Example 4-3: "Pick Two" (senior project)

Kathleen FitzGerald teaches civics, government, and senior projects at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School at Cambridge, MA. She developed assorted kinds of light-touch applications of the 10 Questions framework, which might be useful for introductory points. Originally aimed at high school students, these activities are transferable to middle school students, too.  

“Pick Two”: Kathleen asked her students to introduce their senior projects using the 10 Questions. First, students had to answer Question #1 (“Why does it matter to me?”) regardless of their topics. Second, they choose one other question that they thought might be most relevant to their projects. See her project description and student responses below

CRLS  Senior Project


These ten questions were developed by a team that focuses on youth participatory politics as a way to help guide inquiry, projects, and especially political action in the digital age. I really love the questions and (full disclosure) am a part of a teacher group that is looking at how to use them.

Here is what I want you to do in the forum:

Answer number one (Why does it matter to me?) in relation to your project as fully as you can. This may be reflected in your proposal but I still want you to think about it and write about it now that your project is underway.

Choose one other question to answer that feels important to where you are in your process now.

Please do this this week. Post by Thursday, March 1 and respond to at least two posts by the end of Sunday, March 4. Please let your initial post serve as a way for others to really understand your project and let your responses offer good and useful feedback. I am looking forward to reading these and seeing where you all are in your process!



1) Why does it matter to me?  (Tap History and Black America)

This independent study on the importance of knowing tap history as a tap dancer is important to me because I love the art form and I want to indulge in all I can learn from it. Because I love the form so much, I want to learn more about it. And with tap dance, learning more about the form directly points you in the direction of learning tap history. And tap dance history is the history of past dancers. As a lover of the form of tap dance, I am therefore a lover of these tap innovators who created and transformed the form. I have always been told it is my our responsibility as tap dancers to know the people who have come before us because they are the direct reason why I can be tap dancing as I do now. I am respecting this statement and exploring why it so important to know the history. This project matters to me because tap dance matters to me. And the past, tap history matters for all tap dancers.

1) Why does it matter to me?   (Physics Videos Production)

Helping feels good! I enjoy teaching others concepts that they don't understand, and seeing that satisfaction when they finally do. I also experienced firsthand what a tough class AP Physics E&M can be, and I want to make it as easy as possible for students to improve.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Creative Writing: Personal Stories)

A favorite author of mine once wrote that "there is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that theirs is one that deserves be told." A rather sensitive and emotionally charged boy, I have found adolescence to be a rather treacherous terrain. Navigating school, friendships, family, love, body, and self has been rather difficult. A source of refuge and guidance has been reading, watching, and listening to people tell their stories. Whether it be as a podcast, essay, TV show, or movie, storytelling has instilled in me vital life lessons and reminded me of the beauty in awkward, sad, and even humiliating life moments. Now that I am (somewhat) leaving behind my adolescence, I would like to take these last few months of high school to reflect, to write, to create, and to share stories of my own. I want to be just as gutsy, just as honest, and just as vulnerable as the storytellers who got me through these treacherous four years. Sharing my own stories is important for me because I think it will provide even more catharsis and release than consuming other people's stories. I also think that, by being honest and vulnerable, I can provide at least one person the same comfort that other people's honesty provided me.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Creative Writing)

My project is important to me because I am creating what I did not have when I needed it. I'm writing a book with strong and realistic LGBT characters, something that I didn't have any exposure to when I was discovering my identity, so this matters to me because it's my way of adding something to the world that I believe needs to be added.

1) Why does it matter to me?  (Song Writing)

Songwriting matters to me because i feel like it combines two of my favorite things: Singing and introspection. I think it's so cool that you get to take what you're feeling and make it rhyme along to a tune. I also think songs are really good representations of how a person is feeling at a certain moment in their life. Many singers come out with an album about one thing, and then their next album is completely different, with all new themes. I think It will be interesting to look back and see what I was singing about my senior year of high school. I really want to capture this moment.

1) Why does it matter to me?  (Children’s Book on Quantum Mechanics)

Why does it matter to me?My project matters to me because I am trying to make information easier to understand. I also enjoy science and want to create something that does not relay information in a typical textbook fashion. I also think that children are capable of understanding more than people often think that they can.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Comic)

My project is important to me largely because it is an entirely indulgent exercise of self expression. There’s no real "greater cause" behind my project. Im making a comic because I had an idea for a story that I thought was dope and it was the best outlet to share it. Also, making comics is something I want to continue doing throughout my life, and there’s no reason not to start as early as possible. Any practice is good practice in this scenario.

1) Why does it matter to me?  (Language Immersion in Schools)

My topic matters to me a lot because dual language immersion is something I experienced for ten years. It was something that greatly shaped my life and my identity. My essay will include personal reflection which will show the impact my experiences had on me. It is also important for me to prove to myself that I can create a very well written paper with less guidance from others than I am used to.

1) Why is it important to me? (Social Justice Speaker Series)

I've always been fascinated by discussion, because while I've been taught that more conversation leads to more progress in a particular area, sometimes the lines aren't so clear. Is conversation always the right way, or do unequal power balances between certain social groups make conversation difficult, or even impossible? By doing this project I hope to be able to answer how discussion can be furthered and perhaps create a strategy to work around the difficulties of dialog.

1) Why does this matter to me?  (Juvenile Justice)

This project matters to me because I have been interested in pursuing juvenile law and education for awhile now. After I had experience as a TA, I realized my passion for education was greater than my passion for law, but that the two are also related. To see faults within this school’s administration in aiding their students has driven me to pursue this topic.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Music and the Brain)

As my topic has evolved, the central idea is still how important music is. This topic is really important to me because I've played the piano for most of my life, but I've never really had to time to divulge in it or realize the actual importance music has on our lives. I think that it is important to take time to recognize the importance and benefits of the arts, especially when our education is so focused on core subjects and standardized testing scores.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Comic)

My project matters to me because it is a chance for me to prove myself as a competent artist, capable of taking on a challenge in the form of dedicating myself to something I've never tried before. If I can not only make this comic, but make it something I'm proud of, I think that will boost my confidence in relation to my work.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Photo Book)

This project matters to me because it is an opportunity to share what I love doing with other people. Photography has been an important part of my life for the past years; it has changed my perspectives in many ways. That is why I'm making this book - to show people different perspectives. Developing my creativity is truly essential for me, so I really enjoy this working process.

1) Why does it matter to me?  (Creating Visuals for AP Physics)

This project is important to me because while I loved both Mechanics and E&M I also struggled with many of the concepts. This project will hopefully help future students get a better intuitive understanding of the physics and feel more comfortable in the classes.

1) Why does it matter to me?  (Silk Road and Language Development)

My topic matters to me because languages and their corresponding writing systems affect us in so many ways today, to the extent that our entire lives and the society in which we live would be drastically different without the use of these writing systems of the languages we currently speak. However, the influence and history of these languages and writing systems is rarely ever discussed. Due to this, I think it is essential to learn more about the evolution of these languages and the writing systems which are so important to the very function of our society.

1) Why does it matter to me? (Philosophy)

I think that philosophy, as a general field of study, is key to understanding the world in fresh and constructive ways. When paid attention to, philosophy can change the way that people act and even influence other disciplines (politics, language, religion, etc.). As a result, ensuring that philosophy is constructive and oriented in positive ways is a method of reworking our thought-processes for the better. When certain philosophers (like Kant, for instance) are accepted without challenge, in spite of the power structures that influence their theories, it can have a negative impact on the entire field. I think it is important to interrogate these systems before they become entirely integrated into the way our society functions. 

2) How much should I share? (Comic)

Given that this is a comic, sharing is a pretty essential piece of it. As I finish each chapter I will post them online on webcomic sites, and I hope people will read.

2) How much should I share? (Song Writing)

In terms of how much to share, it's not hard for me to write about personal issues, but i'm worried about sharing them with others. Most of my songs are pretty personal, and i don't feel comfortable showing them to many people. I don't want this fear to limit what i write about, but i do think I need to figure out whether I should keep these private or find some way to share them with others.

2) How much should I share? (Creative Writing: Personal Stories)

I have begun writing my first piece, writing about a life experience in which I felt small and belittled. So far, I have shared everything. Nothing from the experience is held back. Storytellers who I admire hold nothing back and I would like to do the same. This makes me a little nervous though because I know that, after writing these stories, I will be sharing them.

3) How do I make it about more than myself?  (Language Immersion in Schools)

I want my paper to effectively combine research and personal reflection to illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of bilingual education. Hopefully my thesis will inspire more people to create bilingual schools or send their kids to bilingual schools that already exist. I also want to show how bilingual education affects students as a whole and not just myself.

3) How do I make it about more than myself?  (Juvenile Justice)

Because I’ve had inspiration from the students I worked with last semester, the kids I work with at the YMCA, and defendants in juvenile court I observed at an internship, I will always have those images and people in my mind. My intent has always been to strive to work for more than myself.

3) How do I make it about more than myself? (Music and the Brain)

I've started to solidify my topic and product a little more in order to do something that will actually make a difference. As I've been conducting research, I've found a lot of studies on how music shapes your brain and makes you healthier physically, but also mentally by lessening anxiety and depression. I think I will end up making a Ted talk about how helpful and important music can be, and why music should be a more central part of education because of that. Hopefully through this project, I will be able to help create a community where music is an appreciated and important path that students can actually take.

3) How do I make it about more than myself? (Comic)

Even though my comic is entirely a creation of my own design, it's been influenced by many things in life. The life I have led unto this point, the works of art that inspired me to make art, and the people I've met along the way. If you look at it that way, I don't think it's about myself too much.

4) Where do we start?  (Physics Videos Production)

I think this is a question that AP Physics students ask themselves often when faced with a challenging problem, or the daunting task of studying for a quiz. My project is all about giving them more options, more materials, different explanations, different perspectives for concepts, in the hope that one of those will click in the mind of a student.

4) Where do we start?   (Creative Writing)

For me, the question of 'where do I start?' was the toughest one to confront. After making multiple outlines and character sheets, and reading book after book on the topic of writing and mentor text after mentor text, I decided that I needed to stop planning and jump in. It's been a weird transition because I constantly feel like I'm not doing justice to my own story.

4) Where do we start?  (Silk Road and Language Development)

To start the accumulation of more knowledge regarding the evolution of these languages and writing systems and to have a more informed public it is important to look to the start of the languages branches we know today. For example, to know more about the Semitic languages branch, it is crucial not only to look at later languages like Aramaic but also earlier ones with West Semitic or Proto-Semitic. It is also critical that we must look at the reasons for these connections, like the heavy use of trade routes in the ancient world, and how these lead to the languages and writing systems we see today.

5) How can we make it easy and engaging for others to join in?  (Children’s Book on Quantum Mechanics)

How can we make it easy and engaging for others to join in? I am trying to make my project easy and engaging for others by including a lot of pictures and not using difficult language that children cannot understand. I am also going to define a lot of vocab and choose particular parts of the science that I am going to explain. I’m going to try to make sure that everything in the book is really clear and have there not be a lot of confusion about what is going on.

5) How can we make it easy and engaging for other to join in? (Creating Visuals for AP Physics)

I chose scratch partly because it's a very simple and easy to understand 'language' and the programming is very readable. This should let anyone who looks into the project be able to understand how it was made and where the physics are incorporated, and maybe even inspire them to make something of their own.

5) How can we make it easy and engaging for others to join in?  (Philosophy)

This is definitely a very complicated and dense topic. Jumping straight into all the weird and academic philosophical terminology is difficult without context and can easily turn off readers from the topic. When writing my thesis, I have to effectively set a foundation of Kantian philosophy by explaining and summarizing it in clear ways. This will allow me to go on to critique and analyze the theories themselves; the background must be there first though. After getting a grasp over this topic myself, I have to formulate lots of examples and processes that can help me explain these ideas in a simpler way than Kant has done.  

6) How do we get wisdom from crowds?  (Photo Book)

Obviously I cannot represent people's perspectives without knowing them. I know only my own way of seeing, and there is no way for me to perceive things from another person's point of view. This is what makes this project so challenging. Wisdom from crowds is crucial; the only way to do this is by talking to people and try my best at understanding their approach to art and life itself.

8) Are we pursuing voice or influence or both?  (Tap History and Black America)

This is a wonderful question. To me voice means what I have to say. Voice is referring to my narrative. To me, influence is about me trying to change the mind of my audience. I do not think that I am trying to change anyone's mind. I think I am intending, more to just show people something new, and hopefully, open up their minds to encompass importance of tap history; to all tap dancers and to me too. And maybe by understanding why it is so important to know tap history, people will parallel it to some kind of history that is important in their life. I hope that people will see my passion and see ways in which they can further indulge in something they love. I also hope it will inspire people to come see a tap dance show or take some classes. Given this, I think I am pursuing both voice and influence.

10) How do I ensure change?  (Social Justice Speaker Series)

I'm making my lectures as interactive as possible. Rather than sitting and simply listening to someone spew their knowledge much like we do everyday, students and teachers will have the opportunity to discuss, participate and problem solve together. I'm designing my lectures to revolve around a very unique and creative way of thinking, and I hope that I can break away from the academic aspect and tap into a creative element that lies within every participant.