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Date posted:01-29-02

Looking For A Challenge?!

by Katerina Vorotova


As the end of the semester crawls closer and closer, every student begins worrying about their finals. Beacon students have to endure a lot more stress, and do more work than just studying the same old boring facts. Beacon is an alternative school based on portfolios, where each student collects all the works over the semester, revises it, and presents it to a teacher and a student.
Martha Willis, 16, a Beacon junior student said portfolios “makes [her] see the whole semester as a big picture, giving [her] a chance to look at [her] previous works, and reflect on what [she’s] written.”

Although many students complain about the amounts of stress during the assessment week and claim they’d rather take a Regents test, Stacy Johnson, 16, says that “in the long run, we get more out of portfolios.”

To give you an idea of what the portfolios are like, and what kinds of projects we do, the latest project for History for many Junior classes was to educate their fellow 11th graders about a current issue that this generation would like to change. Each conference is an hour long, where students get to play teachers.

Many issues such as terrorism, reproductive rights, AIDS, poverty, abortion, sex in the media, cloning, education budget, domestic violence, and many others are explored. “The fact that students choose what to put in their lessons shows what’s important to them and what should be changed” Stacy said. We also find out how hard a teacher’s job is, for there is a difference between teaching and preaching. She said “before I could teach I had to know all about the topic, not just one side, I had to present arguments for both sides on controversial issues.” Martha added, “it’s hard being a teacher because your topic has to be both interesting and factual. I also realized teachers don’t know everything.”

The conferences were based on interaction between the audience and heavy head-scratching and arguing. Questions were raised such as “should AIDS drug pharmaceuticals compromise their patent rights and sacrifice the billions of dollars that were invested into the research for the sake of lowering drug prices and prolonging lives?” or “should U.S. offer Sub-Saharan nations $1 billion annually for anti-AIDS medication?” Students also came up with resolutions for current problems.
I believe this was the most prolific project of the semester, because a lot of time was put into research and preparing, and it was definitely an educational experience for both those who taught and those who attended.

Beacon assessment week brings stress, but some pressure is a good motivation for producing great works for a lot of the students. Very often students write short stories or poems that they present as part of their portfolio. Beacon focuses a lot on creative writing, arts, and technology. If you are an 8th grader who is looking for a challenge and possibly the most fruitful years of your life in terms of personal growth, Beacon is the right place for you.



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