At the end of their senior year, BASIS International Schools students have the opportunity to present a Senior Project–an independent study on a topic of the student’s choosing, guided by a teacher adviser in the subject area. This blog post is from Dominica Harrison, AP Biology & Environmental Science teacher at BASIS International School Shenzhen, about the experience as a teacher adviser for a Senior Project. This is part 2 of a two part series on the Senior Project.

During the third trimester of the 2018-19 school year, I had the honor of working with a unique and passionate senior on an equally distinctive project. The project was analogous to our teacher-student relationship. Our first exchanges began in an after-school book club last year and expanded with a shared interest in environmental sciences. The one-on-one advisement fostered a relationship beyond the professional educational parameters. Linda’s analysis of environmental accuracy in fiction, with an emphasis on invasive species, embodies the essence of our interactions, and shared passions.

Building Relationships and Understanding

Personally, this experience allowed me to build a relationship with, to quote Linda herself, “a nerdy teenager,” and witness her growth throughout both the three-month project as well as the year. Her commitment to excellence and synthesis of information was not merely a reflection of my own interests and knowledge, but built in her own way. Seeing her use discoveries to create her own project enhanced my own understanding and renewed my desire to cultivate others to pursue life on their own terms.

Professionally, rather than your typical assessment-type interactions with students, Linda and I engaged in open-ended conversations. These conversations touched on philosophical ethics in scientific practices, the grayness of terms such as invasive species, and even the importance of the collision between the arts and scientific communities, and their impacts on society.

An Alternative Approach to Learning

These senior projects demonstrate an alternative approach to education and learning. This is the reason I believe many of us become teachers, to facilitate the next generation to be critical thinkers, to understand that intelligence goes beyond mechanistic problem-solving, and that curiosity is its own type of intelligence. This experience with Linda was precisely that, which is why I strongly encourage other teachers to participate in an advisory role.

This project, as the culmination of the BASIS Curriculum, offers students a glimpse into the post-high school world where the opportunities at this point in their life are numerous. I believe the rigor of their previous academic life at BASIS International Schools gives them the foundation to be successful and to quote both Linda and my favorite quote, “to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.”

Senior Project Student & Teacher

Dominica Harrison with senior Linda G.

Dominica Harrison is a AP Biology & AP Environmental Science teacher at BASIS International School Shenzhen. She is the teacher adviser for BASIS International School Shenzhen senior Linda G. Linda is currently completing her Senior Project titled “Intruders in Pandora’s Box: A Literary Exploration of Invasive Species in Eco-fiction.” The project abstract and updates can be found here, and all of the graduating seniors’ projects at BASIS International School Shenzhen here. Read part 1 of this series from Linda’s perspective.

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