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Rugby High seniors present annual Capstone Night | News, Sports, Jobs

Sue Sitter/PCT Parents and students discuss research topics at Rugby High School’s annual Capstone Night in Rugby High’s commons area.

Rugby High School seniors presented what teacher Leah Johnson called their “almost fourth annual” Capstone Night on April 19.

The evening began with a presentation in the school’s Tilman Hovland Auditorium by Johnson and three members of the dual-credit English class.

Johnson, who has taught high school and dual-credit courses in English for a total of 19 years, told a group of parents and members of the public the idea for the project came from conversations with former students who told her of college research assignments they were doing.

The dual-credit course helps students earn college credits in English.

Johnson began work to develop the project “about 10 years ago. Then, I gave it its first whirl in 2018.”

She said she asked her students “to engage in research that goes beyond what is typical of high school.

“If we can send them out knowing those things (about research), we’re sending out students who are far more prepared for the type of things they’ll be doing in college and beyond,” she said.

“First, I ask them in the fall to pick a topic,” she said, explaining the project. “I don’t let them ask me, ‘What should I do?’ And if they do ask me, I tell them, ‘I don’t know.’ But I ask them to pick something that’s interesting enough that they won’t lose that interest for the next seven months.”

Johnson said the next step was to ask her students to develop inquiry questions to research.

The students developed skills in gathering information, then analyzed, and condensed it.

She said her students then compared their work with that of experts in their fields of research and studied any differences before drawing conclusions.

Their projects included surveys, statistical data, and interviews with experts or others involved with their topics to help the students with their work.

“These guys knocked it out of the park this year,” she said.

Johnson, whose daughter, Annika, was a member of the seniors presenting projects, recounted how she had watched the class grow since they were youngsters.

Variety of topics

Many of the young researchers explored psychological topics ranging from mental health to the minds of serial killers. Others explored societal issues such as why people join cults or follow conspiracy theories. Some topics related to science, medicine, and equity for races and genders in the justice system and scientific careers.

Three students, Katelyn Duchscher, Amber Selensky, and Saige Connot gave oral presentations to begin the evening.

Duchscher presented research on the topic of sex trafficking and its impact on Native American women. She said she found Native American women are “Statistically the highest trafficked race in the US” Her research included interviews with area resident Craig Zachmeier, who works as an agent for the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Selensky presented research on paid parental leave in developed countries, contrasting nations such as Canada and Great Britain with the United States. She said she found no large political divide among opinions on the issue, with Republicans and Democrats generally favoring parental leave, although slightly fewer Republicans favored such policies.

Next, Connot presented information on the minds of serial killers, which included an interview with Katelyn Bock, a criminology researcher from the University of North Dakota. She also presented data indicating abnormalities in the brains of serial killers, although she said she learned the abnormalities could be present in the brains of non-criminals.

After the presentations, 23 other students from Johnson’s class went to the school commons area, where they had set up displays devoted to their research.

Alyssa Harmel chose “Race and the Justice System” as her project’s title. She said she chose her project by ella after reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.

“My question was about what kinds of inequities exist in the justice system,” she explained.

Harmel said she found the topic interesting after seeing injustice addressed by Black Lives Matter. However, she added, she plans to study microbiology in college.

Cole Vietz-Reile’s project explored minorities in military history.

“I wanted to see where it all started, so I went all the way back to the military in World War II,” Vietz-Reile said.

Much of his project focused on the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen, whose flying missions paved the way for African-American pilots in the United States military.

“They succeeded (in their mission) and ultimately pushed the US military to end segregation,” Vietz-Reile noted.

Kiara Larson, whose project topic was gaslighting, said, “I was surprised at how many people in Rugby knew what this means.”

She said the practice, named for the Alfred Hitchcock film “Gas light,” consists of lying or tricking a person “into doubting reality or their sanity.”

She said data she studied showed gaslighting could be motivated by misogyny, or the hatred of women, although anyone could be a victim.

Anna Duchscherer studied the development of children who grow up in foster care. She said she was surprised most foster homes don’t match the perception some have of abusive environments created by parents motivated only by money.

“People who are in the foster care system can actually do as well as anyone else,” she said, adding her research included interviewing a high school student who lived with foster parents.

Duchscherer said she plans to pursue a career in marketing, although child development interested her as a topic.

Thatcher Volk, who lives on a farm east of Rugby, explored urban sprawl.

“It’s the act of a city growing into the wildlife and farmland. And me, coming from an ag background, you can see how (businesses and residential neighborhoods) are growing east out of town,” I have added.

Volk noted overdevelopment could threaten cropland and other sources of food for populations.

He said the lack of knowledge among people he spoke to about urban sprawl surprised him.

“There’s not a lot of information on it out there,” Volk said. “A lot of it is from India or Brazil (where the topic is studied more by governments).”

Volk said he also spoke to his mother, Lisa’s relatives in Massachusetts for information. He plans to pursue a career in agriculture after studying at Bismarck State College.

Other students presenting their projects were Brooke Anderson, who chose Title IX and women’s athletics; Lathan DeMontigny, who explored mental illness and criminalism; Kiah Gault, whose project researched cults and the reasons people join them; Mya Geisinger, who researched conspiracy theories; Sawyer Harmel, who researched privacy versus security in the United States; Anna Johnson, who researched medical miracles; Kordell Kraft, who researched the viability of widespread organic farming; Emilee Lindstrom, who researched stigma attached to mental illness; Taya Ramaden, who researched the increasing rate of autism diagnosis in children; Gavin Schepp, who researched electric vehicles; Rylie Suchor presented information on rural healthcare issues; Amy Volk studied water pollution and waterborne illness; Alex Whorley studied the future of self-driving cars; Emily Yoder researched the arts in education; Tucker Schoneberg studied disinformation, misinformation and their connection to the First Amendment; Ethan Musser explored a related topic, misinformation and the harm it causes; Taylor Mayer and Annika Johnson both examined the gender gap in the STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math field.


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