School Notes: Windsor High School Seniors Complete ‘Capstone’ Projects

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
For four autumns at Windsor High School, Haley Wood rarely thought twice about steering a field hockey ball at full sprint through a gantlet of stick-wielding girls, up and down and across a muddy field.

Asking Olympic-level athletes what motivates them, for the “capstone” research project on which her graduation in 2015 would depend, came a little harder to Windsor’s record-holder for goals scored in a single season.

“It pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone, setting up interviews and going up to people I didn’t know and having a serious conversation with them,” Wood, who played in the national championships of the Olympic Futures tournament last summer between her junior and senior years, recalled last week. “I felt so relieved and proud of myself when it was over.”

Some 30 seniors at Windsor High were exhaling with relief at the end of January. They’d spent the better part of four months preparing presentations of research they’d conducted, mostly over the fall and winter, as the first senior class the school required to work on “capstone” projects. Formerly an elective course. the capstone program aims both at gauging the basic skills the students have developed in high school, while also letting them explore their own interests and build new skills for college and beyond.

“Students could choose any project topic that was interesting to them,” senior Abigail Millard said in an email conversation. “There were a broad range of topics connected to everything from a potential future career to an activism topic. … Students did online research, reading, and conducted phone and in-person interviews with experts in the area they were researching ... There were monthly reflections and action plans that were graded as well as the final presentation, product, and a binder that was a collection of all the work they had done so far.

The breadth and depth of topics made David Baker, superintendent of the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union’s schools, glad that the district upgraded capstone projects from an elective to a prerequisite for graduation.

“A decision was made by the school’s staff and administration in an effort to provide seniors with a way to summarize their four years of learning,” Baker said last week. “There were at least 10 faculty who advised projects. I went to several presentations and they were excellent.”

Exhibit A: Millard’s project on sex trafficking in the United States.

“I researched the topic extensively online and interviewed directors of various (non-governmental organizations) that combat human trafficking as well as professionals from other connected fields. My final product was a combination of a take-home resource given to those who attended my presentation, and a plan for a community public-awareness event.”

Alexis Davis opened eyes with her research into educating high school girls about their reproductive systems, including menstruation.

“My final product,” Davis said, “is a small, inviting and interactive booklet that can be easily transported, for correct information anywhere and anytime a girl needs it.

“My goal for after high school is to become a beauty advisor and help empower women to feel confident and powerful in life. … After completing capstone, I have thought a lot more about the different fields of education surrounding female empowerment and health knowledge.”

Millard, who aims to major in college in what she calls “a combination of peace and conflict studies” on the way to teaching abroad and working in international relations, saw many of her classmates grow and learn during their capstone experiences.

“This project was a huge opportunity for a lot of kids who don’t normally do well in school to find something they were interested in and really excel,” Millard said. “Capstone was one of my most challenging experiences at Windsor. It strengthened my time management, communication and self-motivation. … These are all skills that will serve me very well in the future.”

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Cell

For devising an app that helps teachers and administrators monitor their students’ work electronically, a team of five students from Crossroads Academy in Lyme recently qualified for one of 12 berths for middle-schoolers in the national championship round of Verizon’s third annual Innovative App Challenge.

Co-creators of the app “TempUs-
Homework,” which propelled the Crossroads team through two rounds of the challenge and earned the top prize in its region, are Elizabeth Jarrett, Andy Kotz, Zach Herndon, Sam Seelig and Milo Wilcox. Their advisors were Head of School Jean Behnke, science and health teacher Peter Faletra, and KJ Dell’Antonia, the Motherlode blogger for The New York Times and a parent of students at Crossroads .

Teachers log into TempUsHomework to enter projects they assign in class, as well as estimating how much time students need to finish. Students, meanwhile, can log in to record what they’re working on, what they’ve finished, and how much time they devoted to each assignment.

∎ The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recently profiled Suzan Locke, the Hartford School District’s teacher-leader for science, on its website (ngss.nsta.org/teacher-profile-suzan-locke.aspx) about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Locke also teaches first- and second-graders at White River School. Last fall, the Vermont Agency of Education praised the Hartford district for helping its overall population of elementary-school students to score higher than the state average in standardized science tests, despite the economic struggles of many of their families (vnews.com/home/13759601-95/white-river-school-defies-odds-with-above-average-test-scores). Locke and Dothan Brook School math teacher Linda Gilbert are the Hartford district’s finalists for the Presidential Awards for Math and Science Teaching.

∎ Eleanor Keats of Hanover, a sophomore at Earlham College in Indiana, is spending the current semester taking environmental studies in New Zealand. In addition to taking courses in environmental and cultural issues, Keats will serve an internship, go on field trips and visit an eco-lodge that focuses on generating energy by green, sustainable means.

College Honors

Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester recently named more than 20 students from the Upper Valley to its dean’s list for the fall 2014 semester. Earning recognition for maintaining a grade-point average of 3.7 or better out of a possible 4.0 were Clay Gendron of Charlestown, Ann-Marie Craigue of Claremont, Amy Hull of Claremont, Devin Sevene of Croydon, Dianne Collins of Enfield, Danielle Hammond of Enfield, Gayla Worrell of Hanover, Ashley Arrows of Lebanon, Amanda Crate of Lebanon, Courtney Flynn of Lebanon, Kristopher Lewis of Lebanon, Samantha Townsend of Lebanon, Jennifer Van Winkle of Lebanon, James Matulay of Lyme, Jessica Fish of Newport, Alexis Emerson of North Haverhill, Ashley Hopp of North Haverhill, Kirsten Spooner of North Haverhill, Rebecca Bailey of Piermont, Melissa Pollan of Sunapee, Alexandra Moran of West Lebanon and Ashley Shaw of West Lebanon.

∎ Colton Orr of Lebanon kicked off his freshman year at Champlain College by making the dean’s list for the fall 2014 semester. The Burlington college recognizes students for earning grade-point averages of 3.5 or better out of a possible 4.0. Orr, who was home-schooled in Lebanon, is majoring in game art and animation.

∎ For maintaining a grade-point average of 3.5 or better out of a possible 4.0, Alexander Thomas Dodds of Hanover has been named to the dean’s list at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., for the fall 2014 semester. He is a senior majoring in communication.

High School Honors

Brandon Leonard of Charlestown recently received a Voice of Democracy scholarship from the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW) Charlestown Post 8497 and New Hampshire District 2. The Fall Mountain Regional High School sophomore earned the prize for his presentation on the topic, “Why veterans are important to our nation’s history and future.”

∎ Lebanon High School recently named Bhavna Kaushik as student of the month for January. Teacher George Hanna describes her as “one of the most compassionate persons I have ever met, and she demonstrates her concern for others daily. She is very aware of the world she lives in and wants to make it a better place.” Dianne Estes, the Lebanon School District’s director of School and Community Relations, adds that Kaushik, of Asian Indian heritage, “has taught people a great deal abo ut Bollywood, and attempted to teach her teachers the Hindi language.”

Elementary Education

The website thebestschools.org recently ranked Norwich’s Marion Cross School No. 6 among what it considers “The 50 Best American Elementary Schools.”

The ranking points to strong performances in tests of writing and science by Marion Cross fourth- and fifth-graders, and praises the school for offering classes beyond the basics, particularly French, health, environmental education, technology, physical education, music, art and library. The site also notes the school’s high grades from SchoolDigger.com, Education.com and K12.Niche.com.

∎ Claremont’s Maple Avenue Elementary School recently joined the nationwide Great Kindness Challenge, devoting a week to performing as many acts of kindness as possible from a checklist of 50 ( greatkindnesschallenge.org/School/checklist.html), ranging from smiling at 25 people and complimenting six people to helping a younger student and inviting a new friends to play or otherwise hang out. Last week, school guidance counselors Shaina Plumley and Mary Head reported that the student body racked up 4,100 random acts, some of them with visiting athletes and cheerleaders from Stevens High School rooting them on.

“Students in first to fifth grade had a lunch where they mixed it up by sitting with students in other grades and classes in an effort for all kids to make new friends and build relationships,” Plumley said, adding that the long-term goal was to “make kindness a daily habit as well as reduce bullying.”


The Newport School Board’s Local Advisory Committee (LAC) is inviting educators, parents and other members of the community to a workshop Thursday night on the different ways that students think and learn.

The workshop, put together in partnership with special-education trainers from New Hampshire’s Parent Information Center, will take place in the library of Richards Elementary School, from 5:30 to 7:30. For more information or to sign up, send email to hworthen@sau43.org or visit sau43.org and click on the Committees link or call 603-863-9446.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.