Highlands Blog

Highlands Graduates Prepare to Launch

On Thursday, May 24, the Highlands Class of 2018 will graduate.

This collection of 16 students exemplify the Highlands experience. A group of enthusiastic and motivated individuals, they have cultivated both strong personalities and passionate interests. Now, they will take their experiences and all that they have learned and move to the next phase of their educational journey, but not before reaching some invaluable Highlands milestones.

Leading Through Service
At the beginning of this year, Highlands’ 8th grade students displayed their citizenship during their Leadership Retreat. They visited the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, sorting food for hundreds of families experiencing food insecurity. Throughout this year, they put on their best smiles and greeted students during morning carpool. They have visited our youngest Family Center students to play and share stories. Through this year of service, they have positively affected campus culture in countless ways. 

Finding Their Path
It might seem like the outplacement process is a cut and dry series of tasks that one student must complete in order to advance to the next level of their education. Highlands students, however, take a holistic approach to this exercise—one that leaves them with a stronger sense of self and a strong retrospective picture of their entire educational experience to date. The Highlands outplacement process forces students to ask critical questions about who they are and where they want to go. Why choose one school over another? Why apply for a scholarship? Why explore boarding school? They are then guided through a discovery process that includes test preparation, mock interview, writing and application guidance.

Placing the Capstone
Fostering the ‘individual’ is an essential part of the Highlands experience, as is teaching students self-responsibility and executive skills. The 8th grade Capstone project captures all of these endeavors. Our Capstone program is a yearlong, individual thesis project centered on a particular passion or curiosity of each 8th grade student. It is a culmination of all of the skills each student has developed during their tenure at Highlands—public speaking, research, writing, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. Capstone exemplifies our approach to Project Based Learning, linking ideas and concepts to practical application at each interval. Students have complete autonomy over their projects while maintaining accountability with individual advisors, replicating activities they will encounter throughout their academic and professional futures. The program provides students with the opportunity to leave their Highlands experience with a tangible reflection of the knowledge, interests and character they have cultivated during their time.

These moments define the 8th grade experience, allowing students to finish their Highlands journey as citizens, leaders, pioneers and individuals. They also distinguish Highlands graduates from the pack; the 2018 class of graduates is no exception. In 2018, our graduates will matriculate to prestigious local and boarding school, including Altamont, Chatham Hall, Indian Springs, Jefferson County International Baccalaureate and St. Paul’s and have collectively been offered over $400,000 in scholarships. The imprint that they have left on the Highlands campus will soon be felt by a larger community as they take their next steps into the world. 

2018 Capstone Projects
Whitney Byington -- Common Ground
In an effort to educate people on the devastating impacts of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) I decided to use art to start the discussion. My works, entitled Common Ground, started a much broader conversation which culminated in a panel discussion of experts and an audience keenly interested in these impacts and other related issues. Following what I thought was the conclusion of my Capstone, I came to realize this project and my efforts will more than likely continue in Alabama and possibly other places impacted by mining.

Connor Doggrell -- Hydroelectricity! Shockingly fun.
I have always found the idea of harnessing energy incredibly fascinating. We’ll soon be facing an energy crisis if we continue on our current path. I focused my Capstone project on hydroelectricity. Specifically I researched, designed, and built a hydroelectric generator.

Katherine Effinger -- Hold Your Horses
My sister really struggled to keep her balance when she was learning to ride horses. She tried a “magic seat” to help improve her balance, but it actually injured her. Later we found out other riders had also been injured, too. So for my Capstone I wanted to create a better way to help riders keep their balance and remain safe in the saddle and I did just that. I created a detachable saddle seat that improves balance, while providing comfort and safety.

Thomas French -- No Mistakes, Only Happy Accidents
Inspired by Bob Ross, I decided to paint a landscape using different styles. First I set out to take photos of various landscapes. However, I ended up choosing an old photo to recreate. Once I had selected a photo I used various software programs to edit the photo. Then, with help from my grandmother, I drew and painted the landscape.

Andrew Glassford -- Positively Repulsive!
For my Capstone, I designed and built a magnetic cannon. It uses permanent magnets to build up momentum and a Newton’s cradle system to maintain momentum. The cannon fires small steel balls at about a maximum of three miles an hour which is about as fast as the normal walking speed. The lack of power comes from changes to the design to make it buildable and imperfections in the materials. The applications of this mechanism range from hi-tech water wells to bullet trains.

Olivia Honeycutt -- Musical Influence
Music has played an important role in my life. I wanted to know how music affects me and how I can affect others with music. I interviewed music teachers, college professors, and my classmates to determine how music affects people. Then I wrote a song to imitate the music around me and to elicit an emotional response from my audience.

Joseph Katz -- Game Design
For my project I designed a board game. I took an idea, designed a prototype, and had other students play and offer criticism. Additionally, I met with many experts in both the Board Game and Printing Industry to discuss concepts pertaining to my project. Creating this game required me to research, write, design, and constantly modify my idea. In the future, I hope to continue to improve my design and offer it to a company that produces board games.

Sela Komisar -- Documentary Short--An Equine Therapy Story NEEDS A BETTER TITLE
I knew I wanted to make a film for my Capstone project. As I considered subjects, I decided to focus on my horse, Razzy, and her special relationship with a girl named Michelle. Michelle is affected with a range of disabilities. She works with a equine therapist to address several of her challenges. During the process of filming I came to know Michelle and her mother, as well as Michelle’s therapist, with whom she works at the Special Equestrian Barn. I created a short film to document these special relationships.

Bruce Lanier -- Wood Working
I love woodworking. For my Capstone I wanted to share my passion with others, so I set up a series of woodworking classes for a small group of fourth and fifth graders. I invested significant time in considering the materials and process, then I recruited students. I coordinated the classes with Shane Carter, a local professional, and we had a terrific experience sharing our passion with this group of students. I donated the funds I raised to Magic City Woodworks, a local non-profit which helps young people bridge the gap from unemployment to gainful employment.

Lance Maddux -- Memories Made with Aubby
I chose to focus on this topic because I spend a lot of time with my grandmother. As she gets older I want to make sure she is strong and healthy for as long as possible. Through my research I discovered many apps and games that have had a positive impact on memory. I decided to use Luminosity to test specific skill sets with my grandmother. My Capstone project is the culmination of those tests and how they can improve people’s memory.

Gordy Morris -- Childhood Apraxia
My brother, Sanders, has childhood apraxia of speech as well as a sensory processing disorder. For my Capstone project I wanted to learn more so I could understand the condition better and share what I learned with others. I traveled to Michigan to visit one of the country’s foremost experts on apraxia. I was also afforded the opportunity to sit through a planning and consultation session regarding an Individualized Education Program (IEP). I definitely understand Sanders and his condition better. I hope to use what I have learned to help others better understand this condition and the children and families who are dealing with it.

Jackson Nabors -- The Traveling Dream
I love to travel and I wanted to help students better understand and connect with travel. I interviewed some younger students here at Highlands to learn more about their experience with and hopes for travel. Then I used their feedback and my own experience and talents to create a book. Once I had completed my book, I converted it into a digital format and had it published. I hope children have a chance to read my book, especially my own kids.

Tyler Nelson -- Silly & Kind
For my Capstone I wrote a book about my sister. Really I wrote it FOR her -- something she can keep for the rest of her life, but I had it published so other kids can learn from our relationship. Maci is the most important person in my life.

Davis Reese -- Disaster Proof
For my Capstone I wanted to design a disaster proof sports arena. I have been watching sports my whole life and recognized the dual role arenas could serve after watching the Superdome survive Hurricane Katrina. I researched a number of recently constructed arenas around the world -- some that were successful and some that were not -- to find out what worked well. Then I designed my own arena using the best ideas and materials.

Andy Schwebel -- Do This. Don’t Do That. Can’t You Read the Signs?
I have always been curious about how something as simple as a sign can change people’s behavior. For my Capstone I wanted to do something to help people think about environmental issues, no matter how small, so I designed three signs to influence people’s behavior. Each of the signs, which were placed in restrooms around Highlands’ campus, requested that people use fewer paper towels. For weeks I came to school early to measure the amount of paper towels left on the role to determine the effectiveness of these signs. Then I used what I learned to create new signs for different environmental issues across the Highlands campus.

Sims Tosh -- Reaching For the Depths
After our trip to Dauphin Island with Mr. K, I wanted to learn more about ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles). I decided to build an ROV. Mr. K and I spent hours after school building the ROV from component parts. During my Career Exploration Project I shadowed THE riverkeeper, Nelson Brooke. Nelson explained that groups such as the Black Warrior Riverkeepers could use ROVs to take samples in deeper water to give them more information to share with the public. My ROV will stay here at Highlands and hopefully will positively impact students for years. I hope it takes many trips to Dauphin Island.
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.