Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Wood River students demonstrate aptitude at senior projects contest


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

Lauren Parsons explains her senior photography project to a panel of judges. Photo by Willy Cook

When the school year began, Wood River High School senior Noilyn Corrales did not own a camera.

On Monday, Corrales shared an extensive portfolio of color landscape photographs. The photographs, like one of a rowboat situated in quiet waters among the fall foliage, received wide applause from a room of judges gathered at the Hailey-based high school.

The judges, nearly 150 community members and school district staff, volunteered Monday, Dec. 5, to assess student performance as part of the school's senior project requirement.

After testing it for three years in a pilot program, Wood River High School implemented a requirement for all seniors to complete a senior project for graduation this year. The requirement encourages students to pursue a project of interest over a trimester in the Senior Project class.

"It's the best class I have taken. It is the only class that gets you ready for the real world," said Chase Thomas, a senior who led a golf clinic for middle school students.

The requirement calls for an autobiographical letter, project report, activity log, visual aid and oral presentation.

"We really want them to be independent learners," said Graham Hume, Wood River High School principal.

Corrales exemplified independent learning. She offered her presentation as an example for the judges to understand the evaluation process.

All other students gave a 15-minute speech to a smaller panel of judges.

During each presentation, students explain their projects, assess their learning styles and explain their readiness to graduate. The panel evaluates the presentations, with the final determination made by teachers.

"They learn so much, not just about their projects, but about themselves ... they can take the skills and apply them later in life," Hume said.

Corrales progressed from learning basic camera functions to the nuances of photography.

"This represents a big learning experience because I didn't know anything about photography," Corrales said.

She now aspires to be a professional photographer.

Lauren Parsons, a senior from Ketchum, also completed a photography project.

"I gained more knowledge of myself, how to be independent and how to not procrastinate," Parsons said.

Foremost, Parsons enjoyed working with her mentor. Each student must contact and work under the supervision of a member of the community.

"Having a mentor is one of the best parts of the class because you learn how to communicate with people you don't know. You have to search for someone to help you," Parsons said.

The lessons may become standard for all Blaine County students.

This fall, the Idaho State Board of Education submitted a proposal to the Legislature that would require all Idaho high school students to complete a senior project as a graduation requirement.

The Blaine County School District proposed the project as a 2007 graduation requirement for students at the Silver Creek Alternative School in Hailey.




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