On May 22, ECHS 12th graders all presented their Senior Theses, a 30-minute feat, a year and a half in the making. They nervously and charmingly fidgeted in their snappy business attire as they made last minute changes and adjustments to their presentations and shared encouragement with each other.
As part of one of many 21st century learning experiences and college readiness programs at ECHS, each senior is required to present a unique thesis on an environmental issue or social justice matter that interests them. Topics this year ranged from water pollution and consumerism to drug cartels’ influence in the American economy to gender equality in the workforce to storm drain design.
The Senior presentations are the culmination of a year and a half of research, writing, civic action and practice and are a necessary part of graduation. Students select a unique topic at the end of their junior year at ECHS and spend that summer and their entire senior year developing and researching their ideas. They take their research a step further by taking a civic action – students canvassed parks and college campuses with fliers and surveys, and corresponded passionately with local and federal politicians.
In addition to the ingenuity and critical thinking that these students put into their theses, they work on “soft skills” such as communicating with interested parties and community leaders and collaborating with each other to plan and execute their civic actions.
Despite the pressure that this much-anticipated day brings, the seniors encourage each other. Student Tahj Lakey said, “We’ve all been struggling through this project together so we gotta be there for each other.” Other students shared his sentiments. They worked very hard all year and most students felt that the experience they gained was well worth the effort. Senior Saul Rodriguez admitted, “This project prepared me for college.”
These students and this graduation requirement are examples of ECHS’ mission to provide quality education through student motivated learning and to skill sets of 21st century learning: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Students at ECHS are constantly encouraged to work the “4 Cs” and collaborate with each other on many projects and the senior thesis is no exception. Senior Thesis is a deep dive into interdisciplinary research, forming a hypothesis, critical analysis, presentation, and civic actions.