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At Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, Washington, just outside Seattle, seniors are thinking about their future. Of course, high school students everywhere look ahead in the last half of their senior year, as they prepare to go to college, get a job, or enter the armed forces or community service. But at Shorecrest, there's a difference.
Here, in order to graduate, all students must complete a yearlong project that represents the culmination of their school work presenting their project to a panel of school and community experts, they must-write an essay reflecting on what they have learned and how it will apply to their lives after Shorecrest.
The project requirement, which began three years ago, is one of the most popular policies of the award-winning school, and students have produced first-rate work. This year, one student is writing a novella based on the battle of Gettysburg; two others are writing and lobbying for state legislation that would mandate the use of recycled materials; a fourth is working with the Pacific Northwest Ballet to teach dance to young children. The students also take their final presentations very seriously, often dressing in business attire for the occasion. "It's a rite of passage, from high school student to adult," says Linda Eguchi, the project coordinator.
Teachers and administrators attribute the high quality of the projects in large part to their high expectations for all students. Whether they are in special education or honors classes, seniors are expected to work at least 60 hours on their projects. They do so under the direction of a mentor, who is usually an expert in the field from outside the school.
Students also work hard and4z_well because the projects offer an opportunity, to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems and situations. Their mentors show them how their schoolwork connects with the community and the workplace. And students make these direct connections through reflective essays. In the process, they also learn new skills, like how to organize and manage a long-term project and how to work with peers.
"The project is intended to provide an opportunity for students to learn things that, in the normal course of their high school experience, they would not have an opportunity to learn," says …