Opinion

Final project required for 2008 grads

By Deborah Boeck

Starting with the class of 2008, our state's high school students are required to meet new graduation requirements. One of the new requirements is completion of a Culminating Project. The Culminating Project is an integrated learning project completed during the senior year outside of normal school curriculum. It is culminating in the sense that students must demonstrate their learning competencies acquired over the K-12 school years.

The Culminating Project provides a unique learning opportunity for youth to explore areas of interest and gain a greater understanding of how to connect what they have learned in school to the real world. This is a project in which students have the freedom to define their own direction and be totally responsible for the end result!

Last year, the MIHS Culminating Project Committee spent the day at Eastlake High School where they have already implemented this project requirement. We saw many examples of students' projects being presented to panels of teachers and peers. Projects included a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, filmmaking, building of a bass guitar, custom design of a personal computer, and working with disabled children at a therapeutic riding camp. Students were enthusiastic, well prepared and quite professional in their presentations.

According to the Washington State Board of Education, each district defines its own process for implementing the Culminating Project requirement. MIHS' Culminating Project Committee has been working over the past several years developing a framework for our Culminating Project. The committee consists of two students, five parents, representative teachers from all departments and three administrators.

Five components will make up the MIHS Culminating Project: (1) a Plan that clearly outlines the student's proposed project; (2) an Annotated Bibliography that presents evidence of research (formal or informal) related to the proposed project; (3) a Learning Log that provides evidence of their work and time spent; (4) a Written Reflection describing what the student learned from working on this project; and (5) a Presentation, all of which will total at least 80 hours of independent work. As students complete each component, it will be evaluated and scored according to a pre-established set of criteria. Students will present their product to a panel of teachers who will assess this final component.

To support students, the Culminating Project Committee has published a handbook with templates and examples for each project component and assessment criteria so students know what is expected. At MIHS, implementation of the Culminating Project is being supported through the Bridges Program. During Bridges, freshmen and sophomores are learning how to develop and carryout a project, what is expected and what kind of support they will receive from staff.

This year's sophomores will be the first group completing a Culminating Project. They will submit their plan in May of their junior year, and if they choose, begin working on it during the summer before their senior year. On an early track they can present their project in December. Students may also choose to use all of their senior year to work on their project and present in June. Regardless, students will be guided through the requirements and receive timely feedback at each step. The high school expects to hire a part-time staff person to support students and manage the process. A second semester class for students needing additional support is also being planned. These new resources will be critical to ensuring that all students are successful.

There is no doubt this new graduation requirement means additional work for students, and if students fail to complete the project or fail to meet standard on any of the component, they will not graduate. But with the support of teachers, parents and community members who may serve as mentors to students, the Culminating Project will truly be a reflection of each student's learning and an example of their best work from their high school career. Visit the MIHS Web site for up-to-date information on the Culminating Project. Teachers, Andrea Confalone, Mike Radow and Creighton Laughary are leading the MIHS Culminating Project Committee and are also available to answer questions.

Dr. Debora Boeck is a parent of a student in the class of 2008 and serves on the committee in addition to being the Parent Volunteer Coordinator for the Bridges Program.

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