The Hilltop Capstone Project for Seniors
The Hilltop is an optional program for seniors. Students will have the opportunity to design their own program that touches on one or more subject areas, blending multiple academic areas in an authentic manner.
The program is designed to empower students to take control of their own learning by allowing them to develop their own essential question, to determine the mentors and resources necessary to explore and address that query, and to present their conclusions to the community using methods of their choosing. All students in this program will interact regularly with an Upper School teacher who serves as the Hilltop Coordinator.
An essential question does not have a simple, factual-based answer. It is an open-ended question that provokes critical thinking and requires a mix of in-depth research, collaborative discussions, and individual contemplation. Through the Hilltop, a student will create their own essential question through considering their academic background, their strengths and challenges, their experiences, their motivations, and most importantly, their passions.
Students will then develop a collection of resources designed to help them address their essential question. First and foremost, students will identify and acquire one or more mentors whose background and experiences align with their query. The mentor could be someone local, such as an EA faculty or staff member, an EA alum or parent (not their own), or a member of the greater Chicago community. Alternately, the mentor could be someone who lives beyond the Chicago area with whom the student is able to interface remotely. All resources and mentors will be discussed and approved by the Hilltop Coordinator who will also have regular contact with all mentors.
Beyond the mentor, students will develop a bibliography of resources that could include (but is not limited to) books, articles, online courses or resources, films, videos, and personal interviews. Additionally, the student should identify experiences that will help them address their essential question. For example, local day trips, internships, and interactions with experts should be planned and implemented where appropriate. While some resources may be identified prior to a student's senior year, it is anticipated that others will be discovered, utilized, and documented throughout this process.
Toward the end of the school year, students engaged in the Hilltop will be required to present their discoveries to the Hilltop Coordinator, the Upper School Director, their mentors (when possible) and a small panel of faculty members. This presentation may include a research paper, an oral presentation, necessary visuals, videos, or any other forms of communication that will help the student relay their essential question, their conclusion, and most importantly, their process. Additionally, students should be prepared to address questions from the panel.
Finally, every student involved in the Hilltop will make a public presentation of their work. the Hilltop Coordinator will work with the Upper School Director and other faculty and staff to create an event for this purpose.