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What does good learning look like?

Seniors Leave Campus for Two Weeks

A reflection from Upper School Head Ryan Reese

We love our seniors, but if we are doing our jobs the right way throughout their time at Watkinson, we also want them to leave. We want them to have the skills, the desire, and the confidence to go out in the world and do all the things they want to do – all the things we need them to do. There is still work left to be done on this front across the next five months; however, a small taste of that sense of autonomy is upon us, as our oldest students prepare to leave campus for two weeks to take part in professional mentorships related to their Senior Seminar projects. 

A graduation for all of our students is to complete Senior Seminar – a year-long class that allows each student the time, space, and structure to use all their academic skills to become novice experts in their respective fields. Throughout the fall, students hone their ideas about a topic and central question. They then begin three months of intensive, academic research and are required to connect with a professional that can help them grow in their understanding of the field and gain important experiences that will influence the remainder of their work. This month, they are released from two weeks of classes to go out in the world, work with these mentors, and begin crafting their final products, designed to highlight all they’ve learned throughout the year. 

This is our fifth year of sending seniors off in February. In that time, our students have gone to hundreds of places and done remarkable work. This year, we have students working with college basketball teams, professors at the University of Chicago, Tsinghua University, and Harvard, as well as pilots and firefighters. One is hoping to redesign highway and interstate systems, while another is choreographing a dance for learners ages 4-84. Another is traveling to Spain to interview teachers in Madrid with the hope of understanding educational differences across nations and cultures, and another is interviewing several immigrants in the hope of understanding what it’s like to be new in a place like Connecticut. A student who hopes to pursue nursing found a way to shadow a pediatric nurse, and his friend is working at St. Francis Medical Center in Hartford to investigate how artificial intelligence might influence the future of medical imaging and diagnostics. 

I’m a little nervous. The good kind, though. It takes a lot of trust and belief to let them experience the world in a new and important way. It’s a risk for sure. One that they’re ready for. I’m excited to see them go, and I’m even more excited to have them return. 

To learn more about our private school curriculum, particularly our senior year, click here.

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