About 40 well-dressed students converged on campus on a Saturday morning to present the efforts of a year-long project. Presentations marked the final step for many of the students who presented their senior projects and learning products in front of a panel of three to six judges made up of community members.
Senior Project drew about 80 participants at the beginning of the school year. Preparation started in students’ junior year, and rigorous requirements included writing a research paper, participating in a minimum of 50 hours of experience, creating a learning product, and presenting the project to a panel of judges.
“However I found myself quitting because I had a hard time trying to fit senior project in my busy schedule of trying balance a social life, extra curricular activities, academic studies, and trying to apply to college,” Nicole Hoe (12) said.
Senior Project is an optional project for seniors striving for the Board Of Education Honors Diploma. In addition to meeting the 24 credits for the Department of Education high school diploma, the BOE diploma requires the completion of a Senior Project, cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher, four credits in mathematics (Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II or the equivalent), score of 300 in the Algebra II End of Course Exam (in lieu of the Algebra II EOC, students may earn a cut score of 22 on the ACT, or earn a cut score of 510 on the math portion of the SAT.)
“As far as Senior Project not being offered for all students, I feel that this is really about skills that we know students need for life in high school and BEYOND for success,” Senior Project advisor Cindy Schrock, wrote in an email.
Students are responsible for writing an argumentative research paper. In the meantime, students participate in a minimum of 50 hours through job shadow or mentoring, service learning with an individual or group, or a project-based/performance based experience. Students also manage a portfolio of their learning logs and documentation of hours of experience, and create a learning product. This is all before presenting their Senior Project and learning product in front of a panel of judges.
Brianna Bell (12) researched the field of nursing. “I knew that I wanted to become a nurse so it was cool to experience it,” she said. “I’ve had some traumatizing experiences but the good times, like holding a newborn, outweigh it. I know that this is something that I want to pursue in the future.”
Patricia Ongcangco’s (12) Senior Project topic is on senior leadership. “I learned that in order to be a good leader you have to understand your team while also being organized and responsible. I also learned that in life you can’t make everybody happy but it’s my job to make this year memorable for the Class of 2015,” she said.
Next year the BOE Honors Diploma is not available for the Class of 2016 and beyond. Senior Project will not be required for all Board of Education diplomas as there are three different Board of Education diplomas, each with different set of requirements and a minimum GPA of 3.0 and above.
“I think it’s a bit disappointing that the underclassmen don’t have to do it anymore to get an Honors diploma,” Alicia Hoe (12) said. “We all worked very hard for this and I think the underclassmen have to go through it too.” She did her research on the school’s Korean Club,
The Academic Honors consists of requiring four credits in math and science as well as two AP classes, and the CTE Honors which requires students to take programs of study with a B or higher and passing an end-of-course assessment.
The only place where Senior Project is required in the new graduation requirements is in the STEM Honor diploma, which consists of having four science and four math credits. Senior Project is counted towards an elective credit along with getting the STEM Honor Diploma. The Board of Education made these decisions for the state of Hawaii and the Department of Education must follow these guidelines. With these decisions, seniors no longer have to complete and pass a senior project to be valedictorian or salutatorian of their class.
“I’m sad that these skills will only be emphasized for those who strive for the STEM Honors diploma. The CTE Honors diploma does cover the writing and presentation skills, so I’m glad that this CTE Honors diploma will help to emphasize some of the skills that the senior project required.”
This year, some juniors have expressed interest in completing the Senior Project as well.
“We have around 20 students who are interested in the STEM curriculum and will be working on the Senior Project through this course,” Schrock said.
Schrock hopes seniors get the most out of this project.
“My greatest desire is that students are able to demonstrate the skills of research and writing of a research paper, the ability to be out in the community learning from mentors who have the expertise in the topic of interest, to document learning and organize a professional portfolio, have students use their learning experience to create a learning product, and then to be able to professionally present their learning accomplishments to an audience. The skills are my focus as I know that students will need these skills beyond high school and we want our students to be prepared for the world they will live in and be able to be successful,” she said.