8TH GRADE PROJECT
The Eighth Grade Project is separate from and in addition to other course requirements for eighth grade students. Students meet once a week to learn relevant skills and to organize their efforts. This is an independent project, which will not be completed at school. However, students are expected to work closely with their advisors.
Each Advisor serves as Project Facilitator for his/her advisees. Students must report directly to their Advisors about topic development, access to resources, protocols for contacting fieldwork supervisors and interview subjects, review of work in progress, and establishment of a timeline for project completion.
Students will learn to make an informed choice about a suitable topic for an extended investigation. They will learn to sustain effort and enthusiasm, support their interest with fieldwork and research, work with experts in the wider community, and go through professional and peer review. But this is NOT meant to be the biggest-and-best thing a student ever completes in middle school. It is not a capstone project. Rather, it is a guided introduction to the kind of project which might be expected in high school or college.
The process of topic development will involve experience with reflective inquiry, preliminary research identifying available resources, and a project proposal approved by the student’s Advisor. No two students will receive approval for the same topic. Some part of the project must be useful for some purpose in the wider community. The project is not just a bigger version of a standard “term paper”.
Each student should complete a minimum of ten hours of fieldwork directly related to his or her project proposal, or twenty hours for Honors on this part of the project. The fieldwork supervisor must be someone other than a family or faculty member; one goal is to establish new academic and/or professional relationships in the wider community. In many ways, this is the most important part of the project.
It is also required to complete and document at least one formal interview connected with the project proposal, or three interviews for Honors on this part of the project. This is in addition to the written document described below. The interview may not be conducted until after the interview workshop in class. Interview subjects and interview questions must be approved by the student’s Advisor.
The form of the written document must be consistent with the project proposal. Form and content must be approved by the advisor. Minimum text length is equivalent to five pages, or twelve pages for Honors on this part of the project. Written documents in the past have included:
- a series of lesson plans for incorporating dance in the classroom, which is now used by three pueblo schools in New Mexico & Arizona;
- a guide, for soccer coaches and players, describing common soccer injuries of the knee and recommended methods for prevention and treatment;
- a paper describing the results of an animal behavior research project conducted at Woodland Park Zoo;
- a successful grant proposal to fund an environmental education project;
- the by-laws for a microcredit lending institution;
- a guide to using the Freedom of Information Act, and an FOIA request to the Department of Energy for information about sale of depleted uranium;
- a bilingual Spanish-English dessert cookbook with recipes from the Iberian Peninsula, along with the history and geography of important ingredients used in those recipes.
This project is a requirement for completion of the eighth grade. The goal is mastery. This means that work is not “finished” until it is deemed worthy of an A or B grade. As described above, there is also an HONORS option for each part of the project. Deadlines are established for purposes of guiding student efforts, but the student’s Advisor will return work for improvement as needed. At the end of the year, or when students complete all requirements at the “B” level of proficiency or above, the Advisor will prepare Final Project Reports. These reports are part of a student’s official transcript. Students also complete a self-evaluation process regarding their project experience, but this does NOT become part of a student’s transcript.
Parents should make every effort to allow their students’ projects to unfold in an organic way. Students are given much more time than they need in order to complete this project, precisely because some will struggle with the requirements and will need time to and assistance to negotiate project details and prepare for meaningful engagement with the community. The timeline below is a practical framework for completion of the project, but it is not a set of deadlines. It is important that students are not provided too much parental help with this project, or subjected to too much parental scrutiny. It’ll happen; it always does, and students learn incredible lessons along the way. That said, it will be helpful for parents to support their students so they get to fieldwork sites on a reliable basis. (If this proves difficult, help may be arranged.) It'll help to maintain communication with the advising teacher, whether about available resources to support project completion or about concerns regarding follow-through. It'll help to make sure you know what has been approved by the advisor and what has not yet been discussed.
The timeline is always subject to review, and details will be added throughout the year, but here is a basic framework:
September: Project ideas will be generated and developed.
October-November: Project proposal should be approved. Fieldwork should begin. Form should be submitted identifying at least one fieldwork supervisor. Interviewing workshop will be conducted.
November-December: Interview should be completed and turned in. Form of written document should be approved.
October-April: Minimum 10 hours of fieldwork should be completed, and fieldwork documentation turned in. First draft of written document should be submitted for review.
April-May: Final draft for written document should be completed and turned in.
May-June: Add extra interviews or field work if you have time.