Inquiry Day 2016

Seven seniors presented their capstone senior inquiry projects to the Cate community on Tuesday, May 17. John Swain, one of the faculty members who oversees the inquiry program says the idea behind Inquiry Day started with "a process by which seniors would explore a question, find answers of their own, and present their work to the School community." Students and faculty spent the day attending presentations on subjects ranging from astrophotography to Chinese-American relations to the application of mathematical power laws in everyday situations. 

Seniors Emma Liberman and Jaime Yrastorza began the day with a presentation in the Hitchcock Theater. They started their projects independently, but found that their interests in genetics, biotechnology, and ethics began to intertwine. At Swain's suggestion, the two seniors formed a duo, with Jaime focusing on the burgeoning science of genetics and Emma delving into the ethical components of this exciting and challenging area of science. Jaime says that their joint project "was one of the most rewarding things I've done at Cate." Emma adds that the project was "the biggest, most important thing I have ever done in school." They presented without a script à la TED Talk, which Cece Schwennsen, who also oversees the program described as, "one of the best inquiry presentations we have seen at Cate."

Jaime Yrastorza '16, along with Emma Liberman '16 share their research on genetics, biology, and ethics for the community in the Hitchcock Theater on Tuesday. 

Gabi Limón '16 presented her research on American culture and politics immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She gave a packed theater a brief overview before delving into the consequences of what she called "the most documented event in history." Gabi explored Islamophobia, the role of media, and the rise of nationalism post 9/11. The senior who was only a year old when the attacks occurred, grappled with the idea that the American experience was forever redefined for her generation.

"The day was a great success," says Schwennsen. "I measure that by the quality of the presentations but more importantly, the buzz afterward." After the six presentations, seniors from various advanced-level courses had an open house of their work, ranging from podcasts to a pop-up restaurant to computer science projects. The Senior Art Show also coincided with the Inquiry presentations, which according to Schwennsen, "helped the entire Cate community move toward a culture of inquiry."  

This is the fourth year of the inquiry program, which is currently optional for seniors. Though Swain says the School may consider a senior-wide program in the future. Self-guided in nature, an inquiry project allows seniors to delve into an area or topic of personal or academic interest. For Swain, "it's been fun to watch seniors grapple with research, new ideas, and the communication of them, quite independently."