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capstone project for senior high school

What is a Capstone Project in High School?

What’s covered:, what are capstone projects, how do capstone projects benefit high schoolers, should my child complete a capstone project, what are some examples of capstone projects.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a capstone as a “high point: crowning achievement” which, in many ways, defines a capstone project for high schoolers. Capstone projects require students to use all of the skills they’ve built over the course of their schooling to complete a substantial project that highlights their educational and intellectual experience.  

A high school capstone project is a way for students to demonstrate the culmination of skills and knowledge gained through their academic career by completing a long-term, multi-faceted project.

Typically performed at the end of a student’s high school career, students commonly choose a topic, profession, or social problem to explore and work with a mentor in that field of interest. The mentor guides the student through the project—sharing their knowledge of the field, teaching new skills, ensuring the student stays on task, and fostering a professional, real-world experience.

Over the course of the project, students conduct research, maintain a portfolio detailing the steps taken, and create a final paper, product, or presentation that demonstrates what they’ve learned. Often times, a final presentation is given to a panel of teachers, experts in the field, and community members.

One of the primary benefits of a capstone project to a high school student is that it highlights their educational accomplishments. Capstone projects provide students with the opportunity to exhibit their capacity for learning and allow them to show off the critical thinking skills they’ve built.

Colleges search for well-rounded students and the multi-faceted nature of a capstone project allows students to display a wide range of skills to prospective schools—writing, research, teamwork, planning, self-sufficiency and public speaking are just a sampling of the many skills used by a student to complete such a rigorous project. Capstone projects are a great way to indicate to potential colleges that a student is prepared for the demands of higher education.

Capstone projects also benefit high school students by creating self-confidence and building a sense of preparedness for college. A student who has successfully completed a thorough study of a subject and collaborated with an older, experienced mentor is likely to feel ready to take the next step academically. Capstone projects can also add a sense of purpose to a time where interest in education often wanes—consider it a cure for senioritis.  

Lastly, capstone projects let students immerse themselves in a field of interest. For some students, it solidifies their interest in a field and clarifies a degree path; others may learn through their capstone project that the field they chose isn’t as interesting as they thought. Either way, it helps create a sense of certainty before taking expensive college courses.

Though there are numerous benefits to undertaking a capstone project, the question remains: should your child complete one? The simple answer is yes. Completing a capstone project can be a feather in the cap of any prospective college student, so long as the project doesn’t interfere with any of the student’s other activities or interests that may be attractive to colleges and universities.

Colleges are always searching for students who maintain a high grade point average (GPA) while challenging themselves academically. The long-term, intense study of a subject will certainly make a student’s academic prowess evident to prospective schools, but this is only valuable if it doesn’t interfere with their studies and negatively affect their GPA. Students challenging themselves with a capstone project should be careful not to undertake the project at the expense of their other intellectual pursuits.

Colleges also seek out well-rounded students and you can make the argument that the focused study of one subject is out of line with what colleges and universities hope to see in a student. It’s true that capstone projects highlight the possession of a diverse skill set in a student, but colleges look for students with a wide range of interests in addition to skills. Students should not take up a capstone project if it means sacrificing extracurricular activities and other interests.

On a more personal level, students should ask themselves what they want to accomplish via a capstone project. The best projects are often the ones where the student is most passionate. If a student has a sincere interest in the deeper exploration of a field, it should be encouraged and their excitement and enthusiasm for the field can be felt in their work. If a student is solely tackling a capstone project to wow colleges, there is most likely a better way to impress schools more in line with the student’s interest.

Looking to get a better sense of what a capstone project is or looking for an idea to get started on your own capstone project? Here are some examples:

Business: Study digital marketing and create a digital marketing plan for a local business to help increase awareness and drive sales.

STEM: Learn about video game or app development and conceptualize, design, and build a working game or app.

Athletics: Research training and nutrition, build a training plan and diet, and perform in an athletic competition (a triathlon or marathon, for example).

Community Service: Learn about the work non-profits do, get first-hand experience volunteering with a local non-profit, and build a plan to create an organization that serves your community.

Film: Research what makes an effective public service announcement (PSA) and write, direct, and film a PSA that addresses a concern in your community.

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capstone project for senior high school

Can ‘Capstone Projects’ Deepen Learning for High School Seniors?

capstone project for senior high school

Oakland, Calif.

Fremont High School teacher Maya Brodkey is laying out the next building block in her students’ high school graduation project—a yearlong assessment oriented around a research question students have developed on a social issue like homelessness, war, or vaping. They’ve already conducted hours of online research and written essay drafts outlining their problems; the next step is to deepen their understanding and gain additional perspectives through field research, including an interview.

Students can choose to use focus groups, which Brodkey points out can elicit great information about why people hold the beliefs they do, but can be hard to schedule. They can conduct a one-on-one interview with an expert, with the knowledge that any single anecdote or position is necessarily limited. Or they can draft a survey to get superficial feedback from a wide range of people, which sounds like a lot of fun to these seniors—until Brodkey explains that it also means collecting and analyzing the resulting data, and all those data are limited by how the students frame their questions.

She references student Joanna Gonzalez’s topic, which is on immigration policy and racism, clearly a front-burner issue in this diverse school system of 50,000.

“You can’t just do a survey for immigrants. What does that mean? Are you asking people if they immigrated in a particular category? Are they a particular age? Did they immigrate and now have citizenship? Are they the children of immigrants?” she points out.

The students gather in groups to start thinking about what kind of field research they will choose. Only a handful have ever conducted a formal interview before, and most are a little nervous.

It’s no wonder: For most students, researching and writing about their topics represents the most sustained piece of writing they’ve had to do in high school, and field research isn’t even the last step. To graduate, they’ll have to craft a presentation about their topic for their entire school and respond to questions posed by a panel of teachers, almost as if they’re defending a thesis.

In High Demand

Oakland’s Graduate Capstone Project, as it’s called, provides a comprehensive look at how policymakers might think of structuring a yearlong performance test. Around 16 states have policies encouraging similar projects for high school graduation, but most of them don’t require it, and implementation of the projects tends to be uneven.

There’s nothing unique about the Oakland assessment’s individual pieces. What’s unusual is how they’re knit together comprehensively, with an eye toward making sure students’ mastery of research, writing, and oral skills matches the needs of what comes next for them .

“We really tried to learn from the mistakes of the past and think of this as not just a compliance policy,” said Young Whan Choi, the district’s manager of performance assessments. “It gives us an opportunity to improve the quality of the learning experience for students and develop some shared understanding of what we mean by a high-quality research paper, and a high-quality presentation, and what it means to be an Oakland graduate.”

Cristy Gonzalez-Hernandez, another Fremont 12th grader, works on her senior capstone. At Fremont, drafts of student papers are shared among faculty, and final versions are blind-scored by at least two educators.

All those skills are in high demand not only by colleges but also by employers, who say that few young people have the requisite oral-presentation or writing skills they expect of new hires.

“I have had students who have come back years later and said, ‘Having all these deadlines for different parts of the project helped me meet them for college,’ ” said James Barbuto, who teaches in nearby Skyline High School and oversees the capstone projects there. “I’ve never had a student who’s not been successful in some way, or gotten something out of it.”

Oakland teachers like Brodkey have encouraged students to select topics they’ve personally been touched by or feel passionate about. Partly, that’s because students need something complex enough to sustain a whole year. More importantly, it’s simply more authentic to a post-high-school world than topics like dress codes or cafeteria food.

“It sets them up to have a strong argument,” she said. “And with regard to civic education and engagement, when you pick a real issue, it’s easier to have a sense of agency.”

Joanna’s classmate Vtee is examining problems faced by the Cambodian community here, many of whom are still suffering the aftereffects of the 1979 Khmer Rouge genocide. Another student, who fled from violence in Yemen a few years ago, has chosen to research the effect of the civil war there on youths.

Tuuta Fili is among those students who’ve picked homelessness. “I had a best friend in elementary school who lived in his car for half a year and a motel for a year. And he still made it to school and stuff,” Fili said.

Laptop computer in hand, he mulls over the fieldwork assignment, thinking about whom to interview. An idea occurs to him: Near one of the downtown Oakland subway stops, there’s a new housing development for people experiencing homelessness. Maybe one of the developers would agree to be interviewed about the challenges and costs of creating affordable housing for his project, he thinks.

A Renaissance

Oakland’s efforts constitute a renaissance of sorts for the program. District policy has required seniors to engage in a “serious research project or exhibition” since 2005. But until recently there was little consistency in student projects, according to Choi. Teachers treated oversight of the graduation project like a hot potato, a duty they passed off to one another in an “it’s your turn” rite of passage.

In effect, Choi said, the requirement contributed to stratification in the district: Some students got an opportunity to write in-depth research papers, but others didn’t—sometimes within the same high school.

In 2012, the district latched onto the requirement as a lever to focus the senior year and improve student civic engagement. During the first few years Oakland first worked with students in career and technical education, but over the last few years grant support has expanded the capstone projects to the general curriculum.

These evolutions have been implemented from the bottom up, rather than as a mandate. The Oakland district still gives high schools flexibility to decide whether to make the capstone a separate course or to work it into an existing one. And the district didn’t initially use common scoring guidelines to judge students’ writing, field research, or oral-presentation skills.

But as groups of teachers started adopting them on their own, they saw how it gave them a shared language for discussing student work, and improved equity by making sure each project was being judged by the same set of standards. Now, the district disseminates three sets of guidelines to all—one for the written paper, one on conducting field research, and one on the presentation—and offers teachers training on them.

For now, actual scoring procedures differ from school to school. At Fremont High, drafts of student papers are shared among faculty, and final versions are blind-scored by at least two educators. Students know that their work will have to satisfy even their most finicky teachers.

Not all schools have adopted the full Graduate Capstone Project—some still do a less-formal project or use a simpler scoring system. But the culture around the capstones is growing. For the class of 2018, two-thirds of graduating seniors participated in the full project.

Shaping Instruction

For teachers like Brodkey and Barbuto, the capstone truly comes down to instruction, not testing. It’s required them to rethink their own teaching approaches.

Both teachers say one of the most challenging lessons they teach has to do with sourcing , especially in identifying skewed news articles and making sure students weigh multiple, conflicting perspectives on their topics.

Barbuto has students read each source they turn up at least three times: once to weigh its credibility, including by looking at the publisher’s credentials and purpose; next, reading for background and context; and finally, synthesizing and seeing how it complements or alters their overall conclusions about their topic.

Senior Erickson Obasuyi confers with his teacher, Maya Brodkey, about his senior capstone project at Fremont High School in Oakland, Calif. Brodkey said she encourages students to choose topics that have touched them or that they feel passionate about to sustain their interest during the year.

There’s also the big task of simply keeping tabs on students’ progress and providing the right supports, like helping them identify and link up to experts for their interviews.

Students feel the pressure, too. Senior Janeli Romero-Garcia describes the project as difficult, but doable.

“We’re not doing it all in a rush,” she said. “There are pieces here and pieces there, and they’re all coming together.”

Teachers are also thinking about how they want to see the capstone project evolve next.

Barbuto would like to see colleagues in earlier grades beginning to familiarize themselves with the scoring frameworks, so that it’s easier to help students build the foundational skills over time.

“When we first started doing this years ago, the immediate feedback from the students was that it was too much to expect them to master these skills in senior year. They needed to be practicing it every year,” he said.

Brodkey wants to double down on the social justice, community focus of her capstone teaching, inching the projects closer to action civics, in which students not only identify and research a problem but also try to use civic channels to help solve it.

“We continue to ask questions about: Should we keep capstone as a separate class? Should we fold it into English?” she said. “But there is not a question about whether we should do the project.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2019 edition of Education Week as Can ‘Capstone Projects’ Deepen Learning for High School Seniors?

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capstone project for senior high school

Capstone Projects for High School Students

Padya Paramita

February 10, 2020

capstone project for senior high school

As colleges get more and more selective, you might be worried about how you can stand out among the thousands of talented candidates. One useful tip to keep in mind is that admissions officers want students who are truly passionate about what they do and have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their interests. If you’ve got an academic subject, topic, or even hobby that you love, consider taking on one of the many possible capstone projects for high school students . 

It’s never too early to start brainstorming, especially when considering broad fields such as biology and economics. Finding a specific topic that relates to you personally is especially important with interests such as writing and art that are common for many applicants. To guide you through the process, I have outlined what exactly is meant by capstone projects for high school students , provided some topic suggestions to give you an idea of what yours might look like, and finally, outlined how your project can benefit your chances in the college admissions process. 

What is a Capstone Project?

Capstone projects for high school students can take many different forms, depending on the topics that resonate with you, and what is feasible based on your location and the time you’re willing to spend. If you’d like a more concrete way to convey your skills, effort, and knowledge in a certain discipline, carrying out a capstone project - usually finished at the end of the school year - would be an effective way to reflect your interest. Throughout the project, you should make a plan, conduct research, maintain a portfolio if applicable, keep track of your progress, and finally, present it.

Students usually carry out these projects individually, but sometimes, depending on the breadth of the topic, form a group. You might want to find a mentor as a resource, though it’s not required. Choose a mentor who offers expertise in the field. For example, your history teacher can assist you on a paper about World War II, while your English teacher should be your go-to if you’re working on a poetry collection.

Once your project is ready, you should present your hard work in a form that makes sense for the field of your choice. Capstone projects for high school students could come to life in the form of a paper, video, public presentation, or something even more specific such as an app or book. You might submit it to a panel of your teachers or supervisors for a grade if applicable.

Brainstorming Topics for Capstone Projects for High School Students

Brainstorming capstone projects for high school students can be difficult. Where do you even start? Narrow down topics based on your intended major, career interest, or a problem in your community you’d want to tackle. You could even find an academic approach to one of your favorite extracurricular activities!

The project can take many forms. If you’re interested in studying filmmaking, you could create a short movie or documentary. If you’re conducting biological research, you could write an academic paper and try to get it published. Check out the following table, which we’ve divided up by fields, in order to inspire ideas for your own initiative as you continue brainstorming capstone projects for high school students . 

As you can see, there is a world of possibilities. Your projects can also be on a relatively small scale if you don’t have the resources or the time. If you have multiple interests, you can combine various fields, such as art and business, engineering and biology, writing and social justice. If you’re thinking about pursuing one of these capstone projects for high school students , carefully consider what you can genuinely put the most effort into and create something that is unique to you!

How Can a Capstone Project Help You in the Admissions Process?

You might be wondering whether conducting capstone projects for high school students helps with your college applications. If done well, such work can impress admissions officers, as it would show that you aren’t afraid of taking initiative. If you work on the project with a team, this could be a great demonstration of your leadership and collaboration skills. Over the course of your work, depending on your project, you can also hone your research, writing, and public speaking skills. 

Colleges appreciate students who are specialized in one or two particular areas. Starting your own capstone project can effectively emphasize your passion for your major or prospective career. Considering that you will probably work very hard on the project and that it might end up having a deep impact on you (and vice versa), you could find yourself writing your personal statement or supplemental essays on the experience. Having worked on a project like this would portray clear ambition on your part. Admissions officers would get a strong impression of the ways you would contribute to the campus community. 

At the end of the day, the sole purpose of your project shouldn’t be just to boost your application profile. Genuinely work hard on your project and make sure your reasons behind pursuing it are convincing. Admissions officers will organically get a sense of your intellectual pursuits and commitment to creating something beyond what’s expected out of your academic interests. 

Capstone projects for high school students not only convey your passion towards a field, but they help you develop and hone skills that can benefit you throughout the rest of your life. Remember, that taking on such a project requires time, dedication, and patience, so don’t tackle something huge unless you can handle it. But if you commit to it with enthusiasm and determination, your efforts can go a long way toward increasing your knowledge, impressing colleges, and positively contributing to your community. Good luck!

Tags : applying to college , capstone projects for high school students , what is a capstone project , excelling in high school , projects in high school

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The Best 150 Capstone Project Topic Ideas

10 May 2022

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❔What is a Capstone Project?

Capstone Project Ideas:

✅Capstone Writing: 10 Steps

The long path of research works ahead, and you can’t find any capstone project ideas that would be interesting and innovative? The task can seem even more challenging for you to feel all the responsibility of this first step. The top 150 capstone ideas presented below aim to make a choice not so effort-consuming.

With the list of the capstone project topics we've picked for you, you'll be covered in major subjects. Continue reading, and you'll get ideas for capstone projects in information technology, nursing, psychology, marketing, management, and more.

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What is a Capstone Project?

Educational institutions use the capstone project to evaluate your understanding of the course on various parameters. For the students, the work on the project gives an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their presentation, problem-solving and soft skills. Capstone projects are normally used in the curriculum of colleges and schools. Also called a senior exhibition or a culminating project, these assignments are given to finish the academic course.

This assignment has several different objectives, among which are the following:

It's not that easy to pick the right capstone paper topic. The problem intensifies as each student or separate teams have to work on a single assignment which has to be unique. The best capstone project ideas may possibly run out. However, whatever topic you opt for, you’d better start your preparation and research on the subject as early as possible.

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Amazing Capstone Project Ideas for Nursing Course

Studying nursing is challenging, as it requires a prominent theoretical foundation and is fully practical at the same time. You should have to do thorough research and provide evidence for your ideas, but what to start with? The preparation for your capstone project in nursing won’t be so overwhelming if you make use of these capstone title ideas:

Attractive Computer Science Capstone Project Ideas

Computer science is so rapidly developing that you might easily get lost in the new trends in the sphere. Gaming and internet security, machine learning and computer forensics, artificial intelligence, and database development – you first have to settle down on something. Check the topics for the capstone project examples below to pick one. Decide how deeply you will research the topic and define how wide or narrow the sphere of your investigation will be.

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Several High School Education Capstone Project Ideas for Inspiration

High school education is a transit point in professional education and the most valuable period for personal soft skills development. No wonder that the list of capstone project ideas in high school education involves rather various topics. They may range from local startup analysis and engineer’s career path to bullying problems. It’s up to you to use the chosen statement as the ready capstone project title or just an idea for future development.

Capstone Project Topics in Information Technology – Search for Your Best

Information technology is a separate area developed on the basis of computer science, and it might be challenging to capture the differences between them. If you hesitate about what to start with – use the following topics for capstone project as the starting point for your capstone research topics.

Psychology Capstone Project Ideas

Society shows increasing attention to mental health. The range of issues that influence human psychology is vast, and the choice may be difficult. You’ll find simple capstone project ideas to settle on in the following list.

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Capstone Project Ideas for Management Course

Studying management means dealing with the most varied spheres of life, problem-solving in different business areas, and evaluating risks. The challenge starts when you select the appropriate topic for your capstone project. Let the following list help you come up with your ideas.

Capstone Project Ideas for Your Marketing Course

Marketing aims to make the business attractive to the customer and client-oriented. The variety of easy capstone project ideas below gives you the start for your research work.

Best Capstone Engineering Project Ideas

It’s difficult to find a more varied discipline than engineering. If you study it – you already know your specialization and occupational interest, but the list of ideas below can be helpful.

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Capstone Project Ideas for MBA

Here you might read some senior capstone project ideas to help you with your MBA assignment.

Capstone Project Ideas for an Accounting Course

Try these ideas for your Capstone Project in Accounting – and get the best result possible.

Capstone Writing: 10 Essential Steps

Be it a senior capstone project of a high school pupil or the one for college, you follow these ten steps. This will ensure you’ll create a powerful capstone paper in the outcome and get the best grade:

Preparation of a powerful capstone project involves both selection of an exciting topic and its in-depth examination. If you are interested in the topic, you'll be able to demonstrate to your professor a deep insight into the subject. The lists of ideas above will inspire you and prepare you for the successful completion of your project. Don’t hesitate to try them now!

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  1. What is a Capstone Project in High School?

    Capstone projects are a great way to indicate to potential colleges that a student is prepared for the demands of higher education. Capstone projects also benefit high school students by creating self-confidence and building a sense of preparedness for college.

  2. Can 'Capstone Projects' Deepen Learning for High School Seniors?

    Fremont High School teacher, Maya Brodkey, left, talks with senior Cristy Gonzalez-Hernandez about her senior capstone project during class at the Oakland, Calif., school. The district has had a ...

  3. Capstone Projects for High School Students

    What is a Capstone Project? Capstone projects for high school students can take many different ...

  4. The Best 150 Capstone Project Topic Ideas

    Be it a senior capstone project of a high school pupil or the one for college, you follow these ten steps. This will ensure you’ll create a powerful capstone paper in the outcome and get the best grade:

  5. Capstones Around the County: How High School Seniors are

    Loudoun County High School senior Alexander Seymour decided to pilot “Cars for a Cause,” a charity event, for his Capstone experience. The event was founded by Seymour and his friend Brennan O’Donnell, with the goal of bringing Loudoun car enthusiasts together to help raise money to help low-income kids and their families through the ...

  6. 125 Outstanding Capstone Project Ideas in 2023

    If you are just about to start your own capstone project, we suggest you take a look at our list of top high school senior capstone project examples to help you find a good topic ideas example. You can be interested: The 125 Descriptive Speech Topics : The Easiest Way Writing a Descriptive Essay


    The Senior Capstone Project, also known as Capstone, is a Holbrook Junior-Senior High School graduation requirement, which is required during senior year. The project, which will help determine students’ mastery of 21st Century Learning Skills, consists of multiple components that students will complete throughout the school year.