Student-directed project work is at the heart of Pacem’s curriculum. It reflects our strong belief in emergent learning—giving students time to focus on a topic of study that develops out of their own interests and passions, while providing teacher guidance and an intellectually inspiring atmosphere. The project process stretches students’ ability to use inquiry and research, organize and present information, write, make interdisciplinary connections, channel their creativity, and see an idea through from concept to completion. It encourages students to be invested in their own learning and guides them towards ownership and responsibility for the process. It provides a meaningful context for learning and practicing research skills, writing, and other forms of communication and allows each student to build on existing strengths to learn new skills and information. Students learn about the subject they have chosen to explore, about the process of research and project work, and often about the media they choose to use to present their project.
Student Interest Project: From Inspiration to Presentation (first two or three years of high school)
Students choose a project of personal interest each semester or for the whole school year. They set their own project goals and their projects span all curricular areas. The teacher helps to guide them in a rich, interdisciplinary, in-depth exploration of their chosen topics, including suggesting related fields of study to explore and helping find and use available resources (including experts and field trips when appropriate). Students receive support and/or instruction as needed in organization, research, and writing skills (including goal-setting, brainstorming and refining ideas, evaluating sources, note taking and organization, Internet research, bibliographies and citations, time management, display ideas, and editing). All projects at the high school level include research as well as an essay, research paper, or other well-developed piece of nonfiction writing. Each student creates a final display or portfolio of work, which is shown at a culminating Presentation Celebration.
Capstone Project (last one or two years of high school)
A Capstone Project is required for students in their final year of high school, and is an option for students the previous year as well. This is a more in-depth and challenging project experience in which students pursue a passionate interest with guidance from a Pacem faculty mentor whom they choose. It is expected to include:
I. At least one major piece: a substantial, well-developed, in-depth piece of work. This could be a research paper, fiction piece, field research report, multimedia piece, art portfolio, building project, or other major work. The length and scope will be determined by student and advisor based on the student’s interests, needs, and goals. Students doing a Capstone Project before their final year in high school may choose to do two shorter main pieces instead of one long one.
II. Additional elements (if not included in the above):
- At least one nonfiction writing piece – length to be determined by student and advisor
- A research component with all sources documented in MLA format
- Learning in person from an expert in the field, if possible (apprenticeship, etc.)
- At least two other means of communication (visual arts, performing arts, audio/visual media, graphs/charts, diagrams, model, demonstration, etc.)
- A teaching component
- An oral presentation (see below)
III. Presentations of the above work to the community:
- A fall semester community presentation of work in progress and finished work so far – to Pacem community
- A spring community presentation to include oral presentation and all finished work – to Pacem community and/or an appropriate audience from the wider community