The eighth-grade Capstone project has been a hallmark of the Middle School since 2005. This project allows students to develop strong research and writing skills and to delve more deeply into topics about which they are passionate. Recent Capstone topics have included a study of ballet, the findings of the 9/11 Commission, the relationship of the 1918 influenza epidemic to the Bird Flu crisis, the development of parity in the NFL since the formation of the collective bargaining agreement, and the rich oral history tradition of Turkish folk tales.
Each student begins work in September by deciding on a topic. Over the course of the next few months, students meet on Wednesday afternoons and, under the guidance of their Government teacher and their Capstone faculty advisor, begin to research their topics and develop working thesis statements. By November, each student will have completed a detailed outline and will begin to write a 7-10 page research paper, due in January, that asserts a strong claim and includes specific, detailed evidence to support that claim.
During the second semester, each student will have the opportunity to approach his or her topic from another angle altogether, working with Capstone advisors to fashion a creative piece—perhaps a dance, a musical performance, or a documentary film—that will be presented to an audience of sixth and seventh graders during the “Capstone Symposium” day in May. This allows all Middle School students to celebrate the work of the eighth graders and to share in their excitement about their research.
The ultimate goal of the Capstone project is to create an environment where students are invested in their own learning and engaged in thoughtful analysis of a broad range of topics. Through the Capstone project, each eighth-grade student contributes to the intellectual and cultural life of the Middle School, working to develop a community in which it is “cool” to be excited about learning and passionate about ideas.