Avon Elementary working to become the county’s second International Baccalaureate school | VailDaily.com

Avon Elementary working to become the county’s second International Baccalaureate school

Eduardo Arteaga, 8, makes sure his magnetic pulley works Dec. 6 at Avon Elementary School. Kids had to come up with ideas for an invention based on life experiences.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com |

AVON — Nancy Sandberg’s and Mariana Foster’s Avon Elementary students were thinking about machines, as kids will and what they could make their machines do for the greater good.

That’s how they think at Avon Elementary these days — mostly about the greater good.

It’s all part of becoming an International Baccalaureate school.

Avon Elementary Principal Roy Getchell ran an International Baccalaureate school in Colorado Springs and liked the way his students achieved.

“IB education is internationally benchmarked. When you reach that benchmark you have reached an incredibly high international standard,” Getchell said.

Eagle Valley Elementary School has been an International Baccalaureate school for years.

“The focus goes beyond acquiring a set of knowledge and skills, but to show the students a bigger picture and help them learn the skills they need to work toward making that a reality,” said Tiffany Dougherty, Eagle Valley principal.

The International Baccalaureate mission is to make the world a better place through education, Dougherty said.

For example, Eagle Valley Elementary students were reading about wars and what can happen. Among them, people lose limbs.

Eagle Valley Elementary students joined a fundraiser for Limbs International and raised enough money to buy three limbs for people who had lost theirs in wars.

“That’s the sort of thing International Baccalaureate education does,” Dougherty said.

Invention Convention

You don’t need a Go Fund Me campaign to manufacture your own simple machine. Sandberg’s and Foster’s students built theirs with material they had at hand.

Their machines were limited only by their imaginations, which turn out to have no limits.

Sandberg and Foster’s last unit dealt with how they express themselves. That rolled into creating something, such as those simple machines designed to make their lives easier, Sandberg said.

That rolled into the scientific method: plan and build their machine, test it, change it so it does what you want it to do, then bring it in for a demonstration.

“The simplicity and ingenuity was amazing,” Sandberg said.

One lad made a block and tackle machine that picks up heavy objects. It has two pulleys because many hands and many wheels make light work.

There’s the pair of smartphone speakers made from plastic drink cups. It’s the same principle as those tin-can-on-a-string things you used to make when you were a kid, except you can actually understand what’s being said.

The bronco bookholder makes your life easier because you can set your book on it and clip the pages with handy blue and orange clips. That allows you to get your reading done while you eat cheeseburgers, or something like that.

We all know that magnets pull metal items together. The one at Sandberg’s students’ Invention Convention was conveniently mounted to a staff that enables you to pick up metal objects off of the floor without bending over.

Now they’re talking about economics, because in most international matters it really is all about the money. Folks from the Junior Achievement program will help teach economics.

Like all Avon Elementary lessons, it’s one week in English and one week in Spanish.

International benchmarks

“Education is an act of hope in the face of an always-uncertain future,” says the International Baccalaureate Organization.

An International Baccalaureate curriculum is designed to ratchet up subject matter, while helping students see the bigger world picture.

International Baccalaureate education started in Switzerland with some of the most elite private schools in the world. As diplomats, government officials and international business people moved from place to place and their children from school to school, the curriculum remained consistent and students did not have to start over.

Avon Elementary students already have a broader worldview than most. Their student body is 81 percent Hispanic and includes students from all around Europe, Australia, the Middle East, the Far East Asia — just about every continent on the planet.

“We also have a good mix of local kids, too. That’s part of our diversity,” Getchell said.

Avon Elementary has been approved as a candidate to become an International Baccalaureate school. There’s an application and review process, there’s a lengthy list of standards that must be met and somewhere down the road they’ll get an accreditation visit.

Avon Elementary was on the ropes not so long ago under the federal government’s No Child Left Behind program.

The school has nearly doubled its test scores and earned a national Blue Ribbon School Award from the Department of Education.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.