Real-world learning combined with authentic research lets students shine.
Three high school magnet programs require a capstone research project that extends classroom learning into real world experience through local internships. At the end of the semester, the students present their research to a juried panel.
As a culminating capstone project, senior magnet students at three Cobb County high schools participate in an advanced research course coupled with a semester-long internship at a local professional practice, industry, or institution of higher learning. While interning, students develop a problem of practice and gather data to answer their research question. The goal of the internships, required at Kennesaw Mountain, South Cobb, and Wheeler High School magnet programs, is to provide students with real-world opportunities to apply theory, knowledge, and acquired skills in an area of interest—and often a potential career path.
Last semester, Katie Cauffiel, a senior at Kennesaw Mountain, interned in the microscopy lab at Birla Carbon, a chemical company that specializes in producing carbon black. Her work focused on developing a methodology for a new algorithm that performs 3D reconstruction of carbon black based on TEM images. Katie’s mentor, Dr. Tyler Gruber, indicated that Birla Carbon plans on adopting some of her research recommendations about how the company runs those types of analyses.
“Before this internship, I had never really considered microscopy or had extensive time working with microscopes, but now I think it would be really cool to have a job that utilizes microscopy. I think the process of conducting research is more complex and not as straightforward as it is sometimes portrayed. I learned the importance of graphing data to communicate trends rather than just simply displaying numbers in a table. I also [learned] about workplace skills, communication, and the importance of having a variety of skills. I think the principles I learned at an internship will be ideas that I will continue to use and remember throughout my life especially as I go into college.”
Diego Trujillo, a senior a Wheeler, interned with Georgia State Senator Kay Kirkpatrick while gathering and analyzing data for his project titled “Analyzing the Correlation Between Senatorial Voting Record and Constituent Views”. On the job, Diego shadowed Senator Kirkpatrick to campaign events, fundraisers, and legislative meetings as well as researching some of her planned 2020 bills.
Diego shares, “This magnet internship experience was truly life changing. Prior to this, I never had any work experience at this level. The life skills I gained are of great importance, but the firsthand utilization of research skills definitely increased my depth of knowledge on how to analyze and learn new things in the real world. My work environment also put me in a strange position because politically speaking, I lean left; however, my mentor is a Republican. This difference of personal views forced me to keep my biases in check and taught me how to work closely with others who have differing opinions. Overall, the Internship and Research program really lived up to the expectations. I have never felt like I truly learned and applied what I learned so much in one class, and I cannot thank my teachers enough for this incredible experience.”
At the end of the semester, students present their capstone project to a juried panel composed of local community partners, teachers, CCSD employees, and former magnet students. Sometimes, students have multiple opportunities to present to authentic audiences- such as Wheeler magnet senior Anisha Haldar who presented her project, “The Creation of Novice cpr-4 Transgenic C. elegans for Research Related to Neurogenesis,” to members of the KSU lab in which she worked as well as other university professors. Both Kennesaw Mountain and Wheeler had their fall semester magnet presentations in late December 2019. All three schools will hold spring semester magnet presentations in May 2020.
Tracy Matthews, Consultant K-12
Advanced Learning Program