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MUHS IB extended essays are done

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School recently marked another milestone in the Addison Central School District’s transition to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
The school’s first cohort in the culminating phase of the IB program has completed the Extended Essay (EE) process, MUHS officials announced last month.
The IB program gives educators a curriculum framework that focuses on big-picture concepts and promotes an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. It begins with the Primary Years Program (PYP), continues in the Middle Years Program (MYP) and culminated in the Diploma Program (DP). Students who pass the rigorous IB Diploma Program — which includes community service and an extended essay — receive significant college credit and can enter some universities as a sophomore, school officials have said.
MUHS has 29 students in its first cohort of the full “Diploma Program,” which is the final phase of IB. These students are referred to as full DP candidates; many other seniors have signed up to earn DP certificates within individual classes. Between grade 10 and grade 11, students selected how they would be involved in the Diploma Program. As full DP candidates, these 29 students have been in the same classes (subjects) for the past year and a half. They are required to complete two years of the same three standard level (SL) subjects, and three higher level (HL) subjects.
Within these six courses they also have an internal assessment (IA), which are large written projects in an area of personal interest. The IAs are scored by the subject teacher as well as sent to the IB organization for their examiners to score as well. Work is assessed using IB rubrics and a proficiency-based method of scoring on a 1–7 scale.
In addition to the subject requirements, students also had to design their own research question and write a 4,000-word research essay. This Extended Essay was completed independently over the second half of students’ junior year and the first half of their senior year. Each student has a faculty EE supervisor who provides support throughout the year-long process. The supervisor assesses the student’s EE, and then it is sent off to the IB organization for external scoring.
Students are required to reflect on the writing and research process once their paper is finished. A common theme that was mentioned again and again by the students was the sense of pride that they had in their work, how they learned a lot about the writing process, and how the task required that they learn to manage their time.
On top of the Extended Essay, students also need to document and reflect on experiences in creativity, activity and service. This is called their “CAS” portfolio. Lastly, they need to complete a course that spans over both their junior and senior year, called Theory of Knowledge, or TOK. This is an interesting course that pushes students to think about what we know, and how we know it.
The following is a random sample of a few of the student’s research questions.
•  What explains the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank from 2000-2020?
•  To what extent does the design and shape of a model rocket engine effect the flight pattern and time of flight when fired at zero degrees.
•  To what extent does pride alter Elizabeth Bennet’s perception of Mr. Darcy’s character in the Jane Austen novel “Pride and Prejudice”?
•  Which mode is more effective in preserving coral reefs after being damaged: artificial restoration or natural regrowth?
•  How does architecture in Barcelona reflect Catalan uniqueness compared to the rest of Spain?
•  To what extent does the relationship between the solo cello and the orchestra in the first movement of Elgar’s E minor Cello Concerto, Op. 85 evoke feelings of sadness, anguish and loneliness?
Cindy Atkins, the MUHS International Baccalaureate DP Coordinator, said there are currently 32 members in our second cohort of full diploma candidates; as in the first cohort, this represents approximately 25% of the class. The current juniors identified their EE topics and are refining their research questions. They are meeting with their faculty supervisor for the first time this week.
 “We are excited for a return to ‘normal’ times in the future, as this will allow us to have a community event in which people can engage in discussions about the research process and findings, with students,” Atkins said.
MUHS celebrated the completion of the Extended Essay process with gold star awards.
Offered in more than 4,000 schools worldwide, the IB program “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to the program’s mission statement.
ACSD is the first public school union in Vermont to take on the switch to IB.

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