HOS Blog: The Most Rigorous Work a High Schooler Can Do

This is the week when our seniors present their senior thesis projects. Through their year-long studies, they have explored topics ranging from the housing crisis to haptic assistive technology; bessel beams to the resource curse; quantum mechanics to playwriting; white dwarf systems to reaganomics. They have written well researched, compelling, and sometimes publishable papers on those topics, and presented to their peers, advisors, and families.

And they have definitively answered the question of what is the most rigorous work a high school student can do.

Our job as educators is to prepare students for their futures, not our past. The senior thesis does that; the skills a student masters to produce this kind of work are the skills that they will need to be productive, successful, and impactful in college, in the workplace, and in their communities: identifying not just an area of passion, but a problem worth solving or issue worth exploring; developing and executing a plan to conduct research and process a large amount of data; iterating and adapting as the data leads in directions different than a hypothesis; reaching and supporting conclusions with evidence; communicating those conclusions in a compelling way in writing and in person; staying on task over a period of months and seeing a project through.

What’s also inspiring to me is that, through this project, students not only gain skills but see that they can make change. That impact can be small: changing the mind of one person in the audience during the presentation. Or it can be large: producing a published paper that cancer researchers will read and build on; or making the case for white roofs across BU to combat the heat island effect on campus. Our society needs the leaders and change agents that our students will – and have already – become.

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