Charter School celebrates Baccalaureate program

Students and teachers highlighted their work in the third year of the new program.




The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School celebrated its third year as an International Baccalaureate World School by showcasing student work at its annual IB Night last week.

The night highlighted what the International Baccalaureate program is all about, through the voices of teachers and students with firsthand experience in the program. 

School officials say that the IB program emphasizes inquiry, understanding, and real-life application. The Charter School received its certification in 2021, and has since been an “IB for all” school, meaning students in both grades 11 and 12 receive their diplomas through the program. They are currently the only Island school with the program.

IB coordinator Hillary Smith introduced the event, describing the curriculum as “rigorous, but accessible.” 

Each of the IB classes presented an information table with curriculum overviews and examples of student work from the year.

Teacher Mathea Morais and senior Kaytlin Vanderhoop presented their table for the IB English language and literature class. “We really look at how language works in all forms: we study magazines, news articles, infographics, ads, films,” Morais said. 

The class also follows a prescribed reading list, and requires students to submit an independent essay for the end of the year: “The class is based on critical thinking: How do you look at something and understand it on a deeper level, regardless of what it is?”

Morais says the IB program allows more freedom when it comes to teaching, in opposition to other college-prep curriculum offerings. “There are certain things I can’t teach in an AP class, whether I think they might be important or not,” she said. 

Environmental systems and societies teacher Emily Smith felt similarly about the flexibility of the curriculum. Rather than simply studying a scientific subject, Smith said, she emphasizes perspective when it comes to investigating scientific thought. 

“We focus on people’s value systems around the environment, and how people’s surroundings impact the ways in which they see the environment.” she said. 

Senior Lucia Capece, presenting with Smith, showcased her project on black razor snakes to demonstrate Smith’s point. “We have black razor snakes here on-Island. I’ve always been interested in them, and I’ve worked with them since I was young,” she said. 

Math teacher Calder Martin and senior Sebastian Bennett-Rock presented their IB mathematics class table. Martin spoke to the curriculum, which includes five main math categories from algebra to statistics: “It covers a fairly broad range of topics, and gives you some different areas of math that aren’t always covered unless students take separate electives,” he said. 

Sebastian spoke to the preparatory aspect of IB classes. “It’s a lot of work, and it covers a lot,” he began. “But I think the difference between IB and other classes is that it prepares you for college — the first step into the real world,” he said.

Beyond these more familiar classes, the IB curriculum emphasizes three core components: theory of knowledge, the extended essay, and creativity, activity, and service. 

Melissa Knowles teaches the Creativity, Activity, Service class. She described the class as an embodiment of what IB aims to teach students. “It’s a unique opportunity for students to cultivate their own learning in the community,” she said. The average day in class varies — some days students go on field trips, other days they volunteer at local Island organizations, and after experiencing these excursions, they’ll spend their period in the classroom working on written reflections.

Teacher Jonah Maidoff teaches IB Theory of Knowledge. Maidoff described the objective of the class: “Each student chooses one of 30 questions to answer with an exhibition in the form of an internal assessment paper,” Maidoff said. The internal assessment paper is a 1,600-word essay, following inquiry prompts such as, “To what extent are areas of knowledge shaped by their past?” and “The task of history is the discovering of the constant and universal principles of human nature. To what extent are history and one other area of knowledge successful in this task?”

Student Grace Robinson, presenting with Maidoff, reflected on the class. “Even though the questions are given to you, you use your own knowledge to answer them,” she said. Robinson applauds Maidoff and his class, saying it’s her favorite IB class. 

“It’s opened up my mind about how we think, and the things we learn in IB are things I can apply to a lot of aspects in my life,” Robinson said, describing her experience as a student in the IB program.