Senior projects inspire students with passion for learning
Instead of coasting their way through their last semester this spring, nine soon-to-be-graduates at the regional high school threw themselves into time-consuming, challenging senior projects. Listening to their enthusiastic descriptions of the work they have done as their high school days come to an end, it is obvious they saved their best for last.
The senior project program at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) offers a taste of college life before graduation. Students choose their own topics and must be sufficiently self-motivated to work independently. Each receives guidance at school from a teacher, as well as advice from mentors in the community if possible.
A senior project takes the place of four courses and counts as 10 credits. Students working on projects attend school on an alternate day schedule similar to the work/study program.
A project consists of three components - a journal to document progress, a 10-page minimum paper, and a 20-minute presentation at the semester's end before a five-member committee, two of whom are chosen by the student.
Photos by Lynn Christoffers
The project is graded on a pass/fail basis.
Project presentations are scheduled on May 6-8, three each morning, in the high school's culinary dining room. Last week the students, their advisors, and mentors met with Martha's Vineyard Regional High School assistant principal Stephen Nixon to go over the schedule and talk about what the presentations involve. "This is not a 'gotcha' situation - everybody in that room will be there to support you," he reassured the students. "We all want you to succeed - we all know you will succeed. When you get up in front of that room, no one there will know more about that topic than you."
A labor of love
This year's senior project students demonstrate a wide range of interests. Some chose projects related to long-time hobbies, such as Maria Casey, who has studied piano since fourth grade. Taking her piano teacher's suggestion to pursue her interest in composing music, Ms. Casey wrote eight songs for a children's musical that she will record or perform as her presentation. "It has been really fun to do something I've never done before," she said.
For Ben Williams, choosing a project topic came easy. "Poetry is something I've been passionate about - something I would have done in my free time anyway," he said. Although he started out thinking he would focus on writing poetry, he expanded his project to teaching students about poetry at Oak Bluffs School and Edgartown School.
Mary Sage Napolitan and Sophia Welch used their projects as an opportunity to extend their artistic talents. Ms. Napolitan is working on an exhibit of paintings depicting figures. Ms. Welch is creating Wampanoag style pottery, using the traditional coiling technique.
The timely topic of wind-generated energy inspired Cooper Johnson's project, a 15- to 20-minute video documentary about the past, present, and future of wind power on Martha's Vineyard and around the country. Technology teacher Chris Baer helped in providing Mr. Johnson with some historical photos and film footage of the Island.
Inspired by his membership in the Young Brothers to Men group at the high school, Kenny Watkins decided to extend its mentoring program at Oak Bluffs School by working one-on-one with four seventh and eighth grade boys. Every other day Mr. Watkins attends classes with the students, makes sure they understand and complete their class work and homework, and acts as a role model for them. "I try and get the kids to understand that education is key to a better lifestyle - I'm working to help them with everyday life," he said.