Meade High IB Diploma Programme inspires critical thinking

Jan Salvador Ochida, a sophomore in the International Baacalaureate Programme at Meade High School, demonstrates how he is learning to play the Guzheng, a Chinese plucked-string instrument, as part of his Middle Years Programme personal project. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

What are the rights of indigenous peoples when a construction project threatens to affect their sacred grounds?

That was the question a group of seniors debated in a Theory of Knowledge class as part of Meade High School’s International Baccalaureate Programme.

The Theory of Knowledge is one of the core components of the IB Diploma Programme and is taken by all IB Diploma students.

The International Baccalaureate Programme is a nonprofit educational foundation offering four programs of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world, according to the organization’s website.

“The IB Diploma Programme is an academically rigorous program of study that prepares students for the challenges of college and fosters independent thinking and learning,” said Jennifer Quinn, IB Diploma coordinator at Meade High School.

Debating Current Events

The Theory of Knowledge class is a highlight of the IB Diploma program.

“The purpose of the course is to promote critical thinking and thoughtful inquiry into the nature of knowledge,” said Corrine Goldt, the instructor. “Students are encouraged to question shared and personal knowledge, including personal ideological biases, and to appreciate the diversity and wealth of cultural perspectives in their environment.”

The debate about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was a heated exchange.

Students talked about whether it was ethical for a corporate entity to construct the pipeline on sacred land and whether the greater good was served, even if the pipeline would bring oil to other states.

Media coverage of the issue and whether the pipeline’s protesters made a valiant effort to publicize their cause were also discussed.

Meade High senior Riley Baker said he enjoys the class because he is able to hear perspectives different from his own.

“I can play devil’s advocate and hear different opinions,” the 18-year-old said. “I like IB because of how rigorous the classes are.

“I know I’m getting the best education that I can, so when I go to college I’ll be ready.”

The entire IB program is available through the Meade feeder system. The IB Primary Years Programme is offered at Manor View Elementary. The IB Middle Years Programme is offered at MacArthur Middle School. A continuation of the IB Middle Years Programme and the IB Diploma Programme are offered at Meade High.

All students within the Meade feeder system can continue through the Middle Years Programme at Meade High School and can apply to be part of the Diploma Program.

Meade High graduated its first IB candidates in 2010. The school also began offering the IB Middle Years Programme to all ninth and 10th grade students the same year.

All freshmen and sophomores at Meade High participate in the IB Middle Years Programme. Additionally, a cohort of students apply as eighth-graders from Anne Arundel County’s middle schools to participate in both the Middle Years and Diploma Programmes as magnet programs.

In-Depth Study

The curriculum of the IB Diploma is composed of six subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and the arts.

The curriculum also includes three core components: the Theory of Knowledge class, the extended essay, and a creativity, activity and service projects.

While all freshmen and sophomores are automatically enrolled in the Middle Years Programme, students can apply to participate in the full IB Diploma Programme or apply to take one of the six individual IB Diploma courses.

A hallmark of the IB Middle Years Programme is the personal project. It is a yearlong, independent research project that sophomores complete.

While completing the project, students are required to keep a process journal and complete a report that reflects their process and the results of the project. Students receive guidance during the project from a teacher.

Jan Salvador Ochida, an IB sophomore, chose to teach himself how to play the Guzheng, a Chinese string instrument, for his project.

“Personally, I’m really fond of music,” the 15-year-old violinist said. “It’s the best way to express myself. … It helps me vent out my feelings in a healthy way.”

The Guzheng is a Chinese plucked-string instrument with a more than 2,500-year history and has at least 16 strings and movable bridges. Jan said he decided to teach himself how to play the instrument because he wanted to deepen his knowledge of Chinese culture since he is learning Mandarin Chinese.

His project supervisor is Jing Dai, a world and classical language instructor.

Finding time to practice has been hard, but Jan said he is determined to meet his goal.

“Sometimes, something you want to do can be a challenge,” he said. “But you have to find a way around it, if you want to do it.”

Senior Pooja Patel said the IB program empowers students.

“The program values what we think,” Patel said. “It gives us a voice.”

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