Posters of the projects parade across two long walls inside the Sonoma Valley High School Pavilion. There are 295 of them. They are called senior projects, but they are also senior dreams. At least some of them. Others may be senior nightmares. And some, clearly, are perfunctory assignments, completed with reluctance and resignation because they frame the portal through which graduating seniors have to pass to receive the coveted diploma.
This year’s poster subjects ranged from fitness and martial arts (at least 10), various car projects (10), firefighting (3), to hip hop dancing (1), teaching meditation to children (1), fly fishing (2) and teaching pottery to children in grief (1).
Working with a teacher advisor and an adult mentor, each student chooses a topic, researches it, prepares a paper, a poster and a portfolio containing 10 elements, including a log of the time invested. They then prepare, practice and deliver a 20-minute presentation to a panel of adult judges who rate their performance.
Students are supposed to study something they’re truly interested in, with career and/or educational value, and they have to invest at least 20 hours in the project. Some fail to hit that mark, many go way beyond it and most, undoubtedly, wander around in the wilderness for a while trying to find their bearings.
The range of senior project topics is always intriguing. In addition to those listed above, this year’s topics included the application of false fingernails, abalone diving, writing a novel, constructing a pizza oven and socializing feral cats.