Students looking forward to climbing Everest, guerilla gardening or composing music at the end of senior year had best give up now.
At least if they want school credit for it, that is.
Seventeen years of Country Day tradition are no more, and senior projects have finally come to an end.
Despite a number of stand outs such as piano recitals and learning to race horses, “the quality as a whole just wasn’t what we wanted,” Sue Nellis, head of the high school, said.
“Some were great, but many seniors didn’t put in the time.”
Instead seniors will attend school for approximately four hours a day during the two weeks they would normally spend on senior projects.
They will attend three to four seminars and lectures a day on everything from financial planning to self-defense.
At a faculty meeting last spring, the vote to eliminate the projects was unanimous.
The only question that remained was what to replace them with.
Originally, the College Board considered moving AP testing to the last two weeks of May instead of the first, giving seniors more time to prepare for exams and eliminating the time between the end of APs and graduation.
But not enough schools signed on to the idea, so the school was forced to resume its discussion of how to replace senior projects.
“We wanted the seniors to finish their time here not just with academic skills, but with skills for college and life after it,” Nellis said.
Kellie Whited’s popular College Health and Nutrition class provided the basic idea.
“I think there are some really great opportunities for students to learn some skills that adults take for granted,” Nellis said.
The classes will be taught mostly by faculty and parent volunteers, with some outside experts, according to Nellis.
“There has been so much (coverage) about the lack of financial knowledge among young people, particularly when it comes to massive student loans that people often have no way of paying back,” Nellis said.
Students will likely be able
to choose from a variety of different seminars, each about an hour in length.
Other classes will be required for all seniors, but the class will be split into smaller groups for the actual lesson.
Student reactions thus far have been mixed regarding the change.
“I’m interested in going into medicine, and I planned to shadow doctors in different fields,” senior Alison Walter said.
“The seminar just won’t be as interesting as an actual surgery.”
But Nellis responds that students are welcome to pursue their interests—on their own time.
“I think it’s interesting that we get to learn real-world stuff instead of spending time coming up with a silly idea,” senior Jianna Gudebski said.
Senior Mary-Clare Bosco agrees.
“They could make (seminars) great. I liked senior projects, but I think this is a good chance to learn non-academic things,” she said.
“Public schools offer classes on useful skills that aren’t necessarily academic and we should too,” Bosco said.
Other students say that seminars are a good idea, but life topics might not interest many students.
“The seminars should be on unusual non-academic things, not just finance and real-world topics,” senior Gerardo Vergara said.
“They should be on random things that teachers are really interested in teaching—anything from Yiddish to square dancing.”
Alumni opinions have also been mixed.
“It’s both good and bad. They were a staple at Country Day and something you looked forward to,” Cabot Jackman, ’11, said.
“But at the same time, I got to college and I had to write a resume for a class and I had no idea what I was doing.”
“I really enjoyed the projects because we had time off to do something that we would usually never consider,” Camille Getz, ‘11, said.
“But I guess it makes more sense to take a useful class instead of learning to play the dulcimer.”
The classes will be in the library and in unoccupied classrooms, since they will have to work around the classes still in session.
The number of seminars and most of the topics remain undecided, and it is seniors who will decide them, according to Nellis.
“We want seniors to be involved, either casually or in an actual committee,” Nellis said.
“The idea is to make it like a convention or conference. You pick what classes you want to go to, but some are required.”