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For years, Millbrook High School sophomore Joslyn Parsons has admired her neighbor’s quilts each time she visits for a piano lesson.
A major project for her school’s International Baccalaureate program gave her the chance to try creating one herself. “She taught me how to do it, and I picked up books to help,” Joslyn said.
The quilting process took about three months and more than 20 hours of needlework, she said. The vibrant blue, green and black final product wasn’t the end of the IB project though. Joslyn and her fellow 10th-graders also had to write 3,000-word papers about what they learned and explain their projects to a panel of classmates and teachers armed with evaluation rubrics. Most students in traditional high schools don’t tackle such an intensive assignment until the senior year graduation project.
It’s the activity that wraps up the middle years IB program; students then decide whether to enroll in the more intensive diploma program for their final years of high school. Last week’s presentations were the first for all 400 sophomores since Millbrook added the IB program several years ago.
“It reflects the student’s creativity, motivation and interest, but it also gives them the opportunity to reflect on their experience in the IB program,” said Jessica Collins, coordinator of the middle years program.
Students chose a topic that had personal significance for them, whether it was a skill such as quilting or playing the bass guitar or a traditional research area such as sports medicine. “There’s no real limitations – it’s an anything-goes approach,” Collins said.
Zach Abdou decided to explore his Jewish heritage by using PVC pipe and plants to create a sukkah, a temporary hut built for the holiday of Sukkot.
“It commemorates the Jews who were walking in the desert,” Zach explained in his presentation Thursday. “It is a symbol of the harvest. ... You spend a whole day in it; you can sleep in it.”
Dayna Shakespeare combined her interest in art and math for her project, making a series of drawings based on fractals. She said she took an online course on how to use fractals, “a mathematical phenomenon a lot of people don’t know about.” Her art featured a tiger and a tree.
“It’s something amazing, and I wanted people to understand that,” she said.
Collins said the school’s staff, who met with students throughout the process, were blown away by the students’ enthusiasm for their topics.
“It’s so awesome to see these kids invest and be so passionate about something,” she said, adding that honors students weren’t the only ones to give it their all. “It’s been really rewarding to see what the average academic classes have come up with as well.”