“What world challenge would you like to help solve?” Bridgette Murray asks a group of Grosse Pointe Academy Grade 8 students. Murray, who is Assistant Head of School, Middle School Division Head and Middle School Language Arts teacher, is referring, of course, to the Academy’s Grade 8 Capstone Project.
The Academy Grade 8 Capstone Project provides our students with a yearlong opportunity to research a challenge of local or global significance, design a solution to help resolve that challenge and, ultimately, present their findings to the Academy community.
By early fall, our Grade 8 students are already well underway in their Capstone work. They begin with researching their potential topics and identifying sources that can help them. Part of the Capstone experience is “learning how to use critical thinking skills when reviewing sources and researching your topic,” says Murray.
Next, students did their “Guppy Presentations” to their peers. The Guppy Presentation is a two-minute presentation to their fellow classmates and Murray, providing an overview of their proposed Capstone Project.
“The project must be action-orientated,” explains Murray. “This is not about researching a topic. It’s about taking that research and turning it into an action to help solve that challenge.”
As part of the Guppy Presentation, each student explained to their peers the challenge they want to help solve, potential obstacles they have identified and why their Capstone project is a worthwhile investment of their time. Students had the opportunity to give feedback, ask questions and provide guidance to each other as part of that process.
Proposed Capstones in 2022 included subjects such as deforestation, bringing awareness to challenges faced by disabled veterans, mental health and age, the benefits of dance, the financial struggle of illness, poverty, drug abuse, drunk driving, athlete drug use, internet safety awareness and the dangers of vaping.
Over several months Grade 8 students invested significant time into developing their projects, culminating with a presentation near the end of the school year.
When Murray introduced the Capstone project to the Academy seven years ago, she knew it would be a great fit for the Academy approach to education. “Capstones align with our Cornerstones and values,” says Murray.
These skills, “thinking critically, asking questions, thinking about how they can affect the world around them and taking action” combined with “developing skills such as public speaking, research, self-sufficiency and goal setting” are skills that will help prepare them for high school, college, careers and beyond.”