Martha’s Vineyard high school seniors showcase diverse interests

Student Isaiah Maynard talks about his collection of short stories and art work with Valerie Sonnenthal. — Photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

Last week 13 students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) showcased their senior projects on topics inspired by their curiosity, creativity and talents. Their public presentations before a panel were the culmination of a semester spent learning and exploring their special interests.

“The Senior Project is a great opportunity for any senior looking to take a bit more ownership of his or her education,” assistant principal Matt Malowski said in an email to The Times. “This is one of the few opportunities where a student almost completely drives his or her curriculum, sets deadlines, and takes control of what he or she wants to learn.”

Students choose their own topics and work independently. They are required to consult with one mentor in the school and another in the community, according to Mr. Malowksi, who has run the program for four years.

A senior project requires a minimum of three dedicated class periods in a student’s schedule. Those working on projects attend school on an alternate day schedule similar to the work/study program.

Graded on a pass/fail basis, a senior project has three components: a journal to document progress, a paper of at least 10 pages, and a 20- to 60-minute presentation at the semester’s end before a panel of four or five evaluators.

Students may choose two members of their panel, which includes professionals and members of the Island community who volunteer to attend presentations on topics related to their areas of expertise.

Presentations were open to the public and held in the MVRHS library conference room.

“This year’s group of senior projects is unique in that many of them focus on science, psychology, and wellness,” Mr. Malowski said. “We always get our talented artists and musicians, which is amazing to watch. This year, though, we have a very different crop of projects that focus more on human psyche and wellness, which I think is very fascinating.”

Mariah Campbell gave the first presentation last Monday on the subject of facial reconstruction. Presentations on Wednesday featured songwriting by Charlotte Benjamin, post-traumatic stress disorder treatments by Leah Fortes, short stories, poetry and bike riding by Isaiah Maynard, and peer outreach for middle school students by Mary Ollen.

Last Thursday’s presentations featured food allergies by Rae Filley, the meaning of Vineyard sports by Clifton Robinson, music through the years by Madeline Scott, and schemas and what they predict by Emma Yuen.

The program concluded Friday morning with presentations by Nathaniel Horwitz on his Martha’s Vineyard Times internship, James Roddy on “fresh takers,” Ashley Goodall on nursing around the world, and Sarah Parece on theater enhancing a child’s mind.