The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 4, 2010

CCHS Senior projects encourage interdisciplinary learning

For 15 years, Concord-Carlisle High School seniors have had the option of doing a Senior Project their last semester in place of a traditional class. Students design their own project, they have an advisor and they are given 2.5 credits for the project, equal to a class. English teacher Mark Angney, now retired, was the first to start such a program in the state and it has been copied by other towns. The program is now being run by English teacher David Nurenberg and there have been some changes.

Nurenberg explained, “Originally, Senior Project was an interdisciplinary exploration a senior wanted to study.” Students had a mentor or advisor whom they met with, but they did not necessarily meet as a group. In mid-May, students presented the culmination of their work.

“Things have changed,” said Nurenberg. He said many more students have college acceptances earlier. This, perhaps, has made some students less motivated to dig into their projects. “Some kids didn’t live up to the spirit of the program.” So Nurenberg has been re-examining the Senior Project Program.

This spring, students have been meeting Monday and Friday as a group with Nurenberg. “There is a more formal check-in [than previously],” said Nurenberg. Students talk about the progress they have made. “They learn from each other. They hear from their peers. They learn to be teachers.” There is more accountability this year. Students keep a weekly journal. Mentors must fill in a check-in sheet as well. Students must bring in evidence of their progress, such as photos or videos. Nurenberg says, “I love this.” He has learned quite a lot from his students.

Students sign up for Senior Project in the spring of their junior year. Nurenberg said they generally have an idea of what they want to do. At the start of the course, students refine their ideas. “It’s always been as much about process as progress,” said Nurenberg. Students then choose from a group of faculty who have indicated they are interested in advising a senior project. A faculty member can give up a duty such as watching over the cafeteria or a study hall to become a mentor.

This year, one student wrote code for a computer game; another designed, wrote, illustrated and bound a children’s book; one restored an old guitar; one researched and designed an ecologically friendly suburban residential home; another designed and sewed her own prom dress. Several projects each year are based on food. In the past, students have composed music and performed it, built a boat, created and acted out a one-act play and worked on family heritage. Other projects have been more civic-minded in nature.

No Carlisle students participated this year. Nurenberg hopes more students will consider this option in the future. “It’s a great opportunity.” ∆

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