Video by Gabrielle Whittle '16
The idea for a month-long senior project began over twenty years ago with a few diligent students who sought a chance to assimilate all that they had learned into an internship that was intensely personal and would serve as an appropriate capstone to a Thayer education. Indeed, this idea of self-direction truly honors in a unique way the values embodied in Sylvanus Thayer’s vision for the school. I am always reminded of those few pioneers who set the tone and blazed a path for our students today as we kick off our program each year in the fall.
Whether it is working with the homeless, with children touched by AIDS, or in the office of a local politician, many senior projects either cultivate a new passion or nurture an existing one for such things as social justice and responsibility. Other projects- such as experiencing the inner workings of a Fortune 500 company, working in an engineering or law firm, or being a teacher’s aid, allow students to try something new and can lead to unexpected discoveries, such as a passion for teaching 1st grade. Alumni often extol the virtues of senior projects, and many report that opportunities opened up for summer jobs and valuable networking connections.
Our Senior Project program, which has served as the model for numerous other independent schools, gives students a chance to exercise their intellectual curiosity and to explore specific opportunities on their own terms, and acts as a bridge between academia and the professional world. Success in this adventure builds a foundation of self- confidence that will serve our students well as they transition to college and the independence of living away from home. The chance to be in charge of their own lives and garner the rewards of success in an independent endeavor is Thayer’s final, priceless gift to its students.
Wednesday, November 8: Work with Advisors
By this date, you must have met with your advisor and returned the Senior Project questionnaire. You should work closely throughout the process and talk with your advisor about your first ideas and possible placements.
November 8: Senior Project Trip Financial Aid Application Deadline
Deadline for all Senior Project trip financial aid requests.
November 15: Senior Project Trip Application Deadline
Deadline for all Senior Project trip applications. (Please note, any past disciplinary issues could affect your placement on a Senior Project trip.)
December/January: Develop Project, contact Site Supervisor
With the help of your advisor and your parents, begin defining the nature of your project. You should have at least two or three potential contacts and phone numbers of places you are interested in. Remember that often, your first choice falls through for some reason which is why a back up is critical. Begin to investigate possible off-campus sites and to make contacts with possible outside supervisors. Set up appointments for visits/interviews. Bring the Information for Prospective Site Supervisors form with you (or mail it in advance) so that off-campus contacts have the info they need. It is your responsibility to find a suitable site. Your advisor is here to assist and advise during this process, but the ultimate responsibility is yours.
Be aware that THIS TAKES TIME. You may have to wait several weeks before you connect with a potential site supervisor for an interview. And then, you may decide to look elsewhere and have to begin all over again.
Please note that some of the trips will have a direct impact on athletic schedules. It is very important that you make an informed decision when signing up for a trip. You must speak with your coach and parents to ensure they are aware of any potential conflicts BEFORE you submit your proposal.
Friday, January 10: Finalize Project Plan
Finalize your plans with your advisor and with the outside supervisor. This is the time to zero in, narrow down, and fine tune. You should have made your final contact to confirm placement by this time. You should begin working on your proposal.
Wednesday, January 22: Senior Project Proposal Due
Your Senior Project Proposal is due. Please turn the completed form in to your advisor this morning. Your proposal should have both your parent and advisor’s signature. You will leave a copy with your advisor and a copy with Ms. King by the end of school Wednesday.
February 3: Senior Project Committee Meeting
Senior Project Committee will meet to approve all projects.
Week of February 3: Advisor Check
Your advisor will check to make sure that the form has been completed properly, confirm the arrangements with the Site Supervisor, and thank him/her officially on behalf of Thayer Academy.
March 2-6: Senior Project Confirmation and Details
Important: Since it will have been several weeks since you have finalized your project, it is important that you reaffirm your placement and contact your off-campus supervisor to discuss starting date/time, specific responsibilities, what to wear, what to bring, and importantly- what to do about lunch. This would also be a good time to inform your site supervisor of any outside commitments (i.e. AP exams) for which you will need a schedule accommodation. It is important to understand that you are required to be at your site to work unless there is something that would be an “excused” absence.
May 1: Last Day of Classes, Exams
Academic courses for seniors end; exams may be given in this final week at the discretion of each teacher/department.
May 4 – May 29: Senior Project Begins!
It is vital that you be responsible about punctuality and attendance, and that you approach your duties with energy, curiosity, and initiative. Please remember that you are representing Thayer Academy.
Maintain weekly contact with advisor at Thayer. In some cases, more frequent interaction will be appropriate. Establish a routine for meeting with your advisor after school or communicating via email.
Be sure to address any problems promptly with your advisor so that your experience is not compromised. We want your project to be a positive one for the agency you’re serving, of course, but our primary concern is that you have a valuable educational experience.
It is recommended that you keep a simple, informal journal to record your experiences and your reactions to those experiences: thoughts, questions, doubts, conclusions. Writing in this way for twenty minutes per day will make your final paper far easier to write. Much more importantly, the journal will sharpen your focus and ensure your thoughtful involvement in the endeavor. You can share this journal with your advisor if you like.
May 29: Final Day of Senior Project
Your site supervisor will receive an evaluation form from Thayer Academy and the supervisors will email their evaluations directly to Thayer; be sure you have provided them with a copy of your final paper by this time.
Wednesday, June 3: Senior Project Paper Due
Two copies of your project paper are due between 10-2 in the Brickyard. A third copy must be turned in to your advisor. In this final paper, you should describe your project experiences in specific detail and-- most importantly-- reflect on what you have learned and how you’ve grown during your four weeks on this project. This paper should be written with the same academic standards Thayer has come to expect from you. You should also give your advisor a copy of your reflection on the book that you read along with your project in which you discuss how it helped enhance your experience.