During the final month of their time at Oakwood School, each member of the senior class takes control of his or her education by designing a Senior Project that investigates a topic about which the senior is fiercely passionate. The proposals for these projects are modeled after those that teachers use to design Immersion courses and are vetted by a group of Oakwood faculty members led by Teddy Varno and William Perkins Tift. Students design a guiding question to sustain their inquiry, work with project advisors and Oakwood faculty to develop activities and gather resources, and then go out into the field to pursue answers.
Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life.John Dewey, Self Realization as the Moral Ideal
In the week before graduation, the seniors return to campus to share their experiences, their answers and, often, the new questions that emerged before an audience of classmates, underclassmen, faculty, and guests.
The Senior Projects undertaken by the Class of 2015 represent the vast range of interests and passions of this small but mighty class. A student designed and printed parts from scratch to build a Delta 3-D printer. Another composed, recorded, and did a table read performance of a full musical based on Japanese pop vocaloid music. Several students took to the kitchen—exploring the art of sushi, the craft of breadmaking, food and community, and the importance of plating dishes in the molecular gastronomy movement. Students interned with an orthopaedic surgeon and social justice advocate, made films for the Feminist Majority and music videos, wrote two screenplays, and traveled to Hong Kong and Chiapas. Several students, poised to leave Los Angeles for college, decided to focus on aspects of their hometown for the project—ethnic identities, baseball, ghosts, immigration, and social class.
The sharing of Senior Projects was an amazing experience for all involved. Classmates were genuinely engaged with and challenged one another to think deeply about their pursuits and guiding questions. Whether through seminar presentations, small group exhibitions, or formal performances, students moved their audience to think critically, to laugh, to clap along, to cry, to wonder and, above all, to appreciate the depth of intellectual engagement, creativity, and passion that is at the heart of an Oakwood graduate.