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Huge Increase in Independent Capstones at Portland High School During Unique School Year

This year, many Portland High School seniors took on unique independent projects as their senior capstone. Projects included building an artist’s shed, building a smoker, art work, career research, building a guitar, making electronic music, and researching topics such as Buddhism, reading and mental health, preparing for the Navy, lobstering and African clothing. 

Capstone requirements include student choice and research. Most students complete their capstone through a class, but some students design their own independent projects. In a typical year, there may be two or three students who take on an independent capstone, but this year over twenty students designed their own project. Independent capstones help students to explore a particular passion.

Skye Ferris, who made a series of portraits of friends and family reflects, “My advice for next year’s students is to choose a project that you are actually excited to complete, as I found my own process very enjoyable and it was something I had wanted to do for some time.”

Elias Parker who worked with two other students to help build an artist’s shed said, “ I am most proud of the seemingly far-fetched idea we had, and our ability to follow through and not sacrifice any magnificence nor quality in our project.”  When asked about advice he would give other students, Eli shared “GO BIG, you’ll be proud of yourself”

Portrait by Skye Ferris

Elias Parker, Jack Mahoney, Mikeal Van Mierlo working on their artist’s shed

The inside of Matthew Breece and Malcom Gartland’s meat smoker

Malcom Gartland with the meat smoker he and Matthew Breece made for their senior capstone

This large increase is likely due to the fact that the pandemic allowed for more independent learning, time to explore personal interests, and flexible time in which to do the projects. Hopefully this is a start to many meaningful independent projects in the future!

Information for this article was provided by Portland Public Schools as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at

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