Just as a real capstone is held aloft by the building blocks beneath it, the SEM Capstone is built on four years of learning and growth, and stands proudly at the highest point of the structure that a student has built stone by stone.
Every SEM senior completes this self-directed independent project of her own design, guided by Capstone mentors as the apex of her subject's inquiry.
Capstone Projects are highly individualized and may include original research, community service, performance, studio production, and entrepreneurship, in addition to advanced academic scholarship. The possibilities for research are endless; they are limited only by a student’s imagination!
Capstone is College Prep
From its inception, the Capstone program's purpose has been to bridge the high school and college experiences, providing a space for seniors to stretch themselves beyond what they have already accomplished.
The skills students develop and practice through SEM's Capstone projects align, by design, with the characteristics that colleges seek in applicants. These same skills and mindsets lead to success in college and beyond.
Capstone's Place at SEM
The Capstone program both informs and reflects SEM's academic program, which intentionally scaffolds students' growth in the college-preparatory areas of research, academic writing, intellectual independence, and self-management.
During the trimester-long Junior Capstone course, each junior narrows down a research question under the guidance of a team of faculty mentors. With the support of mentors and a small group of peers with related interests, juniors conduct preliminary research and develop a prospectus, or plan of action, for the projects they will complete senior year.
Community Interaction: An independent connection reaching outside of the SEM community that connects to the Capstone project.
Journal: Her plan, goals and reflective record of her process.
Academic Writing: Starting with an annotated bibliography and ending with a researched essay, article, or report.
Artifact: Something tangible she creates, from an invention to a script to a website.
Presentation: A way to share her Capstone with a wider audience.
Reflection: From the freshman year e-portfolio through the final debriefing on her project, SEM’s Capstone aims to develop each student’s mindful self-reflection.
Research: Capstone involves significant research using a range of methods, building critical thinking and discipline-specific skills for college and life.
Creativity: Whether in the studio, on the stage, or in the lab, design, innovation, and new perspectives are central to Capstone.
Community: No SEM Capstone is complete without involving our students as global citizens in the wider community, possibly with community service, a performance, political action, an internship, or even travel abroad.
Professionalism: Capstone provides crucial opportunities for SEM students to develop and practice mindsets and behaviors that will lead to success in the real world.
It has been amazing to see the students bring their plans to fruition. In the past, when they've done internships, it's to get an experience in the community, but now we're seeing students reach out into the community for experiences that truly inform their inquiry. There’s a moment where you really see the light bulb go on, and you can see they're just completely inspired from within.
-Kris Kemmis, Capstone faculty 2017-18
I discovered my college major because of Capstone!
Grace Heidinger '17, Duquesne University '21, sports journalism major