"Senior Project" redirects here. For the 2014 film, see Senior Project (film).
A culminating project (also known as a senior project, grad project or exit project), is a project that challenges high school seniors to demonstrate their academic knowledge in an experiential way (in most cases). According to the US Dept of Education State Education Boards typically allow individual school districts to customize the project, based on basic state guidelines.
Confusion about the culminating project
People reporting on the culminating project sometimes confuse the terminology with the state high school exit exam. The state exit exam is a written exam that usually tests student’s math, reading, writing, and science skills, whereas the culminating project is a required project that is usually a learning experience based on a topic chosen by the student. The project is mandatory in order to graduate.
The purpose of the project is to increase both teaching and learning. High school graduation standards have declined for several decades. School reform or the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is a way to bring value back to the high school diploma as well as support students as they go out into the world prepared for college, a job, the military, entrepreneurship, internship, or whatever path students decide to follow once they graduate.
Why a project is required
The requirement is an effort to increase the education standards. As college admissions and the workplace require more from their recruits, nationwide high school must too.
In an effort to be clear, it is restated that the culminating project is not required by all schools. Again, parents and guardians would have to check with the student’s school official website for graduation requirements.
However, for students that are required to complete a culminating project, this is a chance for the student to explore a topic of personal interest. The project provides an opportunity that student may not have otherwise. By completing the project, students have a real life experience that can help them in their next adventure in life (college, job, entrepreneurship, military, internship, etc.).
Students gain a number of important skills by participating in the process such as,
Kinds of projects
The high school graduation culminating project format varies from state to state and even school to school within the same state. Parents and guardians will have to check with their students specific school for their requirements. Typically the project consists of choosing a topic of interest, writing a research paper on that topic, having an experience directly related to the topic, keeping a journal of artifacts demonstrating your work, followed by the final step which is a presentation (US Dept of Education).
The student usually presents the project to a panel consisting of 2-5 people typically made up of teachers, community members, faculty, and staff. However, some schools have student present to a panel of their peers. Schools and school districts have total discretion to format the process in a way that works best for their students and their school culture.
In some cases, students complete a project on their own with the support of a mentor from their community. Some schools allow group projects and group presentation. For example, it would not be uncommon for the leadership class of a school to raise funds to build a school in Africa. Other requirements include a mandatory social/community aspect related to the project which means the high school graduation project has to benefit someone other than the student.
What Is a Culminating Project?
The culminating project can also be called the graduate project or senior project and is usually conducted during the final semester of high school. Passing your project is a graduation requirement and if you do not submit your project on time or do not meet their quality requirements then you will not get your high school diploma.
Knowing what is a culminating paper project can be a little confusing, however. Each education authority and even each school within each area may have a slightly different culminating project definition and may use slightly different processes and forms. The basic capstone project ideas for information technology ideas, however, are the same.
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You will be required to write a research paper, create a product of some description and also present and defend your paper in front of a small audience. For many, this may be a task that they really are not looking forward to. However, if you approach it methodically you will be able to ensure that you pass your culminating project and graduate.
Culminating projects generally can be very much tailored to you and can be very flexible. As the Washington State Board of Educations says:
“Students have the flexibility to construct Culminating Projects that demonstrate essential skills through reading, writing, speaking, production, and/or performance; skills of analysis, logic, and creativity; and the integration of experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems”
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Selecting Culminating Project Topics
Your culminating project ideas are often the hardest thing to come up with. Deciding what you will actually research will have a huge impact on how your project will go. You need to select something that you have an interest in, however, you should not select something that you already have expert knowledge in as it would not be challenging enough for you.
It must be something that not only you will be able to research but also something that you can create something from as you will have to have a physical “product” to demonstrate your research also. Your topic must be broad enough for you to be able to find sufficient research on the area but not so broad that it does not allow you to focus your research on a specific area.
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Example Culminating Project Ideas
One way to select the right culminating project topics for your research is to look at what others suggest. Even if what you see is not exactly what you are looking for the ideas may trigger your own thought process into coming up with something more suitable for you.
The following are some suggestions for topics that you could research for your project:
- How flashcards can help with learning
- What would a famous historical figure have blogged about
- How would you advertise and sell a product
- Examine sporting statistics
- What would a coat of arms look like for your favorite fictional character
- How could you turn a historical event into a stage play
- What would the soundtrack for a historical event sound like
- Write letters to and from someone famous in history
- How would you plan a movie version of your favorite novel
- How could you design a board game to teach something
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Writing a Culminating Project Proposal
Often your school or educational authority will have a specific form that will need to be completed as your proposal. This will need to be completed and approved prior to you being allowed to conduct your project.
It will generally cover the following areas:
- A description of your project: along with your reasons for choosing it and the level of challenge it will provide for you.
- The purpose of your project: what problems will your project solve and who is your intended audience.
- Action plan: you need to detail the main steps that you will take when conducting your project and research and provide timescales for each.
- Obstacles: you need to identify any obstacles that you can foresee that may hinder your ability to conduct your project and provide solutions for each.
- Benefits: who will benefit from your project and how.
Writing Your Culminating Project Paper
Your culminating project is a form of the research paper and will generally be expected to be from 8 to 10 pages in length although this can vary from school to school so you will need to check their specific expectations. You also need to check what format you will need to write your paper in; generally, you will be expected to use APA or MLA styles of writing for your paper. The actual structure is often left to you however and will depend very much on the type of project that you intend to follow.
Use the following final paper tips that you need to consider when writing your project paper:
- You will have to create a timeline for your project as part of your proposal, do not fall into the trap of leaving everything to the last minute because you have a few weeks to get the work done. Always try to follow your timeline as best you can.
- Create a clear outline for writing your paper. This will help you to better understand what you will have to write and what will be covered in your writing.
- Your thesis or research question is one of the main parts of your paper and must be clearly articulated and defined. This is what will guide your research and it should provide you with a clear reason for your paper also.
- Papers generally should contain a minimum of 5 sources of information that should be cited within your paper. Sources of information should be reliable and if there are any hints of bias then you should be able to identify it. Do not only use the internet; use the library to gain information from other publications and journals. Do not, however, use general encyclopedias as sources for your information.
- All citations used within your paper must be listed in your bibliography or references page in the correct academic format.
- You will be expected to include an original graphic of some form. This can be a sketch or a graph but it must be created by you and not simply copied.
- Proofreading is very important, mistakes in your English will have a serious impact on your ability to pass. Do not simply rely on your spell checking on the computer; review your work very carefully and if possible ask others to read through also.
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