The days of true-false final exams are numbered.
Taking inspiration from last winter’s Spectacular Student Challenge — in which teams of Staples students worked for 12 hours to find ways to make Westport a more environmentally friendly town — English instructor Julia McNamee devised an innovative 2-hour final for her AP English class: research, then solve, Staples’ graffiti problem.
Oh, and include a visual presentation too.
Last winter’s prize was $5,000.
This time around, students worked “only” for a grade. But their results were impressive.
One group discovered that the University of Virginia drastically cut binge drinking by educating the campus on the subject.
Staples’ solution: a community-wide effort, beginning the 1st week of school, involving television, newspapers and other media.
Another group learned that Mississippi State University offered money — donated by a local citizen — that increased each day the bathrooms remained clean. The Stapleites’ solution built on that concept.
One more solution: Showing a video in which custodians speak about their experiences removing graffiti from walls.
Yet another group explained why students “perpetually vilify” their own bathrooms: “It’s the ultimate ‘screw you’ — rebellious yet anonymous. It’s a ‘too-cool-for-school attitude that gives students power.”
Declaring alliteratively that “drawings of ducks and dicks” must stop, that group said: “Take away the rebellious factor, and you take away the thrill. If a roller-coaster didn’t defy laws of gravity, it wouldn’t be as appealing to teens.”
Will graffiti be eliminated at Staples because of Julia McNamee’s final exam efforts?
But it is one more indication that an emphasis on critical thinking and real-world problem-solving is firmly entrenched here.
Now, if only the SAT, ACT, AP, GRE, LSAT and MCAT followed suit…