These are the questions Montrose seniors have been grappling with since September, as they embarked on a yearlong research project with deep dives into topics that challenge the modern world. From investigating the devastating consequences of sleep deprivation to examining barriers to equality in the American collegiate system, all research topics covered issues and challenges that are relevant and impactful to society today. Students chose between writing a research paper and creating a presentation of their findings. The project culminated in each student addressing a small audience, dissertation style, with an overview of the issue, her findings followed by a question and answer session; in essence, every student formatted her semester-long effort within the following outline: Here’s what. So what? Now what?
The research project concludes the Montrose Capstone Course. The lens through which students examine their topics is what sets this project apart from other research endeavors.
“What makes the Capstone project at Montrose unique is the ethical analysis,” explained Capstone teacher Anna McGuinness. “We ask the girls to dive deep into the question of what constitutes human flourishing and to consider that the way you consistently answer that question determines how you go about solving problems,” Mrs. McGuinness explained.
“Hence, this is why these challenges are not easy to solve. We ask them to use Catholic Social Teaching as a starting point for ethical analysis and encourage students to compare answers from other philosophical perspectives. As a result, the seniors become more fair minded (Wow, my initial opinion may not be complete/right); humble (There is a lot to understand here) and curious (I have learned so much and want to keep studying at this college!). It is a transformative experience on many levels,” she said.
Senior Natalie Landry not only said that the experience inspired her to think deeply about an important topic but predicted it prepared her for college as well.
“I selected my Capstone topic, ‘The Silent Crisis of the Foster Care System,’ because I have two foster brothers currently staying with my family,” said Natalie. “In the year they have lived with us, I have been able to observe the effects that the system has had on them, which made me interested in learning more about it. Through the Capstone process, I have not only learned about this societal issue, but also about the importance of time management and communication with my teachers. I expect many of the assignments I complete in college will be set up similarly, and the Capstone project has been a great tool in developing my skills for the future.”
Other courageous and timely topics examined by students include “Zoom Boom: How Zoom Learning Affected Elementary School Students,” “The Local News Drought: Journalism’s Role in Social Connection, Political Engagement, and Human Flourishing,” “Child Marriage Crisis: How A Source for Survival and Ingrained Cultural Perceptions Differ From the Ideas of Human Flourishing and Dignity,” and “The Problem with How We Binge-Watch and the Fall of Human Beings to Consumption.”