bds capstone week 03.15.19
Brendan Largay, Head of School

What I Learned from Capstone 2019

What follows is what I learned from each of our Capstone presenters, but before I get to that, allow me to say that Capstone feels quite different when you are the parent of an eighth grader. You have lived the journey right alongside them, and know just what a pinnacle the community is reaching together, and there is tremendous power in the knowledge that your child is contributing to that moment. There is power, too, in the acknowledgment between parents of the hard work and dedication it has taken to arrive at this moment.  

Come to think of it, the power of the Capstone moment lives in all sorts of unexpected places. You can feel it in the electricity in the air as everyone files into the Kiva. It can be seen in the eyes of a proud mentor and the raised hand of a curious first grader. You can hear it in each of Jen Friborg’s delightful metaphors about the triad of the Capstone journey and in the collective voice and agency of an eighth grade class ready to change the world. You witness the deep breath and triumphant smile that washes over every presenter as they conclude their presentation and know the power of Capstone. Here’s what I learned from each of our eighth graders:

Sophie M: I learned that there are many lessons to be taken from the exceptional emotional intelligence of elephants; among the most critical is the importance of compassion. I also learned that Sophie sets a high standard for Capstone presentations—precisely what we needed from our first presenter of the year!

Eli B: I learned about the history of plastic and how its multipurpose functionality has made it ubiquitous. I also learned that the production of plastics is a primary cause of climate change. With students as passionate as Eli leading the way, the design of sustainable alternatives—biodegradable silk dental floss, anyone?—and the promise of solutions for a healthier planet will be realized.

Everett D: Through his study and understanding of Esperanto, the Language of Hope, I learned that Everett is well prepared for a world where global citizenship is a critical skill for success. I learned, too, that Esperanto is as relevant today to foster peace and international understanding as it was more than a century ago when it was created.

Alice M: I learned that successful performance on Broadway (or Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway) demands much more than meets the eye. I learned, too, that when her name goes up in lights one day we will all be able to say, “I knew Alice M back when she was a student at BDS!”

Elena D-C: I learned that there is a widening gap between media representations of obsessive-compulsive disorder and the actual and real challenges of OCD, and this gap is detrimental to treatment. I learned that Elena has a knack for teaching—her presentation could have been a college lecture. Teach on Professor Elena!

Jazmin C: I learned that the conflicted feelings parents have about their teenagers’ social media use is shared by many young people as well. I learned, too, that alongside the challenges of social media, we can find rich opportunities for expression there.

Sonia K: I learned that the science of treating conjoined twins is fascinating, burgeoning, and ethically complicated. Sonia’s masterful understanding of 3D printing and technical design made the experiences of conjoined twins visible. I also learned that our eighth grade students are close to each other—like, taped-together-at-the-waist-at-the-request-of-Sonia, and-simultaneously-brushing-their-teeth-together close.

Brennan T: I learned that vertical forests in major cities might play a crucial role to help save the planet by mitigating pollution. Brennan began his career at BDS just a year ago with a Capstone visit, and his presentation was a testament to the power of coming full circle!

Avery B: I learned that the International Space Station is the size of a football field, and visiting it requires a demanding and rigorous training process. I learned, too, that despite my curiosity and aspirations to be an astronaut someday, it probably makes sense for me to keep my day job and leave the adventure to Avery.  

Paul L: I learned that there are 70,000 ACL injuries in skiing each year due, in part, to the antiquated design of the bindings on downhill skis. I also learned that Paul might have a career as an extreme skier/YouTuber sometime in the not so distant future!

Sophie D: I learned about the importance of explicitly teaching vulnerability to our teenaged students at a time of life when they feel it and need it most. I also learned that Sophie is an outstanding spokesperson for the power of vulnerability and the importance of courage.

Kaeleen C: I learned that the fear of snakes may be unnecessarily exaggerated and that culture plays an important role in understanding difference. I also learned that some of my fears are more deeply entrenched than others.

Ellie K: I learned that the Capstone process could lead a student to discover new areas of interest. Ellie learned about sports injuries and shared her knowledge with us; through the process, she found a new passion for medical imaging. Her interview with a pre-k/kindergarten parent highlighted the power of connection within our community.

Dylan S: I learned that Mars colonization may not merely be the stuff of science fiction novels and that we may live to see its first inhabitants! I learned, also, that given the opportunity, Dylan would gladly be among those colonists and would have a leg up on finding the best sleeping pod once he gets there!

Vivian D: I learned that the U.S. is investing 1,106x as many resources in NASA as they are in NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, yet we know much more about space than we do about oceans. I also learned about the extraordinary power of connections between humans and nature.

Eden L: I learned that few therapeutic resources rival the companionship and support provided by dogs. I learned that a dog’s pack mentality extends beyond the tundra and unbeknownst to most dog owners, they are a part of their pet’s pack.

Izzy K: I learned that the modern world is experiencing a Cartoon Renaissance, not unlike the cultural dawning of the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries! I also learned that Izzy might be destined for a career as a cartoon scriptwriter, helping to carry the art form forward.

Philippe P: I learned that the same frontiersmanship that leads us to explore the possibility of colonizing Mars once led four prominent explorers to discover and map Antarctica. I also learned that Philippe might have a career as an Iditarod driverÂ… mush, mush!

Sebastian: I learned that while the prospect of the sixth extinction may be upon us—spoiler alert: humans will be the ones going extinct this time—so long as we have advocates like Sebastian among us, there is still cause for hope! I also learned that the presentation space where a Capstone is delivered has significance. The Barn brought a different and new perspective to the amazing work that Sebastian, Kelyn, Sonya, and Sadie presented.  

Sonya L: I learned that the beautiful art form of ballet has a challenging and unpleasant history of physical and emotional health-related issues that have long plagued dancers. I learned, too, that community support helps dancers navigate the challenges, and that fewer health issues are likely to manifest in more inclusive dance companies.

Kelyn K: I learned that nanotechnology is “all around us, but we don’t even know it,” from car collision safety systems to medicine to clothing. I also learned that if you play with ratios of size relative to nanotech, as Kelyn did to start his presentation, the moon can be the size of a gumball.

Sadie L: I learned (or was reminded) that girls rock and that the music industry (to name one) has a long way to go to make room for female artists, producers, and engineers. 98% of music producers and sound engineers in the industry today are male. Sadie’s presentation left us proudly cheering for more.

Mina C: I learned about the Thalidomide scandal, the reason why phrases like “wonder drug” are misleading, and why FDA approval has become a much more rigorous process since the days of Thalidomide. I also learned that YouTube is an excellent resource for Capstone ideas, and that following a promising lead or interest is important.

Jacob G: I have always known about the impact of steroids on the perception of athletes, but I learned so much from Jacob about their effect on the human body. I learned that on a level playing surface, operating with the same technology and advancements, Jesse Owens (four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 Games) would finish only one stride (!?) behind Usain Bolt if they were to race today.

Henry B: I learned that the synthesis of Henry’s passion for architecture, history, and engineering integrated on the streets of Rome that are filled with some of the world’s greatest architectural achievements. I learned, also, that Henry may make a great architect and that his grandparents were among the first to appreciate his vision and nuance as a thoughtful and talented designer.

Nico R: I witnessed courage and risk-taking and learned that a supportive community makes all the difference. I also learned that Nico’s natural athleticism makes downhill mountain biking a snap. Additional learning note: Ms. Rochford is an excellent downhill mountain biker as well!

Max S: I learned that virtual reality is exponentially expanding our experience of the world. I also learned that Max has an inside edge on becoming a member of our admissions team—he has already created a 360-degree virtual reality walk-through of several middle school classrooms!

Lena C: I learned about the continual media assault that pressures young women to strive for unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty. I learned that Lena is a powerful, positive agent for change with a strong voice and an empathic understanding of what young women need. We were able to witness the peer-to-peer affirmation among our eighth grade girls that was inspired by Lena.

Ronan M: First, I learned what exactly machine learning is. Then, I learned that machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that is paving the way for a second Industrial Revolution where machines are both the product of and creators of industry. I learned, too, that in the existential race between humans and robots, Ronan already has a head start on his human counterparts!

Stella B: I learned that nothing will stop a great Capstone presentation, not even the flu. I also learned that while many know about the tragic sinking of the Titanic, we don’t have an accurate understanding of why it sank. The iceberg was a piece of a much larger puzzle that included shoddy framework, inferior materials, competitive timing from another cruise liner company, and much more!

Colton L: I learned that the Capstone experience inspires a parent’s pride in their child more than might have seemed possible! I also learned that strategically speaking, I am much more drawn to the emotional relationship that an advertiser may be trying to achieve than the rational one. At least, Colton’s Capstone felt pretty emotional to me.

Cole: I learned that Siri and Alexa are no match for the wit of Cole’s self-produced voice-commanded creation. I also learned that the creators of artificial intelligence machines are trying to incorporate the EI (emotional intelligence) of humans. Perhaps someday the capacities of connection, empathy, and understanding will no longer be what distinguishes humans from machines.

Julian: I learned that public transportation is more about the people and their city—its politics, demographics, and infrastructure—than it is about the trains themselves. In the involved and lengthy journey that is Capstone, Julian delivered a strong finish, and right on time. (Which is more than we might say about the T!)

So, another year, and another Capstone in the books. I am so grateful to the eighth grade for their leadership, insight, wisdom, and presence. Learn. Do. Share. They have completed each leg of the eighth grade triad, and we are all enriched by their efforts. Thank you to the Class of 2019! Class of 2020 here we go!!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Click the B to listen to this message at Blue Handprint Studios!

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