Juniors use capstones to explore social justice issues


The Catalyst / Mia Muzzi

Juniors present their capstone projects during Spiritual Life class.

The annual capstone project is a core piece of NDB’s Spiritual Life curriculum for juniors through their Social Justice class. The goal of each project is for each student to identify a social justice issue that they are interested in, relate the issue to their own personal passions, and then work within their community to address the issue. This project provides students with an excellent opportunity to engage with their local community outside of the school.

Social Justice teacher David Muir served as the advisor for the project. He emphasized to students the importance of choosing a topic that each of them cares about and enjoys because it is something they will dedicate most of the school year to.

There were a variety of topics that juniors chose for their projects and they reflected the diverse interests of these students. They included making blankets for homeless teenagers, giving autistic children cooking lessons, creating a podcast promoting body positivity and more.

As soon as the project was assigned earlier this year, each junior created a proposal with their project’s goals, found an adult mentor to guide them through the process, and then spent several months working on their project. In addition, they wrote a four-page research paper about their topic and then presented an informational slideshow to their peers. The process has taken them through the fall and spring semesters with both assignments due on March 7. The projects themselves were presented to the community in what was called the Capstone Showcase on March 27.

Juniors were allowed to work alone or in small groups, especially if somebody else shared a similar passion. Some students chose this approach.

“The best part of working on the capstone with my partner, Ella, was that we both shared the same passions,” said junior Reese Lancaster. “We were both really excited to work on the project and it made it a lot more fun because we were able to bounce ideas off of each other and divide up the work so it wasn’t too stressful.”

Other juniors, like Zoé Shaikh, chose to do their project alone. Shaikh has a passion for horseback riding, so she chose to teach young children how to ride horses.

“I actually took a lot away from the capstone. I definitely learned a lot more about teaching and about my students,” said Shaikh. “I was just happy to make a difference in my students’ lives, no matter how small.”

The capstone project is a valuable opportunity for juniors to devote some time to something that they truly enjoy doing outside of school as well as has the potential to benefit their community.

“My partners and I tutored foster kids for our capstone project,” said junior Caitlin Degnan. “I was super passionate about my project, and it turned out to be something that I want to continue during college.”

In previous years, the capstone project was assigned during the senior year. In 2021, it was moved to the junior year so students had more time to work and, when they became seniors, they could feature their projects on their college applications.

In the past, there had been criticism that the project had too many restrictions and did not allow students to fully explore their interests. This year, Muir and Director of Mission and Ministry Amy Jobin addressed the issue by working very closely with students to both meet the project’s guidelines and find something each of them is passionate about.

“This year, there has definitely been some positive changes that really manifested themselves when we did the presentations because we formulated the project differently,” said Muir. “It helped students to break down their projects better, while giving me the ability to see what they really did and the impact they had on their target audience. That is really a large part of the capstone, stepping outside the school, perhaps your comfort zone and engaging in the world around you.”

At the Capstone Showcase, juniors presented their work to their peers and parents. This event was stopped for a few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, this year, Jobin and Muir brought it back. Resembling a science fair, students created informational slideshows about their projects and presented them at the event. It served as an opportunity for the students to get recognition for their work and share it with the community.

With the completion of the Capstone Showcase, the juniors are now finished with the project, marking the end of one part of their time here at NDB.