Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Great Exploration

A visualization of IB’s Diploma Program. Click the image for a short narrative description of the graphic.

At the center of the IB Diploma Program experience lay a trio that truly distinguishes the Diploma Program from other curricula: Theory of Knowledge (TOK); Creativity, Action, Service (CAS); and Extended Essay.

Each experience is tailored for individual students to adapt their passions and interests into action, from learning the modes of thought that are relevant for their particular pursuits (TOK) to applying their passions to benefit the world (CAS).

As librarian, I’m most excited by the Extended Essay, a 4,000 word research essay that a student may pursue in any academic area IB offers. Click here to read about recent research that points towards the Extended Essay as a project that enhances college readiness and success.

Our seniors have been working on this essay since last May, and the final drafts aren’t due until the end of January. However, I’m happy to report a diverse array of topics, interests, and passions being pursued:

*Postwar German society’s influence on the rise of Dadaism.

*How Coca-cola and Pepsi-co differ approaches in American and Indian marketplaces.

*The supermarket industry’s influence on establishing agricultural monocultures and, in turn, the collapse of the honey bee population.

*A comparative analysis of the poetics of Amari Baraka and Langston Hughes.

*An investigation of how anthropogenic sounds affect marine animals.

*”A study on bond strengths of orthodontic brackets bonded to enamel surfaces pre-conditioned with various solutions.”

This year, we have over 25 students pursuing the Extended Essay, with a super wide range of topics.

For anyone who worries inquiry-based learning lacks rigor, check out the above list of titles. Our seniors have been hitting the books, working in labs, and channeling our databases.

Or swing on by the library, and I’ll share a sampling of essays that are under development, with the permission of our writers, of course!

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Waldo’s Usual Haunts

Where is that Waldo? Let’s use big data to track that guy down.


Martin Hanford’s Where’s Waldo is the book that’s been checked out the most since we digitized our catalog in 1981. Where’s Waldo posters adorn the space between our youth and adult libraries, and we often find both kids and adults huddled next to the wall searching for that red-capped man, the wizard, and the scroll.

Given its popularity, check out this recent Slate Magazine exclusive report on how best to predict Waldo’s location using mathematical mastery.

For a quick preview on how you might employ this technique, check out the image below.


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Design Thinking on PBS

Design Thinking in Education is one of the most exciting derivatives of inquiry-based learning (click here for our previous explanation or here for material more thorough). In this process, learners are presented with a challenge (“How Might We Make the Library Conducive for Reading?”) before starting in on a process of empathy (“What can I learn about library users?”), problem identification (“What is really preventing the library from offering better reading spaces?”), ideating problem solutions, and creating prototypes.

The Design Thinking Process Cycle used by Stanford’s dschool. Click the image to learn more about how the dschool works.

The Design Thinking model can be applied to almost any tasks. Want to make the lunch room experience even more effective? Want to re-think the gift giving process in your family? Feel like thinking how World War I could have ended differently or what is really causing a novel’s character to react so vehemently?

As an inquiry cycle, Design Thinking is particularly unique is its focus on empathizing with a particular user and its dedication to problem identification (as opposed to just problem solving). It’s also one of the few inquiry cycles in education that’s also used by businesses (although their resources to do research and user interviews are much greater).

If you’re interested in seeing Design Thinking in action, check out this week’s PBS airing of Extreme by Design, as it offers one example of the many ways Design Thinking is being used in education today. Click here for more information, or check out the above video for a preview of the film.

Even though the episode is set to air on Wednesday, December 11th, it will be available online for two weeks after the initial showing.

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Last week featured the newest clients of the Co-Lab: our brand-new 3rd Grade Warriors Book Club.

You see, 3rd graders have been flying (FLYING!) through Erin Hunter’s Warriors series. Unfamiliar with these Warriors? Here’s the quick dish:

Four clans of feral cats live in a forest. Each clan holds territory and a distinct set of customs, although all clans have a warrior code. Like any organized group (of cats living in a forest), there are conflicts among clans over resources and allegiances, and battles that ensue.

The series is super popular, incredibly fun, but also serious about friendship and family. What’s even better? It has our third grade talking so much about books. One third grader, Nico, was so inspired by the conversations he’s had about the books, he asked his mom if he could start a book club.

And so they did. While I didn’t get to participate in the first session, I was amazed by how seriously they considered each other’s opinions, and how excited they were to continue on with their sessions in the coming months.

This is just one of several awesome initiatives arising from our C0-Lab. Nico’s mother was fantastic in helping arrange and facilitate what is predominantly a kid-driven effort. What’s more empowering for these kids than seeing their ideas and passions take form into action?

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