Capstone projects allow students to direct their learning
- An independent school in Potomac, MD, gives seniors the option of completing a capstone project that not only allows them to integrate what they’ve learned in the lower grades, but also to conduct research on something they feel passionate about, Lisa Vardi, a teacher at the school, writes for EdSurge.
- Mentors are assigned to help students narrow their topics, set goals and conduct research for their year-long projects, and they include faculty members and members of the community.
- The projects culminate with a symposium — attended by students, faculty members, parents and others in the community — at which the seniors can present their projects, and it has evolved over the years from a small evening gathering to a full-day event.
The capstone project at this particular school is available to honors-level students and lasts over the course of the year. While not all schools may be able to allow students to devote that much time to a project, educators are finding that there is value in letting students choose the topics they want to research or present as long as they demonstrate that they are meeting standards in their work. Not reserving such projects for high-achieving students might also be a way to motivate and engage students who might be struggling or hard to reach.
This post provides several suggestions for incorporating more student inquiry into existing classrooms and schedules, such as having a design challenge or a genius hour. While schools frequently ask students to work together on group projects, students can also benefit by pursuing something more personal. Such projects might also allow for more engagement with family and community members and help students learn more about their strengths. In this piece, Anne Keith, a former Montana teacher of the year talks about how passion projects are a way to increase engagement and teach skills, such as problem-solving, creativity, innovation and communication.
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