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Northwestern Regional Students Volunteered for Capstone Program


By Colleen Gundlach

The word capstone is defined as a crowning achievement or high point, and that is certainly true of a pilot program currently in place at Northwestern Regional 7 (NW7). Partnering with EdAdvance in Litchfield, the Capstone enrichment program for seniors was launched this year under the guidance of Jessica Angell, an English teacher at NW7. It offers students the challenge of undertaking a multifaceted assignment, somewhat similar to a college thesis, where they will perform long-term investigative research into authentic issues or day-to-day problems that they may be able to improve or change.

NW7 Principal Ken Chichester says that the school was given the opportunity to partner with EdAdvance. “They came forward and offered to provide background and training for us to start a pilot Capstone program, and Jess Angell volunteered to lead it.” When she was a high school senior herself, Angell completed a Capstone project as part of her education. “I found it enriching and rewarding personally,” she says, “so when Capstone was proposed for Regional 7, I jumped at the chance to lead it here.”

Participation in Capstone was offered to all members of the senior class, and students were invited to volunteer for the program. Four students at NW7 are now enrolled in the Capstone project, working on issues such as the safety of high school football players, eradicating ticks, analyzing road and weather conditions to anticipate driving safety, and improved comfort and safety of camping gear. “These are students who are motivated and have a hunger for learning,” says Angell. “They are pursuing areas about which they are passionate.”

The Capstone program encourages students to think critically through problem solving and investigative research. The students then develop a business plan for the product they are introducing; do community outreach and publicity through all avenues, including social media and their own websites; and ultimately take their project in May to the Expo Fest, a statewide competition where they will be interviewed one-on-one about their research process, findings and the ultimate final product.

NW7 will be ahead of the game by piloting Capstone this year because, under the High School Reform program, the State of Connecticut is requiring that such a program be in place in all secondary schools in two years. “ As High School Reform stands now, a Capstone-like project can be done by students in any grade,” says Chichester, “but there are definite advantages to having seniors do a Capstone project as they prepare for the type of research and in-depth studies they will do in college. A Capstone project also enables students to use all of the skills and content knowledge that they have learned in high school in producing an authentic product. This program gives students a good head start in that direction – a true capstone of their senior year.”

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