In the eighth grade year and the senior year, our students are invited to create and present capstone projects to reflect and reinforce the things they have learned in middle school and high school. Capstones interdisciplinary projects that connect a student's academic skills with their personal passions, to show off their abilities and knowledge as they move on to the next step in their education.
EIGHTH GRADE PROJECT
Each student will create a plan for a public-use space. The students may choose from the following list: zoo, art museum, aquarium, research facility, natural history museum, science museum, bank, botanical gardens, hospital, theater, school, sports stadium, library, concert venue, or another idea based on their individual interests.
Writing: The student will write three documents: a mission statement, a visitor’s guide, and a request for funding.
Three interviews: Students will write down their questions in advance, record the interview, and then create transcripts for interviews with the following people: someone who works at a facility like the one being created, someone who is an administrative person at a facility like the one being created, and a city official.
Floor plan: Using middle school math skills, the student will lay out a plan for the facility itself, showing multiple floors, with rooms in correct proportion, so that an overall physical ‘footprint’ for the building can be defined. The building project should then be imagined in a physical space in the real world, so an appropriate site can be located. Students can also look at landscape design, integration into the community, transportation and parking, and energy use.
Staffing: The student will plan out what people and how many people will be needed to operate the facility, from bosses through employees to the cleaning crew. They will also figure out what training or education is required for all these different jobs, what these people are paid, and what their hours are.
Art: The student will create three pieces of art in connection to the facility. This could be a sketch of the facade, a mural to go in the lobby, an item that might exist in one of the galleries, a tapestry to hang on a wall, or another idea.
Depending on the project, the student may want to come up with a list of art works to exhibit in their gallery, research what tanks would be needed to house which fish in their aquarium, design a hands-on activity to teach a science lesson in their museum, figure out a year’s bookings for musical acts in their concert venue, design a playspace for their library, write a curriculum for their school, determine what amount of food would be needed to sustain the animals in their zoo, imagine a research project to be carried out at their hospital, research native plants and rainwater collection for their garden, create a healthy concessions menu for the stadium, etc.
In this area, parents and students should work together to find a way to make the project truly personal and satisfying. Even something as mundane as the elevators in the building could potentially give students a chance to customize their approach. A student who loves science could figure out how elevators work. A student interested in psychology could learn about human behavior in elevators and design one that eliminates stress. A music student could compose a piece of elevator music. An art student could make an elevator that looks like the inside of an egg. The possibilities are limitless.
Students should in no way be limited to “what’s realistic” or what has already been done. They should follow their imaginations and dare to come up with something truly original.
The senior project will be a highly individualized piece of work, entirely based on the student’s interests, strengths, and goals for the future. It might be writing a novel and seeking publication, writing a play and having it produced, creating a game and play-testing it with real players, composing a piece of music and having it performed live, launching a website, starting a business, etc. The biggest difference between the middle school capstone and the high school capstone is that seniors will take their ideas into the world. This project should be the realization of a passionate pursuit, a taste of bringing their education out of the hypothetical and into real life.
The senior project should be started or at least mapped out in the junior year, so that a significant portion can be completed in time to include it on college apps, or write about it in college admissions essays.
At the end of the year, students will present their projects to each other and to the NAG community in a social event, where they can display their work, engage in a Q&A, and receive appreciation and applause for their creativity.