Senior Project Snapshots
During the month of May, seniors engage in off-campus pre-professional projects. Students gain hands-on experience and receive an introduction to the professional world. At the conclusion of their Senior Project, students present reports to faculty and their classmates.
Senior Project: Friends Schools
- Bria McKenzie – Princeton University
- Rachel Tarter – The George Washington University
- Molly Fischer – Washington College
- Molly Foster – Arcadia University
Bria McKenzie – Westfield Friends School Music Department
What brought you to Westfield Friends for your Senior Project?
I pretty much grew up here, and I feel like this school helped me to gain a lot of confidence as a singer and as a student. I really wanted to come back, see my old teachers, and help in any way that I could. Also, I’ve always been interested in music – mainly singing, violin, and learning about different instruments. At Westfield, I played guitar in sixth grade, and then we did drums in seventh and eighth grade. I wanted to come back and see what new things Ms. Faye was teaching, because she goes to classes over the summer to learn about different instruments.
What skills have you picked up during Senior Project that might be helpful to you in the future?
I’ve been learning about some of Ms. Faye’s tricks on how to assess kids without making them nervous. For the kindergarteners, she gives them each a little guitar pick. They sing a song, and then everyone sings a little solo about what color pick they have, and that’s a way to assess whether they can match pitch – they don’t really know they’re being assessed, so they’re not too scared to sing.
From observing the classes, I’ve learned a lot about classroom management and how to keep everyone entertained at the same time, even though a lot of them are at different levels of musical ability. The main thing is learning how to make sure the students who are struggling more don’t feel like they can’t do it, while also making sure the kids who are above that skill level are still able to learn. Kids who are at the top of their class can take home guitars, ukuleles, and penny whistles to practice on their own and come back and perform by memory. I learned a lot about different ways to get people to excel at their own pace, and I learned a lot about music in general.
What were some standout moments from the past four weeks?
The play was definitely a favorite. Every grade does a play here during the school year, and it brought back a lot of memories. It was really fun to be a part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. my classmate Molly Foster and I did lighting and sound, and I was put in charge of specifically figuring out lighting and when to change it. I’m not in stage crew at school, so it was a challenge at first, but it was really fun. I finally figured out what looked nice for night and day and how to spotlight certain parts of the stage.
I’ve also been able to help some of the first graders who don’t understand music theory that well. That’s been really fun, to help with teaching.
Rachel Tarter – Orchard Friends School
How did you get connected with Orchard Friends?
On Career Day, I was in the social work section, and I shared with the group that I wanted to be a speech pathologist. My classmate Molly Foster told me that there was a school in Riverton for kids with language-based issues, and who needed support with writing and reading comprehension. She gave me a teacher’s email and we emailed back and forth.
Could you describe the atmosphere of Orchard Friends?
It’s like a giant family. The average class size is only about four kids. It’s like a much smaller version of Moorestown Friends, and they integrate Quaker values into their lessons.
What did you enjoy the most about your Senior Project?
Getting to know the teachers and the students, because they’re all so different and they all have different personalities. Because the school is small, it was easy to get to know them.
How does this experience relate to what you’d like to do?
I’m planning to study speech pathology at George Washington. That’s something that drew me there, because not a lot of schools have a program.
I definitely like working in a school environment. My cousin is also a speech pathologist, but she has a private practice. During my Senior Project, I decided I’d rather work in a school if I become a speech pathologist. So it definitely guided me to what I want to do.
What drew you to speech pathology?
My cousin is autistic, so I’ve seen how much speech pathology has helped him.
Molly Fischer – Haddonfield Friends School Music Department
How did this experience fit into your future plans?
I love music, and I want to be a teacher, so if I could combine those things that would be amazing. Washington College has a major called Human Development, and I’ll probably do that with a double major in Music. Senior Project really validated what I want to do in college. Instead of going into freshman year thinking, “I guess I want to do teaching,” now I know that’s what I really want to do.
What kinds of things were you doing on a day-to-day basis at Haddonfield?
The classes were getting ready for Frolic, which is their eighth grade graduation. In music class, we helped alot with preparations for Frolic. All the eighth graders gave a speech, and then every other grade performed. The ages ranged from 2½ to 14, so the little itty bitty kids all the way up to seventh grade have to do a performance. There were 16 graduates this year, so there were 16 speeches to prepare; the little kids were learning a dance; first and second graders were doing a routine with scarves; third and fourth graders were doing a ribbon dance; fifth graders were singing and doing a hand game; and sixth and seventh graders were drumming with buckets.
During my last week at Haddonfield, I got to teach the students a song, and they were so happy. I give my teachers much more credit now, because it is exhausting to do this job.
What did you learn from your experience in the classroom?
Patience is key. Music Teacher Anna Preston was amazing, and every time we ended a class, she tried to turn the experience into a lesson for me. If a kid wasn’t having a great day, she would tell me other ways I could have handled it. She told me that whatever age I’m working with, I shouldn’t use more words in a sentence than how old they are. So if they’re seven, use no more than seven words in a sentence, and that way they can understand better what you’re trying to tell them.
Molly Foster – Westfield Friends School Art Department
Is art education something you would like to pursue?
My parents are both artists, so I feel like it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I usually use oil paints. I haven’t done as many drawings, but I like to draw too. It wasn’t until I took Studio Art this year that I decided I might want to pursue it as a profession. I didn’t really think I could do it as a profession – I just loved it as a hobby. (MFS Art Teacher) Ms. Edmund encouraged me to do more art and actually pursue it. I’m a slow painter, and she was really good at encouraging me to push myself. I’m going into college undecided, but there is an art education major at Arcadia.
Was there a particular project you especially enjoyed?
We went outside and painted the iris flowers a lot; the kids did observational paintings of them. I thought it was really interesting how each grade did the observational drawings differently. You can see the progress with each age group. One fourth grader did such a good drawing, and she came up to me and said, “I want my drawing to be like yours.” She had this teeny little flower on the page, and she wanted advice on how to “blow it up,” or draw it bigger, which I thought was really cute.
What was it like being a teacher as opposed to a student?
I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know what it would be like to be an art teacher, but now I feel like I have a better understanding of it. There are challenges though: thinking of projects to do, and having so many kids moving from one class to another, and giving attention to all of them.
What characteristics did you value in the teacher (Art Teacher Deborah Marris) you shadowed?
I think she’s great at classroom management, which is something I would want to work on. She has a strong presence in the class. I’m a little bit shy, and I don’t know how that will work out for me in teaching, but I feel like I can work on it. She is a professor at a college, as well. She gets to work with all different ages – preschool through college – and that’s something I might want to do, too.