my capstone experience

Kate Callahan '10, a Child Development major from Bridgton, Maine, discusses her Capstone project that educated the students of the Windy Hill School about the process of creating a building and ultimately focused on the theme of community. The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience. While at Colby-Sawyer, Callahan played on the varsity basketball team all four years. After graduation she moved to Colorado to seek a teaching position and later plans to earn a master's degree in teaching.

Describe your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

During the fall semester of senior year, I completed my student teaching in Windy Hill's kindergarten at Colby-Sawyer College. This was the first test I had as a teacher, and I could not have asked for a better experience. As most of the members of the community and college know, a new Windy Hill school has been built. I decided it would be a great idea to use this opportunity as the basis of my long-term project with the children. The best way to teach is to show children that you are interested in their lives, and Windy Hill is certainly a part of their lives, so that is where we started.

My original goal was to teach the children about all the areas involved in creating a building to dispel the notion that it is just “there” one day. In doing so, we ended up expanding our knowledge and ultimately focusing on the theme of community. The children developed their own ideas of what constitutes a community and what is physically important in order to make a community successful. From this knowledge we planned and built our own 3D version of a town where we would like to live.

What research did you conduct?

The children did all the planning when it came to designing a town. I provided guidance, but it was what they did with that guidance that made their explorations successful. The children took pictures, held discussions and read books about communities. We talked about the differences between a city and the country, and they made decisions about the surroundings their town would have. Once we made those decisions we could reflect on all the pictures we had taken, as well as pictures we found on the computer to generate a basic plan for the construction of our own town. The careful planning and attention to detail played a role in each child's success toward creating our town, named Windy Hill Village.

What did you learn, and in what ways was the Capstone a culmination of your learning experience at Colby-Sawyer?

The greatest thing I learned from my Capstone experience was the amazing things children can do if they are provided with the correct tools. In the beginning I had a vision of what I thought the end result of this project would be, but the children far exceeded my expectations.

I feel fortunate for everything I have learned here at Colby-Sawyer because I have learned how to get the best out of children and how to meet each child's interests and needs. Each child is different and I learned how to get to know each one, how to make learning interesting and worthwhile for them. My confidence as a teacher and as a student has grown over the past four years thanks to this program, and I feel confident about my future as I graduate college.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

The most challenging part was finding a way to help the children understand the concept of 3D and what we were going to be doing. They understood that we were going to create our own town, but it was hard to imagine it on a plywood board. Once we painted on the grass and got the paper mache mountain up, the children's ideas seemed endless.

Going back, I would spend more time finding a way for them to grasp an understanding before we got started. I am not disappointed with the outcome, and I believe that the rest of the project was a success after that one bump in the road.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project?

I hope the children will remember this experience; I know I will. This is a special group of children I have known for three years. It has been so wonderful to watch them grow and learn from me as I have learned from them. I think I am already assured of the lasting impact on the children because when I see them they always ask about what else we can add to the town.

How would you summarize your Colby-Sawyer experience?

Looking back at my experience here at Colby-Sawyer, I realize how much I appreciate the people I have known, the friendships I have formed, the teachers who truly care about each individual, and the person I have become. I have a whole different plan and a new confidence for life that I did not have upon entering, and my time here at Colby-Sawyer shaped that.