Students Present their Summer Signature Projects

By: Grace Gu ’16
Staff Writer

On March 19, Summer Signature students presented their diverse experience over their summer prior to senior year in Efros Auditorium.

“The Summer Signature program grew out from the Principio Project, which was an experimental program ran back in the 90s at Peddie,” said English Teacher Patrick Clements, the supervisor of the program. “It had signature components in it and has stuck with Peddie since then.”

The Summer Signature Experience (SSE) program enables a group of students to spend three to six weeks of their summer to pursue their passions they otherwise could not due to geographical or school limits. Under Clements’ guidance, students research programs available and design their travel plans over their junior year.

This year, a variety of students have presented their summer experience. These experiences range from helping a Native American tribe in Wisconsin receive recognition from Congress to applying microfinance in the Philippines.

Zoe Gilbard ’14 experienced the modern life of Native Americans in Wisconsin and learned about their culture. The tribe, Brothertown Indian Nation, was terminated in 1839 and has been working on the bill to achieve the restoration of its identity as a federally recognized tribe for years.

“It was incredible to experience a native American tribe in the modern day and see the struggles they are going through currently and be able to help them with the restoration of the status of their tribe,” Gilbard said.

Moira Donahue ’14 and Rebecca Seman ’14 compared the nationalistic spirit on the Fourth of July to the one on the Bastille Day by immersing themselves into the French culture. Their inspiration came from their desire to combine their love of French and history. After brainstorming, they found the French Revolution and Bastille Day.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to go to France and experience their national holiday and then compare it to our own while at the same time talking with both American and French people about their thoughts on nationalism within their country?” Seman said.

While some students learned through traveling, Jenna Hart ’14 developed a new perception of education through teaching English at a school in Ghana. She learned that education is universal and found that children learn more effectively via children activities, such as separating beans, rather than reading scholarly articles.

In Ghana, corporal punishment is legal, and teachers cane students as a form of discipline. One time, Hart saw a teacher force students, who misbehaved, to kneel on the gravel floor for the rest of the day.
“My reaction must have been [shocking], so the teacher asked me what was wrong, and I told her that if she were to have treated kids in America this way, she would not have a job,” Hart said. “This stuck with her, and she told the boys to apologize to her, then return to their seats.”

Alex Song ’14 and Justin Suh ’14 weaved through the jungles of the Philippines to reach their bank clients. Because the transportation is inconvenient for villagers to go to banks, Song and Suh helped set up a microfinance system online to enable clients to easily withdraw and deposit money.

The final Summer Signature project ends up as a completely different project from the ones students set out to accomplish: as students explore their passions, different questions and ideas compel students to naturally change their project .

Kavita Oza ’14 brought zeer pots to her neighborhood in India. Zeer pots are pot-in-pot refrigerators, which are pots that use evaporative cooling to create a refrigerator without electricity.

In the beginning, Oza wanted to introduce the digital world to all of India through computers, but realized that the lack of electricity posed a major problem. Thus, she created a whole new approach to achieve her original goal.

“My final project was no where near where I started,” Oza said. “I learned how to get to the root of my problems, see who can help around me, and then attack the problem in a meaningful way by actually impacting my community.”

While the presenters had fun presenting, students in the audience enjoyed their presentations as well.
“My favorite was Kavita’s presentation on Zeer pots,” Hannah Dewaters ’15 said. “I thought it was interesting how she found an alternate solution to a fridge and instead of donating money to people in third world countries.”

“I enjoyed the presentations a lot. I thought the one on micro-financing was very interesting,” Luna An ’16 said. “Based upon the statistics they talked about, it seems like a very effective method of encouraging small businesses to build more in less developed countries.”

With positive feedbacks from students, the SSE program will continue to serve future participants, who are passionate and motivated, as well.

“Summer sig won’t grow in size but other signature opportunities are growing, such as creative writing, EXP etc,” Clements said. “After all, I help come up with suggestions but I do not build a databank of resources for kids to pick from. I teach the kids how to research on their own.”