IB bookworms

IB diploma candidates head to San Diego central library to work on Extended Essays


Melina Ramirez

International Baccalaureate diploma candidates ate lunch on the top floor of the San Diego Central library. Students ate burritos overlooking downtown San Diego.

Nicole Macgaffey , Features Editor

Excited International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma candidates boarded the bus on their way to the San Diego Central Library. They explored the 9 story building alongside their peers in hopes of finding research material to support them in writing their Extended Essay (EE). 

On Nov.12, IB students left for the library during their first-period class, missing the rest of their school day to dedicate time towards writing and researching their EE. The EE is part of the requirements for candidates to receive their IB diplomas. The EE is a 3000 to 4000-word research paper in which students write about a topic pertaining to the subject of their choice.

“[Going to the library is] about giving students time outside of class to work on [their EE]. It’s an opportunity to plug students into resources that will help them with that,” IB Diploma Program Coordinator Jared Phelps said. 

The EEs subjects can range from math, English, Spanish, and even dance. Phelps added that the EE gives students the opportunity to engage in research on a topic they find interesting. 

“[The trip is] important [because] it does plug students into local libraries and connect them to researchers and people who can help [them],” Phelps said. “The IB Diploma Program is a lot of work. We, as a staff, can support students in getting through this in a specific and meaningful way.”

Phelps remarks that it was difficult to plan this year’s trip compared to previous years. Previously, the trip had taken place at the University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) library and San Diego State University’s (SDSU) library. However, due to SDSU only having their library open to students and staff members as well as UCSD undergoing renovation, both libraries were unavailable. Phelps also mentions that UCSD recommended looking into the San Diego public library system. 

In order to go on the trip, students had to submit negative COVID-19 test results within 72 hours which were taken on campus on Nov. 10. Phelps explained that the COVID-19 test was a requirement from the Sweetwater Union High School District. Students were also required to wear masks indoors despite the library’s personal policy allowing fully vaccinated individuals to not wear a mask. 

“It was reasonably easy [the COVID-19 testing]. We’ve [the IB program] got 55 diploma candidates and we split them into four groups of 14 to 15. We had them go during a period slot. We were doing full testing for subgroups of students,” Phelps said. “They still missed a lot of class [which was a] bummer, but as far as I know [it] went smoothly.”

Furthermore, Phelps mentioned that the trip occurred much later than prior years which hindered students’ exposure to EE resources. Phelps explained that the trip is aimed to happen earlier in the writing process so students have access to resources in the beginning rather than at the end.  

“I think there were a number of students this time around who didn’t need to do more research. They just needed time to write their paper, so they used the library as a nice, quiet space to take a step away from school and get this project moving,” Phelps said. “I attempted to look at arranging [the trip] earlier [but it] didn’t work out. So, I felt like getting students to [the library] was better late than never.”  

Senior Ingrid Alcantara expressed excitement towards the field trip. She remarks that from the trip she was able to find more sources for her paper as well as other resources to make her paper stronger. 

“I’ve never [had] an opportunity like this and it’s my first time coming to the downtown central library,” Alcantara said. “Additionally, I’m very passionate about my EE topic. Coming to see if there were any sources that I could use to support my claim and to learn more about my topic was really exciting for me. I felt supported.” 

She found the day helpful in her progress towards completing her EE. Alcantara believes that day was useful to dedicate time towards the EE, a time she has not been able to have. 

“IB kids have so many things to do in addition to our school hours,” Alcantara said. “I haven’t had time to really focus on the EE, [so] I feel like it’s useful to gather information to really work on it as I haven’t put as much time into my EE.” 

Senior Natalia Argon thought that this trip was important because a different environment would be beneficial, while a school setting can be distracting. She relays that this trip has given her the opportunity to take advantage of the resources in front of her. 

“I hope to research more information about character development and its relation to literary theory to further develop my essay, and also find information on my author, Louisa May Alcott,” Aragon said.

Phelps hopes that students were able to meet the goal they set for themselves for the trip. He finds it important for these students to achieve them, so they can feel good about themselves at the end of the day.

Getting a chance to be outside of their normal school place for the day helped them feel productive in a different kind of way. ”

— Jared Phelps

“I felt that it was a really positive experience,” Phelps said. “I heard from a lot of students that the time was helpful and that they made a lot of progress. Getting a chance to be outside of their normal school place for the day helped them feel productive in a different kind of way.”

In future years, Phelps wants to conduct two library trips for the IB students, one near the beginning of the process of the EEs and one near the end. Through students’ reactions and his own observations, he realized the importance of revealing these types of undervalued resources to them. 

“Libraries are living, breathing places where people can come and be,” Phelps said. “My short-term goal is that our students get closer to finishing their EEs and that they meet their [own] goals. The long-term goal is for students to realize, ‘Hey, these libraries are great places and are helpful for lots of things that I’m working with.’ There is value in getting students to access to these things in multiple places at multiple times. I’m looking forward to hopefully being able to do that in the future.”