Capstones: A New Era at Collegiate

The class of 2017 will be the last class to have Senior Projects in their current form. These projects are meant to give seniors the opportunity to work in a field they are interested in during the last two weeks of the school year. Whether it’s a service trip or reviewing restaurants, the projects are supposed to show that the seniors are dedicating their time to something they are interested in, making the experience meaningful. However, after several years of Senior Projects, the Collegiate administration has decided to replace them with a more substantive idea: the Senior Year Capstone.

The Senior Year Capstone is not necessarily replacing Senior Projects but rather combining them with Senior Seminars for a more impactful classroom experience. The Senior Year Capstone began with looking at the success of several Senior Seminar classes, such as TEDxYouth@RVA, International Emerging Leaders, and Mindfulness, and trying to find ways to expand them. The students will still have the freedom of choosing which Capstone they take. Capstones have limited spaces, however, so there is a chance a student might not get the course they want. The Capstones have a wide variety of choices, ranging from The River City, a class focused on the health of the James River, to Create-a-thon, which helps nonprofit organizations with their marketing. The classes will each embark on a journey that will be both impactful and educational.

The idea behind the Senior Year Capstone is to teach students independence and collaboration. While those two words may sound like antonyms, they are fitting to the Senior Year Capstone, as the students will have to work together while utilizing creativity and problem solving on their own. As Clare Sisisky, the Director of Responsible Citizenship at Collegiate, claims, “Our world is changing, and we need to make sure that we are giving students the tools to be able to thrive in any opportunity that they have.” Sisisky has been working to implement Capstone experiences throughout Collegiate. Currently, the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades have Capstones experiences—a culmination of a student’s time in one of our three divisions (Lower, Middle, and Upper School). The Lower School will focus on the Collegiate community, the Middle School will focus on helping the community around Richmond, and the Upper School will focus on student connection to the world. The Middle School Capstone, Envision Richmond, has been in place for a few years and has become quite successful. Throughout a span of one week, 8th graders are tasked with coming up with a hypothetical way of improving the city of Richmond. Sisisky hopes the Capstones will become an integral part of the Collegiate experience.

The first year of Capstone Projects, or the combination of Senior Seminars and Senior Projects, will start with the class of 2018, some of whom have mixed opinions about losing senior projects. Travis Reifsnider (‘18), who was disappointed by the new Senior Capstone, believes, “when used properly, the Senior Projects can be really beneficial to each student.” Many of the students that are wary of the Capstone say they will miss the freedom of Senior Projects. Other students are excited about the introduction of Capstone Projects. Reilly Gallagher (‘18) says, “I’m really excited that, as opposed to normal class, the class is more discussion-based and it’s more contemporary. The Capstones deal more with real world problems and ethics, rather than traditional school.” Due to these changes in projects, next year’s seniors will also graduate far earlier, on May 25th, 2018, which many see as a perk.

Although it may be difficult for Upper Schoolers to be happy about losing the freedom of Senior Projects, the Senior Year Capstone will give students a wonderful opportunity to learn in a new environment. With the class of 2018 being the first to experiment with the Capstone projects, it will be interesting to hear their thoughts on the new offerings.

Featured image courtesy of Collegiate School.

About the author

Spencer is a junior at Collegiate. He enjoys the Reading Rainbow, Google-Chatting with ladies, and incorrectly correcting people's grammar,