The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
TASIS IB Students Pursuing Passion Projects in Place of Exams

In response to the International Baccalaureate’s decision to cancel the 2020 exams for all IB Diploma candidates, TASIS IB Coordinator Howard Stickley has devised a plan to ensure that all second-year IB students continue to have an enriching educational experience this spring.

Upon the School’s return from its spring holiday on April 20, all second-year diploma candidates began working on four-week Passion Projects in place of the exam review period that would typically be ongoing at this time of year. The projects offer students a wide variety of dynamic learning opportunities and allow them to provide additional evidence of continued study for confirmation of university placements that in a typical year would be contingent upon scores on IB exams.

“The idea for the Passion Projects grew out of the notion that our IB Program has an important obligation to keep these second-year diploma candidates in contact with the School, their teachers, and their fellow students,” said Mr. Stickley, who is in the final stages of a distinguished 39-year career at TASIS. “Allowing them to pursue chosen subjects that they and their teachers have proposed provides these lifelong learners with powerful learning opportunities while giving IB teachers a chance to do something they have always wanted to do with their students but for which there was never time.” 

Headmaster Christopher Nikoloff has returned to the classroom once again to lead a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Passion Project that explores the epistemology behind the great ideas by which we judge nearly everything: truth, goodness, and beauty.

Incorporating input from their students, the School’s IB teachers proposed 40 different passion projects spread out over the IB’s six subject groups and three core elements. All first-year IB students who planned to take an exam this May must complete at least one project, and all second-year IB Diploma candidates must finish at least four subject projects and one core topic. Project proposals included the following:

  • Studies in Language and Literature: Complete a Harvard University course that explores acts of storytelling in Shakespeare’s Othello alongside world-class artists who interpret Othello’s story in new forms and contexts today. 
  • Language Acquisition: Watch, compare, and contrast two films while looking at English idioms and the themes of identity and social organization.
  • Individuals and Societies: Complete a Babson College startup operations course that examines the real-world operational challenges and execution risks associated with getting a new venture started.
  • Sciences: Complete a Harvard University course that examines the health effects of climate change and discusses what we can do to reduce the damage caused by global warming.
  • Mathematics: Work through an online course in game theory together and have regular group discussions guided by the IB teacher.
  • The Arts: Create a video sketchbook in which each week students are challenged to record a video of a specific length with specific boundaries for framing, movement, action, and editing.
  • Core (TOK/CAS): Complete modules from an extensive online program that presents global issues such as world poverty, animal welfare, and possible future catastrophes with an eye toward answering the question, What’s the best way for me to improve the world?

Mr. Eric White’s IB Economics HL class is studying the theory of the firm and imperfect competition, specifically covering the market structures of monopolies, oligopolies, and monopolistic competition.

Mr. Stickley noted that some seniors have chosen to go beyond the five required projects. “One student who plans to study Medicine at university signed up for two HL Math projects; a TOK seminar on Truth, Goodness and Beauty; and projects on Microeconomics, Medicine, Neurobiology, and Medical Chemistry,” he said.

As students progress through their projects, they add descriptions, evidence, and reflections to their Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) journals through ManageBac, a planning, assessment, and reporting platform. IB teachers monitor the journal entries and schedule virtual classroom sessions for each project group they lead. All Passion Projects must be completed by May 15.

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