By Lauren Thomson
12th Grade English Teacher
Kingsbury Day School
The Kingsbury Day School Senior Capstone Project began four years ago under the direction of Dr. Peri-Anne Chobot and former English teacher, Jamie Flores. “Capstone provides seniors with an opportunity to use the academic skills acquired during their time at Kingsbury to delve deeply into an area of personal interest. The process encourages our seniors to carry that personal passion with them as they venture into the world beyond Kingsbury Day School,” Dr. Chobot explained.
There are four major components to the Capstone project:
- a research paper
- an electronic portfolio
- a product/performance and
- a presentation to the Kingsbury Day School community.
Each stage in the process requires seniors to sharpen skills that will prove to be of value when they pursue higher education or enter the workforce. These skills include researching, critical reading, analytical writing, editing and public speaking.
The process begins with a simple question to our seniors: What do you care about? The goal is for each student to identify a topic of personal interest and explore it. It’s that simple. This year Capstone topics range from Gender Biases in Gaming to Off-the-Court NBA Fashion; from Eastern Philosophy to Skin Conditions; from Gun Violence in DC to Auto Mechanics.
Once students have identified their topic and guiding questions, they are paired with a mentor – a Kingsbury faculty or staff member or a professional outside the school community – who has expertise (personal, professional or educational) in that topic. The mentor helps guide the student through his/her path, from assisting in finding credible sources to editing and perfecting their papers. Kingsbury’s therapeutic service providers also act as a huge source of support and are some of the best Capstone “experts” we have on campus! We simply could not do the Capstone Project without their skills, patience and guidance.
Kingsbury uses a variety of tools and accommodations to make this type of lengthy and multi-step research paper an accessible goal for all of our students. This year students have utilized Google Drive to create an electronic portfolio. The platform makes it easy for students, teachers and therapeutic service providers to have access to the same documents for editing and feedback. For those students who struggle with executive functioning, it prevents documents from getting lost or being closed before editing changes are saved.
Our scaffolding approach to the research process begins with a research log form. Students use an individualized online form to help them keep track of their sources and the important details from their articles and other sources. As they complete their logs, the information is input automatically into a spreadsheet that organizes their sources, key details and textual evidence. Incorporating evidence into their papers and creating a Works Cited page is as simple as cutting and pasting from their spreadsheet.
After completing the research process, seniors create a highly detailed outline format to use to organize their thoughts and ensure that their paper has all the necessary components. Each student uses this outline, either online or on paper, depending on preference; it helps to take much of the dread out of the actual “writing the paper.” Once completed, the students edit for content and clarity, add transition words, and voila – they have a research paper!
While the students gather much of their research from written sources, they also have a chance to interact with real-live humans! On March 4th, Kingsbury hosted its first Capstone Professionals’ Breakfast, bringing together a wide range of professionals from the DC community to join staff in mentoring our students. The group included a midwife, military personnel, and even a personal stylist. Each student identified a person in the greater DC community that had a connection to their topic through their profession or expertise. Many of the mentors were located through our wide and generous Kingsbury community. Students contacted the mentors independently, fostered a relationship through email, and then invited them to join us at the breakfast.
The breakfast was a huge success! Walking in the room, you heard the powerful hum of
productive and engaged conversations. Students walked away with deeper insight into their topics and the professionals were happy to be a part of something that impacts students in DC. To be honest, our guests were just as thankful to us for bringing them out as we were to them for coming. We also had the pleasure of welcoming a guest speaker – Jason Richardson, CEO and Founder of J-1 Studios in Philadelphia. His address to the guests was inspiring and enlightening to students and adults alike.
As the year draws to a close, our seniors are working with their mentors to finish their products, which will be displayed and presented on May 25th during Kingsbury’s Annual Capstone Program. Members of the Kingsbury school community – teachers, parents, staff and administrators – gather in the Great Room to celebrate our seniors’ Capstone achievement. Some students will be using a performance-based product, crafting music tracks with Mr. Tim Rice, Kingsbury’s Music teacher. Others are working with Ms. Natasha Reitz, Kingsbury’s Art teacher, to create innovative pieces of visual art that capture the heart of their project through color and form.
The Capstone Project is both a pinnacle of the senior year and an opportunity for seniors to practice emerging skills for college and beyond. Kingsbury’s seniors deserve to be celebrated for the hard work and creative thought they have demonstrated throughout the Capstone process. I hope the skills utilized will help them with whatever academic or personal pursuits come next!