By Dr. Ben Churchill Superintendent Carlsbad Unified School District
Passion. Challenge. Impact. Every eleventh grade English student at Sage Creek High School was instructed to create a project that represents these three attributes for them. At the end of senior year, students presented their projects to teachers, members of the community, and their peers in a “TED Talks” format. Eight students were selected to showcase their projects at the Symposium in May.
Ryan Nemiroff and Heather Feldmann, who graduated from SCHS in June, both presented their projects at the Symposium.
Ryan is talented at developing software, and had written some Android apps. He wanted to use his skills to create something useful, and one of his friends suggested that he come up with an app to provide study resources for students. Ryan took off on this idea. He decided to create a Chrome extension (think “app for a desktop”) so he could tie his work into the school’s School Loop software system, making it easily accessible for students, right where their teachers post homework assignments. He decided to catalog thousands of Khan Academy videos and connect them to the students’ textbooks. His project is called Academist. Here is a description from Ryan’s blog:
“Academist is a Chrome Extension … (that) finds Khan Academy resources related to your assignments on School Loop by using clues such as keywords and textbook page numbers. As of 2017, Academist supports every math and science textbook at Sage Creek, as well as the government and economics textbooks.”
He put together a plan, created a timeline, wrote algorithms, and made spreadsheets/tables of contents for every one of the 21 math, science and economics textbooks used at SCHS. When he was finished, a SCHS student could go to an assignment or textbook on School Loop, click a button, and find instructional videos on that topic. Out sick, missed class, or just need another explanation? Ryan has you covered.
“I got a lot of positive feedback from the TED Talk,” said Ryan. “I’ve already had 60 downloads, so it’s great to know that people are already out there using Academist as they study for finals.”
“We were very impressed with Ryan and his project,” said Assistant Superintendent Robert Nye. “He created a just-in-time resource for students and parents who are looking for additional instruction on a topic. We asked him if he would do the same for our middle school textbooks as well.”
Heather Feldmann has always been very involved in athletics. She knew that her Genius Project would involve motivating kids and playing sports. Throughout her high school career, Heather had logged over 300 volunteer hours coaching sports camps through the LA Galaxy San Diego club, so she decided to host a four-day sports camp for kids ages 5 to 10 years old.
She turned to Valley Middle School PE teacher Kelly Burns to be her community mentor, and rounded up other student athletes from SCHS to serve as volunteer coaches. She created and distributed a flyer, and 70 kids signed up in less than 48 hours.
”Students learned to play volley tennis, soccer, and basketball,” said Heather. “It was a rousing success! The kids had a good time, and some cried when it was our last day.”
“At Sage Creek we believe that students’ high school experiences can help them to find their passions, their purposes, and their directions in life,” said Sage Creek High School principal Cesar Morales. “The Genius Project gives students a unique opportunity to explore who they are and what they want to do.”
English teacher Corrie Myers explained, “Our deepest hope for this project was that our students would realize their potential in ways the standard high school classroom doesn’t offer. Seeing every student in the senior class embark on this journey and reflect on both their failures and successes was a landmark experience for our school. We will go forward with confidence that ALL students are capable of developing a distinct passion that will position them to find purpose in themselves and in the world.”
“I’ve been super surprised about how excited people have been about my project,” reported Ryan. “The Genius Project is about passion, challenge, and impact. Passion is the most important part. You have to enjoy the process.” Ryan is going on to UCLA to follow his dream and study electrical engineering.
“The Genius Project was one of the brightest experiences of my high school career,” said Heather. “I learned that if you have the drive and passion you can do it, no matter how daunting. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.” Heather will be attending Villanova University in the fall, studying chemical engineering.