As the final school day on 20 Jun. 2018 creeps closer, teachers must test students on the class material they’ve been working on throughout the year. While some teachers may choose to do a traditional final exam, some teachers at RAHS have chosen to test their students with unique projects.
One of these teachers is Brandyn Mannion, whose chemistry class gave a presentation on air quality to end their gases unit.
“I basically gave them the direction that they needed to design an experiment, any experiment, around air quality,” said Mannion, “and the onus was on [students] to literally design any experiment that interested them on whatever topic they found most interesting, and prove to me that they know how to design an experiment.”
Mannion wanted a breather from all the tests he’s given.
“We’ve done tests before so why not do something different?” said Mannion.
Sophomore Mollie Brombaugh enjoyed the professional aspect of the projects
“I thought it was interesting to have to consider and plan a project from the [point of view] of an industry professional/researcher,” said Brombaugh, “and I liked the opportunity to choose and research something that interested you.”
Although a creative project allows for students to shape their learning, that opportunity can also be a challenge.
“For some students it’s really difficult because it is so open-ended,” said Mannion. “I’ve had some students spin their wheels in the mud, so to speak, because they’re like ‘where do I start? What is it I wanna do?’”
Brombaugh agrees with Mannion regarding the difficulties.
“What I found most challenging was actually to choose a topic to research,” said Brombaugh. “Determining a topic to focus on and an appropriate guiding question proved to be rather difficult with such a broad scope and little direction.”
Another class which uses an imaginative final is Big History, taught by Jacob Savishinsky and Michelle Juarez. Through the Little Big History project, freshmen explain the story of a topic they choose from the beginning of the universe to the modern day.
“The Little Big History project attempts to encapsulate all of what [students] have learned so it should be a test of how well they’ve understood the course and to see how they can build on that knowledge,” said Juarez.
Although the project thoroughly encapsulates the Big History skills of reading, writing, and researching, it comes with some challenges: namely, Wikipedia.
“For me, a major hurdle is when we talk about scholarly resources,” said Juarez. “I can direct [students] to the King County Library System but everybody wants to use Wikipedia; it’s fast and easy.”
The project is more than a traditional research paper; it compels students to see how their topic has affected humanity as a whole.
“It’s a real thesis project,” said Juarez. “It’s not just researching the B-52 bomber, it’s trying to understand how the B-52 has changed as technology has improved over time. That’s what I’m hoping they get out it, that they kind of see the bigger picture; how humans have changed the nature of the world.”
Big History student and freshman Marco Jawili is doing his Little Big History project on the carbon molecule. Jawili chose to research carbon because of its application in technology.
“I enjoy basically researching stuff that I didn’t know in the past,” said Jawili. “I knew carbon had a lot of potential with technology but I didn’t know there was a thing called carbon nanotubing which is basically a super strong material and that was really cool to learn about.”
Jawili believes projects that utilize student creativity capture students attention more than simply studying for a test.
“I feel like with a project you become more engaged with the topic because you get to choose in the end what you wanna research and Mr. Sav always makes a point; ‘surround your research with things that interest you. Research what you wanna learn about,’ and I really like that concept,” said Jawili. “It helps you learn more and it helps you have the knowledge stick with you so I feel like that’s way better than just doing a test.”