Kids cash in by earning baccalaureate status: one penny at a time

Kyrene Middle School students learned how to be philanthropists through the Pennies for Peace project they participated in as part of the school’s IB curriculum. — Photo courtesy Kathie Cigich

By Diana Nelson

Curriculum at Kyrene Middle School is now global, and the community is taking notice. Work is in the final review phase for proposed accreditation of KMS as an International Baccalaureate World School.

Word of the decision should be received in the next few months. Explained Kathie Cigich, the KMS IB program coordinator, the curriculum is designed to offer students a rigorous academic framework, which also encourages them to make connections between their studies and the international community.

The goal: creating a more tolerant society worldwide that also values intercultural respect.

In its active pursuit of accreditation as an IB program, KMS adopted the program known as Pennies for Peace, a free initiative developed by Central Asia Institute.

“Through (this) curriculum, KMS students learn to become philanthropists and activists, which are key attributes that make up an IB learner,” said Cigich.

Last year, Wrangler News featured an article on the KMS program that was seen by Tempe resident Mary Lee Carter, a retired teacher and member of the Arizona International Educators. As a result, Carter nominated the staff and students at KMS for 2019 honors recognizing Distinguished Contribution to Global Initiatives in Arizona.

“My professional organization… awarded KMS for their excellent effort in fostering international education in their curriculum,” said Carter, who continues to actively mentor other teachers and students on the importance of international study.

During a diverse career, Carter taught kindergarten at ASU and coordinated academic affairs for foreign students attending Thunderbird School of International Management.

In AIE, Carter said, she and other members are passionate about international education and want to bring new teachers into the field.

“I was particularly gratified to learn about the program at KMS because it targets middle-school-aged students, while most programs in Arizona are for students in high school or college.

“I went to the school and visited with the students, and was really impressed with everything that they are learning,” said Carter.

KMS students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades gathered 77,557 pennies (totaling $775.57) during a semesterlong service-learning activity, along with studying the cultures of Central Asia, specifically Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

To further enhance the service activities, they gave 380 pairs of socks to the target countries’ disadvantaged, in addition to providing four belowthe-knee prosthetics for students in Nepal and Tanzania.

All during the program, KMS students learned all about the communities they helped with their donations and became more culturally aware during the process.

Even though the transition to become an IB Programme School has been a challenge for everyone involved, said Cigich, the school’s staff worked as a team to ensure the new learning environment was established.

“In the beginning, it was a lot to take in—much like trying to take a drink from a fire hose. Our teachers spent hours on professional development to learn the methodologies and philosophies of the programme.

“To help make the journey more digestible, teachers were presented with action steps that chunked their learning along with access to many resources to help them with the implementation.

“As we are closing our second year of candidacy, the teachers are becoming more and more comfortable with the changes that have been made. When I walk through classrooms, I see what wonderful work our students and teachers are doing every day,” said Cigich.

Janis Barden, a fellow teacher in the IB program, at KMS agrees.

“Bringing IB to KMS is an incredible and positive change for the campus. The students’ attitudes are focused toward learning skills and how they can improve as a 21st century learner. The overall culture of KMS is one of positive attitudes. Students feel empowered to make a change in the world around them. This is accomplished through our service learning activities.”

One Tempe seventh grader, Quinn Sacalis, added a student’s endorsement of the school’s enrollment in the IB programme.

“As a student at Kyrene Middle School, I am extremely grateful for the IB programme. The wonders that the program has done for this school defy words, but I will try.

“With (it), we spend time in class furthering our knowledge by using global contexts to more deeply understand how what we’re doing is not only beneficial for us now, but for others in our community.”

“We also learn Approaches to Learning Skills (ATL skills) such as research skills to focus our work so we are able to do so efficiently. The impact of the IB programme at my school is spectacular,” said Sacalis.

More information about the IB program can be found online at


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