Forty seven seniors at The Bear Creek School in Redmond presented their Capstone Projects this week, on subjects ranging from learning Italian cooking to launching a math tutoring business.
On the surface, this might sound like a good old-fashioned round of “Show and Tell.” Yet the students were asked to go deeper than that, sharing insights on how their project’s challenges helped them grow as people and enhanced their Christian world view.
At this non-denominational Christian school, senior projects aren’t year-long endeavors as at many other schools. Students submit proposals early in the second semester and narrow or widen the scope around April. But they aren’t allowed to tackle the actual work until after AP exams have taken place in mid-May.
That gives them just three weeks, when they’re likely to be feeling strong pangs of “senior-itis.” That’s what makes it a precious learning experience, acccording to Karen Beman, the Upper School division head at Bear Creek.
“It’s taking an idea in concept form, stepping in and wrestling with the challenges,” Beman explained. “There is a journal requirement, they need to use an expert in the field and include an advisor from Bear Creek. We give them a lot of freedom — the project is based on their passion and we get to see how it unfolds.”
The short time frame ensures that “we keep it in the moment,” Beman added.
History teacher Rob Sorensen, who’s been on the Bear Creek faculty for 10 years, remarked that every year, the presentations are “better and better in terms of engagement of the students and the quality of the topics … because many of these students have seen last year’s presentations and the year before. A tradition has been established.”
Senior Nick Cho described how he learned to play guitar, working through the pain of calloused fingers, realizing how hard it is to sing and play at the same time and gaining new respect for musicians who make it look easy when it definitely is not.
Cho also talked about cultures where music might be seen as a distraction but cited quotes from the Bible that support music as a way to honor God.
From his project, Cho stated, “I learned (playing) an instrument is a long-term activity. It allowed me to appreciate music in church … and it taught me patience.”
Senior Hank Frantz chose to build a kayak. He said he enjoyed water sports but had no experience with building a boat.
Frantz explained step-by-step how he went from using a kit, “just a bunch of cut wood” along with simple hand tools and power tools to create the boat that he has tested on Lake Wasington.
A short video clip, set to bouncy music — Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” — showed him grinning and gliding along on the water.
But his kayak isn’t completely finished, nor it is flawless, Frantz admitted. He talked about problems encountered with air bubbles, tape that got in the way, the quick-drying properties of powerful epoxy glue — and knowing when to ask for help from his dad.
“I felt a little discouraged and unmotivated in the last week,” said Frantz.
Spending up to eight hours a day in his workshop, for a total of 108 hours, he said there were times when he just wanted the project to be done, so he could get on with his life.
“But it gave me an enhanced work ethic. The project won’t do itself,” said Frantz. “It was a reminder of a mindset I should have all the time and also doing something right the first time instead of trying to fix it later …thinking through processes before you act out on them.”
Beman asked Frantz how the project affected his Christian world view.
Frantz replied, “I created this, I called it good, even with imperfections. There are some flaws but there’s a redeeming quality, the quality that it still works.”
So it is with people and their relationship with their creator, Beman commented, smiling.
Each senior’s project was evaluated by a panel of Bear Creek faculty members and rated for overall effort and its “lasting value to the student and others.”