Woodland School Capstone Inspires Students to Be Changemakers
In the days leading up to graduation, eighth grade students at Woodland School in Portola Valley, CA will present their findings and solutions on issues of global significance. The evening is the culmination of a yearlong independent research project known as Capstone. Educators in and around the Bay Area are invited to attend.
Eighth grade students see their final year of middle school as a pivotal year in their educational career—and life—due to the Capstone project. Designed to be a hallmark of Woodland School, Capstone provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in research and action regarding issues of global significance. They step outside their comfort zone and the boundaries of standard curriculum in a yearlong research project, service-learning trip abroad, and action piece. Students flourish as they direct their own learning and realize their potential to be change makers. “In the eighth grade year…it’s [about] realizing you can make a difference no matter how young you may be,” says student Alexa Brown.
To complete the project, each student chooses a topic, conducts independent research, interviews experts, produces a paper, presents his or her findings to the community, and launches an action piece to create impact in the area of study. This year’s areas of research have included global warming and climate change, the effect of smog on humans, and domestic violence in India, to name just a few.
To complement their Capstone project, students travel abroad to participate in an immersive global service learning trip. Students work alongside local residents to help create sustainable solutions to issues facing the local community. This year students traveled to Ecuador to help construct a school and dig wells.
After returning from their service-learning trip, students leverage their experience abroad when brainstorming solutions and an action piece
to the global issues they researched for their Capstone project. “Students funnel the inspiration of their [global service learning] trip into a design thinking process in order to find an action piece that connects their issues back to the community,” says Middle School English/Humanities Teacher Marissa Klein. “Many students find the action piece to be the most rewarding part of the process, as they become the experts who share information and also help advance a solution.”
Some students focus on raising awareness as their action piece. For example, student Paige Briggs produced a video in Hindi to raise awareness for domestic violence in India and to promote education as a way to prevent the conditions for such violence. Other students have similarly produced websites and informative videos that they are disseminating around the web. Some students have organized initiatives to help alleviate a problem, as is the case with Patrik Dufault-Geleziunas who researched the effects of pollution on global warming and climate change. When asked why he chose to investigate and tackle this global issue, he said “I knew this had to be fixed because as our population grows, it will only get worse and worse… The most surprising discovery I came across in my research was finding out that vehicles and factories combine to make up 70% of all emissions.” Patrik has since created a carpooling initiative aimed at reducing carbon emissions on the highway. “Capstone was the perfect opportunity for me to invest my time in helping this problem.”
In May of 2016, inspired by their Capstone experience and connection to Ecuador, students also initiated a fundraiser to raise money for victims of the country’s recent devastating earthquake. Instead of the traditional confections one would find in an American school’s bake sale, students opted to create traditional breads and pastries from Central and South America.
As eighth-grader Jonathan Hooper stated, “Don’t just use your knowledge to do nothing. Make yourself useful and use your knowledge to help the world.” In order to help the world, students must first step out into it, and through the Capstone year at Woodland School, students are able to do just that.
Hear from two students as they discuss their Capstone year at Woodland School: https://vimeo.com/album/3959869
Capstone presentations will take place Monday, June 6 at 5:30 p.m. on the Woodland School campus in Portola Valley, CA. If you are interested in attending, please contact Woodland School at email@example.com
Woodland School is a co-educational, non-denominational, independent day school in Portola Valley, serving over 268 students in early childhood through eighth grade, and their families. The mission of the school is to bring out the best in each child by providing a strong academic foundation and curriculum that fosters personal responsibility and kindness toward others. For more information, please visit the Woodland School website at www.woodland-school.org
Woodland School Improv Team Advances to Destination Imagination's Global Finals,
the Largest Celebration of Creativity in the World
After achieving honors for creativity, teamwork and innovation in the Silicon Valley regional and California state academic tournaments, Woodland School’s improv team, S.P.A.N.K.E.D. (an acronym for the team members’ names), has earned the right to compete in Destination Imagination's Global Finals, the world’s largest celebration of student creativity, to be held May 25-28 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Team members include Samik Mathur, Paige Briggs, Alexa Brown, Nate George, Kyle Lespade, Evan DiMarco, Dominic Mattiello, all 8th
-grade students atWoodland School. The team managers are parents Debbie and Richard Mattiello. The team appraisers are Nav Mathur and Kevin Brown.
They will compete in the improv challenge against other teams from around the world in one of seven, open-ended challenges that require students to apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, in addition to their talents in improvisation, theater arts, writing, project management, communication, innovation, teamwork, community service and social entrepreneurship.
This year, 150,000 students have participated in tournaments throughout the U.S. and 30 countries in hopes of earning a spot at the Global Finals competition in May.
Woodland School’s team S.P.A.N.K.E.D. is among more than 8,000 students representing more than 1,400 teams that will advance to Global Finals, which will be held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville May 25-28.
“The Destination Imagination program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity,” said Chuck Cadle, CEO of Destination Imagination. “Quantitative reasoning, collaborative problem solving, risk taking, collaboration, presentations and thinking on your feet are some of the important skills learned in the program.”
Destination Imagination is a leader in project-based learning opportunities that blend STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education with the arts and social entrepreneurship. Its academic challenges are designed to teach kids how to think, not what to think, and then present their solutions at regional and state tournaments.
Each year, DI competitions begin with a regional tournament, where team solutions are assessed by a panel of trained appraisers, ranging from educators to artists to engineers. Each team solution is scored on a variety of elements, including originality, workmanship, presentation and teamwork. Teams with the highest scores advance to the Affiliate (state or country) tournaments. The top-tiered teams from the Affiliate tournaments advance to Global Finals.
Destination Imagination, Inc. dedicates itself to enriching the global community by providing opportunities for learners of all ages to explore and discover using the creative process from imagination to innovation.
For more information about Global Finals, visit http://globalfinals.org/