critical thinkers.
"It really focuses on what I think works in education, and that is using inquiry and questions," Kekkonen said.
Teachers challenge students in I.B. programs. They ask question after question to get them to justify and understand their answers.
"And, sometimes when you're asking those questions to kids, you are stretching their thinking and for some kids, that's gets frustrating at first," Gina Wilson, second-grade teacher at Patterson International, said.
Wilson says at the younger ages, I.B. can be a lot for kids to take in. But, once kids get used to being constantly challenged, Wilson says it opens up their minds.
"There's a lot of changes that I see within the students," Wilson said. "I think they're better thinkers and problem solvers."
In high schools, I.B. programs are often associated with a lot of homework.
"I don't know if it's more work as much as a different work," Kekkonen said.
Teachers do have to make sure students learn the required state curriculum in addition to the lessons tied specifically to the I.B. model.
"When we do our trainings and when we do our plannings, I always leave very mentally exhausted," Kekkonen said. "It's a lot of pretty intense thinking."
The International Baccalaureate model is spreading to more and more elementary programs around the nation.
Ryan Livingston is the I.B. coordinator at Patterson International. Livingston says this is a program where all students can succeed.
"You know what, I think it works for every population," Livingston said. "I think it works for every kind of learner, [gifted and talented]students, all the way to the kids we're trying to accelerate."
Don't forget, in addition to the critical thinking piece, the 'I' in I.B. does mean International.
"It's not just learning the material," Wilson said. "It's more of how can I take what I've learned now and apply it, and how does what I am learning affect the rest of the world."
Students learn every subject through a wider lens, according to Kekkonen.
"I think the international part is very important because it really globalizes that knowledge and those skills," Kekkonen said. "It's not so specific."
Kekkonen says thinking internationally just make sense in the 21st century.
"They're already being compared to students in Japan or Finland or different places," Kekkonen said.
All this week, 9NEWS will profile different types of schools for 9NEWS School Choice Week. Parents have only a few more weeks to make preliminary choices for school for their kids for next year.
If you want to find a good school near you, check out our partners at ColoradoSchoolGrades.com. This is a free website that assigns a letter grade to every school in Colorado, based on academic performance.
Tuesday, 9NEWS will profile a science and technology school.
Kekkonen says he is happy with the changes that an International Baccalaureate program has brought to his school.
"I think when you are able to look internationally, it sort of helps you understand yourself," Kekkonen said.
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