Capstone Project Summary
The Capstone class is intimately tied to the particular mission of BCLA as well as the goals of the history department. It is taken by all BCLA students and is a requirement for graduation. The work of the course was also made possible with the indispensable partnership of the Boston Plan for Excellence. Their website can be accessed here: http://www.bpe.org/
The BCLA mission statement is as follows:
Boston Community Leadership Academy’s mission is to develop the
capacity for leadership in all students empowering them to make a
positive contribution to their communities. BCLA’s rigorous
curriculum prepares students to succeed in college, to lead
fulfilled lives, and to participate in our diverse and complex
The course objectives are as follows:
- Actualize the BCLA mission statement;
- Learn and practice primary and secondary research skills that are critical for the fields of history and sociology;
- Recognize that the historical and social themes that shape national and global history are also the ones that shape the city of Boston; and
- Develop and practice the habits of leaders.
The sequence of the course begins with an initial focus on the language and tools of historical study and an examination of three local historical case studies of youth activism in the Boston area. It then shifts to a examination of the city of Boston today and the particular areas of need, before culminating in a three month participatory action research (PAR) project, during which students complete research-based internships at various community-based organizations around the city. Their final products of the course include multiple papers, an oral history track, a culminating 30-40 page PAR paper, as well as a detailed digital portfolio.
The following is a more detailed term-by-term progression of the Capstone class.
Term 1 focus:
The first term will begin with a review of the discipline of history and its methodology. We will learn about tools and frameworks that allow historians to examine and understand the major forces that shape the entire historical record, from global, to national, to local history. Next, we will examine 2-3 separate ‘case-studies’ of local history that highlight the experience and activism of young people in our own city.
Core question for Term 1: How have social forces impacted the experience of young people in the Boston area?
End assessment for Term 1: 5-7 page essay answering the core question using the case-studies as evidence.
Term 2 focus:
The second term will build off the previous one by bringing our focus to Boston and its neighborhoods in the present day. Beginning with an understanding of the city’s geography, we will begin an in-depth examination of the many statistics and ‘indicators’ that tell the story of Boston through many different angles. Our study will then turn to two major strands: 1) Examining youth leadership and social change and 2) Learning research methods and beginning the participatory action research projects.
Core question for Term 2: What are the voices that capture the story of Boston and its residents today?
End assessment for Term 2: Oral history CD, writings and presentations.
Term 3 focus:
The third term is entirely focused on the participatory action research projects, particularly the collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data. The term will be divided into two main sections: of the term will be spent in community field placements related to the project and the other of the term will be focused on the collection and analysis of data.
Core question for term 3: What roles of leadership and participation can we take to meet the challenges that face Boston residents today?
End assessment for term 3: Successful community field placement evaluation. Completion of most sections of the final research paper.
Term 4 focus:
The fourth term will be spent focusing on the completion of the final research paper as well as completing the ‘action’ portion of the research project. There will likely be multiple presentations at the class, whole-school and larger community levels. There will also be assessment during the senior capstone exhibitions and final senior portfolios.
Core questions for term 4: How effective can young people be in leading and participating in community change? What evidence of growth have you demonstrated in:
1) a capacity for leadership
2) contribution to community
3) academic scholarship
4) practice of the BCLA habits of mind?
End assessment for term 4: Class, whole-school and community-wide exhibition. Effectiveness and quality of the action-based research project.