This new three-part series offers a closer look at one of the hallmarks of a BASIS Independent education: The Senior Research Project.

In Part 1 of the series, we looked at the purpose of the Senior Research Project. In Part 2, we learned about some projects themselves. In Part 3, BASIS.ed Director of Partnerships Sandy Kenny shares her perspective on what makes the Senior Research Project a unique game-changer in high school education.

Part 3: An interview with BASIS.ed Director of Partnerships, Sandy Kenny

What is it about the Senior Research Project (SRP) that sets it apart from other programs?

“Other schools might do a research project or an internship. What sets BASIS apart is that our students really understand the process of doing research after their experience: they generate research question, a proposal, and a project in conjunction with an internship. They are applying what they’ve learned through their academic careers at BASIS to real life experience working with someone in that field.

The value is in the combination of the two: real, true, academic research and an internship. We vet all our partners to make sure the partners we take on understand the rigor of our academics and that we are expecting the internship to be at that same high standard. Most of our students can enter their  college or university [of choice] at the second semester of sophomore year when they graduate BASIS.”

How does BASIS prepare students for  Senior Research Project success?

“The BASIS.ed curriculum inherently prepares students for in-depth research. Students are constantly developing and honing their research skills throughout the entirety of the curriculum leading up to the project. They are prepared to be able to do all types of research. With the project, they take what they’ve learned and applying it to something they have a passion for.

The internal advisor plays an important role for the BASIS student. BASIS students typically want to take on the world. The advisor really guides them to ensure that their goal is realistic.”  

As Director of Partnerships, you serve as the community liaison for the Senior Research Project program soyou must have some great stories. Can you share with us some of those and tell us what this experience means to you?

“I love to go to the schools and see the students participating and being excited and passionate about what they’re doing no matter what it is or whether it is any sort of means to an end for college or otherwise. Though it ends up being a key differentiator for our kids for university admissions, they aren’t consciously thinking of it in this way. The experience is the means to an end.

Last year I placed a student in a farm-to-table style restaurant to study the growth of the movement in Tucson, AZ. It was really hard to find a placement that enabled her to cook as well as understand the whole process regarding working with farmers and learning how food was sourced, etc. She went on to study neuroscience at Columbia, but had a passion for healthy organic foods and wanted to study this movement that made its way to Tucson.

People assume the SRP is in a field they’re going to study after BASIS, but she wanted to do something she wasn’t planning on studying. You see the opposite as being true, though. Sometimes the project leads down the trail of a potentially groundbreaking discovery in the field the students want to pursue.

Last year, a student’s project was centered around the diagnosis of concussions on athletes and ended up being on the sidelines of just about every Arizona State University (ASU) football game.  

The team (part of a larger long term study) created special helmets with sensors so they could read the data after impact. The BASIS student would also monitor body fluids and take blood work to determine if there exists another mechanism for diagnosing a concussion.  He was actually on PBS regarding his perception in the study. He went on to attend Duke to continue )the research as it was that meaningful to him. He was credited on the research and was one of the key researchers leading graduate students, believe it or not. “

What do you see as the key differentiator of the BASIS.ed program?

“BASIS is really strong at preparing students in the fundamentals to then become autonomous, self-directed learners. The disciplinary sciences in middle school is huge. This prepares them to go deep in a science-related project, should they choose. Also, there are such well thought out calculated elements to the program such as Latin and Logic. Understanding the root of words and how to use them powerfully is such an important tool. When they get to the SAT or ACT they can really dissect vocabulary more easily. BASIS is a really strong foundational program. Other schools have APs, sure, but the combination of AP and the really strong foundational skills are so fundamental to students getting the most out of an AP class, as well as being successful post-AP. We give them the foundation so they’re not overwhelmed when they get to high school, and then college.”

Don’t forget to check out our Senior Research Project video