What makes a good citizen? To the teenagers at the table yesterday, it was a complicated question. They could have debated it for hours. But to the first graders, it was pretty...

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What makes a good citizen?

To the teenagers at the table yesterday, it was a complicated question. They could have debated it for hours.

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But to the first graders, it was pretty simple. Keep the parks safe. Be nice to your friends.

“Sing a song to the class,” said Brittany Stevens.

That’s how a group of first-graders from Sherwood Elementary School in Bellevue got an introduction to the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program yesterday, answering questions about the meaning of good, bad and everything in between. Students in the program at Interlake High School served as their guides, prodding the children for their philosophy on life.

IB is a two-year program that combines the challenge of college-level advanced-placement classes with a humanitarian element. The students in yesterday’s session currently are studying philosophy and the concept of truth in a university-caliber two-semester course called the “Theory of Knowledge.”

To learn more

To find out more about the International Baccalaureate program at Interlake High School, attend the information session on Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the school’s cafeteria. The school is located at 16245 NE 24th St. in Bellevue.

As part of the Bellevue School District’s push for higher standards, Sherwood Elementary is looking at the idea of creating a pre-IB program for its children. It was in that spirit that the first-graders visited Interlake yesterday, splitting up into groups and discussing the big questions, including what it means to be a good person.

Sitting with the teenagers in small groups, the children were somewhat overwhelmed at the start of the session. But slowly, they went beyond one-word answers. They offered up stories from their lives on the playground and in the classroom, explaining to the high-school students what it means to be a good friend.

If you break someone’s toy, you take responsibility for it. If you see someone alone at recess, you play with them. If you think someone is in danger, you protect them. Those are signs of a good friend, the children said.

“To us, it’s really deep,” said Roxana Florea, a student at Interlake High School. “To them, it’s almost instinct.”

Before their visit to Interlake, the first-graders read a few books that revolved around the theme of goodness. And the teenagers met them halfway, reading those same books, and referring to them in yesterday’s conversation.

First-grade teacher Carley Houlahan said the children have a long way to go before they make a shift toward such critical thinking. Part of it comes with age, she said, and part of it comes with training.

But a few hours after the children left Interlake, Houlahan said the lessons they had learned there were lingering in their own classroom.

“I could hear little comments like, ‘Look, I’m being good,’ ” said Houlahan. “I think in their own little world, they made the connection.”

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com