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The Visual Arts Exhibition: Is Contemporary Art Penalized?

Conceptual Qualities? I was recently in conversation with the DP Visual Arts Chief Examiner, Subject Manager and Principal Examiner for Exhibition SL. The Subject Manager was interested in particular in our interpretation of the ‘Conceptual Qualities’ Exhibition criterion. A teacher had suggested that students who focused on styles and formats of contemporary art in their […] Find out more

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry and HL Biochemistry

This years Nobel prize in chemistry has been awarded to three researchers, Frances Arnold, George Smith and Gregory Winter for their work on enzyme research. Their work uses a technique called ‘directed evolution’ to create new enzymes. It does also tie in nicely with some of the subject material covered in the HL biochemistry option. […] Find out more

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Philosophers and Politics

Disillusioned by his failed mission to turn the Sicilian tyrant Dionysius II into a Philosopher-King, Plato immortalised, in the Allegory of the Ship, the isolation of the philosopher in a world plagued by false ideas and unprincipled politicians. His mentor Socrates kept away from political intrigues to concentrate on his ‘daemon’ (or ‘spirit’) and how […] Find out more

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Possible EE / IA project

I’ve just stumbled upon a great article on the BBC website. The article can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45398434 The article is about a group of plants that have evolved to take up toxic metal ions into their systems. The metals in question are nickel and zinc and usually, these ions would be toxic to plants, […] Find out more

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New Art Teacher? 5 Visual Arts Starting Points!

It’s September and in art rooms all over the world DP visual arts teachers are starting to teach this two year course. I recently received an email from an old friend who is now Associate Head of School at an IB school in North America. He wrote: ‘We have an extremely talented art teacher who […] Find out more

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Can Nothingness Be Defined?

Nothingness is a slippery philosophical concept which despite its apparent immateriality has always intrigued philosophers, theologians and spiritualists of all cultures. Western Philosophy has its roots in Greek thinking and its inherent belief in ‘Being’. In Plato’s case, his entire philosophical system rests on a priori certainty of the ‘existence’ of Pure Ideas. How could […] Find out more

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Energy Levels

I’ve just finished teaching this topic to my students. I always find it an interesting topic to teach as the ideas used are so different to those you are probably taught prior to IB. Just when you were happy with the idea that atoms have electrons in shells you suddenly get told that this is […] Find out more

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The Right to Know?

It is often said that knowledge is power and there is no doubt that in many cases those in possession of a particular piece of knowledge will have the advantage, for good or ill, over those who do not. Governments and rulers of all ilk and political leanings, as well as powerful corporations, have had […] Find out more

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Games with Dots

Do people still play pencil and paper games these days? I grew up with them in my family – all sorts from number games, word games, drawing games. A number of the mathematical games involve spots or dots and, believe me, they can be fiendishly difficult to win against a good opponent. The simplest of […] Find out more

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PP Reminders: Pictures and Process

Two PP points! 1. Show me pictures (“visual evidence”) There must be visual as well as written/text documentation of process. It should be obvious – but of course just writing comments and explanations is not enough: is there visual evidence of what has been happening? Don’t just write about it; you must also show what […] Find out more

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The IB Philosophy and International Mindedness

Why teach the International Baccalaureate above another programme? What sets it apart? First, a little history The very idea of the IB was conceived within the International School of Geneva back in 1962. Schools participating in the development of the programme included the following schools: Atlantic College (Wales) International School of Geneva United Nations International […] Find out more

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Everyday Life, Benzyl Alcohol and the EE

In my experience, the biggest problem students have with EE’s is picking the right thing to investigate. Students will tell me they want to carry out an EE in chemistry and have no idea what they will investigate. Those that do have ideas quite often have ideas that are too simple or too difficult, never […] Find out more

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Too Much of a Good Thing?

We live in a world which seems to be obsessed with the idea of amassing knowledge. So much of our energy seems to be devoted to the production, acquisition and application of knowledge whatever it’s actual or intrinsic worth. Knowledge, in one form or another, appears to be the goal of much of human activity […] Find out more

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Collaboration? Huh! What is it Good For?

Do you have your students work collaboratively on art-making projects? In December 2015 I posted a blog about collaboration (To collaborate, or not to collaborate – that is the question!) But the issue has come up again, this time with some questions from teachers in a visual arts workshop I am running. My usual caveat […] Find out more

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A Cautionary Tale

A week or so ago I read a BBC blog post that I thought I should share on this blog.  Then a few days later I read the same story on Petapixel.com, a photography blog.  I have also found it on CNN.com,  Independent.ie, Metro.co.uk, and aplus.com. I’m sure there are more, but that’s enough to be […] Find out more

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The Writer, or the Speaker, the Voice, the Persona?

Over the years, all of us have struggled with the vexed question of ‘who is speaking’ in a poem or in a first person narrative, or in an autobiographical essay.  And of course it troubles our students as they read literature, often especially with poetry.  You all have your own ways of negotiating this issue. […] Find out more

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Philosophising in the Shadow of Trees

When gathering his students outside the Academy, did Plato urge them to sit in the shade of (already) ancestral olive trees or did he urge them to stand in-between the shadow of its imposing columns? Apart from the Buddha, longing for spiritual experience under a Bodhi tree, philosophers do not seem to lift their heads […] Find out more

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I’ve just finished my summer reading book, Ken Follett’s novel World Without End. If you haven’t read it, I would thoroughly recommend it, although it is the second book of a trilogy (book 1 is called The Pillars of the Earth). The book I sent in the thirteenth century in the fictional city of Kingsbridge in […] Find out more

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Life Drawing: Is Nudity a Problem?

Does your school offer life-drawing? By this I mean do you, as a visual arts student, have the opportunity to spend time drawing and/or painting a naked human being who is posing so that you can make these artworks while he/she stands (or sits etc) in front of you? This opportunity seems not to be […] Find out more

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Existentialist Novels

The summer months are ideal for making forays into neglected intellectual territories. Existentialist novels are traditionally reduced to two major works: Sartre’s Nausea (1938), a rich study of a character in search of historical as well as ‘existential’ truth and Camus’ The Outsider (1942), whose non-hero finds himself tragically involved in a murder case. But what characterises […] Find out more

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