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Eighth-Grade Capstone Program

Palos School District 118, Palos Park, Illinois
Palos School District 118
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Eighth-graders at Palos School District 118 are problem-solvers for their community.

When the district faced new state learning standards a few years ago, leaders knew they had to enhance the middle school curriculum to provide critical-thinking skills and to teach students how to better communicate and collaborate.

In 2015-16 year, the district created the Capstone Program, which allows eighth-graders to work in small teams to explore a local problem based on the environment, economy or conservation. Teams conduct site visits throughout the semester to collect data and perform field research.

At the end of the semester, on Capstone Day, the teams present their findings.

One project led to installing solar panels at the school, with help from a $7,700 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. Another group brought water filtration systems to reduce plastic water bottle waste. And others are working to create ways to stabilize the bee population in the region, such as encouraging more downtown businesses to plant flowers.

To start your own program:

  • Focus on problems specific to your school or community.
  • Evaluate the process at the end of the year, and don’t be afraid to make changes that strengthen learning outcomes.