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District 833's first class of IB students finish key project

David Roettger, senior and full International Baccalaureate candidate, puts his 4,000-essay into the basket. He wrote a discussion of substituting another word in the text of "Huckleberry Finn" than the author originally used. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

Park High School's first class of 19 full International Baccalaureate candidates, set to graduate with the class of 2012, have completed a key assignment in the program.

After months of research and writing, the students handed in 4,000-word essays last week. To celebrate that the students are 75 percent of the way toward reaching their goals by graduation, parents and friends were invited to a breakfast meeting at Park to hear candidates explain their research. They also gave advice to IB candidates who are juniors and 25 percent of the way toward their goals.

When the first class met in the summer of 2010, 33 students said they were interested in becoming full IB candidates who would, after two years, have earned enough credits to enter college as sophomores.

Considering that this is the first class to graduate, Aaron Pozzini, the IB program adviser, said he's thrilled to see that so many students are succeeding.

"It's the most amazing group of students," he said.

Pozzini told those attending that juniors have already taken "a math test to boggle the mind" and a science class where they wrote more than they did in English class.

Some of the requirements include numerous science labs and written papers on historical investigation, mathematics, literature and a paper written in a second language, according to Pozzini.

Like a master's degree, the students' 4,000-word essays must be original research, he said.

During the research and writing process, students are paired with staff teachers.

The research topics varied. Using the 1980 Olympics as a backdrop, Ali Thalhuber researched how the games, especially hockey, fostered American nationalism in opposition to what was then the Soviet Union.

Andrew Knable investigated the "iron fist" of Josef Stalin.

Camden Knoff researched the history of gun violence and concluded more regulation is needed.

"You'll go through a lot of ideas," said Jacob Hitchcock to junior students. Hitchcock's research centered on the little-known Phillips War in 1675 pitting Pilgrims against Indians.

Jake Speirs' essay compares the European Spanish language to that spoken in Mexico.

Jennifer Brown's research included an analysis of the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin and how it influenced the Nazi Party's notion of racial superiority.

She gave juniors some practical advice, telling them that while doing their research they should pay attention to when their library books are due.

In doing experiments with sunblocks, Noah Dietsche discovered that the compound carrying the sunblock has as much influence in its effectiveness as the ultraviolet blocker.

Original copies of student work is sent outside the district for grading, Pozzini said, and copies should become available for people to read in July or August.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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