Between August 25-26, 2022, Grade 11 Silicon Valley International School (INTL) students embarked on a two-day retreat to San Francisco to launch their International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) journey. The trip was off to a flying start with the group catching the early morning Caltrain from Palo Alto train station heading towards the city. The wind was in the sails as the group hopped from Caltrain to BART whilst reviewing Theory of Knowledge (TOK) questions and even managing to check in to the hotel early. TOK is an essential part of the IB DP learning journey for students at INTL. Students engage in thoughtful and purposeful inquiry into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge to develop their critical thinking as preparation for the academic rigor of the diploma and university.
The steep inclines of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill were the first major challenge, but proved no match for our Duke of Edinburgh trained hikers who took the steps in stride. At the top, the docent-guided tour of Coit Tower was insightful and thought-provoking. Whilst hearing about how the City and County of San Francisco attempted to censor the left-leaning artists who painted the Depression era murals in the tower, students reflected on TOK questions such as:
- On what criteria could it be decided if the state has the right to promote or censor art?
- What does art provide that more conventional means of telling history do not?
The food for thought provoked quite the in-depth discussion around the dinner table that evening at R&G Lounge in Chinatown. Before that, however, the group had engaged in some well considered service at the St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. Working at a Farmer’s Market to distribute fresh produce from a food bank to local seniors, our students were warm and friendly whilst engaging in their respective duties that afternoon. It marked an excellent start to the IB DP Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) program which encourages students to reflect on issues of local and global significance and the ethics of their choices and actions.
After a restful night at the hotel and a quick bite to eat, the group completed their final TOK activity at the Exploratorium on the waterfront on Friday, August 26th in the morning. The group as a whole engaged in a deep philosophical conversation with museum guides on the question:
- Should we always tell the truth?
Afterwards the students explored exhibits which provided a range of social and behavioral psychology real-world examples to dissect in TOK class. This included a game which arbitrarily assigned red and blue teams for a competitive button pressing game in order to reveal how humans are susceptible to the outgroup homogeneity effect. Moving on from there our group split up to conquer the exhibits linked to biology and physics, depending on the DP subject choices. A highlight of those exhibits included the live chicken embryos with beating hearts viewable through a microscope. Throughout the morning, students considered TOK questions such as:
- Is there a single “scientific method”?
- Is human behavior too unpredictable to study scientifically?
Overall, the students were highly engaged and a joy to work with. We wish them the best of luck as they embark on their DP journey.
Learn more about the Diploma Programme and what all INTL has to offer by contacting admissions today!