At Marin Waldorf School, 8th grade students spend a full year planning, researching, and working to complete an individual project, which, at year’s end, they present to their classmates and the school community. Below, our 8th grade class teacher, Kristine Deason, shares more about the process.
Eighth grade projects allow students to reveal their capacities as inquirers, investigators, researchers, explorers, inventors, artists, and communicators. Throughout the course of their projects as well as in the culminating presentations, students reveal themselves. No other pursuit more clearly demonstrates how important it is to be “original”—that is, to be the originator of the interest, the question, and the direction that leads to creating something new.
The long process of shaping these projects began in June 2020. Students were asked to read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as inspiration for finding something they wanted to learn how to do or make. Over the summer, they were also asked to create a “Rube Goldberg” machine, again with the objective to work at making and creating something, not just researching. At the start of the school year, they submitted a well-crafted proposal to our middle school committee for approval. For many, just choosing a project drove home the reality that discovery always begins with the question, not the information!
Over the course of the year, students worked with outside mentors, conducted background research, wrote annotated bibliographies, and shaped a long research paper as they simultaneously worked on their physical project. They were asked to maintain a project journal to track their progress and submitted this journal often. On a regular basis, they also reported to the class and supported each other in shaping their final projects. Everyone made changes on a regular basis as they all encountered unforeseen challenges. In fact, no one carried out their project exactly as first proposed, and this provided an honest picture of the very real and uncertain world of original research and exploration!
In the end, over the course of two evenings, we were graced by a wide variety of in-person presentations, delivered with articulate confidence. The subjects were wide-ranging, revealing the broad interests of the students:
- Catching Rainwater; Low-Water Landscaping
- Carving Stone
- Constructing a Raised Studio
- Learning to Freedive
- Pruning and Grafting; Fruit Tree Care
- Learning Blacksmithing
- Building a Tule Reed Boat
- Restoring and Refinishing Furniture
- Building an Electric Bike
- Exploring Survival Skills and Techniques
- Building and Using a Pole Lathe
- Capturing Images; the Evolution of Photography
- Learning to Catch a Wave
- Constructing and Using a Newtonian Telescope
- Speaking without Sound; American Sign Language
- Creating a Board Game
- Creating and Painting a Mural
- Building a Go-Kart