Category Archives: Student Life

reflections on the extended essay

Writer: Rachel Cohn

The Extended Essay! I’m sure the only things that come to mind when thinking about the EE is suffering and pain. Yes, the extended essay is a long and tedious process, but The Wood and the amazing seniors who finally finished their essays are here to help out all the first year IB Diploma candidates who are currently finding their research questions, or anyone else who is curious about the extended essay. 

To make the extended essay seem a little less intimidating, I sent out a survey to the IB Diploma seniors and asked them a couple questions including what their research question was, what the coolest thing they learned from their research was, and if they have any advice. 

I’ll start. I did a world studies paper, which means that I was able to choose two disciplines to write my paper about. World studies also has subcategories and I chose health and development. The two disciplines I used were biology and economics to answer the question, What are the barriers to HIV therapy adherence in Soweto, South Africa and how do these barriers limit effective control of the ongoing HIV epidemic in this resource-poor setting? I learned all about the super cool antiretroviral therapy adherence being conducted in Soweto to limit the transmission rates of HIV and lessen the symptoms. I also studied the many barriers that this therapy presents, including the cultural stigmatization surrounding HIV in South Africa that prevents adolescents from maintaining their treatment regimens. My advice for anyone scared to begin their extended essays is to choose a topic that you are super interested in because if you don’t like your question, the process will be miserable. Also, if you are passionate about your topic, you can use it in college applications to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity. 

Raina Grosswald:

What was your subject: Literature 

What was your research question: In Fahrenheit 451, to what extent does Ray Bradbury’s use of symbolism and futuristic ideas of the mid-Twentieth century exhibit the dependence of humans on technological innovations?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: The uncanny resemblance between Bradbury’s innovations and the technology that exists today. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: The drawn out process, like the fact it was over a year. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Don’t stress too much, keep up with the assignments/checkpoints, write a great detailed outline.

Aubrey Charron: 

What was your subject: Language and Literature 

What was your research question: How Does Edgar Allan Poe’s use of unreliable male narrators in “Annabel Lee” and “Morella” draw attention to the unobtainable societal expectations placed on women in the mid-1800s?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I learned a lot about Poe’s Theory of Composition and why the development of women in poetry and prose was so different (and how that impacted my argument)!

What was the worst part of the extended essay: My essay didn’t exactly fit with the standard format of the essay (intro, body, counterclaims, reflective conclusion) so it was frustrating to figure out how to get all of those ideas in a way that worked for me. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Pick a topic you like! This is not going to be pleasant if you don’t… or as pleasant as the EE can be!

Any extra comments: You got this! It’s not as bad as you think if you stay on top of the deadlines. And write your rough draft over the summer! Don’t try to fit it in the first week of school!

Halli Friedman 

What was your subject: World Studies 

What was your research question: How do polygamy and the agricultural economy in Uganda affect HIV rates? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: It exposed me to an area of interest of mine that I didn’t realize I would enjoy learning about so much! World health and gender equality for healthcare is now super important to me. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Knowing how to start and find the question. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Make sure you are really interested in your topic, because you will be spending LOTS of time with it! 

Lauren Cohn 

What was your subject: History 

What was your research question: To what extent were the requirements to become an astronaut in NASA’s early space program intentionally discriminatory towards women as opposed to being rooted in technical and physical limiting factors?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: NASA was super sexist in their early space program. Some people considered the training of women a distraction from important goals of the space race while others thought that a woman’s only suitable role on a ship would be to fulfill the sexual needs of the men on board. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Finding research was a little hard because I wanted to write about something that hadn’t really been done before, but with that, there’s not going to be a ton of research. I had to broaden my scope a lot in order to find anything helpful.

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Write about something you find super cool. If you pick something you aren’t passionate about, the process is going to be difficult. Write about something you care about because that will energize you to find research and share it with readers. 

Allie Abbot 

What was your subject: History

What was your research question: To what extent was western fashion during the Cold War an example of Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization focus on culture driven consumerism and how was that consumerism and expression of the downfall of Khrushchev? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: The coolest thing I learned was how the growth of Soviet industry (as seen in the fashion industry) meant the growth of some capitalistic autonomy in satellite states which was a major contributing factor to the eventual downfall of the entire Soviet Union.

What was the worst part of the extended essay: The worst part of the EE was organizing all of my information into clear arguments that worked toward answering my question.

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: My advice would be to find a topic that you really like, find as many initial sources as you can, and when writing, make sure your sections only contain information that actually argues some part of your question.

Hana Ozaki 

What was your subject: Business Management 

What was your research question: What are the business implications regarding the inability of MARTA to expand into suburban neighborhoods? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I learned how the lack of an efficient public transportation system in Atlanta was one of the main reasons that Amazon chose to not go with Atlanta as their second headquarter location and the potential jobs and revenue that was lost. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Coming up with a topic you’re genuinely interested in and that has a lot of research available  

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Choose something you really care about because you’re going to have to work with it for a whole year! 

Dani Barnard 

What was your subject: World Studies 

What was your research question: How can technological advancements in water purification help alleviate the problems that occur as a result of non-potable water in developing sectors of the world such as Mogadishu, Somalia? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I got to learn about different technologies that purify water. The most interesting one I researched was called Watergen, an air-to-water generator, that creates and purifies water from humid air.

Hannah Suggs 

What was your subject: Psychology 

What was your research question: To what extent can artificial intelligence teach empathy to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: There’s a term called the theory-theory that says that individuals can infer the mental states of others (beliefs, desires, emotions, etc.) on a very basic – almost naive level. I just thought it was interesting because something named theory theory is funny. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Turning the outline into a complete rough draft! The worst!! 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Pick a topic you’re genuinely interested in or else you’re going to hate writing your EE– and if you’re going to hate writing you’re EE then it’s going to be a long year and a half. 

Any extra comments: Pick a strong mentor!

Your All inclusive Guide to IB vs. Ap classes

Writer: Lauren Cohn

First, let’s start out with the basics. IB stands for International Baccalaureate, and encompasses a program in which students are encouraged to think critically and independently. With an international presence, over 150 countries throughout the world utilize the program to create a more caring and thoughtful collection of students. Classes are arranged based on level, with standard level (SL) and higher level (HL). Higher level classes are more demanding and require extra work for credit.

Students can take any number of IB classes they wish through the IB certificate, or they can opt to become an IB diploma candidate and create a schedule featuring all IB classes. 

So, what is the difference between IB diploma and IB certificate?

  • With IB diploma, students must take at least 3 SL classes and 3 HL classes. Some students with a passion for certain topics decide to pursue 4 HL classes, as well. It is important to choose how these classes are arranged based on a personal assessment of interest in the class and ability to succeed.
  • With IB diploma, students must receive a sum of at least 12 points for both their HL classes and their SL classes, totaling to 24 points. Points are given on a scale of 1-7
  • IB diploma also comes with additional requirements, including an essay, project, and unique class
    • The Extended Essay is a requirement for all diploma students. After choosing a subject based on one of their HL classes (For example, History), students form a question about anything pertaining to that subject and answer it in, at most, a 4,000 word essay. Subjects can also be interdisciplinary, like world studies that examines different topics in a single essay. 
    • The CAS Project is also just as broad. CAS stands for Community, Action, and Service, and students must find some sort of leadership project that demonstrates two of the three components of the project. The project truly has no limits and students are encouraged to create something meaningful based on their passions.
    • TOK, Theory of Knowledge, is a class all students must take as IB diploma candidates. This class looks at how knowledge works, how it is created, and how it is pursued.
  • IB classes give credit, or points, based on an IA (internal assessment) and an end of the year exam
    • IAs are short essays that a student must complete in every class. They are similar to the extended essay in that they examine and answer a question. For example, science IAs consist of some sort of experiment while economic IAs apply economic concepts to real life situations. All IAs contain a research component.
    • Some classes, like economics, have more than one IA. Other classes have an oral assessment, instead, like literature and language. In these oral assessments, students must present an analysis to their teacher. 
    • Exams at the end of the year are writing focused, and oftentimes consisting of different parts.
  • If students wish to only take certain IB classes instead of pursuing the whole diploma, there is not a minimum requirement for scores. Sometimes, colleges award credit for IB diploma classes.
  • Some classes are two years, and exams and IAs typically begin at the start of the second year. Other classes, like IB environmental and economics are only one year, and so the exam and IA take place at the end of that time. 

AP stands for Advanced Placement and is a program from the College Board that provides college-level curriculum to high school students. Students can take any number of AP classes they wish, and many of Riverwood’s social studies classes are offered as advanced placement. AP classes are only available in the United States.

So, what specifically does AP entail?

  • AP has a different curriculum than most classes, setting students up for a final exam at the end of the year for college credit.
  • AP exams are scored on a range of 1-5, with 3 regarded as “passing”. However, these exams do not constitute a Riverwood grade, and therefore do not affect one’s GPA. They are used for college credit.
  • Some AP classes have DBQs (document-based questions) where students have to answer questions based on analyzing a source. Students will practice with these types of questions throughout the year, since they will appear on the final AP exam.
  • LEQs (long-essay questions) are a sort of essay, while SAQs are short answer responses.
  • FRQs are free response questions similar to the structure of an LEQ
  • Students can begin taking AP in their freshman year, and each grade has a varying level of AP classes available. 
  • There is also an emphasis on multiple choice, so exams during the year as well as the final AP exam are very multiple-choice oriented

How do I know if AP or IB is right for me?

  • AP focuses on multiple choice, while IB consists of much more writing
  • IB asks you to think of concepts beyond just the curriculum through the internal assessment, while AP very strictly follows the curriculum in place.
  • The credit you receive at the end of the year for IB classes consists of assignments that you work on throughout the year, while AP is only based on the single exam taken at the end of the year
  • IB diploma fosters a very unique community, since all students have similar expectations and typically take some level of the same classes. On the other hand, because students can pick and choose IB certificate and AP classes, one schedule may feel very distant from another
  • Because many IB classes are over the course of two years, much of the work has very distant deadlines. Students are assigned a project or essay and sometimes have months to work on it. With AP, there is no overarching “big” project or assignment, so the work is due at the time it is taught
  • If you are much better at multiple choice, AP may be more suitable for you. IB requires better time management since work takes much longer to complete.

Am I prepared enough to take on the course load and expectations that come with these types of classes?

  • Pick classes that you are genuinely interested in, as AP and IB requires a lot of critical thinking, and passion for the topic results in better engagement.
  • If you are having trouble understanding the curriculum and applying concepts, taking an AP or IB class in that subject may not be best. However, if you are simply struggling with keeping up with assignments, understand the different time management required for both AP and IB and assess whether or not you can maintain your assignments.
  • Challenge yourself! But, don’t put yourself in a position to fail if you feel very insecure about the subject and the course load. Understand what works best for you.
    • However, what is good about both AP and IB is that there is a lot of flexibility. If you decide to take a class but then find it too challenging, you can alter your schedule and pursue different classes that cater to your needs.

Coming from an IB Diploma candidate, I fully recognize the difficulty of taking such classes. As a senior, I am often drained after particularly daunting assignments and sometimes find myself unmotivated to continue with my work. While I cannot lie and say that pursuing this route isn’t stressful, I have definitely seen rewards that outweigh any sort of challenge. With the IB diploma, I feel much more engaged in my classes and have also developed better relationships with teachers. AP classes have set me up for college in a really valuable way by preparing me for the rigor to be expected after graduation.   

Teachers at Riverwood are so happy to help you figure out what works best for you and your goals. Ask your current teachers about IB and AP and you can also reach out to teachers you may have next year. The IB coordinator, Mrs. Kopkas, is so helpful at working with students to develop plans for junior and senior year of high school, and Mr. Gribble, a Theory of Knowledge teacher, provides excellent assistance in developing Diploma schedules with interested sophomores.  And, feel free to reach out to current students taking classes you may be interested in! They have great insight into the benefits and disadvantages, and would love to offer anyone an honest reflection of their experience. Know that decisions made right now can be changed later, and if you do decide to pursue these higher level classes, know that there is a huge support system behind you, helping you along the way.

Community Service opportunities, even in a socially-distanced community

Writer: Hannah Tourial

During the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s been hard to find ways to continue giving back to the community. Riverwood’s Beta Club is working hard to find these opportunities and incentivize participation. Even if you’re not a member of Beta Club, using their resources to find new service opportunities is a great way to do some good.

The main change this year was the introduction of the Beta Club Instagram. Here, the Beta leadership team is compiling flyers of opportunities both inside and out of Riverwood. By reposting others’ posts, followers of the Instagram page can see the latest opportunities to give back. This also makes it easier for other Riverwood clubs to share their service opportunities. The Instagram page can be found here

Beta Club also has an ongoing list, found here, of ideas and opportunities for community service. Some of these are simply general concepts that students can take and expand on in their own time; others are more specific and organized events to participate in. If you have any events you want to add to the list, contact Elizabeth Grant, Beta Club president, at for more information. 

How do you even do community service when there is a pandemic? Safety is important. There are tutoring opportunities over Microsoft Teams; the Spanish Club is looking for tutors in all classes for ESOL students. There are also food drives. HOSA has placed drop-off bins around the school for students to drop off canned food and non-perishables. Certain clubs have also hosted one-time, socially distant events. Make sure you feel comfortable with the guidelines for that event before attending, and if not, there are plenty of fully online options.

Even without a Beta Club membership, community service is important. Colleges love to see community service on applications, and the feeling of doing a good deed is always nice. And by no means is this a complete list of every opportunity. In the end, no matter who you are, there is always a way to put some more good into the world.