IB drives Summit High School students to go above and beyond
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit High School 10th-grader Emily Bilenduke always wanted to learn the fundamentals of great cooking. She dabbled in baking, making cookies and other sweet treats, but she never felt like she had the time or resources to develop the skills necessary to create truly delicious meals from scratch.
When, in the spring of her freshman year, she was presented with the chance to tackle a long-term, hands-on project on the topic of her choice, she knew this was the opportunity she had been waiting for.
Now, after months of research and practice, Emily knows how to hand-craft her own ricotta cheese, stir up a creamy risotto, stuff and roast chicken breasts and create a moist, tender cake that oozes a river of chocolate from a molten center.
Emily owes her newfound skills to the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP), which encourages students to make connections among their studies, themselves and the “real world.” The program begins in middle school and concludes in students’ sophomore year. Participation is optional for Summit High School students. Successful completion of the program earns students the MYP Certificate, partly contingent on their execution of a long-term, personal project, like Emily’s culinary undertaking.
Students begin brainstorming topics in May of their freshman year. Projects take shape in a seemingly endless variety of forms, including original works of art, pieces of literary fiction, original science experiments, business plans, new community organizations and philanthropic endeavors. Each personal project is individually created, organized and executed based on students’ personal interests. Students have until Feb. 1 to complete their projects, documenting and reflecting upon their work in a process journal. The students receive no course credit for their personal projects, and they conduct their explorations almost entirely outside of class. Each student is assigned a mentor who meets with and advises him or her throughout the life of the project.
Emily began her endeavor by visiting chefs at two of Summit County’s most acclaimed restaurants: Relish in Breckenridge and the Keystone Ranch. She developed a menu, from appetizer through dessert course. Then she rolled up her sleeves for hands-on lessons in knife skills, shocking vegetables, seasoning meats, forming crab cakes with crisp, golden crusts and emulsifying salad dressings.
“There were times I wondered whether I could pull it off,” Emily said. “I really had to learn to push through and persevere.”
This year, 40 Summit High School students took on personal projects. The students presented them to the public last week during the first-ever MYP Personal Project Showcase. At the event, Emily passed out samples of her risotto and crab cakes, making her station a popular one among her teachers and peers. Staff members circulated among the displays, assessing the students’ work.
“What I was impressed with was how engaged the students were,” IB coordinator Bethany Lambrecht said. “They were very proud, standing there talking about their projects, answering questions and discussing what they learned.”
In addition to last week’s presentations, students were required to submit a written personal statement, giving an overview of the project, including an account of its problems, solutions, strengths, limitations and life lessons.
“I think it’s a great way to push yourself and see how much you can do. I learned to cook, but I also learned the basics of creating a project, sticking with all of it – even the less-fun parts like documenting and writing,” Emily said.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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