North Tahoe High senior projects highlight student versatility
June 30, 2014
North Tahoe High School reinstated senior projects during the 2013-24 school year.
NTHS alumni may remember and think fondly of their own senior projects, while underclassmen look forward to this opportunity in their academic career to break the mold of everyday class.
Similar to Google's 20% Time, where Google employees are encouraged to innovate for part of their week, the project allows seniors to choose their own topic and map their own learning. Many choose to apprentice in a field where they see a future, or choose a skill they have and expand, or just try something new.
Jeramie Peart went to Lodi to learn to sky dive, while Shane Christian learned how to prep a baseball field. The projects are as varied as the students.
NTHS senior projects were discontinued in 2008 when the school went to the 4 x 4 block schedule and could not do a year-long project. English teachers Bill Freeman and Erin LeFevers describe the senior project as a project intended as a culminating assignment to highlight students' mastery of 21st century skills — critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.
Part of the project requires a student to present their learning to the other seniors. Shelby Peterson, who took gun safety classes to obtain her California Handgun Safety Certificate said, "I actually enjoyed learning the gun safety, and liked presenting to my class a project that some of the guys were really interested in learning."
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Robin Foster, who took vocal lessons to improve her singing voice felt, "It put me on the path to find my own voice, and gave me confidence."
Danika Ashton's project helped her find herself in a year where many teens struggle. "My paintings expressed a part of me I rarely share with others."
"In the past, senior projects were a part of the culture here at NTHS," said senior English teacher Erin LeFevers. "Students looked forward to the assignment as a rite of passage. The kids choose what they want to do, and it pushes them to explore more."
The English teachers enjoy seeing the projects take shape. Erin LeFevers class stand-outs include: Noah McDermott and Alex Bourriage's school track record board, which was created in the NTHS shop and will hang in the gym and Danika Ashton's self expression through her art.
According to teacher Bill Freeman, Heather Wencke's work to design and make her own computer game, complete with all advanced graphics, really was phenomenal.
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"The toughest thing to do — for me — was to get students motivated and excited about doing it. After most started, they became much more enthusiastic," said Freeman.
Jeramie Peart described his decision to sky dive as a process of elimination, "Freeman said skiing was out 'cause I do it a lot, so I thought of skydiving, why not?"
Dominic Antonucci learned how to weld. "I learned the craft from local welder Mike Miltner, and spent about 20 hours apprenticing with him. I have always wanted to learn to weld. The senior project allowed me to learn the basics of a career I am interested in before I got to college. The senior project gave me the excuse to dive in and learn."
As Freeman explains, "I feel it's a valuable tool for self reflection, exploration of interests, community work/liaison/mentor work, research and self motivation."
This year, additional projects included Dylan Anderson, sound engineering; Dominic Antonucci, learning metal fabrication and welding; Danika Ashton, self-expression through art; Judith Bravo: learning how-to play acoustic guitar; William Burton, starting a small business; TJ Cornwell, filming, editing, and producing a documentary film; Jose Chavez, running a Chinese restaurant; Shane Christian, how to prep a baseball field; Robin Foster, singing; Edgar Gallegos, becoming a barber; Micah Galuzzo, gloving; Monica Garcia, becoming a registered nurse; Baylee Goodwin, coaching a seventh/eighth-grade volleyball team; Brandon Hackett, fly fishing; Alexis Herrera, operating a gas station; Peter Holmes, ski race waxing; Jordy Holst, fitness training; Jake Levy putting together a band, performing at talent show; Noah McDermott, track record board in gym; Kalia Norris, building a super dog house; Hawk Ostrie, snowmaking; Jeramie Peart, skydiving; Shelby Peterson, the essentials of gun safety and ownership; Forrest Smith, ski video; Alex Tyler, build a go-cart from scratch; Omar Vargas, managing a restaurant; Heather Wencke, creating a video game; and Angela Wood, becoming a police officer.
Submitted to the Sierra Sun by Rachel Wright, NTHS librarian, firstname.lastname@example.org.