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Capstone Experiences

A student sharing their Springboard project with other students at Mercersburg Academy.
Our senior capstones aren’t confined by the walls of the classroom: they’re dynamic, self-directed endeavors and the culminating academic experience of every Mercersburg student.

As part of Mercersburg’s graduation requirements, every student completes one of two senior capstones—MAPS or Springboard—built around their scholastic and personal interests. These capstones foster original thinking and allow students to proliferate their own ideas while producing compelling work in preparation for college.


In a world that’s increasing in complexity and a culture that risks asking less of us for the sake of skimming and entertainment, Springboard engages seniors in an innovative, in-depth capstone experience.

Springboard teachers are passionate about their subject areas and eager to work with students on real-world challenges. Though each Springboard is different in terms of subject material (from commercial arts to storytelling through podcasting), the goals of each Springboard are the same: to delve deeply into a topic, ask questions and generate knowledge, and create a polished presentation that will be evaluated by a panel of experts.

Springboard engages students through field trips, talks with guest speakers, and a wide range of activities and skill development. Based on the principles of Challenge-Based Learning, the program encourages students to think critically and identify problems to solve, challenges to face, or projects to develop.

A teacher talks to a student at the Springboard Expo at Mercersburg Academy.

What Is Challenge-Based Learning?

Apple introduced Challenge-Based Learning as an education initiative that would mirror the modern workplace. Students learn to collaborate, ask questions, use technology, tackle real-world problems, and share their results. The process pushes students out of their comfort zones through a series of simple and complex tasks. Students must learn about an issue or topic, ask questions based on their understanding of the topic, and identify a challenge that they want to solve. Teachers are the guides throughout the process, but they must remain flexible, adaptable, and curious.

Mercersburg’s Advanced Program for Global Studies

Mercersburg’s Advanced Program for Global Studies, known as MAPS, is a two-year capstone program beginning in 11th grade. MAPS gives highly motivated students an opportunity to employ the skills of research scholars, innovative theorists, and informed problem solvers. The program expands and transcends the existing curriculum, seeking to encourage and inspire students to reimagine their potential: they are empowered to become creative and discerning thinkers, independent and self-directed learners, and compassionate and engaged global citizens.


In 11th grade, MAPS students enroll in Thought, Knowledge, and Belief, a course that considers the role of morality, intuition, reason, philosophy, religion, and ethics in human affairs, as well as political theory and current events. Elements of the Socratic method are used for cooperative, argumentative dialogue between and among the students and instructors, asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying assumptions


In 12th grade, students enroll in the Senior Research Thesis and undertake a SEARCH project (Study-Engage-Apply-Research-Create-Help). SEARCH includes the completion and defense of a 30-page paper on a topic of the student’s choice, as well as a 25- to 30-minute presentation in the style of a TED talk. The SEARCH project involves considerable extensive first-person, online, and print source research.