Seniors work on independent projects

Nandita Subbiah and Nina Haines

Pictured above is the senior independent projects bin in the Academic Center. This year there are 21 seniors doing 14 senior projects, varying from compiling oral history to building a boat. "I think it's nice to be able to be excused from classes to focus on something that you really enjoy doing," senior Mylinh Tran said.

When most students think of learning, they think of classes with textbooks and tests. However, some seniors are taking their education into their own hands with senior projects during fourth term.

The program was founded by English teacher Barbara Shellito in 2009. Shellito and Academic Center teacher Barb Wolfson are the co-directors of the program this year. They inform students about the project, decide which students will be accepted and make sure everyone is meeting their deadlines while working on their projects.

“It was my idea, originally, and I was happy to get support here,” Shellito said. “I think it was the feeling that seniors are ready to take on something more than what they’re sometimes asked to do in school and want to do something a little different from what they’re asked to do as students. So, this was a chance to give them supervision in a project that was still up to them and very close to their own hearts.”

In order to start a senior project, students have to first submit an application detailing what their project is going to be about, and they can work by themselves or in groups of two. They must give the names of a mentor, who is an expert on their topic and must also provide the name of a staff adviser, who will make sure the student is meeting all of their deadlines.

After the applications are approved, the students can start on their projects and also drop up to two classes, depending on how many hours they plan on putting in for their project. Students who do drop classes have to inform the college they are attending what classes they are dropping.

Every week during fourth quarter, students need to check in with their staff advisor. If they don’t meet certain deadlines, they must discontinue their project and return to the classes they have dropped.

The senior projects themselves are not graded. Instead, the students who are dropping English will have their fourth term English grade be based on a weekly journal entries about their projects. In other subjects, they don’t receive a fourth quarter grade and their final grade is based only on their grades from the first three quarters and the midterm exam.

Some of the applications were rejected this year because too many students applied. There are 21 students working on 14 senior projects, ranging from building a boat to practicing yoga and meditation. This is a slightly larger group than in previous years.

For David Dines’ senior project, he is putting on a performance similar to the one he did during Winter Week. This performance will be called “David’s Divas.”

“I have a love for female singers,” Dines said. “R&B, pop, Broadway, jazz, anything, so I’m taking their songs and constructing a show out of them. During Winter Week I thought maybe I should do this for a senior project. I could do more songs, have more time to prepare, get a set and do a bigger production.”

Dines will perform songs from singers such as Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Cher and Madonna and will also play video interludes in between acts.

In another senior project, Mylinh Tran is compiling an oral history of her father’s immigration from Vietnam to America.

“My dad actually escaped from Vietnam, and what I’m doing now is interviewing him about his immigration from Vietnam to America, how the journey’s been for him and what kinds of struggles he has faced coming here,” Tran said. “Coming to America is only half the the battle. It’s not like once you come here all of your problems are solved. I think it’s really important for me to acknowledge what he’s gone through and really appreciate what he’s done for me.”

Tran has worked closely with her mentor, history teacher Kevin Delaney, who suggested that she do extensive background reading on the Vietnam War and citizens’ accounts of what they went through.

“It definitely gave me such good insight because now I have a pretty good idea of what my dad went through in Vietnam,” Tran said. “His story is both different and similar.”

Tran said that doing her senior project was a nice alternative to attending all of her classes during the fourth quarter.

“Fourth quarter, especially for seniors, it can be so sluggish,” Tran said. “I have seen a lot of kids who are doing something they are really enthusiastic and passionate about, and I think it’s [nice] to be able to be excused from classes to focus on something that you really enjoy doing.”

Dines will present his project on June 3 at 8 p.m. on the main stage of the auditorium. Tran will present her project on May 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the Media Center. The rest of the seniors will present their projects at 6:30 p.m. on May 28 in the Media Center.

2014 Senior Projects:
Ally Toto – Creating a WHS Garden
Laura Stavisky and Lizzy Wells – Yoga and Meditation
Eleanor Moore – Experimenting with various artistic media
Dillon Baker and Evan Dorfman- Video: Wayland Outdoor Fun
Mylinh Tran- Oral History Project: Escape from Vietnam
Moonin Mookiruntara- Learning to Cook: International Meals
Anastasia Gumatay and Rachel Schneider- Health blog
Carley Durant- Making a CD of cover songs
William Sattanuparp and Joe Spagnuolo- Creating a video game
Jenny Bekenstein and Eric MacLean- Composting at WHS
Courtney Murtagh and Kate Kanieff- Nutrition: Paleo Choices
Rachel Moser-Hardy- Choreography & Irish Step Dancing
Liam Fay and Lucas Boegehold – Building a sailboat
David Dines – David’s Divas