By Cara L. Dempski
GLENWOOD CITY — Every year, the seniors at Glenwood City High School have an opportunity to dive deep into a research project that interests them and could have potential social ramifications for the local community, state, country, or even world.
On January 6, 25 high school seniors took turns presenting their projects to three- or four-person evaluation panels from 9 a.m. until just after noon.
Social studies teacher Brandon Kieper said students have been completing projects for Contemporary Social Issues, or “CSI” since before he started teaching in Glenwood City. In the five years since he started with the district, the projects have increased in scope.
“Previously, it was much more local and focused simply on the student learning a new skill,” Kieper explained. “Over time it has evolved to what exists today: the matrix of local, national and global issues.”
Kieper’s role in the project is largely guidance and motivation. Students are responsible for selecting a topic and directing the research process. He pointed out the project is not the entire course, since he and his students dig into some civics materials and choose specific social issues to study more in-depth, but the research, presentation, community service, and research paper (graded as part of senior English coursework) are part of a portfolio that comprise 40 percent of the class grade.
Contemporary Social Issues and its sister courses, Personal Finance and senior English, are required courses for graduation from Glenwood City High School.
The topics presented included anti-intellectualism in American culture, stem cell research, sustainable farming and effects of divorce on families and children. The students were judged on their presentation skills, the information presented, and the portfolio created as part of the project.
Presentations needed to include an introduction to the speaker and the chosen topic, and provide a history of the topic. Students needed to show a depth of research from a variety of sources, present the information in a logical, organized manner, and have a clear stance on the issue presented. Additionally, the presenters needed to have an interactive component to the presentation, and state how the project was impacted by the people each student had as a mentor.
The students were required to explain how people could become more involved in the topics, and then summarize the information before closing the presentation. After the students finished speaking, the evaluators were allowed to ask questions regarding each topic and the individual student’s experience in completing the project.
The portfolio presented to the evaluation team needed to include a handout or brochure, an introduction or statement of purpose, a research paper, an annotated bibliography, a written reflection on the importance of community service, and a reflection on the mentor relationship.
Kieper said the students picked a wide range of topics, some of which have been at the forefront American social issues for several decades. He expressed being impressed with the topics chosen by the students.
“These kids are going to do big things,” Kieper stated.