Windham High School

Senior Capstone Handbook

Senior Capstone Overview 

The Senior Capstone is an opportunity for students to independently design, implement, and exhibit their learning on a topic or subject that they are passionate about or deeply interested in.  The project also provides an opportunity for students to identify and tackle an issue in their local or global communities.  The project stresses the importance or making a connection from local mentors and uses learning experiences that occur outside of the four walls of Windham High School  Students will need to present their project in front of a panel which will assess whether or not the student has demonstrated that he or she has mastered the school-wide academic expectations.  

Rationale for Senior Capstone

Senior Capstone:

Examples of Senior Capstone Topics

Assessment of Senior Capstones

Senior exhibition will be assessed by a panel made up of at least two teachers, a non-12th grade student, and a community member.  The panel will score the exhibition with a rubric containing the following criteria: demonstration of new learning, evidence of creative and practical problem solving, evidence of clear and effective communication, evidence of responsible and involved citizen, and critical reflection.  Scoring will be by consensus, but if consensus cannot be reached, the two teachers on the panel will determine if the student passes or fails the senior capstone.

Students will need to successfully complete a Senior Capstone in order to graduate.  

Optional support for Senior Capstone

Audience for Senior Capstones

The Steps of Senior Capstone

  1. Choose an area of interest
  2. Document prior knowledge about your area of interest
  3. Find a mentor
  4. Develop an essential question with help of mentor and advisor
  5. Meet with mentor to develop project proposal
  6. Research: A minimum of 20 hours of research is suggested (job shadows, interviews, internet research, book research)
  7. Document Research on Senior Exhibition Time Sheet
  8. Reflect on research and process 3 times
  9. Community Service: A minimum of 10 hours of service is suggested.  Community service experiences will be used as evidence towards meeting the requirements of the “Responsible and Involved Citizen” rubric.
  10. Prepare exhibition
  11. Select panel
  12. Prepare packet (including proposal, reflections, annotated list of resources and time sheet)
  13. Meet with advisor to go over packet and visuals for exhibition
  14. Distribute packet to panel a minimum of 24 hours before presentation.
  15. Present


Identify an Area of Interest & School Advisor

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

At this point don’t get stuck on what your final product will be.  Your School Advisor or your mentor can help you to determine what the product will be.

Your Senior Exhibition School Advisor is a member of the WHS faculty who can work with you to help you plan your Senior Exhibition, problem solve when obstacles arise, and keep you on track and meeting all of your deadlines.  If you are enrolled in Senior Capstone Seminar, your teacher will be your school advisor.  Students doing an independent Senior Capstone project will need to approach a WHS staff member and ask the staff member if he or she would be willing to serve as their school advisor.


Document Your Prior Knowledge

Visually (for example, in a web or a diagram) or in writing show what you already know about the area in which you’ve chosen to do your project.  A good guideline is at least a page of written reflection. Documenting your prior knowledge creates a working context and lets you and others understand where you were when you started and how far you have come at the end.


Identify a Mentor 

Mentoring provides a unique opportunity for you to develop a relationship with a community member who has expertise in your identified area of interest.  Ongoing contact between you and your mentor will give you access to valuable experience and the ability to network with people in the field.  Mentors can help you to get the most of your senior capstone experience by helping you to define your goals and to maximize opportunities. Ultimately, the success of your mentorship depends largely on you and the effort you put into finding a mentor who is right for you and cultivating a meaningful relationship with him/her.

Perhaps you know someone in the community who has expertise in the area you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to call. You will be surprised at how many community members are interested in providing their advice and support. Use the telephone script in this handbook to help you make that phone call.

Your relationship with your mentor depends on many factors, including available time and level of commitment. While there is no required number of meetings, you should be in contact with your mentor over the course of time that you are working on your exhibition. Your mentor, if possible, should also be present at your presentation. When you identify a mentor, have her/him sign a mentor contract.

Script for Calling a Potential Mentor

Have a pen ready to jot down notes.

Name of establishment: ___________________________________

Name of person I’m trying to contact: ___________________________________

Date of phone call: _______________________________


  1. “Hello, my name is ___, and I’m a senior at WHS.  May I please speak to [name of the person you’re trying to contact]”

  1. When the person comes to the phone or if she/he answers in the first place]:  “Do you happen to have a few moments to speak with me about a project that I’m doing for my senior year?” [If yes, then proceed to next section.  If no, ask if there’s a better time for you to call or another person, and THANK HIM/HER for the time and hang up.]

Main conversation:

  1.  “Great...thanks!  I won’t take too much of your time.”  [or some other transition phrase...and then]  “I am doing a senior exhibition.  Each senior identifies an area of interest and develops a project related to that interest.  We then are asked to reach out to the WHS community to learn more about our particular area of interest.”   [Allow time for person to comment.)

  1.  “One area I’m pursuing is...[insert your essential question here, such as “What is involved in running a wooden boat business?” –or- “What steps are involved in becoming a selectman?”]  [Allow time for person to comment – s/he may say may ask you questions, which you should answer honestly.  Remember, most people will be delighted to hear from you!!  Feeling anxious about talking to someone you don’t know is not unusual. Try to relax, be yourself and keep rolling!]

  1. My teacher suggested that I contact you since you [repeat the person’s business/area of expertise, such as, run a wooden boat business/are a selectman/own a restaurant.

  1. I’ve been reading about/researching your (type of business/establishment/organization and it’s very interesting to me/something I want to pursue beyond high school, etc. [Allow time for person to respond and then you should respond naturally to his/her comments and questions.]

Closing questions/comments:

  1. Could I stop by and talk to you sometime about your business/organization as it relates to my project? OR Is there someone else in your office/business who might be able to talk with me about this project?

  1. Would you like to have more information about my project before you decide if we can meet?  May I email you details or send them in the mail?  


_____call again on________(date) to ___________(next step, such as set up a meeting).

Meeting with your mentor for the first time

Senior Capstone Project Mentor Agreement

Before submitting a senior capstone proposal, you must identify a community member who agrees to serve as your mentor.  If at any time you change mentors, you must submit another mentor agreement form.

As _______________________________________’s mentor, I agree to:


Mentor’s Name                                                  


Mentor’s Signature                                                           Date



Mentor’s Address  



Mentor’s Phone #                                                             Email



Student’s Signature                                                       Date



           Parent/Guardian’s Signature                                       Date


Develop an Essential Question

A good essential question has the following characteristics:


Develop project proposal with help with of mentor

If you change your topic at any time, you must resubmit a revised project proposal for approval by your senior capstone teacher.

Before you write your proposal, you may also want to think about specific knowledge or skills you will need to learn in order to be successful.  For instance, if you are not a good public speaker, you will want to think of a plan to improve your public speaking skills before your final presentation.

Senior Exhibition Project Proposal Outline

Essential Question: What is your essential question?

How will you answer your question? What do you plan to do to answer your essential question?

Interest: Why are you interested in answering this essential question?

Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge do you have in this area?

Mentor: Who is your mentor?  Why is this person appropriate to help you?

Additional Resources: What other resources will you possibly use? Other people, books, web resources, videos, etc.  

Presentation Plan: How will you show new learning?  

Action Plan: Develop an action plan outlining what your next steps will be. What specific actions do you need to do to answer your question?

Service Learning: How will you use what you have learned to serve your community?

Date, time, location and needs for presentation:  When and where do you plan to present and what will you need to do so?




Senior Capstone research can come from a variety of sources and must be documented. (one source must be a primary source).

When you prepare to present you will need to submit an annotated list of at least five sources used in your research.

You cannot schedule your presentation unless you have completed your annotated works cited list.


Document research on Senior Exhibition Time Sheet

Students must document research sources and time using the senior exhibition time sheet included at the end of this packet.  


Reflect on Your Process and Research

Three times during the Senior Exhibition process you are required to write a one-page reflection on your process.  

Some ideas for written reflection:



Taking Action – Service Learning

The final step of your capstone project is for you to take action.  This is where you demonstrate that you have truly learned about your essential question.  It is also the part of your project where you make a difference by tackling an issue globally/locally or by giving back to those who gave to you.  Working with your mentor, you should come up with a plan or search for opportunities to give back in your area of interest.  If your essential question was to learn more about being a mechanic, give back to your community by troubleshooting the car of someone in need.  If you interest is in particular cause, give of your time to help a relevant organization.  The sky is the limit when it comes to service.  What is most important is making a difference with all that you have learned.  

One of your critical reflections will need to be a reflection from your service learning.  This is the time to share/brag about how you have made a difference and what you have learned from this opportunity.


Prepare Exhibition

Once you have finished your research it is time to prepare your exhibition.  There are countless ways to show what you have learned but each way must meet the requirements of the Senior Capstone Rubric.  Exhibitions can be done through slideshows, recitals, dinners, gallery shows, video and through teaching classes.  All exhibitions must be viewable by your panel and allow you to answer questions from your panel and others.  Try to be creative and choose the best way that will show you panel what you have learned and experienced.  


Select Panel

The Panel

Students also need to select a panel to judge their exhibition.  The panel needs to be made up of:

Two staff members Your school advisor cannot be on your panel and no more than one non-professional staff member can serve as a “teacher” panelist.

A non-12th grade student.

Your Mentor

You should select your panel and ask your school advisor to approve it.  Once your panel is approved, you should invite your panel and anyone else you would like to your exhibition.  It is a good idea to give the members of your panel a copy of your packet at least a day before your presentation so that they have enough time to read it.  IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT YOUR PANEL IS AT YOUR PRESENTATION.


Students must select a panel to judge their exhibition.  The panel at a minimum needs to be made up of:

Two staff members

A non-12th grade student.


You are welcome to invite family members, community members, and other faculty members to your presentation.


Exhibition Information (so the panelists know when to show up!)

Date: __________________________________________________

Time:  _________________________________________________

Location: _______________________________________________



Staff member #1

Staff member #2



Advisor approval of panel: ______ Initials ______ Date


Prepare Packet

Your senior exhibition packet helps your panel and audience understand what you have done to answer your essential question.  It must include but is not limited to the following materials


Meet with advisor or mentor to go over packet and visuals for exhibition

Before you present your project you must meet with your advisor or mentor to go over your packet and exhibition materials.  As part of this meeting, you may want to share your presentation materials to ensure that you are fully prepared.  Listed below is a suggested outline to help you plan your presentation:

Presentation Tips and Suggested Outline

To begin:

• Introduce yourself.

• Give a brief overview of what your presentation will be about. (I’ve always been interested in cooking.... Last summer I had the opportunity to do an internship at_________________....)

• Tell the audience what your essential question is.

In your presentation, explain:

• What you already knew about your topic.

• Who your mentor was and why they were an appropriate mentor

• What you did to answer your question

• What key experiences and research did you find to be most valuable 

• What you learned while doing this project.

• Why this learning is important to you, or to others.

• How did you use your new learning to support a person or group in the community?

Make sure you:

• Answer your essential question.

• Refer to your research/exploration often, this is your opportunity to tell your story.

In your conclusion:

• Thank your mentor.  

• Thank any other people who helped/supported you.



Distribute Packet

You must distribute your senior exhibition packet to your panel a minimum of 24 hours before your presentation.  This can be done electronically if it is difficult to get a paper copy to all members of your panel.



You’re ready.  Present and have fun. Make sure that you meet all the requirements of the rubric.  

Senior Exhibition Rubric

Packet Checklist:  If packet does not contain all requirements student may not present.

◻ Title Page

◻ Complete Project proposal

◻ 3 Critical Reflections (a minimum of 1 page each)

◻ Senior Exhibition Research Timesheet (a suggested minimum of 20 hours of research)

◻ Annotated list of resources




Shows New Learning:

Answers Essential Question through Research/Exploration

Presentation demonstrated the following characteristics:

  • A plausible answer to the essential question
  • Consistent reference to research/exploration
  • Demonstration of sophisticated, extensive, or meaningful learning
  • An appropriate level of rigor

Shows Evidence of Creative and Practical Problem Solving

The student's panel packet and final presentation show evidence of:

  • an appropriate essential question,
  • appropriate planning,
  • persistence and ability to adjust plans.
  • the student can evaluate the success of their project and identify next steps.

Shows Evidence of Being a Clear and Effective Communicator

During his or her presentation, the student:

  • is well prepared and organized,
  • is able to respond knowledgeably to questions,
  • uses at least one audio and/or visual aide,
  • is able to communicate what they learned through proper delivery, pacing, vocabulary and grammar, posture, and eye contact.

The student's packet and other materials such as reports or computer presentations, meet conventions of spelling, grammar, legibility, and sentence use.

Shows Evidence of Being a Responsible and Involved Citizen

During his or her presentation, the student:

  • Shows evidence that they have participated positively in the community or have designed a creative solution to meet student needs and wants (or)
  • Displays an awareness of a global issue and have evidence that they have taken steps to address that issue. (or)
  • Displays an awareness of a local civic issue and have taken steps to address that issue in the community.

Engages in Critical Reflection

Exhibition adequately addressed:

  • What? (What did I already know and what have I learned?)
  • So What? (Why is this learning important to me, or to others?)
  • Now What? (What can I do now with the new learning?)


Check the distinguished box if the student demonstrated exemplary or sophisticated effort on that criterion and provide sufficient evidence.

2014-2015 Senior Exhibition Deadlines



Date Completed

School Advisor Initials/Notes

1: Identify an Area of Interest


2: Document Prior Knowledge


3: Choose a Mentor


__ Check to indicate the mentor agreement is complete; initial and date.

4: Develop an Essential Question


__ Check to indicate essential question is approved by school advisor; initial and date.

5: Submit a Proposal


__ Check to indicate proposal approved by school advisor; initial and date.

6: Research/Exploration


(Must submit an annotated works cited list before presentation)

7: Reflections



Critical Reflection #1


Critical Reflection #2


Critical Reflection #3 – Service Learning


8: Set Time, Date, and Place of Exhibition

9: Plan Presentation

__ Check to indicate panel worksheet completed; initial and date.

11: Present

Senior Capstone Time Sheet


Research Done


Time Spent