Siegel High Celebrates Capstone Program Entering Fifth Year

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Siegel social studies teacher Kenny Mosier talks with Capstone research students Zee Taylor and Haley Gauda during class.

By JAMES EVANS

Rutherford County Schools

Kenny Mosier has found his place in the world at Siegel High School, where he serves as one of the co-founders of the school’s AP Capstone Program.

He graduated from the school in 2005, and then a few short years later, “boomeranged back” as a teacher.

That was 12 years ago.

“Siegel had given me an environment to flourish in both academic and extracurricular pursuits as a student, and I wanted to return and pass that along to new generations of students,” Mosier said. “I was incredibly lucky to study under the teachers that I did, so I feel a duty every day to live up to those standards as an educator.”

About five years ago, Mosier and Tricia Myers — a fellow social studies teacher — were instrumental in gaining approval and launching Siegel’s AP Capstone Program, a rigorous pathway that requires students to complete original research, write a thesis and then defend it in front of a panel of faculty members.

“I felt that high school students have too few opportunities to engage in the type of original research that I enjoyed in college,” Mosier said. “I wanted to help guide students through the creative process of designing a methodology to address a real-world gap in knowledge, deploying that methodology to gather original data, and then distilling that data into a meaningful contribution to the scholarly conversation.”

He added: “I also enjoy coaching students in the skills necessary to present and defend their conclusions in panel scenarios similar to those they will face in honors and graduate programs later in their academic careers.”

The program has been an overwhelming success.

It ties into the school’s AP pathway, which offers students a variety of advancement options.

At the end of last school year, 36 Siegel students were honored as AP scholars based on AP test scores and completion of required classes. Of those, one received the AP Seminar and Research Certificate and another six graduated with full Capstone diplomas.

To receive the Capstone diploma, students in the program must successfully defend their research thesis and also pass at least four other AP exams.

Mosier has 10 students this year who are in the program and nine of those are on track to earn the Capstone Diploma, he said.

One of those students is senior Madison Yahn.

For her project, Yahn is researching how well standardized tests measure IQ levels.

She is planning to use data from students who volunteer at Siegel but hopes to expand to other area high schools as well.

Yahn was already in the AP pathway offered at Siegel when she heard about the Capstone program from a friend. She learned more about the requirements and then began her pursuit.

“It seemed really interesting to have to do your own research and have a research paper written by the time you graduate,” Yahn said.

Two of her fellow classmates, Zee Taylor and Haley Gauda, are also enjoying the research phase of their projects.

Taylor is studying compulsive behaviors, such as biting your nails, and the connection that exists between anxiety, boredom and gender.

“A lot of studies I have found have tested on boredom or anxiety but not in the same study, and there’s been some evidence about gender ties later in life but not really on adolescence, and so I’m focusing specifically on adolescence,” Taylor said.

Gauda is following in the footsteps of her sister, who completed the program two years ago.

“I’m also a big researcher and I’m in the Humanities Academy, as well,” Gauda said.

She is studying whether there are any positive effects of children being raised by single parents, which is in contrast to multiple studies that have looked at the negative effects.

For each project, the students must research multiple existing studies, but once they decide on a topic, they must formulate and execute a plan to gather and analyze original data.

“It can’t be a report on known knowledge,” Mosier said. “They have to generate their own data, and it has to be in an area where current research is lacking.”

One of the biggest projects completed in the past involved a student, Don Kim, who placed sensors inside and outside of the building to measure the effectiveness of the filtration system in the school.

The student earned the highest score possible on his project and went on to study at Vanderbilt University, Mosier said.

The program also ties into the Humanities Academy, and students can earn an endorsement from Middle Tennessee State University if they complete their AP Capstone.

“For the past two years, our pass rate has been a perfect 100 percent,” Mosier said. “In the two years prior to that the pass rate was 80-90 percent.”

Siegel Principal Larry Creasy is incredibly proud of the program and the preparation it offers students to succeed after high school.

“The Capstone Program offers the students here at Siegel High School the opportunity to experience rigor at the college level and prepares them for higher academia success needed to compete in today’s college application process.”