One of the long-standing traditions at Powhatan is the eighth grade Chapel Talk. Each eighth grader gets up in front of the school community and delivers an 8-10 minute presentation about a topic he or she is not only knowledgeable and passionate but also one that the mostly younger audience, Pre-K through seventh graders, will be interested in and able to understand. The presentation is followed by a question-answer session. This provides the eighth graders the opportunity to share something unique about themselves, to teach others about it in the process, and to stand up and be leaders for the younger students. It also promotes younger students learning from older students. This capstone project showcases strategies Powhatan students have gained throughout their Powhatan careers such as research, writing, technology, communication, and collaboration.

The students prepare for their performance during English class first trimester. After being audience members for years, most students arrive in eighth grade with a pretty good idea about what they’d like to do, but not always. After mulling over possible topics for the month of September, in October, the students zero in on the final topic and conduct research. Pretty soon they are tasked with formulating thesis statements, which become the hearts of their presentations. The thesis connects to their passion and is – in a sense – the message they want their audience to take away from their presentations. In October, they work through at least three drafts of writing, revising, and editing their speeches before moving along in November to creating their audiovisual component to accompany their speeches. Most choose a slideshow presentation, which does a great job of providing visuals for the audience in the auditorium. Throughout the process, the students support one another through peer review sessions, providing both positives and suggestions – with the goal of each eighth grader doing his or her best.

“We learn not for school, but for life.”

Here’s what one eighth grader had to say about chapel talks when it was all said and done: “It brought us together as a grade. All of us wanted the others to do well and succeed.” And another had this to say: “Public speaking, making presentations, performing interviews, and conducting research are all tings chapel talks prepare you for. It’s a great experience for people our age to help us ‘learn not for school but for life.’”