International Baccalaureate Comes to Kitsap: West Sound Academy's First IB Diploma Candidates

Kitsap County's first group of International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Candidates begin their two years of coursework this fall at West Sound Academy, a private school in Poulsbo, WA. The students reflect on what it's like to be in the IB program.
West Sound Academy IB Visual Arts class
West Sound Academy IB Visual Arts class
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Sept. 21, 2011 - PRLog -- Kitsap County's first group of International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Candidates started school at West Sound Academy (WSA) on August 30th, the first day of a two-year journey towards both a WSA high school diploma and the internationally recognized IB Diploma in 2013.   The road between late summer 2011 and the cap and gown ceremony nineteen months away will be a busy one, with papers, research projects, community service, personal reflection, and comprehensive exams.  One job of West Sound Academy's Head of School, Barrie Hillman, as IB Coordinator, is to keep everyone on track for meeting IB program requirements.   Hillman has a two-year calendar in her office with the papers, assessments and other milestones marked for each IB class and component.  Hillman notes, "The value of the IB program is the journey rather than the destination. Each milestone is celebrated with reflection and the demands made of the students are carefully balanced."

There have been three weeks of school at WSA; so all the teachers have had a chance to present their 'big picture' views of what's required in their disciplines for the next two years.  All of these students are enrolled in six IB classes, three of which they choose to take as Higher Level courses.  All courses (Higher and Standard) have exams in May, with Higher Level classes requiring additional assessments.  The IB program also requires the Theory of Knowledge survey course on the philosophy of learning, completion of a personal program of community service and involvement, as well as a 4,000-word research paper, the Extended Essay. This paper is sent first to an IB office in Cardiff, Wales, then on to an international IB examiner to be scored.  Evan Romasco-Kelly of Bainbridge Island acknowledges, "Looking at this long-term, there will be a lot of writing.  We'll have to balance a lot of different requirements this year."  Speaking of Hillman's master calendar, Mara Rolsky of Suquamish says, "When I see Barrie's calendar, and everything that I'll be doing this year and next, it's hard for me to imagine writing all of those papers and doing all that work.  It's a little intimidating.  Still, I know I'll be able to do all of it.  I'm excited to get started!"  Reagan Colyer of Poulsbo points out, "The IB requires a variety of things:  Theory of Knowledge, service, writing.  The ability to say which of the courses you'll take as Higher Level or Standard Level allows you to focus on what's the most interesting to you or what you're best at.  You can plan your program so it meets the goals you have for college or career."

Romasco-Kelly adds that the option of choosing which classes to have as Higher Level has increased the degree of interest and enthusiasm he sees in his classmates.  "The students in these classes have chosen to put their energy into these Higher Level courses, and they're motivated to work hard."  Tim Hinrichs, an international student from Kleinmachnow, Germany, will be at WSA for his junior year, then return to finish his diploma at an IB school in his home country.  He appreciates the structure of the IB program that makes his work in the United States this year applicable to his school back home.  "The IB has advantages to the international student.  Having the IB work I do here apply to my own school means I will be able to graduate with my class, and not 'lose' a year because of being at an American school."

The path to the IB really began for these students when they were in 9th grade.  West Sound Academy applied to become an International Baccalaureate World School in the fall of 2009.  Teachers have been trained, reports have been filed, and now, in the fall of 2011, the classes have begun.  Romasco-Kelly notes, "The staff's teaching styles are the same, but there's now additional structure to the course requirements."  Colyer adds, "The different IB classes work together to give you a well-rounded education."  Andrew Taylor of Poulsbo wasn't sure what to expect when the IB finally started.  "Back in the spring, when there were all the meetings about IB, and explanations of the classes, the requirements, and the Extended Essay, it just seemed like a giant IB wave of work coming our way.  But now that it's here, it's definitely achievable.  It's all good."

Next month the IB students and their teachers will present  "IB Is a Lot Like You", a program for the public giving information about the International Baccalaureate Diploma at two local libraries:  October 5, 2011, 7 p.m. at Bainbridge Public Library and October 12, 2011, 7 p.m. at Poulsbo Library.  See for more information.

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West Sound Academy: an independent college preparatory school for grades 6-12 on the Kitsap Peninsula in Poulsbo, Washington, providing a rigorous academic and art curriculum and offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in grades 11-12.
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