The Catalyst Exhibition: Summer

A Summer Celebration of Learning

In his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Sir Ken Robinson famously said, “The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”

At GOA, we support students to pursue their interests and express their talents by designing their own culminating projects and celebrating what they learned to a global audience through The Catalyst Exhibition. This summer over 100 projects were submitted and explored by teachers, students, and community members. Courses that participated in Catalyst this summer included Abnormal Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, How to Argue Well, Cybersecurity, and Digital Photography.

Browse the Summer 2022 Project Gallery.

What makes a project personal?

Over the Summer, Ariya S. from Lakeside School has been studying Introduction to Psychology. In her project introduction video, Ariya shared her interest in learning about how people view their own mental illness. She shared, “The goal of my presentation is to change the way people think about mental illness, so it would be different depending on whether the person in question has experienced mental illness. For people who have, like myself, experienced mental illness I want them to view their mental illness differently, and reflect on how it's changed them maybe for the better. For those who haven't, I hope this will help them not make assumptions about mental illness.” A fellow student from Lakeside School, Sophie B. nominated Ariya’s project for Peer Recognition. Sophie explained, “I nominated this presentation because I thought it convinced me of something I really didn't believe. Ariya organized and conveyed a very compelling point on a sensitive topic perfectly! Overall I just thought this was a great presentation to highlight.”

How do projects help students discover their passions?

Zola Y. from Northwest Academy had her project nominated by Reese Y. from Polytechnic School for Peer recognition. In her introduction video, Zola shared that “I have always been participating in sports and I've been told exercise is really good for you, and I've always wondered why.” Zola has combined her passion for exercise with her inquiry into mental health. At the end of her presentation Zola concludes, “Before I started researching for this presentation, I thought about the three perspectives of psychology as very separate entities. You couldn't believe in one without, also believing the other two, but through my research, I've learned that they all actually function together and they can form really compelling arguments together.”

Is there an upside to men­tal ill­ness?” Ariya S. — Lake­side School

The Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ben­e­fits of Exer­cise” Zola Y. — North­west Academy

Men­tal Health in School Com­mu­ni­ties” Lucas C. — Ham­den Hall

How do Catalyst projects put students in an environment where they want to learn?

GOA courses that participate in The Catalyst Exhibition give students agency and the time to pursue meaningful learning they are interested in as it connects to their course of study. Lucas C. from Hamden Hall defined a project in Introduction to Psychology. He said, “Because of our discussions, [in the course] I was inspired to ask the question Should mental health in all schools be dealt with more seriously?” Of Lucas’s project, his teacher Lisa Swenson commented on the “impressive efforts to respond to his question through thorough research, and full engagement in the process.”

Both peers and teachers get to respond and offer feedback on student projects during The Catalyst Exhibition. Each term, students in more and more GOA courses get to design and share their own learning. Explore the Summer Catalyst Showcase that highlights projects that were selected based on nominations for recognition by faculty and peers.

Learn more about Catalyst Capstone experiences, and if you are a member school consider running your own school-based Catalyst project and participate in the Catalyst Exhibition. Find out more about the Catalyst Flex Course.

For more, see:

This post is part of our Student Spotlight series, where we feature stories from students who take GOA courses. Are you a current or former GOA student who would like to be interviewed for a Student Spotlight article? Or, are you an educator who has a recommendation for a student for us to feature? Email us at with the subject title “Student Spotlight.”

GOA serves students, teachers, and leaders and is comprised of member schools from around the world, including independent, international, charter, and public schools. Learn more about Becoming a Member. Our professional learning opportunities are open to any educator or school team. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter.

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