Capstone Process Paper
For my capstone, I decided to work closely with 7th and 8th graders at Independence Charter School to help them create better National History Day Projects. Originally this was not my idea. My first idea was to create a class/club centered on what the children wanted to learn. I thought that this idea was perfect since it fitted perfect with what I wanted to be when I was older: a teacher. Here I could put myself into a position much like a teacher, while also engages the kids I worked with because they would learning about things they enjoyed like: sports, videos games, books, etc. After discussing the original idea with my mentor, we realized how cumbersome of a project that would be. With a project like that, I’d completely dependent on what the students wanted to learn. If they weren’t putting in any effort, I’d be out of a capstone. I would also be dedicating too much time to creating projects/lesson plans for the class every week. After discussing alternatives, we decided that I would help on existing process going on at the school: National History Day. This was definitely a better idea for me because I still got to be in a teacher-like position while having a better focus on my capstone. During the process of about 3-4 months, I learned how my capstone relates to the five core values.
With inquiry the students and myself had two major questions above our heads: “How do our NHD topics relate to the current theme of 2013?” and “If not, how can change our ideas so that they fit into this year’s topic?” Before getting into any serious work with any of the students I’d ask the kids to explain their theme and overall project in a couple sentences. This way the students can see for themselves whether they have a good idea on their hands instead of just me telling them. For research, I would try to help the students by introducing resources that can possibly collect better sources for the kids. Being that they are 7th and 8th graders, they collect almost that looks like a credible source. That’s where collaboration comes in. I’d be there to help distinguish between what’s “good” source and what’s a “bad” source. How something from a random website on the Internet is definitely less effective source that a source from something like an accredited newspaper. In addition to that, I also helped by showing the differences between primary and secondary sources. For many of them, it’s their first introduction into dealing with primary and secondary sources. Using my four years at SLA, I tried to demonstrate more effective ways of presentation a final product. I tried to show the students I worked with the idea of CARP (Contrast-Alignment- Repetition-Proximity), something we always try to implement in our final products at SLA.
The process of my capstone first began when I pay visit to some the students while they were in school. As introduced myself as an alumni of Independence Charter School and that I was once in their position with NHD projects. I told them about my experiences with the National History Day competition and even how my years at SLA have made much more proficient in creating projects. I tried not to come off as too demanding and that I was resource that they had the choice of using. When my mentor compiled as list of groups that wanted to work with me, it then transformed to weekly sessions where I would work with the groups. Although I was very optimistic about the process, I began to notice major issues even after the first meeting. I was just one person in a room full of kids that wanted my help. I quickly realized that I had to divide my attention between six different groups in only a relative short amount of time. Thankfully, my mentor was there to help me out. After one our meetings we decided that I would only work groups who were really invested in the process, but even that had problems. Every week I’d be meeting with a new group so there would be a constant dialogue between the students and myself. Even when I could meet with a group on a consistent basis, these groups already knew what they were doing. I couldn’t really add anything to the overall project. Also a lot of the time, I felt that input wasn’t even being taken into account. I would suggest something to a group and they either completely ignored it or just do it without even considering how it might affect their project.
I’m certainly proud of the fact that I stay with something like this. I was always ready to work with the groups even when it hindered my normal senior workload (benchmarks, projects). I also got to experience what a lot of teachers deal with on a daily basis. Most teachers, especially ones that teach grade school work with kids that are scatterbrained and don’t necessarily pay attention all the time. It’s certainly a difficult thing to deal with that I have to take into consideration when I become a teacher. If I could do this capstone all over again, I’d certainly recruit other people to also work with me so I wouldn’t be dividing my attention amongst so many different groups. I believe that SLA is better place for letting me attend because this is where I got to use all the things I learned in middle school and actually apply them to tangible and worthwhile things. I also believed it’s a better place because I became more invested in global issues and SLA has motivated me to become a much more globally minded citizen.