LASR: The Future of WMS

Tim Breen
Head of School Tim Breen addressed the school earlier this week to talk about LASR, the new independent project requirement.

At Tuesday Morning Meeting, Head of School Tim Breen addressed the school with an important announcement. He began with a question.
“The word LASER is an acronym. Anybody know what it stands for?”
 
Eli Webber, class of 2014, raised his hand and answered, “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” to thunderous applause by the student body.
 
“That’s right. A laser works by doing two things — amplifying (increasing) the light energy, and focusing it.
 
“We’ll come back to this.
 
“I’ve stood here before and shared this quote:
 
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats)
 
“Now more than ever – as information has become incredibly easy to access – education cannot be about filling you with information. Instead, it must honor the light that is within each of you. The spark of curiosity. Our job as a school, and your job as a learner, is to kindle that spark, to focus that energy so you can make a difference in the world.
 
“This is why the faculty voted last year to have an independent project graduation requirement — beginning with the Class of 2015, this year’s sophomores. This requirement is our way of saying: that passion matters, and that we believe each and every one of you has a spark to kindle, a fire to focus.
 
“We believe this, because we have seen it time and again. In the past few years, we have seen students compose, perform, and record, a CD of piano music, intern with a veterinarian, develop and lead a field course on the NH ski industry, serve in an orphanage in Romania, help teach dance classes at the Creative Edge Dance Studio, explore the organic farming culture in New Zealand, write and direct a play, and help as an assistant coach in our rock-climbing program. They’ve conducted in-depth studies of topics ranging from international trade to Buddhism to brain development and attachment disorder to theology to wind power to education reform.
 
“This is why we believe in you — in the power of your ideas, your interests, your passions.
We’ve seen it. And it’s impressive.
 
“We call this the LASR project – L A S R. LASR is our acronym for Leadership, Arts, Service, and Research. And of course, it is the perfect acronym because, just like a laser, this is about both amplifying the light within, and focusing it.
 
“Leadership, arts, service, and research are the general categories, the different types of projects you can do. Having different categories is a recognition that everyone is unique, and will approach this project from a different angle. You might be interested in leadership projects like developing and leading a field course, or serving as an assistant coach, or as an assistant teacher. You might be interested in arts projects like taking the portfolio class, writing and directing a play, or choreographing a dance. You might be interested in service — engaging in and helping
the local, regional, or international community. Or you might be interested in exploring an academic topic in depth, learning about alternative energy, or economics, or marine biology. The list really is endless.
 
“While projects will differ in their direction and emphasis, they will all include research and writing, a presentation, and what we are calling the “adding value to the world” component. Every project will be a way to make a difference.
 
The LASR project is important for four reasons.

• First, it is good for your heart and soul to explore something you love.
• Second, it will enrich our community to have individuals sharing their passions.
• Third, it is good for college admission: these projects will help colleges understand your unique talents and capabilities.
• Finally, the skills you develop in projects like these (skills like research and communication, time management, plan development) are the skills needed for success in college and life.
 
“Over the next few weeks I will be meeting with sophomores to begin brainstorming ideas for their projects. I look forward to it.
 
“For too many students, high school is mostly about doing what someone else wants you to do. About jumping through hoops. We believe that high school is about more than that: it’s about finding a spark that gets you excited.
 
“I’ll end with a quote from Howard Thurman — a theologian and civil rights leader:
 
‘“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs, is people who have come alive.”
 
“Make it a good day.”