Col. Chris Hadfield: Finn’s Grade 8 mentor on Astrobiology

Tne unique rite of passage in a student’s final year at Waldorf Academy is the completion of a capstone project, which the students begin working on during the summer preceding eighth grade. The independent projects are very special, in that each student has the chance to study and experience something of his/her own choosing over an extended period of time. This stretches the students to plan ahead, follow individual due dates, and sharpen their executive functioning—all skills that are only just beginning to bloom in eighth graders. In fact, many aspects of the project are challenging and call upon the students’ developing faculties. The result of this work is growth and achievement in many areas. Our alumni often reflect that it was the grade 8 project that more than prepared them for high school and has influenced their area of post-secondary study in many cases.

Adult Mentors:

Throughout the projects, students spend several hours working with a mentor who guides them through the process of learning something new, or perhaps building on a skill that the student would like to develop further. The mentor requirement provides a wonderful opportunity for students to begin reaching out to other adults in the world as they prepare for their transition to high school.

We as a community are always so grateful and impressed with the adults that offer their time to mentor a student for their grade 8 project. Many of the mentors are masters in their area and are incredibly busy people with full lives but yet have made the commitment to guide our youth and taken the time to forge what is for these young people an incredibly profound experience that will undoubtedly shape their future. This year was no exception and we are grateful to the artists and professionals that took the time to invest in our grade 8 students from a Crown Attorney, Veterinarian, Rock Star, Astronaut, Dog Trainer, Music teacher, Film Director, Reconstructive Surgeon and more. As a society, adults need to take the time to connect and mentor young people. Mentors are in a position of great influence and can shape the future of a young child. Please consider the honour of being a mentor for future grade 8 projects.

The final presentations were the week of March 6th and were wonderfully unique, of the highest quality, and were moving reflections of each student. They are proud of their accomplishments, as are we—the adults and members of the school community surrounding them. These projects are proof of the creativity, skills, enthusiasm, and care that our students bring to their work. Through the process of completing their projects, the students learned much about themselves, gained in confidence, and are now ready to move onto new challenges that await them in high school and beyond.

While much of the learning takes place throughout the year, after school, weekends and during school breaks, the culmination of the students’ accomplishments are shared with the wider community during a celebratory event, at which each student displays his or her work and does a short formal presentation for a large audience. Therefore, students learn about presentation skills to showcase the highlights of their project experience. Students are asked to present the project as a learning experience for the audience; this is challenging, because students must see their projects objectively from the audience’s point of view.

While the eighth grade projects are challenging in many ways, the experience allows students to draw upon and further develop many skills and talents, such as aesthetic sense, creativity, organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and public speaking, to name only a few.

 

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