Mt. Ararat High plans Capstone project

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TOPSHAM — This year’s Mt. Ararat High School sophomores will be the first to embark on the Capstone project, an endeavor that will culminate their senior year, the final touch on four years of high school education.

This project will take the form of a research-driven exhibition at the end of the high school career which will encompass academic, oral and visual elements, according to Mt. Ararat High School principal Craig King. He discussed the concept with the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors at their Monday meeting.

Upon the request of the SAD 75 board, a committee was formed last year to develop a Capstone project, King said. The committee will further develop the framework of the endeavor this coming year.

“Early on in the committee’s work, we realized ‘OK, we’re talking about the culminating event of senior year; we need to go back and revisit what we’re doing freshman, sophomore and junior year.”

Since an advisory program exists to address areas such as student aspirations and academic performance and post-secondary school planning, that program was solidified, King explained. The program is now electronic-based so that students and teachers can access it.

“My hope is that in two or three years, what’s going to happen is that when a student comes in freshman year, we have this advisory curriculum, and it’s going to be something they know about and are actually anticipating, sort of like prom or homecoming or SATs or college entrance exams,” King said. “That passage portfolio and Capstone are major things you do to get through high school.”

In anticipation of the Capstone project, a sophomore passage portfolio project has been designed for the incoming class and beyond to allow students to reflect upon their first two years and consider what they must accomplish the next two years in order to be ready for graduation. Students will reflect on subjects such as a class they took during their first two years that was the most meaningful, and why it was important, or an assignment they did during that time of which they were proud, and why it made them feel that way. Have they thought about what they want to do when they graduate, and what courses they need to take to get there?

“It’s sort of a ‘where have I been and where am I going,'” King said.

Once students have completed the portfolio they start thinking about Capstone, he said, explaining that students will think about what subject areas most interest them – such as arts, music, culinary arts, diesel mechanics and engineering.

Students have significant latitude in choosing a Capstone project, King said: “What’s been interesting is, a lot of students who may not have been good academic students but have talents in a variety of areas have done very well with these projects, because they’re controlling the project, they’re selecting the learning project.”

While at the age of 14 graduation may seem a lifetime away, every step along the way is significant, King said.

“What we’re trying to do is to get kids to be really more reflective about what they’re doing, why they’re here. This is relevant. Your ninth grade and 10th grade grades are going to make a big difference when it comes time to graduate, so those are the kind of things we’re trying to build in.”

If enough older students are interested in Capstone prior to the upcoming sophomore class undertaking the project, King said, the school may run a pilot program for potentially 20 teens.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.