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Special projects cap off senior year

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Seniors at Roaring Fork High School this year have been juggling more than just the typical load of classes, extracurricular activities, college applications and job searches.

Hannah Bingaman has been training to become an equine therapy rider for children on the Autism spectrum. Cal Branigan has been writing, directing and producing an original 20-minute film. Another senior has developed a radio program in which she interviewed undocumented high school seniors about their hopes and challenges for their future.

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Starting with the class of 2018, all students of the Roaring Fork Schools will have completed what the district is calling a “Capstone Project” by the time they graduate.  “It can be almost anything,” said RFHS Capstone Coordinator Bo Takarabe in an interview with The Sopris Sun. “It’s an opportunity for kids to explore something they’re interested in or do something they’ve always wanted to do.”

Each student, with support from Takarabe and other RFHS staff, must write up a plan, connect  with a “community expert” or mentor, undertake the project, develop some kind of product or performance that enables them to present their project to others, and write up a reflection about the whole experience.

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The goal of the capstones, Takarabe said, is that the students “stretch themselves, take risks, and gain something meaningful from the experience.” The most important things that students gain, she said, are not always what they anticipated.

When senior Luis Medina-Hernandez decided to develop an inspirational speech to share with young soccer players as his capstone project, he didn’t realize that what would emerge as the most challenging and rewarding aspect of his project would be the process of overcoming his fear of public speaking.

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Other skills that students develop through these projects include making professional phone calls, troubleshooting ways around major stumbling blocks and learning how to manage their time on a long-term project. “I’m glad they’re getting these experiences now, before they leave high school,” Takarabe said. “It will definitely serve them well.”

The Sun will feature several specific capstone projects in coming weeks.

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Capstone presentations

  • Film showings: Sat., May 12, 7 p.m., Third Street Center
  • Art displays: Mon.-Wed., May 21 – 23, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., RFHS Art Show

Capstone Demonstrations

  • Mon., May 21, 8:00 – 10:00 a.m., Basalt High School
  • Tues., May 22, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m., Glenwood Springs High School

Become a capstone mentor:  roaringforkcapstoneproject.wordpress.com.

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