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Celebration of Learning features capstone projects


Students bake bread for shelters, create kits for newborns

by: NEWS TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Alec Lecarno shows Adam Norman his capstone project on creating fishing lures. In a crowded and noisy modular classroom at Forest Grove Community School last week, 23 eighth-grade students stood behind display tables explaining their yearlong capstone projects to anyone who would listen at the charter school’s Celebration of Learning.

At the beginning of the school year, eighth-graders were tasked with selecting a special project — something they’re interested in, or want to learn about. The projects had to be community-based and benefit someone other than themselves.

“Completing a capstone project is a requirement and a component of our mission statement, and it focuses on the type of students we help mold within their time here,” said advisor and math and science teacher Chris Stanton. “Each project must have a positive impact on the community, and the student has to be able to prove and defend why their project meets that requirement.”

Once the projects were selected and approved, each student teamed up with a volunteer adult mentor from the community who worked with them and helped keep the project on track.

By definition, “capstone” means a final touch or a crowning achievement — and based on the students’ responses to the program, those words aptly described how they responded to the challenge. by: PHOTO COURTESY OF ART HEERWAGEN - Maggie Hatt published a school newspaper as part of her eighth-grade capstone project at Forest Grove Community School (right).

Jordan VanFleet, who selected a project using miniature horses, put it this way: “The capstone project is like a high school senior’s project, but it’s for the seniors at our school. In the five-week course, I teach students how to handle, train and take care of a horse. And it’s absolutely free.”

Kielee Sumners said the effort had been rewarding for her.

“My project is called Operation Baby Bundle. My goal is to raise $2,000 by March 15, and to be able to put together kits containing basic items for newborns going into foster care,” she said. “These kits will be distributed by The Foster Closet in Hillsboro, and help the infants get a good start in life.”

Writing and graphics aficionado Maggie Hatt selected publishing a school newspaper. “I thought it would be fun to share what was going on in our school,” she said. “I’m planning to write pieces about after-school clubs, what’s going on in the school and (to) ask other students to contribute.

“Capstone is a great way to learn a new skill and connect to the community through doing something entertaining.”

Hatt’s mentor is Kathy Fuller, on staff at the Hillsboro Tribune and the News-Times in Forest Grove.

Max Swanson is baking loaves of bread to give to area homeless shelters. “I’m working on getting the recipe just right, and trying to get more pans so I can bake more bread at one time,” he said. “I’m getting help from my mentor, who is a former restaurant owner. It’s really time-consuming, but it’s worth it.”

Other projects included Lucio Stagnitti’s feasibility study to get solar panels for his school; Max Norman’s after-school running club; and Grace Ronan’s effort to bring more public transportation to the city.

Stanton said the students have until the end of March to finish their projects. “Along with the completed project they’re responsible for writing a reflection paper that demonstrates results and why their project was successful,” he noted.

This year’s eighth-graders will also introduce the capstone project to seventh-graders and attend a formal dinner where they’ll present their projects to community members.

Stanton gave program mentors a special nod of thanks. “This program wouldn’t happen without their help and the motivation they give to the students,” he said.