Capstone: SLA’s “Senior Project”

Goal: The Capstone Project at Science Leadership Academy is an opportunity for seniors to show the culmination of four years of intellectual growth towards an independent and self-directed learner who can contribute meaningfully to the community. It will enable students to focus their interests and curiosity into a coherent representation of how they think and what they believe as they leave high school. The capstone represents a synthesis of the SLA mission and vision as students attempt to answer the questions: “How do we learn?” “What can we create?” and “What does it mean to lead” through a self-selected and designed independent project. As with everything we do, it should embody the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. The final product will look different for each student, just as each student has a unique perspective and approach to learning.

Elements of the Capstone Process:

        Topic selection: students will work with their advisor to define an area of interest that is appropriate to their personal goals for the year.

        Mentor selection: students will select a teacher at the school (ideally one with relevant experience or interest) who will help them through the process.

        Formal Proposal: with the help of their in school mentor, students will develop a formal proposal in which they define their goals, the form of the final product, and how the Core Values will be exhibited in their Capstone.

        Process planning: one of the supplementary goals for the Capstone project is to teach students how to plan for and carry out a large-scale, long-term project. This can be a daunting task, since it requires breaking down an enormous task into concrete, sequential steps. This will be one of the main focuses of Capstone-related advisory time and the regular mentor meetings students should be happening.

        Final Product: at the end of May, students will need to “turn in” their Capstone. The format and method of turning in will depend on what students select for their project (and art project would be turned in differently from a research paper, for example).

        Defense: regardless of the type of project they do, all students will Defend (or present) their projects to a panel composed of their advisor, mentor, and other students (seniors and underclassmen)

Within this process, students will work with their advisors and mentor to determine appropriate checkpoints and quarterly goals.

Outline of the year:

        Fall: Topic selection, mentor identification, and proposal development.

        Winter: Research, timeline creation, and regular mentor meetings.

        Spring: Rough draft, revisions, final draft, and defense.

Responsibilities:

        Student: the student is responsible for identifying the topic of interest, submitting all checkpoints as agreed upon with their mentor and advisor, and scheduling meetings with their mentor on a regular basis. They are also of course responsible for submitting the final product in a timely fashion, and showing up at the correct time and place for the defense with a professional, well-thought-out presentation.

        Advisor: the advisor will help the student get started with their topic identification, create structures for tracking the work they are doing, and check students off on their quarterly checkpoints.

        Mentor: the in school mentor (a teacher), and the out of school mentor will help the students with specifics regarding their topic, an appropriate process for attacking the task, and will provide regular feedback (either in person or digitally).

Project Ideas:

1. Physical Projects (Create a stained glass window, create a computer program, rebuild an engine, build a cabinet, create a portfolio of artwork, and create an efficient recycling plan.)

2. Written Projects (Short story, book of poetry, novella, newspaper, children’s book, journal of reflective essays.)

3. Performance projects  (Dance, instrumental or singing recital, drama show, musical video, magic show, slide show, fashion show, formal speech/debate.)

4. Teaching or leadership experience projects (Teach a middle school health class about teen alcoholism, teach about knights and armor to a 5th grade class, coach a little league team, set up a neighborhood action team.)

5. Career-related Projects (Shadow a police officer and write or speak about an experience to a specific audience, view and document medical procedures, volunteer time at a local veterinarian’s office and write about what you learned)

6. Service Projects (Organize a food drive, develop and implement an exercise program at a local senior center, volunteer at a hospital).

Questions?

        Please feel free to contact Tim Best (tbest@scienceleadership.org) at any point if you have questions or concerns.