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Project Week offers students the opportunity to propose and successfully complete two projects at the end of each academic semester that employ skills they have acquired in their academic and non-academic program during the semester. Students are encouraged to develop a project that allows them to pursue their passions and to investigate topics inspired by their recent study, one of which must be academic in nature. The application of skills and recently acquired knowledge relates directly to the intensive rehearsal time that is set aside for major performances of drama and musical groups. Fall and spring dramatic productions count as double projects. Project Week epitomizes the Putney ideal; students should learn and work for the love of learning; they are encouraged to engage in an independent process of inquiry and exploration. Projects represent a significant culmination of a semester’s work since the time devoted (nine to ten days at the end of each semester—a total of twenty days) is the equivalent of an academic month. The Educational Program Committee approves each project.
There's more to planning a successful project for Project Week than simply picking a topic. It's important to understand the limits while expanding your boundaries. Graphically, the process could look a bit like this chart. Click on the image to view the details.
Undaunted by the challenge, Putney students plunge into the week with exuberance, and many spend considerably more time than required as they get caught up in the excitement of creative expression or problem-solving. Some performances are honed to perfection and one notable project, begun during Project Week, is now in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Harvard’s Houghton Library. Projects are primarily about the experience and value of working on one's own, on a project of one's own design, rather than for the end result.
For up to 10 hours a day, Putney School students and their faculty sponsors work on projects ranging from performing a Mozart piano quartet to learning introductory Japanese. During recent project weeks students:
- Produced and performed Arthur Millers's Playing for Time
- Studied Existentialism
- Completed a plumbing project
- Studied Langston Hughes’s poetry
- Conducted a "think tank" on sustainable agriculture
- Wrote a French children’s book
- Wrote a history of the student's family
- Studied Kerouac and Camus
Ben C., from Westminster West, said: "It’s great to get away from daily assignments for awhile and to learn a new skill." Ben's project was writing poetry, based on a close reading of twentieth-century poets Galway Kinnell, Kenneth Koch, Charles Simic and William Carlos Williams, with the support and encouragement of English teacher, Harry Bauld. He also made outerwear, including an especially distinctive hat, from recycled fabrics in a group project.
Designed to foster lifelong habits of pride in personal accomplishment, Project Week is, finally, a community event where parents, faculty and fellow classmates applaud acting, singing, orchestral and jazz music, art, and intricate science experiments, and other accomplishments. It is an extraordinary time for most--exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, and always maturing.