WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO… senior projects?

(Photo used by permission of Julie Nelson)
Ian Seyal, ‘07, made a Tesla coil for his senior project.

In the “What Ever Happened to…” series, reporters will explain what happened to some of Country Day’s former traditions. Check back tomorrow for another installment. 

Training a horse, learning to cook and volunteering at Loaves and Fishes might not seem to have a lot in common, but they are all activities once completed as senior projects.

Just five years ago, during the three-week gap between AP exams and graduation, each senior dedicated 40 hours to an event or activity outside of their comfort zone. The idea behind the tradition, which began in 1996, was to give seniors an opportunity to do something they had always wanted to do, but never before had the chance.

Each student had an adviser to assist them throughout the process.

The Sunday before graduation, students presented their projects to their families, peers and faculty.

But, in their most recent years, the senior projects began to drift away from their original intentions, according to Sue Nellis, former head of high school and current history teacher.

“Some students were not taking the projects seriously and putting in the required time (or) not finishing the projects they said they were going to finish,” Nellis said.

So in 2013 Nellis began to think about better ways for the seniors to spend the three weeks after AP exams.

“I started reading about the lack of financial-literacy education in schools, so I proposed to the faculty that we change the projects to seminars,” Nellis said.

According to Nellis, almost every teacher agreed instantly.

And after coming up with financial literacy, the faculty brainstormed other skills useful for seniors before leaving home.

Self-defense, bike and car maintenance, yoga, resume writing, barbecuing and a career day were some of those ideas.

In hindsight, Nellis said that she and the entire faculty feel it was a good decision.

Previously, high-school teachers had to dedicate their evenings during the last weeks of school – a time that is crammed with grading and graduation preparation – to the senior projects, Nellis said.

Ending the projects removed that pressure.

And Nellis said that the responses from the students were just as positive.

“(Nobody) said to me that they wanted to do the senior projects instead,” Nellis said.

“(Everyone) is very comfortable  with the way (things) are going (now).”

By Anna Frankel

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