It is with excitement and pride that we usher in this year’s grand finale of the BASIS Independent Schools academic program: Senior Projects!

In their final trimesters as BASIS Independent Schools students, after seniors have already taken a deep dive into university-level, content-heavy capstone courses and undertaken the demanding college application process, they face their Senior Project—a high-level research project centered around a question or topic of their choosing.

In this blog post, we will cover the basics of the Senior Project, how it truly prepares our students for the challenges that await them in college and even their future careers, and why it sets our program above the rest. We’ve spoken with a few of the students from our 2019 senior classes at both BASIS Independent Silicon Valley and BASIS Independent Brooklyn to provide an inside look into this incredible journey.

Click here to review this year’s Senior Projects from our BASIS Independent Schools network.

What exactly is the Senior Project?

The Senior Project is the culmination of the BASIS Curriculum, and the final challenge our seniors face at the end of their academic journeys—the crown jewel of their high school experience and culmination of everything they have learned throughout their time at BASIS Independent Schools. Senior Projects started with the network’s very first senior class, in the spring of 2005. Every senior class in the history of the BASIS Curriculum Schools network has participated in the program which, at its core, is an entirely student-led (though professionally supervised) independent research project.

Since our students meet their graduation requirements by the end of grade 11, they have the opportunity to spend their senior year developing their project, deciding what to study and where, and then working outside of school researching that nuanced topic of their choice. Senior Project subjects are sometimes something our seniors wish to pursue in college or in a career; other times, the topics are something that the students are intellectually curious or passionate about. They conduct their research at a public or private sector institution—for example, they can team up with any national or international company, ranging from big corporations to entrepreneurial endeavors, or a university with an expertise or working laboratory in the area of their interest.

Students will work with an internal advisor from their school plus an external mentor from the company or university where they’re doing their research. After first spending the earlier parts of the school year coming up with the focus of their project, honing their thesis, and finding the external research location, they embark on a journey of true academic inquiry with their on-location research in their final trimester of school. Then, after completing their research and determining and writing up their conclusions, students present their findings to their teachers, peers, and others within their community in what is traditionally a rich, vibrant, and academically joyful setting.

A peek inside the Senior Project

We met with a few of the seniors participating in Senior Projects this year to share their perspective of this process, including what they are researching, what motivated their research question, and how their time at BASIS Independent Schools has prepared them for such an endeavor.

  1. Dennis W. is a senior at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley who is researching the slip rate of the San Gregorio Fault in Half Moon Bay. “Geology isn’t my academic interest, but this isn’t a geologic internship so much as it is an interdisciplinary one. So far, the work I’ve done or helped with has incorporated geology, computer programming, and inorganic chemistry all at once. Since I am considering pursuing computer science or chemistry in college, getting exposure to both subjects is a great opportunity.”

    Dennis went on to say he is grateful for classes like AP Seminar and AP English Literature that prepared him to critically review other people’s theories, as well as for his sciences courses, which all positioned him to succeed in his Senior Project: “So much of this project is about writing. We have weekly blogs, and I also read what other people write in textbooks, lectures, and research papers. I won’t pretend I’m a great writer, but I was a lot worse before I met Mr. Hansen and Mr. Meyerowitz. You also can’t talk about BASIS Independent Schools without mentioning the STEM-infused curriculum. For this project, I’m drawing on knowledge attained from the entire chemistry science track—from Honors Chem to Inorganic Chem. Thank you to Dr. Beck, Dr. Davies, and Dr. Bozidarevic!”

  2. Ryah H., a senior at BASIS Independent Brooklyn, intends to use her Senior Project to shed light on the sociological risks black and Latino youth have toward contracting HIV/AIDs in underfunded communities in New York, as well as to introduce possible solutions to create a culturally-tailored, accessible, and effective HIV intervention program. “I have noticed an extreme research gap that individuals under the age of 18 are commonly misrepresented in the field of scientific research, particularly regarding sexual health. During my time off campus, I will be working with Project YESS (Youth Engaging in Healthy and Safe Sex) at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and Biomedical Engineering. While working there, the project staff and I intend to visit recruitment sites in our targeted areas of study and encourage people to participate in our project.”

    Ryah worked with Project YESS in the summer of 2018, which is when her interest in Public Health was born—a space she hopes to continue working in. “Although I discovered my passion for biology and viruses in freshman year, I intend to continue to immerse myself in the field of Public Health and the sociological aspects revolving around HIV/AIDS in the future.”

  3. Akash S., a senior from BASIS Independent Silicon Valley, is investigating the practices of insurance companies that could possibly deny life-saving care to patients. Because insurance companies are incentivized by monetary benefits, Akash has learned that they often utilize confusing billing procedures to circumvent ACA-protected preventative care coverage and obstruct a patient’s access to care with excessive costs. “Instead of interviewing doctors who barely have any free time,” shared Akash, “I decided to interview health information technicians (medical billers) who know more about the interaction between insurance providers and doctors but also don’t have any skin in the game to be concerned about legal issues. For my research, I had to innovate and find new ways to collect data. In some ways, my research almost felt like investigative journalism.”

    When asked how the BASIS Curriculum helped prepare him for his Senior Project, Akash replied, “The BASIS Curriculum allows the freedom for interdisciplinary projects that ultimately taught me about my career and the Senior Project. While my journey began by learning the mechanical elements of diagnostic tools, my interest has evolved into the intersection between public policy and biology in the hopes of reducing income barriers to healthcare for economically vulnerable people. This project first introduced me to the idea of health administration because I realized that health organizations have other goals and priorities that could affect a patient’s access to healthcare. While it may seem idealistic, I feel that health organizations should prioritize a patient’s health before expenses or any political agenda.”

It is truly amazing to hear from our seniors and get a glimpse into both a high-level research process as well as what they are accomplishing through their own drive. The Senior Project is about students marching into the unknown confidently and fearlessly. Throughout this journey, they become scholars, they use their knowledge to pursue deeper understanding, and they learn how to tap into their full potential. We are quite proud of these students and cannot wait to see what’s ahead.

Don’t forget to follow along!

As our 2019 Senior Projects progress, we encourage you to follow our seniors’ blogs and help us celebrate the incredible hard work that goes into bringing Senior Projects to fruition. Please have a look at their blogs, linked in their project bios, and choose one or two to follow to uncover what makes this journey about much more than the research itself. (Also, these students are looking at their blog views and hope to see them grow, and would love any comments of support you could offer!)

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