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Senior Directed Projects: Three Students Charting Their Own Course

Senior Directed Projects: Three Students Charting Their Own Course
Tanya Olander

While exploring her family’s refugee past as part of her Senior Directed Project, Justine (‘24) discovered surprising things about her Vietnamese-American heritage. Through extensive oral history interviews, data analysis, and archival research, she's pieced together a clearer picture of her ancestry while developing crucial academic skills. 

Offered exclusively to Grade 12 students, the Senior Directed Project (SDP) elective provides a unique opportunity for seniors to immerse themselves in self-directed learning that is aligned with their interests. Before embarking on their personal projects, however, students must submit a proposal which must be approved by the High School Principal, Jennifer Mendes, before they can proceed.

Although teacher-supported, the process and the overall design of the project are entirely managed by the student and, along with the final essay and presentation, contribute to the overall assessment of their SDP.

Justine takes a question from a middle school student about her research process, during one of the presentations about her project. 

“In taking on this big independent study with the guidance of my mentors, I’ve learned so much and have gotten a glimpse of how much effort it takes to really dig deeply into primary sources and interpret them in an appropriate manner. I’ve developed crucial skills and lenses of inquiry that I probably wouldn’t have been able to learn until college. This experience has reaffirmed my passion for studying history and will definitely be a great help in the next step of my academic career,” says Justine. Her family research of Amerasian immigration and refugee stories from the 1980’s has even inspired her to begin additional research on emigration from Vietnam in the 1950’s.

A Head Start on a Lifelong Passion

And Justine isn’t alone in finding purpose through the SDP program. Greta, another Senior, was excited when she learned that the SDP would let her get a head start on a passion she’s had since childhood - nursing. In pursuit of her goal of becoming a registered nurse, she began the school year by carefully selecting certifications to develop her knowledge and hands-on skills. 

Greta guides students in learning CPR while serving as a teaching assistant in the Sports Medicine class.

Among the certifications Greta has taken are the Red Cross CPR training, and courses on vital signs and advanced first aid, which she plans to apply toward her college applications. To gain real-world experience, Greta served as a teaching assistant in the Sports Medicine class, guiding her peers in practices like head-to-toe check, recovery position, blood pressure, and CPR.

“Balancing my SDP with my other schoolwork has taught me a lot about time management, Greta explains. “At times, I’ve had to do additional research to grasp concepts, like the pulmonary system, in-depth. Regardless of the extra work, I’m thrilled to have this experience,” Greta shares.

Real-Life Experience in Her Intended Major

The beauty of the Senior Directed Project program is that the projects can be as diverse and dynamic as our students. So while Greta is pursuing her passion in the medical field, and Justine is carving out a path as a researcher, Phuong Anh is using her SDP to explore how she can drive sustainable agricultural advancements that better the community. 

“I want to help Vietnamese farmers grow food that's safe by developing a fertilizer that is suited for the Vietnamese climate. The Senior Directed Project is giving me the opportunity to learn the basic foundations of agriculture. I’m grateful to be able to explore my interests and gain real-life experience in the major that I’ll be selecting. It makes me more confident about my selection and my future choices.” 

Phuong Anh (middle row, left side in blue) during her time at Chiềng Hắc village in Mộc Châu, worked with other student volunteers to introduce a locally sourced fertilizer to the local farmers.

Phuong Anh, who is planning to study agriculture, has taken several opportunities to conduct local research and volunteering and has worked with the municipal government in Mộc Châu to introduce locally sourced fertilizers similar to the one she's hoping to develop.

While each SDP is unique, they share a common thread of purpose in empowering self-motivated, driven, and goal-oriented students like Justine, Greta, and Phuong Anh with the opportunity to challenge themselves academically through a passion project, nurturing skills and mindsets that will extend far beyond high school and prepare them for success at university and beyond. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for them!

The Senior Directed Project is an elective. You can find more information about the SDP and the full range of our course offerings in the High School Program of Studies. 

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