Learning is about exploring. By the time we’re four or five, much of our learning occurs in a classroom interacting with our peers and a teacher. However, we all remember the excitement of field trips and travel as well as learning fascinating things from people who weren’t our classroom teachers. Sometimes, we teach ourselves. Taking charge of our own learning is one of the most important parts of a formal education. The goal of Capstone Projects is to help Menaul students learn to be their own best teacher.
The basic concept is simple. Sophomores will begin developing their projects by exploring things they would like to learn about both by hands-on experiences and through research. The options are endless: building a stock car or an addition to a house, writing a novel or a book of poetry, learning the language and exploring the culture of a different country then visiting the country, starting a business, learning to write and perform a certain kind of music, becoming a chef, etc. At this stage, students need to talk to potential mentors as well as to their parents, teachers and advisors.
Once the general focus of the project is decided on, the hands-on part can begin. However, the majority of the work on projects will be done during students’ junior and senior years. At the beginning of their junior year, they will learn the research techniques required to complete the research portion of the project. They will also need to begin spending time with their mentor developing the hands-on portion. Time sheets to be signed by mentors are available on-line. Work on their projects will continue through students’ senior year, culminating in some sort of finished product and a presentation. Successful completion of Capstone Projects is a graduation requirement. Capstone grades will be a part of students’ overall grade point average.
Students need to plan to work on their projects a little bit each week. Also, students will have capstone classes that will allow them to work on their projects. They can use class time for research and for off-campus work as well. Students will have time sheets to be signed by their mentor in order to document their hours and report their progress. For juniors, these forms will be due on the first school day of each month. For seniors, they will be due on the first school day of each month as well as the Monday closest to the fifteenth of every month.
Students who have completed various versions of Capstone Projects almost always look back on their work as some of the most meaningful and interesting experiences in their education.
- Sharon Rhutasel-Jones, Menaul School English Department Chair
For a more in depth overview of the senior capstone class, please view the documents below.