Did you ever have a desire to do a deep dive in to Kurt Vonnegut’s “trilogy” looking at how his personal tragedies informed his postmodern style? Have you ever wished you really understood how the fashion industry’s control over what we see in advertising influences acceptance of body types? Have you ever considered open-source operating systems as a major factor in the direction technology moves in the future?

All of these are fascinating to me. They make me think, and they beg for a closer look.  Most importantly, I don’t have any answers. The Seniors who started writing their IB Extended Essays (or EE for short) on these topics didn’t have answers either, but they do now!  Finding answers to intriguing questions is what the Extended Essay is all about. Full IB Diploma candidates use research to unearth evidence and formulate complex, well-reasoned answers to questions that deserve a closer look.

This time of year, I can’t help but have EE’s on my mind. As the Seniors are finishing their EEs, the Juniors are just getting started. Right now, every IB Full diploma candidate in 11th grade is trying to find a research question that speaks to them. Guided by their IB course work, they work closely with Mrs. O’Hare, who is both librarian and EE coordinator, to refine questions and hone their research skills. Each student is choosing a mentor who will help them reflect on the process along the way.

By the end they haven’t just learned if T-4 phage can kill antibiotic resistant bacteria, they have also learned new research techniques and how to navigate the obstacles that inevitably come up in a major research project. It is a long, challenging process. But the result is something more satisfying: a sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching a true milestone.