Rashi’s Grade 8 class finalized their school year with 41 remarkable capstone projects. In a cumulative showing of their academic growth, students chose their projects based on five areas of interest—STEAM, Tikkun olam (repairing the world), athletics, music, and visual arts. Each presentation was one of personal passion.
Parents, friends, and faculty all gathered in the Middle School classrooms for the presentations. Each student delivered a professional project pitch. Topics included: how art and mythology have influenced each other throughout history, how institutions could cut back on plastic waste by introducing silicone products, and how allowing students to work in groups of varying academic strengths aided in their success. This last topic was one of two focuses in student Eden R’s presentation.
“I did research on how many teachers group their students based on abilities—whether they’re ‘above average’ or ‘below average’, and found that regardless of their grouping, they were all negatively affected. Those in the more advanced groups felt pressure to always perform better, and those in the lower groups felt a dip in their self esteem,” explained Eden. “I then looked at the effects of neurodiverse grouping—or grouping students with varying abilities. This had much better results, and allowed children to learn from each other, improving social and intellectual development.”
Eden didn’t stop there however, digging even deeper into how students can achieve positive growth in unlikely ways. “The second part of my project was about the advantage of experiencing failure or mistakes. For every person, whether they were in the ‘advanced’ or ‘less advanced’ groups, experiencing failure and making mistakes helped them learn and develop academically. It tied everything together, showing that it took everyone with every level of ability to experience both failure and success in order to see improvement.”
Other students, such as Adam M., also looked at student performance for their projects, Adam’s project was from more of a musical perspective.
“For my capstone, I did research on how music can affect productivity,” said Adam, “It turned out that the more familiar you are with a song or type of music, the more you’ll pay attention to that, rather than your task.”
So what type of music was best? “There were just so many factors, I wasn’t actually able to find a solid answer,” Adam explained, “but I love working with music playing, and I want to know how that could affect people.”
Adam and Eden’s classmate, Talia F., drew inspiration from one of Rashi’s core values: tzedek (justice), for her project. After visiting the Leket Food Bank with her family in Israel she explained, “I created a business plan for an app that would connect farmers to food banks and soup kitchens. This could help people who struggle with hunger and food insecurity. I went to Israel one year with my family and visited Leket, where we packed excess food—this is where I got the idea for the app.”
Talia, like her peers, did a deep dive into her research, discovering things about the food industry she never thought she would. “I learned that a third of edible food gets thrown away, and that surprised me how much gets wasted.”
The passion, skill, and intellectual curiosity demonstrated by our eighth graders during their capstones was nothing short of impressive. Whether they were at Rashi for one year or nine, each student showed just how much they had grown during their time with us. As we celebrate their graduation, we look forward to the incredible things they will do in high school and beyond. Mazal tov to the class of 2023! Your Rashi kehillah (community) couldn’t be prouder of you.