Ray Huard … Michaela Jackson said she wanted classes that would dare her to think critically. “I wanted to challenge myself,” Michaela said.
Alexander Kriksciun wanted a curriculum that gave him a taste of the freedom he’ll have in college to choose what he studies.
Bryce Picton wanted courses that looked “at broad concepts rather than individual facts.”
The three Rancho Buena Vista High School seniors are enrolled in the school’s International Baccalaureate diploma program.
Rancho Buena Vista’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program along with IB offerings at Vista High School, Vista Magnet Middle School, Casita Center for Science, Technology & Math and Vista Academy of Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) will be explored at a 5 p.m. Jan. 31 International Baccalaureate Community Night at Rancho Buena Vista.
“This night is really focused toward the community and parents who are interested in International Baccalaureate and want to find out what it’s all about and what advantages it gives their child,” said Carolyn Thom, a resource teacher in the Vista Unified School System who is organizing the event with Teresa Kim, also a Vista Unified resource teacher.
“There will be examples of students’ work, then we will break out into panels and students who graduated from the International Baccalaureate program will be talking about how it helped them in college or whatever occupation they have,” Thom said.
The Community Night is open to parents from other school districts and private schools as well as Vista Unified and baby-sitting services will be available, Thom said.
Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, the International Baccalaureate Program works with about 4,585 schools worldwide, according to its website, www.ib.org.
Rancho Buena Vista High School and Vista High School offer the IB Diploma Programme for students aged 16 to 18, Vista Magnet offers the Middle Years Programme for all of its students, and VAPA and Casita are in the process of being certified for the Primary Years Programme for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
At the high school level, students can take the ull Diploma Programme to earn a separate IB diploma when they graduate, along with their school diploma, or they can take a selection of IB courses and receive an IB certificate in addition to their school diploma, said Melissa Neumann, Rancho’s IB and Advanced Placement program coordinator.
The IB program encourages students to look at issues from an international perspective. The work is demanding and requires students to take more and more responsibility for what they study as the progress through the grade levels.
“I love the program because it’s really well-rounded,” Thom said. “It’s very inquiry-based so students are finding things that are interesting to them and they do a lot of their own research and it’s very global.”
In keeping with its global perspective, the IB program requires students to study a second language starting at the elementary school level, and connects students in Vista with students from around the world, Kim said.
For example, students at Vista Magnet one year had a video conference call with students from a village in Peru, exchanging notes on their differences and similarities. The Vista students also raised money to help buy books for the Peruvian students.
“Really, the IB program is looking for opportunities to connect students to a global community as often as possible,” Kim said.
Although the work is rigorous, the IB program is meant for “anybody who’s willing to work hard in school,” Neumann said, adding that, “You have to be disciplined, hard-working.”
Michaela, the Rancho Buena Vista senior, said she gets “a little more homework” in the IB courses than she would otherwise, and the work also is more complex. “It definitely does take a lot more of my time,” Michaela said.
Classmates Bryce and Alexander said they don’t notice more homework, but agreed that the work is more challenging.
For example, in high school, students pursuing the Full Diploma are required to write a 4,000 word essay on a topic of their choosing from within a broad category, Neumann said.
A student interested in math might write an essay related to math, while a student more interested in film can write about film.
Another requirement of the Full Diploma, known as Creativity, Action and Service (CAS), requires students to work on a project that benefits the larger community.
Alexander said that for one class, he chose to work on an essay about Woodstock and the counter-culture of the 1960’s. “That’s a time in history I’m really interested in,” Alexander said. For his CAS project, Alexander is working on a “Write for Rights” letter writing campaign through Amnesty International.
Bryce is helping to organize the school’s second annual poetry slam as his project.
Michaela said she helped put together an international film festival to “kind of bring more culture on campus.”
Just as with Advanced Placement (AP) courses, students can get college credit for IB courses they take in high school, Neumann said.
Research from the IB organization also has shown that students who take IB courses do better in college.
Rancho Buena Vista, which has offered IB courses since the school opened in 1987, this year expanded the number and variety of IB courses it offers and was chosen as the host of the exposition to highlight its programs, Neumann said.
“We wanted to showcase our IB program at Rancho Buena Vista,” Neumann said.
Newly added courses include higher level psychology, standard level design technology, higher level film and standard and higher level dance, Neumann said.
The school also is looking at further expanding its IB program in the future.
“What we’re trying to do is create a pathway for more students to complete the IB Diploma Programme,” Neumann said. “We’re trying to make it more accessible.”