Fourth Graders Present Ideas for Grade-Level Capstone

Collegiate 4th Graders gathered this morning to present ideas conceived and developed in their yearlong, grade-level Capstone program, Envision Collegiate.
Collegiate offers Capstone programs in the final year of each division of the School — 4th Grade, 8th Grade and 12th Grade — to create opportunities and challenges for students that help prepare them for the future.

“The capstone program in each division teaches students skills essential to thrive in our increasingly complex world,” said Clare Sisisky, Collegiate’s Institute for Responsible Citizenship Director and Director of Strategic Planning. “Starting to challenge students to put skills like collaboration, negotiation, public speaking and design thinking into action as 4th Graders helps them develop these essential skills at a higher level throughout their time at Collegiate.”

The theme of this year's Envision Collegiate is How might we use technology to improve Collegiate by 2026? The significance of the year 2026 is that it is when the current 4th Graders will graduate from Collegiate.

At the Capstone kickoff in November, 4th Grade teacher and Envision Collegiate Coordinator Jessica Catoggio introduced the entire grade to individuals from around campus to learn what they do. Over the course of the next few months, students interviewed and worked with members of the Facilities, Athletics, Academics, Admission, Development and Responsible Citizenship departments to become experts about their respective responsibilities.

Mrs. Catoggio told the 4th Graders to think about how they could "Be the change you wish to see on our campus."

This week, students traveled away from Collegiate to visit nine different organizations or businesses: University of Richmond Facilities Department, Good Run Research Center, Richmond Ballet, VCU Research Center, Visual Arts Center, 1717 Innovation Center, Hue & Cry, Community Ideas Station and Institute for Contemporary Art.

While off site at these locations, they conducted interviews and took note of ideas that they hoped to apply to their work with technology at Collegiate. When they returned to campus, the students worked through the design-thinking process in groups outside of their usual classroom groupings to create presentations regarding their ideas for making real change in their School. The students subsequently delivered these presentations to a panel featuring Collegiate faculty and staff members.

Through their work, Mrs. Catoggio says, the students redefined their notion of “technology” and gained a thorough understanding of their School — and its behind-the-scenes workings, processes and passionate people.

“They built empathy through this understanding, and entered into their Capstone week with their own brand of enthusiasm and readiness,” she said. “While it is hard to frame this sweeping experience in words, it is easy to see the passionate and engaged 4th Grader working alongside peers to offer innovative ideas to help envision the future of their world on Mooreland Road.”

Some of the ideas presented this morning included a renovation of the 3rd and 4th Grade playground to incorporate a ninja course, climbing wall and tire swing; a tablet complete with finger scanner and credit card swipe to make it easier for people to donate to Collegiate; a 3D printer so that Lower School students could pick what type of activity they would like to do and create the type of ball for that activity; a watch to help exchange students translate their classes; a more comfortable chair for students; and a mobile custodial cart with an attached vacuum.

Fourth Graders have incredible strengths and creativity that they bring to the process of the Capstone, and the process and skill development are the focus, not the final product, says Mrs. Sisisky.

“Helping see the value in these skills, and how hard they are at this age, will help these students feel empowered as learners and collaborators through their lives,” she said.
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