Bow High School Senior Seminar Gets Students Involved in Community – and More

By Jonathan G. Steiner

There has been a great deal of discussion about today’s high school curriculum and how to be best preparing young adults for the 21st century and a global economy. Whether it be school-to-work opportunities, foreign exchanges, civics education or other programs, getting students involved in community seems to be a common theme. For the past 13 years, one high school in New Hampshire has quietly been getting seniors involved on the local level as a requirement to graduate.

Bow High School began its Senior Seminar in 1997. This half-year course is required of all seniors and is described as a two-fold course: a traditional research paper coupled with the completion of a major project. Gay Longnecker is the Assistant Principal at Bow and instructs Senior Seminar. “Each student must complete 70 hours of work in one of the three areas of concentration,” she explains. “We offer a community service project, a creative/academic project or a community event project.”

The community service project involves 35 hours of volunteer service at a local organization. It could be the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the soup kitchen or another charitable organization. The creative academic project allows a student to explore a field of interest: photography, writing poetry or producing a play. The community event option would be organizing and holding something like a blood drive, charity golf tournament, landscaping the town green or coordinating the building of a playground.

“But in addition to the hours spent on the project, there is a heavy research component required as well,” says Longnecker. “Each student must produce a research paper related to their project.” For example, a student who volunteers at the SPCA might research animal cruelty; a student who directs a play might research the history of the Commedia dell’arte or Shakespeare’s tragedies. “It has to tie back to the project,” she says.

Along the way, students must keep a journal and document their hours. And for those kids who may tend to procrastinate, in-building mentors assigned to each student help make sure they are meeting deadlines and jumping the hurdles.

There is also classroom time where current events and articles are discussed. “It’s actually classified as an English class,” says Longnecker. “There is a lot of reading and writing involved.”

At the culmination of the course all students must present their work and show both the research they have done as well as document their hours and project. Other schools in New Hampshire, like Souhegan High School, have similar programs in place.

While instituting a program like Senior Seminar requires work and change, it is a positive program. With little dollar cost attached to it, it may be a program that pays dividends for communities and students as well.

For more information visit:

Jon Steiner is a former member of the Kearsarge (SAU 65) School Board, representing the Town of Bradford. He can be reached by phone at 800.852.3358 or by e-mail at