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Senior Projects

May 3, 2009

ARTech seniors are gearing up to share their senior projects next week.   The projects will be presented on Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30PM in the Great Room.   As part of the senior project process, the students have had to follow complete a study of a topic that they were inspired by sufficiently to sustain a year’s interest.   One requirement is that students complete an I Search paper to accompany the project.   They receive instruction in the craft of creating an I Search paper during a 10th grade seminar. Many people influence the creation of these projects, including parents, mentors, experts and advisors.    Students conduct part of their research on the St. Olaf campus.  Librarian Kris MacPherson was an invaluable assistant to our students in developing research skills. Our own theater/speech expert Bob is also included in the process of guiding the students with their presentation skills.

It’s interesting to consider how the process of developing project study skills might grow and develop over the K – 12 span of learning and how students can inform and support each other in that process. I been thinking about this learning continuum a lot this year as I’ve transitioned from the world of K -5 to 6-12 public education, and continued to see how a multi-age approach to education enriches learning opportunities.  

img_05251How does that look? Recently, a group of ARTech middle school students spent time over at Prairie Creek helping kindergarden students in Nancy Dennis’ K-1 class with their independent projects.   I had the good fortune to be a mentor for a fifth grade honors project student from Prairie Creek this year.   Prairie Creek recently hosted their own rite of passage project event when all the fifth graders presented the projects which display many of the learning skills that they have developed during the elementary school years.   Lily’s project was centered on the topic of Tea.img_05521  She produced a beautiful study that drew together the history, geography and art of one of my favorite beverages.

ARTech middle school students are currently working through their own choice-based independent project studies this quarter.   The advisors have connected the eighth grade students with high school students as part of the process and they are mirroring the process of proposal and finalization that happens in our high school program.  They will be sharing their projects at the end of quarter presentation night.

Of course, project-based learning won’t end for our seniors next week with the presentation of their projects.   College, recreation and employment will inspire and present a life-long series projects for our young people.    It’s been great fun to see all the St. Olaf and Carleton students connecting with our program this year.  Last Thursday morning, I was steadily bombarded for almost two img_0762hours with a series of fine and probing questions by Cathy Oehmke’s Ed. Psych. class of Carleton students.    They are coming to the end of a study of different approaches, traditional and progressive, to the learning process.   Many of their questions centered on the project process and their interest in an approach that puts an intrinsic motivation for learning at the fore.    

Maia Horsager, a visiting St. Olaf student, included ARTech students in her own senior project that was shared last week in the Kelsey Theater Gallery.  Entitled “Children, Society and the Arts” she incorporated art of her own alongside that of several ARTech students.   Her project presented yet another opportunity for our  students to realize that the project process they engage in never really ends, if one is inspired to keep learning.   Perhaps the important piece for our students to remember is to keep reflecting on the process. The development of project-learning skills doesn’t end with a fifth, eighth, senior or even a college project.  

Our seniors are certainly looking to the future and the exciting learning opportunities that it holds.  I hope you will be able to come and see their projects next week and be part learning process with them.


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