On alternating years, the Academy has been holding a senior project for eleventh and twelfth grade students which richly challenged them.

In lieu of their normal English curriculum, they took a quarter to develop a personal project about something they wanted to learn. This has resulted in a rich medley of studies, including learning how to operate an inherited DSLR camera, studying careers in trauma nursing, learning how to write fiction for publication, learning how to play drums or guitar, even learning how to sew clothing. One young man wanted to learn military discipline!

Once the topic was chosen, the student had to find a skilled/professional mentor who could give at least 10 hours of hands-on training. The young man featured in the picture studied blood pathology, and worked closely with our on-ship lab. The students interested in developing their photography skills worked with our professional photographers. The young man interested in military discipline was trained by a retired Marine who also served in our ship security.

Meanwhile, in class, the students developed a research paper on their topic. These were as interesting as their projects! One young woman who studied calligraphy wrote a paper about the history of calligraphy.

When the quarter was completed, the students had a multi-genre presentation for a committee, usually consisting of a representative from Academy Administration, one from the Academy School Board, and someone knowledgeable in the field the student was exploring, though not his/her actual mentor. The committee participants were given a copy of the student’s research paper to peruse beforehand.

In the photo, the student was preparing to present his project. A student would show the process of the project, using a PowerPoint presentation, a display board, a second written piece—poem, song, pamphlet—and a physical presentation of what was learned. Musicians played for their committee. Photographers tended to present a portfolio of their work. One cook prepared a platter of delectable pastries she had cooked.

It was a wonderful opportunity for students to design their own learning and to present themselves and their work in a formal, professional fashion!

By Kim Robinson – Former English Teacher – Africa Mercy®