By Cate Fox (Reporter ‘23)
The seniors at Friends’ Central are at a period where they are starting to say goodbye to their high school years and are beginning to navigate the world themselves. They have taken all their experiences and knowledge from their teachers and peers and are now going on their first independent journey. This is the senior project: “a five-week-long project where seniors take the month of May to work on a personal project on something they are interested in.” It is a time where seniors can explore their possible interests for college before committing to a specific field. Through this project, seniors not only focus on what they decide to do, but they also have to complete a service component that is related to their main project idea. This gives seniors the chance to create their own unique project that is specific to their interests.
The selection process for senior projects begins in the winter of a student’s senior year. Natalie Neuhaus explained, “seniors begin to brainstorm potential projects and also pick an advisor who will help them throughout the process.” They start to work through their interests to figure out all of the possible project ideas there are. Then, Natalie elaborated, “seniors fill out a proposal form explaining what they wish to do which is then reviewed by the senior project committee.” The process of choosing a senior project is rather simple. Sophia David even added, “I did not feel like there was a super guided process to choosing a senior project.” As May approaches, seniors need to make sure that they finish all of their work in each class before their teacher can sign them off allowing them to go forward with their projects.
Senior projects this year have looked much different than they have in previous years. Despite all of the challenges with COVID, seniors have been able to make the best of their unique situations. Since many seniors don’t have the same opportunities and chances to go out and explore the world, some of the Friends’ Central teachers have created senior seminars in an attempt to make up for what the seniors have lost. Teachers can choose whatever topic interests them, whether it is cooking or a topic related to what they teach. John Gruber, one of our science teachers in the Upper School, created a seminar about field notes. He talked about how this seminar gives the seniors “the chance to explore together the practice of seeing and documenting what we observe, learning more about how to look, how to see, and how to keep a detailed record of what we notice.” Mr. Gruber explained how this seminar is split 50/50 between in-class learning and implementing what was learned in class by doing hands-on activities. During the first week of senior projects, the seniors began to read the Erick Greener chapter “Why to Keep a Field Notebook” from Canfield’s book to get a sense of why field notes are important. As the restrictions regarding COVID loosen, it remains to be seen whether or not senior seminars will continue to be offered next year. Mr. Gruber “wondered whether some senior seminars might continue in the future and be used as side projects that could go along with the senior’s main project. They could offer a way for seniors to still stay connected to some of their peers in a small group while they also work individually."
While some students have decided to participate in a variety of senior seminars, Natalie Neuhaus (‘21) has found something on-campus at Friends’ Central to do her project on. Natalie described how she will be “creating an 11th and 12th-grade English seminar focusing on narrative essay writing.” Natalie explained how she is “currently working on picking texts and outlining units. I am also shadowing some English classes.” As every senior must have a service portion of their project, Natalie will be “helping Monty with his tenth-grade classes.” She chose this because “[she is] planning on majoring in English and secondary education in college and hope to teach sometime in the future.” Although she felt that “COVID didn't negatively impact my senior project, it did force [her] to rethink what [she] wanted to do.” Natalie was originally going to work in a classroom outside of FCS but felt that it wasn’t a safe option given COVID. Despite these changes, “[she is] really happy with [her] project and [is] having a lot of fun with it.” With the end of the year coming so quickly, Natalie feels “nervous to leave FCS but also excited. My senior project lines up really well with my goals for the future and I feel like it will definitely be good practice for the next chapter of my life.”
Sophia David (‘21) has been able to find a project outside of school. She informed me, “[I will be] continuing my work in a network science/neuroscience lab at UPenn. I am doing research and writing papers. It's super fun!” She talked about how, surprisingly, “The pandemic has not really affected my project. I started working in this lab around the start of the pandemic, so I never go in person anyways. Nothing has really changed.” Although Sophia’s research at the University of Pennsylvania is not in person, she has been fortunate enough to be able to find an opportunity that fits her interests. As COVID has impacted this school year tremendously, everyone has become experts in all the strange and last-minute schedule changes. Sophia added to this when she mentioned “I don’t think it's too hard to get used to this [senior project] schedule. We have already had so many weird schedule changes with virtual school this year that I feel like almost nothing can feel weird anymore.” This year may have been different than most, but Sophia, like many other seniors, is excited and nervous to see what the future holds. We at FOCUS extend our best wishes to all of the seniors in their future endeavors.