While Advanced Placement (AP) English language is the spring semester English course taken by most Blair seniors, this year 14 students explored their creative side by enrolling in the new “English 4-Capstone” course. Over the past several months, these students have developed original writing projects focused on a strong personal interest, and they presented their projects to their classmates and several faculty members in the final days of the semester.
English department chair Jim Moore taught “English 4-Capstone” this spring, and he explained that the course gave students a formal opportunity to dig into a topic they had always wished to explore or a question they wanted to answer. Some students came into the semester with a clear concept of what their final project would look like, while others brought vague ideas that they have developed into 15-page written works.
Mr. Moore mentored each student throughout the semester, helping them focus their ideas, pointing them to resources and providing in-depth feedback to rough drafts. “Some students were initially daunted by the 15-page writing requirement, but as they got into their projects, several went well beyond that page count,” he said. “Their level of engagement was impressive, and it was interesting to see their work evolve over the course of the semester.”
Matt Bottone ’19, an aspiring actor and playwright, developed a 100-page script for a new play, The Crusaders, which premieres at Blair’s Robert J. Evans Open Air Theatre on May 16, 17 and 18. Having begun work on his project during the fall semester as a member of Mr. Moore’s narrative writing class, Matt enrolled in “English 4-Capstone” because, as he put it, “it was the only feasible way for me to have enough time to write the spring show in time for production.”
“I learned so much about the craft of playwriting, directing and just theatre in general through this process,” said Matt, a seasoned Blair thespian. “The best part of this course was how supportive Mr. Moore was of our projects. He did so much to help us and always steered us in the right direction as we conducted research. I learned that I really enjoy playwriting, and I hope to create more plays down the line.”
Several students ended up creating a research paper as their final work, including Laney Vasseghi ’20, who developed her broad interest in psychology into a paper about the psychological disorder Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. “I wanted to improve my writing skills in a setting where I had the ability to choose topics that interest me,” Laney said. “Having the freedom to pick and choose what I wanted to do was one of the best parts of the course.”
Using the resources in Timken Library to full advantage, she researched whether the child abuse aspect of the disorder is more prevalent in men or women and analyzed her findings. “I learned a lot, mostly about the disorder and how it can affect children and destroy families,” Laney said, adding, “I also learned how to write a 15-page paper in a clear, cohesive way.”
Genevieve Koffman ’19 took the plunge into long-form fiction during the semester, producing the first several chapters and a full outline of her as-yet-untitled novel. “My story follows the actions of a strong female protagonist surviving in a dystopian world,” she said. “It’s different from most fantasy stories because it incorporates an array of modern-day issues, specifically ones I value.”
Reflecting on the novel-writing process, Genevieve has realized that parts of her crave excitement and adventures, much like the ones her heroine experiences. Meanwhile, Mr. Moore has been impressed with the way she has taken her deep interest in math, science and computer science and channeled it into the creative process.
“I’ve especially enjoyed working with Mr. Moore, who is a supportive, understanding and helpful teacher,” Genevieve said. “He has never judged my ridiculous ideas, and he is always trying to help me grow as a thinker and a writer. His excitement and passion for English made our class enjoyable.”