New school year begins with first Viper IB class to graduate

By PRIYA GREGERSON, Vandegrift Voice

As school begins on Thursday, a handful of Vandegrift seniors will begin their final year in the International Baccalaureate program, making the first Viper IB graduating class next spring.

“We have all IB juniors returning as seniors this year and we have added over 50 more students to this year’s IB Programme,” said Debbie Quick, IB coordinator at Vandegrift. “We have 110 students total.”

The IB program offers different curriculum for students. Rena Liang and Spurthi Kodkani are two of the 44 rising seniors who are up for the rigorous challenge of pursuing an IB diploma.  

“I like being in the IB program because it’s a really unique approach to learning and I enjoy the small class sizes, Liang said. “[There are] lots of discussions which I enjoy and the content is really interesting.”

The process to get an IB program started takes years to implement and the VHS program has been in the works since 2016 with initial funding help from the Viper Nation Education Foundation. This will be the second year IB classes are offered at VHS.  

The IB program operates differently from AP classes. For example, essays are written for tests instead of multiple choice questions. Kodkani said she thinks this helps to prepare for college.

“IB is definitely a challenge that I took up but I feel like it’s a pretty good experience, a different way of thinking,” Kodkani said. 

“I’ve been in AP classes for the first two years of high school.  In AP, it’s a lot of information you’re given and you just have to memorize it and be able to regurgitate it,” Kodkani said. “In IB, the information is given to you a bit slower and you have to be able to process the information more and understand what you’re talking about. It’s a very different way of learning but I like it because it just makes sense to learn that way then to just learn facts.”  

IB students are required to take three standard level classes and three higher level classes, meaning six total through the course of two years. Students must also get a total combined score of 24 on IB tests. Other requirements include an extended essay, creativity/activity service and a Theory of Knowledge course.

“It is definitely a lot more time commitment,” Kodkani said. “We have our classes and then we have our extended essay that we’re working on throughout the course of two years, which is like a 4,000-5,000 word research paper.”

Both girls said the IB program is challenging and time consuming, but a good experience to have.

Rising juniors Josie Clinton and Chloe Barborak discuss their feelings for joining the IB Programme for the 2019-2020 school year.

“I am interested in the IB program because it is a way for me to stand out to colleges,” Barborak said. “[This] is especially important with the competitive nature of [this school]. I am also interested because of the claim that [being an IB student is supposed to give] me a more worldly view on my life.”

IB students learn about the relationship of their classes with one another and how they intertwine. The IB programme also grows students around community service, physical activity and new experiences. Both Barborak and Clinton are interested in getting attention from colleges in the future.

“I think being an IB student shows a different perspective to colleges,” Clinton said. “Many colleges want diversity nowadays and want people who are different. [They are typically interested in students] who have different ways of thinking and have different backgrounds. I think IB is a program where students can learn those different perspectives.”

The IB programme is one of the biggest academic commitments in high school. Barborak thinks her freetime will be limited as an IB student because of the workload, written assignments and required outside activities.

“I will probably be studying more, going out and doing assignments, or participating in more study groups,” Barborak said. “This means I’ll have to prioritize events on my schedule and do my homework more efficiently.”

One assignment IB students have to do every couple weeks is to try something new. These experience assignments can be participating in new cultural activities or festivals or making a meal from a foreign country.

“Most of them will either be fun or worth it in the end,” Barborak said. 

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme curriculum at Vandegrift is under the direction of Debbie Quick, coordinator. It is made of six subject groups with studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, math and the arts.

The curriculum is also made up of what is called the DP core, comprised of:

  • Theory of knowledge, in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on “how we know what we claim to know”. 
  • Creativity, activity, service or CAS, in which students complete a project related to those three concepts.
  • An extended essay, an independent, self-directed research paper.

Among specific requirements are four years of a foreign language, 150 hours of community service and a lot of writing. In fact, the aforementioned extended essay is a 4,000-word paper completed on the student’s time outside of school.

Debbie Quick, VHS IB coordinator
Mallory Mathews, VHS IB language & lterature
Kristen Wachsmann, VHS IB theory of knowledge
Katie Stewart, VHS IB history