IB-International Baccalaureate LEARNERS
On Wednesday morning in Wendy Bryan's junior English class at Lee County High School, students split into groups tasked with creating an object from a small selection of basic materials – construction paper, cotton swabs, that kind of thing.
Each member of the group had a defined role – the builder, for example, was the only member of the group who could physically put the materials together. The materials manager, like the name suggests, would be responsible for gathering materials from the front of the classroom, while the presenter was in charge of presenting the object to the class.
Building an object from scratch – any object, the parameters were loose and defined only by the materials on hand and the students' imaginations – may sound like it doesn't have much to do with English, but Bryan said there's more to it than meets the eye, especially when it comes to poetry, which is the current focus in the class.
“With poetry a lot of students feel intimidated because it can be so abstract, so it helps to have them build something physical and talk about it. It helps you to see the author's life in writing,” she said. “And these objects will be on display all year for them to refer back to. If they're wondering whether color means something in a poem, they can look back at the objects they made and recognize that they made choices about color when they were building their object, so maybe it means something in the poem too.”
The exercise – and the class – are part of Lee County's International Baccalaureate diploma program, in which high school juniors and seniors take a series of six courses each year, along with a “theory of knowledge” course which ties those subjects together. The program, in its second year at Lee County High School, is aimed at developing “inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people with adaptable skills,” according to the organization.
The two-year nature of the program gives students the opportunity to develop long-term projects that utilize concepts from all of their classes. One participant used the school's Student Government Association to begin registering students who had turned 18 to vote. Another began teaching art at Warren Williams Elementary with the aim of having students there participate in the district's art show later this year. Another developed a program with the Red Cross to have letters sent to deployed troops.
“A part of this program is risk taking, and the seniors who started in this program last year are naturally risk-takers. But all of these kids are dealing with community leaders and for a 17-year-old, that can be a lot of pressure,” Bryan said.
Back in the classroom, the juniors presented their objects to the rest of the class. Sydney presented for her group, showing off a basket they'd weaved together from strips of construction paper.
“This is a basket with symbolic meaning,” she said. “We're trying to make an allegory of weaving ideas together. That's what we're doing in this class, trying to make our group ideas more effective.”
Other groups made pieces representing the American Dream, an abominable snowman, a stressed out face, and more. After each presentation, Bryan asked questions about what thoughts led to the creation of those pieces.
“What in your experience makes you feel stressed,” she asked Kennedy, the student presenting the tired face.
“We're all involved in things,” she replied. “Not just school, but also clubs and sports and on top of that, I work. But I can handle it. That's where time management comes in.”
John Conway, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, believes the IB program sets Lee County students apart from others. “Lee County High School is one of only 33 public and private high schools in North Carolina with an IB program, “ he said. “The IB program encourages our students to think independently and take ownership of their own education.”
“These students become more culturally aware and develop the skills they need to engage with people in a globalized and rapidly changing world,” Conway said. “And not only do they develop these career and life skills, IB students position themselves to be accepted to some of the highest ranking universities in the state and in the nation. For IB students, the sky is the limit.”