Senior project adjusts schedules, deadlines to relieve stress

by Kate Magill, ’13

Capstone: the project that daunts and stresses the seniors of UAHS. This major assignment is one which many students dread, as it encompasses an enormous amount of time and energy; however, this year the project is undergoing renovations, which include alterations in the set up of senior courses, as well as changes in deadlines.

Throughout the school year, administrators work alongside senior teachers and students to discuss the progress of Capstone projects, as well as address any concerns about the assignment. According to principal Emilie Greenwald, this past spring former principal Kip Greenhill led the group in discussing possible changes that would be made to the Capstone project, which are being implemented for the current school year.

“[Much of] it came from discussions with kids and concerns they had, or things that worked well or things they liked or didn’t like,” Greenwald said.

From these discussions, several changes to the project were made to solve concerns from staff and students. These adjustments include un-partnering Government and English courses so that the two classes are no longer back-to-back. According to Greenwald, the classes were altered in order to allow seniors more flexibility in their schedules.

“The biggest problem that we consistently had was that when you have two classes back-to-back, it shuts [students] out of classes,” she said. “It just created a lot of conflicts in the schedule for kids. And so they made the changes this year to have the classes not paired together but still doing the same things.”

Government teacher Yvonne Edwards said she thinks the scheduling difference will allow students to have a more straightforward Capstone experience.

“I think students will benefit from having one voice to hear regarding each of the components,” she said. “Splitting the classes will actually make it a more unified project where all students have the exact same assignments due on the same day and for the same grade.”

In addition to the difference in class scheduling, senior Capstone release days have also been altered. In the past, seniors in AP Government were given eight full release days, and students in regular Government were given a combination of half and full release days, that added to eight full days, in order to be given extra time to work on their projects. The administration decided to change this practice; all seniors now receive the entire day off from classes on school-wide early dismissal days. With this change, seniors will receive eight full day releases.

“We’ll be more consistent with the release time, so that everyone is released for the most part on those early release days that we have anyway for the school. [All seniors] will just have those whole day releases,” Greenwald said. “Part of what happened in the past is that if you were in AP Government you did have some of them, and then if you were in regular [Government] you didn’t, and so it was really confusing. This way it’s a set number of days; everybody’s got them.”

Edwards said the full release days for all seniors on the same days are the most significant change from last year.

Students are able to get more done on these days,” she said.

The final major change the administration has implemented for the Capstone project is the deadline for the research paper. In the past, the deadline was in mid-March; however, this year it will serve as students’ English midterm exam. According to Greenwald, this will allow English teachers to devote more class time focused on helping students research and write the paper.

“Language arts teachers felt like they needed to work more intensely on that as a paper and give it more focus,” she said. “It will still count as an overall grade for the final product.”

Beyond alterations to schedules and deadlines, Edwards said seniors will now be provided with a comprehensive Capstone Handbook, filled with all of the elements and grades for the project.

“We have also written a detailed Capstone Handbook this year that contains information about every requirement, the due dates and the weight of the grade,” she said.

Despite these alterations to the assignment, Greenwald does not believe students will notice a significant difference in the project itself.

“I don’t know that from the student side they’ll feel the change,” she said. “Part of what is happening though is that we’re being very deliberate about, ‘The Government classes will do this element; all of the literature classes will do [another] element.’ So I think it actually will help the project because students won’t have that ambiguity.”