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Completing an Extracurricular Project: Make it Worth Your While

By J Sarah Metzker Erdemir

How can you work with a teacher or mentor to plan your extracurricular project and get the most out of it? This article discusses choosing projects, setting goals, and assessing final products.

The Value of Extracurricular Projects

Extracurricular projects are a good way for students to get “real world” experience. You can work in an area that interests you, and that prepares you for college and your career while getting school credit for it. With forward planning and careful consideration of your goals, you can choose and carry out an extracurricular project that should help you for years to come. And don’t forget, projects look great on college applications.

Choose, Plan, and Carry Out Your Project

1) Consider your educational and career goals. If you’re like many high school students and have no idea what you want to do in the future, consider your interests and how you can learn from them. For example, if you like working with people, volunteer at a food bank, an elementary school’s after-school program, a senior citizens’ home, or at some other charity. You might also do a project in art, music, writing, or research, depending on your interests.

2) Choose a mentor. You will need a teacher or mentor to help guide you in your project and map out the project’s goals. A teacher with a background in the project topic you’ve chosen would be quite helpful, though you might also want to consider working with a teacher you get along well with and who is familiar with your abilities and interests.

3) Work with your mentor to make a schedule. To make your project most effective and to keep you on track, you will need to plan due dates for regular reports and times for regular meetings with your mentor. Most projects should include producing some kind of work along the way, whether it’s a sketch or a journal entry. Working towards “mini-goals” makes it easier to reach larger goals.

4) Decide what your project’s final product will be. The final product should reflect your goals for the project and show what you have learned. Examples of final products might be a portfolio or a performance of creative work, a written report, or a presentation about volunteer work you did.

5) Decide how your project will be assessed. Part of the assessment should come from you. Discuss with your mentor what your goals are for the project, and how you can show you’ve met your goals. Part of the assessment should also come from your mentor, and how he or she will grade your work. For example, at the end of a scientific research project, you should be able to discuss or demonstrate the results of your research and what you’ve learned from it. Your mentor might want to grade you on things like effort, timeliness of the work you produced, and the quality of the work. Before you even begin your project, you should know exactly how it’s being assessed and what will be expected of you.