AMOS & CELIA HEILICHER MINNEAPOLIS JEWISH DAY SCHOOL

My Eighth Grade Capstone Experience

By Josh B., Eighth Grade and Morgan Stair, Language Arts Teacher

One of the hallmarks of the Heilicher experience is the eighth grade capstone project. The capstone assignment is an interdisciplinary project where students explore a social justice issue of their own choosing. After students have selected a topic, they spend time researching their subject, conducting at least one interview with an expert in the field. Then, students write an eight to ten-page paper about their findings and ways to improve their area of interest. In addition to the research paper, students also attempt a hands-on collaborative experience, such as attending a rally, volunteering with an organization, or pitching ideas to actual stakeholders. Finally, students create both a capstone board and a media presentation. The media presentation focuses on how their topic relates to Jewish values and beliefs. 

Heilicher eighth grader Josh B. shares below about his experience with this milestone project. 

For my capstone project, I chose to research and write about factory farms. I chose the topic of factory farming because I wanted to research an issue concerning the rights and abuse of animals. I think it is so important to protest and let people know about animal mistreatment because animals can't fight for themselves and we are the only ones who can help make a change. For people not aware, factory farms, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are industrial facilities that raise large numbers of farm animals such as pigs, chickens, or cows in intense confinement where their movements are extremely inhibited. Even though these farms offer cheap food, they abuse animals, take advantage of their workers, pollute the world, jeopardize our health, and often trick us into supporting them with misleading labels on food packages.
    
Common animal care practices or CAFOs include overcrowding, physical alteration without painkillers (beak, tail, and horn clipping, castration, branding), continuous production, permanent confinement, and more. Due to all the terrible conditions, the animals are also prone to disease. In hopes of preventing disease, factory farms overuse antibiotics on the animals, which can be as harmful as all the disease itself. They also often employ low-paid workers who are in desperate need of jobs and are able to take advantage of them because many are illegal immigrants and cannot complain in fear it may draw attention to them. In addition to all this, factory farms generously contribute to climate change and waste an abundance of natural resources. 

In my paper, I argue that we need to diminish factory farms, if not abolish them. I helped form this opinion when I visited a small farm in rural Wisconsin and learned all about agriculture and got to experience in-person animal farming for myself. There, I also learned how hard it is for small local farmers competing with big mass producing CAFOs while still remaining affordable and humane. This is why I also urge you, Heilicher families, to choose eco- and animal-conscious food brands and stores next time you buy a chicken for Shabbat dinner. 



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Why I Love Teaching at Heilicher

Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to schools across the country, consulting about how to create vibrant and effective school cultures. The foundation of this work is about relationships. Regardless of a student’s innate skills or abilities, if the teacher and student have a strong relationship, that student has a greater likelihood of progressing.