"When you sit down and get a large amount of work done, you feel as if you have accomplished something for yourself," said Curtis.
Virtually all Eastchester Middle School students enroll in the class where they choose a topic from current events, school life or personal issues to research. At the end of the semester, they present a portfolio to an adult, usually a parent, which includes five pieces of work called Keystones, a "best piece" of their choice and a letter to the reviewer which introduces the portfolio and its contents. The culminating presentation about their topic is presented through a digital pencast using a Livescribe smartpen.
The goal of the course is to learn and practice research skills, and understand a variety of software programs including Webspiration and Moodle. Different assignments throughout the course allow students to narrow their focus.
"This is blended learning," said Blaser. "The students work online but they also have face-to-face interaction where I can assist them with their project." Students can ask questions at any time during class in order to stay on track and refine their work.
Curtis' project analyzes the negative effects cell phones. "People are getting addicted and not a lot of them think about it," she said.
Her classmate Gianna Cassino is focusing on endangered species and the assistance they need.
Both students enjoy the uniqueness of this program. "You can do assignments at your own pace and it is not like my other classes," said Cassino.