Culminating Projects

Current 7th and 8th Graders: Please see the CP Guidelines for fundraising/PR here.

Please review the goals and timeline for the Culminating Projects for both 7th and 8th grade here.

Culminating Projects
at Prairie Crossing Charter School

What is a Culminating Project? The PCCS Culminating Project (CP) is an extended Service Learning Project.  Students spend 2 years working on a project of their choosing.  Through work on the CP, students will address two main questions:

·         How will I improve the world in which I live and positively impact the environment and my community?

·         How can I showcase what I have learned about the environment and other subjects in my years at PCCS?

Students will identify an environmental issue – a problem that they want to address – and a project – a specific action that they will take that will help fix the issue they identified.
The CP has 3 main components:

·         Fieldwork/Service hours, earned through meaningful service towards completing project (50% of final grade).

·         Paper, divided into 6 sections that address the critical aspects of the issue and project, including its history, its impacts on society and economics, its scientific and environmental implications, its mathematical connections, and its personal impact on the authors (30% of final grade).

·         Final gallery-style presentation, including tri-fold board and 5-minute talk to be delivered to small groups of audience, through the course of one day at the end of 8th grade (20% of final grade).

Tasks and timeline for CP:
CP is broken down into small steps for students. First, they will go through a process of assessing both community needs and their own interests and talents to determine what issue they want to address and how they want to address it (their project).  Before Thanksgiving of their 7th grade year, students should have a project identified and approved by a panel of 7th and 8th grade teachers and the Dean of Environmental Programs.

Students are then assigned a mentor — a staff member who will coach them through the process of their CP through monthly meetings. The mentor’s job is to provide resources, suggestions and directional advice for the students, not to complete their project.  
Students accomplish their paper and project by working through manageable chunks.  The final paper is comprised of several small sections which are assigned throughout 7th and 8th grade.  For each section, students will receive an assignment that guides them as to what questions to address in the research and writing of that section.  Students will complete an outline of the section, and then turn in a paper. Students have the opportunity to improve upon each section with a re-write if needed/desired. The sections of the paper include:

·         Historical — students will research the history of their issue, how it became a problem and how others have tried to solve it in the past.

·         Social — students will discuss the impact that their project and issue have society (people, government, etc.)

·         Economic — students will address the financial implications of their project and issue.

·         Data collection and analysis — students will collect data associated with, or as part of, their project.  They will do statistical and graphic analysis of their data.

·         Scientific — students will research the scientific underpinnings and implications of their issue and project.

·         Personal — Students will reflect on how their project affected them personally.

·         Field hours — service hours that the students put forth, both during and outside of school hours, toward actually addressing their issue — are monitored in 5-hour increments.  Ten hours must be completed by the end of 7th grade and an additional 25 hours by the end of 8th grade. In addition to completing the required number of hours, students must accomplish a goal that makes a difference to the community.  Students, with adult advice, set their own goals — they decide what the outcome of their project will be and their hours are assessed based on their accomplishment of their own goals.  Goals can be modified throughout the process if students set goals that are either unattainable or too easy.  

Parent Involvement in the CP:
While it is important that the project be the student’s responsibility, we recognize that parents play an important role in the culminating projects.  We welcome parents to share their contacts, their professional or personal skills, and their ideas with their students, as long as the students retain ownership of the projects.  Parents have a voice in the CP approval process.  This way, parents can monitor, early on, whether they will be asked to provide transportation, funds, or other resources toward their student’s project.  These contributions are not required, and this is why we ask, up front, for parents to consent that they understand what their child’s project entails.

We ask that parents also monitor their student’s progress on the CP.  This will be accomplished in 2 ways. First, students should have monthly check-in meetings with their parents.  During these meetings, students and parents will discuss the progress made, stumbling blocks, issues and next steps.  We will ask that parents provide a signature acknowledging that these monthly meetings have occurred.  Second, updates of progress/missing assignments/grades will be posted on PowerSchool, and we ask that parents keep abreast of these postings.

Examples of past CPs:

Over the years, students have completed many varied projects that addressed different community needs and worked for different student personalities and preferences.

To address the issue of:

·         Habitat loss, a pair of students built and installed bat boxes in their community.  (Other students have done bluebird boxes, wood duck boxes, owl nests, and animal-specific habitat restoration.)

·         Children spending too much time inside, a pair of students taught outdoor lessons to students at another school that doesn’t include outdoor learning/EE in their curriculum. (Students have gone to city schools, local schools, and have taught at churches, pre-schools, and run after school classes.)

·         Water pollution, a student conducted water quality experiments and presented the results to his homeowners’ association to convince them to treat their lawns differently.

·         Invasive species, students removed targeted species from specific areas.  (Students have removed buckthorn, milfoil, and garlic mustard.  Other students addressed this issue by installing boot scrapers to prevent seeds from traveling.)

·         And many more… there are many successful CPs that aren’t in the spotlight, but nonetheless precipitate great change.  Our students have been teachers, art gallery curators, engineers, researchers, builders, consultants, event planners, community organizers, and more.   The possibilities are endless! 

Mentor Involvement in the CP:
Mentors act as a coach, providing knowledge, support, experience and encouragement to the group or individual. The mentor will act as a link between the students and the larger community, helping them connect with the world outside of school. We will try to match projects with mentors who have an expertise or interest in the topic of the project.  Mentors will be asked to meet with their mentees at least once a month.  Initially, the mentor should take the lead in setting up and guiding the direction of the meetings, but this responsibility should be transferred over to the students over the course of 7th grade.

Mentors will not write or re-write papers, nor will they (necessarily) accompany students to their service hour commitments.  They are not required to make phone calls or emails on behalf of their mentees, though they may choose to initiate contacts that they students will then take over.  They will not be involved in the grading of the papers, though teachers may approach them for feedback to keep tabs on the students’ progress.  

Other Questions or Information
Please don’t hesitate to contact the 7th and 8th grade classroom teachers or Dean of Environmental Programs to ask additional questions about the CP process.

nhershiser [at] pccharterschool [dot] org (Naomi Hershiser), Dean of Environmental Programs

ksustich [at] pccharterschool [dot] org (Kerri Sustich), 7th grade Homeroom Teacher and 7th/8th Grade Math Teacher

tzamiar [at] pccharterschool [dot] org (Tony Zamiar), 7th grade Homeroom Teacher and 7th/8th Grade ELA Teacher

sstewart [at] pccharterschool [dot] org (Sarah Stewart), 7th grade Homeroom Teacher and 7th/8th Grade ELA Teacher

phabel [at] pccharterschool [dot] org (Paul Habel), 8th grade Homeroom Teacher and 7th/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher

hjackson [at] pccharterschool [dot] org (Heather Jackson), 8th grade Homeroom Teacher and 7th/8th Grade ScienceTeacher

We believe that children are our best hope to improve the world.

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