Resilience and Innovation with the Personal Project

“Students of this age are very adaptive and very intelligent,” Personal Project Coordinator Ms Nidhi Shekhawat says on the challenges that Grade 10 students have faced regarding the online nature of the personal project this year. This is only the third year that Woodstock students in Grade 10 are working on personal projects that will be externally assessed, and yet it’s the second that is being conducted almost entirely online. As the COVID-19 pandemic has had a ubiquitous impact on all elements of our lives, it’s undeniable that the necessary shift to distance learning almost two years ago has shaped the manner in which Grade 10 students approach and execute their projects. 

The personal project is a time of exploration and reflection for MYP 5 students as they define and articulate a goal that they will then accomplish over the course of the project. In Ms Nidhi’s words, the personal project “completes the MYP curriculum,” as it involves the melding of skills learned throughout the program as students delve deeper into an area of interest while also becoming more aware of the world around them. “The main intention of MYP is to make independent learners and global citizens. It’s to create skilled students,” Ms Nidhi continues. This desired impact has definitely been accomplished, with students pursuing everything from app development to fashion design this year alone. With the opportunity to explore a passion and extend learning beyond the classroom, the personal project also has a remarkable focus on “personal development,” in the words of Grade 10 student Pema, who is designing and sewing a complete outfit from scrap material. As students are provided with the opportunity to deep dive into an interest that they might not otherwise be able to pursue, they emerge with an evolved understanding of their own identities and priorities. Shome of Grade 10, who is coding a web browser extension designed to enhance focus while studying, mentions how “handling the extended academic rigor of Grade 10 with the personal project has increased [his] time management skills,” highlighting another essential area of any IB student’s life that the personal project influences. Shome goes on to concisely sum up the personal project in a single statement, saying “You do something which you’re interested in, and you try to create something meaningful and impactful, even at a small scale.” 

An essential part of creating this impact with the personal project is building connections with supervisors and relating to the Woodstock community, and under normal circumstances, students are able to make use of school facilities and check-in with supervisors in person, yet in the past two years, it’s been a challenge for some to arrange regular meetings with their supervisors and effectively manage time. Ms Nidhi states that while she wished that teachers at Woodstock were able to provide more guidance and resources to their at-home students during the course of the process, she also witnessed the unforeseen adaptation and growth that has transpired from the dynamic and varying situation of the pandemic. Studying from home has given many the previously unfeasible opportunity to execute projects that engage with their local communities and reflect inwards in contemporary ways, with a high number of students choosing to explore mental health and wellbeing, specifically within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This kind of innovation is precisely what makes the personal project, a phenomenon unique to the IB, a formative part of the MYP program.

The idea of engaging with one’s community for personal growth and the betterment of others is not new to Woodstock. In fact, the personal project inadvertently incorporates many of Woodstock’s guiding principles, as the themes that define the International Baccalaureate as a system have been integral to our school since the start. The personal project provides a wide variety of directions for students to follow and many ideas that are encouraged are rooted in pursuing wholeness within communities, refining personal skills to elicit internal greatness, being conscious of one’s impact on the earth, and seeking a visceral understanding of the wellbeing of oneself and those around them. Woodstock has followed these principles in an inherent way for decades, and with the personal project, Grade 10 students are now developing them on a more profound and meaningful level.

Asha is a staff reporter

Edited by Rewa

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