This falls incoming high school freshmen will be the first class the state requires to complete a senior project before they graduate in 2014.
Principal Chris Clark and his staff at Madison-Plains High School have already created a draft of guidelines for what they are calling the seniorcapstone project. In a nutshell, it involves the student choosing an area of interest, researching it, becoming actively involved in it, writing a paper about it, then defending the paper before a panel of evaluators.
The senior project requirement is part of House Bill 1. Its purpose is to better prepare students for the next step after graduation, whether thats college or career.
“Sixty-five percent of Madison-Plains graduates go on to college… What graduates are telling us is that (the research and defense process) is a problem for them once they are in college, Clark said.
“Were big on research at Madison-Plains, but what the capstone project does is then ask the students, ‘So what? Why is this important?
It also gets students thinking about what they want to do once they leave high school.
To facilitate the capstone project, Clark envisions setting aside a common period once a day during which all seniors work on their project. It wouldnt be specific to one teacher; all of the seniors teachers could provide guidance and check on progress.
Clark also says the students would be required to find mentors outside of the school who are experts in their chosen subject area. For instance, a student comparing tillage methods could connect with a Madison County farmer, going on-site to actively participate in the process, as well as observe. A student who wants to write a novel could find an author, learn what it takes to not only write a book but also pitch it to publishers, then possibly write a first chapter.
“From that tangible experience, students do a written paper and an oral presentation, Clark said.Some kids are great writers and poor speakers, and vice-versa. You have some kids who can do the tangible part of the project, but cant write or speak well. This gives everybody a chance to show their strengths.
Clark hopes to pilot the capstone project with the Class of 2013. At a recent Madison-Plains school board meeting, he answered questions about the projects guidelines.
“I think its a lot to do in your senior year, said board member Linda Blankenship. She wants to know if other school districts project requirements are as involved as those Clark has presented.
Clark said House Bill 1s guidelines are vague, leaving them open to interpretation by individual school districts. He also said the requirement is new, which means few reference points exist, though all districts are supposed to have a plan in place before the Class of 2014 starts high school this fall.
“Northwestern Wayne (High School) in Wayne County does something close to this, but they dont do everything weve outlined, Clark said.
The guidelines arent set in stone. They could change as instructors and mentors work through any kinks during the piloting process, he said.
Clark is working with fellow educators at the junior high level to lay the groundwork now so that once students reach high school they will have some basic research skills under their belts, making for a smoother transition into the senior project.
“I think this is a good idea, board member Michael Brandt said of the overall capstone idea.We dont want our students to be lost in the process once they reach college.