The culminating senior project: An invaluable experience

The senior project.

Dreaded by some teens and celebrated by others, it is a major focal point of every student’s life during the final year of public high school in Camas and Washougal, and districts around the state.

The State Board of Education created the requirement for a high school culminating project in 2000. It was then implemented starting with the class of 2008.

Last year, however, an effort initially spearheaded by Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee) and supported by then Rep. Jason Overstreet, (R-Lynden), led to a change in the law. Ironically, the initial bill was drafted by a Yakima teen as part of her senior project. Opponents of the academic requirement argued that it demanded too much of students’ time, and was an unfunded mandate that placed an unfair burden on school districts. A measure making the senior project requirement optional was passed by Gov. Jay Inslee in April 2014.

Elected officials at the Camas and Washougal school districts made the wise decision to maintain the senior project as a requirement for graduation. When considering the facts, it’s not hard to see why.

The value to students of these long-term, multi-faceted projects are manyfold. Among the requirements are that students write a research paper, work with a mentor, complete a physical project, and then tie the research paper and physical project together as part of a presentation in front of a panel of adults.

Over the years in Camas and Washougal, projects have included teaching senior citizens to use technology, building a boat, and organizing an “Every 15 Minutes” presentation about the dangers of drunk driving. As detailed in a story in today’s Post-Record, this year students volunteered at a homeless shelter, worked with organizations dedicated to preventing human sex-trafficking and rebuilt raised garden beds that will one day provide nutrition to students and the community, to name a just a few of the topics.

Local educators say that the culminating senior project gives students the opportunity to learn to effectively communicate and organize, experience a potential career, solve complex problems, be creative and analytical, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

These are all skills that these young men and women will find necessary to be successful in the “real world,” no matter what educational and/or career path they choose.

The senior project, while no doubt one of the biggest hurdles students must overcome on their path to high school graduation, provides the chance to have experiences and gain knowledge that is invaluable to our youth.