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Kicking Off the 8th Grade Capstone Project, Year Two

Kicking Off the 8th Grade Capstone Project, Year Two
Sophie Shulman

On Tuesday, January 16, 8th graders kicked off their Capstone Project, which is in its second year. They met two Mark Day School alumni who have firsthand experience turning passions into projects. Indigo Prasad ‘21 spoke about illustrating her second children’s book (authored by former Mark Day math teacher and alum parent Norm Lyons) and pursuing science as she looks ahead to college; Cyrus Allen ‘21 shared his experience spreading awareness about PANDAS, an autoimmune disease, in addition to recently recording a single with his bandmates. Indigo and Cyrus provided excellent inspiration for our 8th graders and showcased the ways that our graduates continue to build on the skills, depth, and curiosity nurtured here at Mark Day.

“It's exciting to enter the Capstone Project's second year, honing our expectations with more lived experience,” says Leila Sinclaire, 7th Grade English Teacher & Capstone Coordinator. “It's a joy to learn more about the 8th graders' wide-ranging passions and to imagine how we will usher them toward expert sources, deeper knowledge, and a sense of personal fulfillment.”

What is the purpose of a Capstone Project?

Students will be working on their Capstone Projects over the next several months. “The second semester of 8th grade is the perfect time to challenge 8th graders in a fresh way. They are ready to take what they have learned about learning during their time at Mark Day and apply it in a sustained way to a complex question or topic they are curious about,” says Dave Hickman, Head of Grades 5-8. Students will have a fully fleshed-out topic by the end of January, conduct research in February and March, and work on a final product development in April. They will give their final presentations to the wider community in April, which will include a Capstone Expo to showcase all of the projects for the community.

The Capstone Project offers 8th graders the opportunity to take more ownership of their own learning and follow their natural interests, particularly as they prepare for high school and beyond. Providing students with more opportunities for student voice, choice, and agency is a central goal of Mark Day School’s 2022 Strategic Plan. Students across grades experience increased agency in age-appropriate ways, and the Capstone Project is one of their biggest opportunities to do so.

Why implement a Capstone Project?

Inspired by the desire to make the second semester of 8th grade even better, planning for the Capstone Project first began in 2017, when Head of Grades 5-8 Dave Hickman and the Upper Division faculty engaged in a multi-year design thinking process. Their work involved joining the National Capstone Consortium, speaking with educators at other schools, and forming a small committee of faculty members to conduct more research. By 2019, the committee had fully constructed a prototype that included a timeline, goals, deliverables, scope, and roles for Upper Division faculty. And then the pandemic hit. In 2022, the Capstone Project was re-introduced to faculty and in January 2023, it was officially launched with 8th graders.

“Last year’s inaugural experience was a strong success. This year, we are challenging the students to take their journeys even deeper, developing their interests into powerful essential questions they will answer in their final presentations,” says Dave.

To learn more about the curriculum at Mark Day School, click here.