By Katrina Lovegren ’21 Front Page Editor
Due to Mercersburg Academy’s COVID-19 campus closure, spring term events and traditions have been adapted to the online “Virtual Burg” format. Whether a part of Mercersburg’s Advanced Program for Global Studies (MAPS) since their upper-middler year or enrolled in one of Mercersburg Academy’s many Springboard options, all seniors have spent the last year working on a capstone project, an effort that would normally lead up to a formal “SpringTalk.” Now, to showcase their hard work, seniors have created online presentations containing the process of their inquiry and an overview of their findings or creations.
Using Google Meet, the audience watches the pre-recorded presentation which is followed by a live, virtual Q&A, where community members can join in to ask specific questions. Students, teachers, and parents from all over the world join to listen to—and celebrate!—the culmination of the seniors’ dedication and year’s work.
In order to complete their Capstone projects, seniors had to collaborate online, produce a pre-recorded presentation, and set up their online Q&A sessions. At the drop of a hat, seniors had to modify their original plans for online and sharing and accessibility.
JD Bennett, Director of Curricular Innovation and coordinator of the Springboard program, acknowledges the difficulties. The shift to an online format required a new kind of communication between the Springboard teachers and the seniors. “The transition has been a challenge. The Springboard teachers devised the method of access [described above], which took a few days and several iterations, and the Springboard teachers are having to do significant heavy lifting to help their students get ready for primetime. It’s taking a big push, but the teachers are doing this to honor the good work that our seniors have done this year,” says Bennett.
Julia Borger ’20 and her project partner Allison Jones ‘20 called their project “Working Boys of Mercersburg: Serving to Succeed.” Borger, a student in the Parallel Histories class, said “Originally, we were going to have a Google Slide presentation and stand up and talk about our project; however, with the change we had to make an iMovie video with our voice recordings in the background of the slide presentation. We worked together on the script, then each recorded our own parts, and then Allison would insert them into the iMovie. Thankfully, we had all the recordings from our interviews with alumni on our phones, so those were easily accessible. We were not so lucky in the video and picture department, as we did not get all the photos from the archives and yearbooks we wanted before spring break, and when we started working on our project again in mid March, the whole school was closed and we were unable to retrieve them.”
Caroline Kranich ‘20, also a Parallel Histories student, added, “The presentation that I had pictured in my head was going to be reduced to something online. I had to adjust my plan in terms of the way I was going to present my information, and it was very tricky to gather all my points together,”
Jack Mitchell ’20, enrolled in Write Your Novel, commented, “It was quite the task to be thrown at us. We not only had to complete our senior projects but also figure out how to effectively make a video. It felt very distant having my peers watching a video that I could not see their reactions too.”
Borger sympathizes with the other seniors and the adaptations that they had to make to collaborate in groups. “For me personally, this was difficult because I was working with Allison, so not being able to work together side by side was hard, especially when crafting the video itself, as only one person could make it on their computer.”
Kranich worked on a project that she called “Mercersburg Men in World War I.” “My pre-recorded presentation turned out great. I was really happy with it. The online Q&A also went well. Many of my teachers and friends made an effort to be there, and it was fun to show them all of the hard work I had done this year. Although I was just sitting in my room as I do every day for classes, it was still a rewarding experience to have had so many of my teachers and friends there to support me. In a weird way, it was nice to see the Mercersburg community come together to be at everyone’s presentations even though we are all spread out around the world” Kranich said.
Despite the unpredictable circumstances, Borger said, “We just had to pick up our heads and make it the best presentation we could. I really enjoyed the live Q&A session, as it was super casual with people popping in when they could, but they also asked some really meaningful questions. It seemed like the group of people just couldn’t stop talking about our project with each other, which was a very cool thing that probably wouldn’t have happened if it was a formal live presentation.”
Amy Mohr, Senior Associate Director of Regional Engagement, was able to attend many of the SpringTalk presentations. She said, “I can go and watch ahead of time or really whenever I have time. It is great to be able to attend more because I am home and not traveling for my role in admission and alumni relations like I normally would be. The new format usually allows for some time ahead and afterward to chat more informally, too.”
Bennett is incredibly proud of all the seniors. “So far, the effort has paid off. Last Wednesday’s SpringTalks were very well attended, and the Q&A sessions were filled with a lot of energetic and enthusiastic attendees. I hope the community keeps showing up like it did that day. If they do, they’ll see what I’ve seen: proud, determined students making the very best of challenging circumstances,” said Bennett.The SpringTalks schedule, links to presentations, and live Q&A are all available here.