All seniors at Machias Memorial High School participate in an exciting educational opportunity, part of which comes from them being able to self direct their English class. All students design, execute, and present a rigorous, long-term project that celebrates who they are as learners. The design of the Senior Seminar course incorporates many of the skills students will need to be successful in the 21st century.
Allowing students to have choice in their learning is key to motivating them. When they have a vested interest in their learning, they are more likely to retain valuable information. Researching a topic based on an essential question makes learning real for students. Completing a research project on a topic of their own choice also promotes students to become more literate because they are reading about something they want to know about. This, in turn, will help them become more intellectually independent, for they will have developed the skills necessary for synthesizing many forms of reading materials. Self-selecting a topic also helps students develop a strong sense of who they are as learners – they develop confidence in themselves as they work on developing skills to make their final presentations. Gathering all of the research, working with a mentor, and creating a physical project promotes critical thinking where the students go far beyond just gathering facts. The process used to complete the entire Exhibition is one that also promotes life-long learning regardless of whether the topic is one that will be part of their future. The self-motivation required to meet the expectations for Exhibition also draws on life-long learning skills.
It is a requirement to pass the Exhibition process for graduation, and students definitely feel stress and pressure as the May deadline approaches. However, since their English class has been devoted to helping them focus on their chosen topic, they have developed impressive skills in their selected fields and feel very prepared. Presentations are striking and showcase much new learning, truly making the senior year one of the most productive for students. The best aspect about the course is that students are learning about what they want to know more about and therefore are motivated to do their best.