Traveling Beyond the Traditional Curriculum

Seniors explore their passions, hone real world skills through annual Senior Project.

By: Leslie Kovach, Upper School science teacher and Senior Project coordinator

The Steward School Senior Project gives students the opportunity to select topics that are both avocational and vocational in nature. These pursuits are meaningful and important in an educational setting because they allow students to gain real-life experience in areas of interest while learning to think independently. Students also gain valuable experience in successfully completing a year-long project that is entirely self-driven.

The Steward School Senior Project is designed to incorporate and enhance the writing, reading, research, time management, public speaking, and organizational skills that students have learned throughout their years in school. Unlike the traditional term paper project based entirely on literary and/or historical analysis, the Senior Project allows students to choose their own topics and work on something that is meaningful and relevant to them. Students complete much of the work independently, with input from Upper School public speaking teacher Susan Sanford, a faculty consultant, and me (the Senior Project coordinator). Students submit research proposals, seek advice from professionals, summarize research findings, integrate their research into a formal presentation, post journal and time log entries, and maintain a website for their projects that includes video and/or photographic evidence of the project itself.

The types of projects students do are truly amazing, especially those completed by this year’s seniors. Some are creative and hands-on such as Taylor Walker's jewelry-making project. Taylor struggled with pricing her beautiful pieces since she had people standing in line to buy them. Other projects, like Mary Ann Neale’s kickboxing project, involved learning new athletic skills and meeting the associated physical challenges. Still others were community service oriented, such as Emmett Coleman’s #JustBecause video project to increase awareness of diversity (pictured above). Emmett faced a difficult topic with courage, determination, and maturity.

Ethan Stein’s Holocaust Remembrance evening event also involved a mature theme that Ethan handled professionally through careful and deliberate planning. Artistic projects are often the most rewarding in terms of the tangible results they achieve. Examples from the fine arts this year included: Catie McKinnon’s and Mary Kathryn Pruett’s Peter Pan Showcase, photography from Jack Clifton, Liza Thompson, and Alex Jobe (pictured below), as well as a film created by Mary McLaughlin using 8mm technology. Bryce Brown filmed a fire department recruitment video entirely through the use of an iPhone (pictured left). The process of editing was arduous and required patience and perseverance. Bryce was awarded Senior Project of the Year. 

The sky is truly the limit as I encourage students to “boldly go where no one has gone before,” or at least where they have not gone before.

One of the most rewarding aspects of coordinating the senior projects is the opportunity to observe the progress students make in achieving goals they have set. There are certainly bumps in the road, but more often than not, these detours take students to wonderful places and marvelous discoveries where new insights are forged. Cole Richardson attempted to build his own computer but was unable to get it to work properly. Instead, he used the new parts to make his old Sega Genesis work again. Summer Owens originally planned a beach clean-up that ended up as a successful river clean-up. Students learn to see failure as a reason to persevere and revise but not quit. When one idea doesn’t work, they consider new options and redirect their efforts. Another important result occurs when students realize that a successful outcome of a year-long effort is entirely possible, particularly when good time management is employed.

The final presentations have been a terrific way to see and hear about students’ passions, and to get a glimpse into the future possibilities of the next generation. The senior project is truly a place for stars to emerge!

Leslie Kovach has been teaching science at The Steward School for 25 years. Prior to that, Leslie taught public school, worked as a research assistant at BF Goodrich, served in the US Navy, and taught community college. She remains fascinated by all things chemical, but particularly by new developments that aid humanity or the environment in some way.


Steward Voices

Steward is an atmosphere that fosters confidence—something we have seen in all three of our kids. Whether it is playing a new sport, running for a seat on the Honor Council, or singing a solo on Talent Night, they have been encouraged to try, to experience, and to grow.
- Dan and Kathi Campbell, Parents of Abbie ’19, Emma ’17, and Ben ’14

Steward Voices

Steward is the right place for Micah and Kiri because they are able to develop strong connections with their teachers, which in turn facilitates confidence and resilience in their learning. Everyone at Steward knows your name and makes you feel so welcome.
- Paul and Janet Yoon, Parents of Kiri ’27 and Micah ’26

Steward Voices

Steward helped me develop the skills I needed to succeed in college and the courage and confidence to set competitive career goals for myself. But, these skills weren’t lessons I learned just in Steward’s classrooms; they came from the athletic fields, in the hallways, and during Honor Council meetings, too.
- Grace Henderson ’10

Steward Voices

Steward provides Andrew with a nurturing environment which fosters his individualism, develops exemplary character traits, and continuously provides him with creative learning experiences. Consequently, Andrew ‘loves’ school and anticipates each day with joy, enthusiasm, and excitement.
- Betsy Jollay, Grandmother of Andrew O’Leary ’25

Steward Voices

I love all that The Steward School has done for Trace. Steward has uncovered Trace’s talents, celebrated his individuality, and strengthened his belief in himself. The faculty and staff offer an amazing balance of challenge and comfort, encouraging the best from all students. I can’t imagine Trace being anywhere else. Thank you, Steward School.
- Ron Coles, Father of Trace Coles ’19 and Grade 5 Teacher

Steward Voices

Being a member of The Steward School international program has been an awesome experience. The community has helped me tremendously along the way.
- Bowen Chen ’15


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