Animas High School senior presentations did not disappoint

I was very fortunate to attend several of the Senior Project Presentations from the founding class at Animas High School last month. I was particularly interested in seeing the many Children’s House graduates I knew 15 years ago when they were 3.

I wanted to see what they were studying, how they presented themselves and where they were headed in the next phase of their lives. I was not disappointed! There was one presentation about social norms through music and how it affects school systems, war, complacency and this stage in a young adult’s life. Another talk challenged religion and delivered a full discussion of afterlife. Then, there was an in-depth lecture and PowerPoint about the environment, fuels and the future of humanity, with real solutions. Then, a critique of different religions as a paradox between peace and reality. These were complicated topics, yet relevant to these kids. The presentations were not just about some worldly topic – they mattered to these kids and their lives and possibly their futures, and they talked about this relationship.

Skills I observed were critical thinking, analyzing rhetoric and drawing conclusions, questioning, expanding opinions, complex language, nuance, metaphor, confidence in subject matter, facts and proof, issues and solutions, smooth timing between PowerPoint and verbal delivery, poise, self-assurance and focus. Whew! I’m sure the graduates were being graded on content, presentation, thinking skills and the written paper that accompanied their topics, but it all seemed so natural and mature, and way beyond what I was doing and thinking at age 18.

Of course, there were the “awesomes,” the mention of drugs and music, a bit of awkwardness and naivete as these kids also belong to their generation. The halls were noisy like a high school should be, and the energy in the classroom was high. It was very fun being there. My heart swelled as I saw these previous preschoolers now with coat and tie, deep resonate voices and command of the classroom. A young woman exhibited all the sweetness and innocence she did at 3, but in a much more worldly way. Another fascinating aspect of these presentations was the question period afterward. The teacher, of course, drilled each presenter with extensive questions, challenging on-their-feet thinking skills. But other students asked questions also, and they were extremely in-depth and thought-provoking. The presenters took them in stride, and were usually able to field all kinds of inquiries.

These projects challenged kids. They show the “culture of excellence,” “personalized learning,” “relevance” and “high outcomes” that are the tenants of AHS. This is the education for life we need in our school systems now.

This charter class is moving on to bigger things with college, travel and other endeavors on the students’ to-do lists. I want them to remember their roots, their community and their families as a foundation for their next stage.

And, I want to always remember their sweet, precious 3-year-old faces coming into Children’s House and feel proud.

Martha McClellan has been an early care child educator, director and administrator for 36 years. She currently has an early childhood consulting business, supporting child care centers and families. Reach her at

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