The DCIS International Passages course is a research class required of all juniors in which students conduct independent research on a topic of their choosing. Although largely self-directed, students work with their Passages teacher on developing a thesis, setting goals, managing their time to meet intermediate and final deadlines, and incorporating feedback along the way. Students also receive input, guidance and mentoring from the fellow students and faculty members on their Passage Committee.
The first semester of this course challenges students to conduct in-depth research and organize it into an academic, properly cited, college-level or college-ready paper on a topic of their choice. The final thesis paper must connect to the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN) GPS leadership domains. Students will learn to ask focused investigative research questions, find appropriate sources for answering them, choose quality information and develop an argument. Their efforts culminate at the end of the first semester in a 15-page college-ready research paper, accompanied by a 30-minute oral presentation and defense of their research on Passages Day in January.
Passages Day is a full day devoted to juniors’ presentations. Students in all other grades, including middle school, get to select which Passages presentations they would like to attend during each time slot throughout the day. In this way, they get to see many examples of presentations leading up to their junior year so that by the time they’re ready to present, they know exactly what to expect. Plus, they get to learn about a wide variety of interesting topics. Parents and families are also welcome and encouraged to attend not only their student’s presentation but any others throughout the day. Those who attend consistently report being awestruck at the quality and scope of students’ presentations and walk away with a rekindled pride in the school and the education their kids are receiving. This video will give you a sense of what Passages Day is like.
During the second semester, students engage in an experiential learning activity of their choice, designed to deepen their understanding of a topic that impacts them and their community. They are required to conduct research, take action and develop a final product to share with their peers and DCIS staff. Students often say that their experience in this activity has helped shape their passion for their future (in college and beyond).
Students complete an additional Passage during their senior year, designed to further develop their emerging awareness of global issues through a self-selected service project. All students must complete one written Passage and at least two experiential Passages in order to graduate from DCIS. Students who wish to graduate with honors complete a fourth Passage, which can be written or experiential.