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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Badger High students take a first step toward their future

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

A year ago, Zach Mess, a senior at Badger High School, was contemplating a career in law enforcement.
Terry Mayer/The Week
Zach Mess presents his senior project to a panel of judges.
But after completing his senior project, Mess says he now plans to become a veterinarian.

Mess' class is the first at Badger required to complete the Badger Senior Project before they can graduate.

"Like anything, kids are apprehensive about new things and change is bad," said Jim Gebhardt, physics teacher and co-coordinator of the Badger Senior Project Team along with Ed Krien and Joe Marquardt.

"But they're beginning to get ramped up about it all.

"The purpose ... of a project this big is to think about what you're doing and learning to organize a large activity."

"I had no idea what on earth I was going to do," Mess said about beginning his project. "But once I figured out my topic and got started, it didn't feel like a lot of work at all."

He chose to job-shadow at the Lake Geneva Animal Hospital and jumped right into the assignment over the summer.

"I knew the school year was going to be hectic with studying and sports and everything else, so I did it over the summer," he says. "Then I put the speech, Power Point and pictures together after the football season."

The projects are wide open and students can choose any subject under the sun, following these guidelines:

n Spend 20 hours minimum on a project containing research, creativity, internships, activities and/or service.

n Complete a portfolio including goals, results, log entries, technology, pictures or video and a resume.

n Make a final presentation to a panel of judges.

In initiating a curriculum change of this size, organizers realized there's a fine line between giving enough instruction and stepping back to let young minds take their own direction.

While working on their projects, students compile records of budgeting, planning and market evaluations.

They gain experience in communication, life skills, resumes and portfolios. Students also use technical visuals, gain experience in public speaking and write a journal about the process.

"So many kids don't think about their thoughts, so journaling teaches them to do that," Gebhardt says.

"Oddly enough, there are kids that don't have hobbies other than video games, and that's not the kind of technology they're going to need.

"And texting your friends is not a technical skill," he adds.

Principal Steve McNeal is a big proponent of the benefits of the Badger Senior Project.

"It's such a pivotal time for students to make their final decisions about their next step in life," says McNeal.

Regardless of whether they're going on to school or into the workforce full-time, McNeal has absolutely no doubt about the project's timing and necessity.

McNeal researched these types of projects for his education specialist degree thesis after seeing a session on it at a National Principals Conference in 1998.

Then he implemented the program with the class of 2000 when he was principal of Brodhead High School before bringing the program with him to Badger High School.

"It's the most powerful thing we've ever done for our students."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go, Zach!! Great project

February 23, 2008 7:35 PM  

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