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SEEK scholars research everything from orca whales to Python coding

SEEK scholars research everything from orca whales to Python coding
SEEK scholars research everything from orca whales to Python coding

Hallie Gibson, “Understanding Orca Captivity Through Storytelling”

For 8th grade student Hallie Gibson, it started with a question — are marine parks ethical?

It was 2018 and she was on a trip to SeaWorld. Watching the trainers work with marine animals during shows, she began to think about the effect of confinement on the killer whale's brain. Two years later, with this thought still on her mind, Hallie joined SEEK to better understand perspectives on animals in captivity. After a year of research and production, she created a non-fiction graphic novel with information about orca whales in captivity and in the wild to offer different perspectives that allow readers to form their own opinion on the issue.

For the past 16 years, Harpeth Hall has encouraged 7th and 8th grade students like Hallie to further explore their curiosities through the Scholars Engaged in Extending Knowledge (SEEK) program. 

In SEEK, a student first enters the program with the desire to know more about a topic not covered in the Middle School curriculum. She works with a faculty mentor or an expert in the field who helps her formulate questions and guide her research. All scholars complete a final product such as a research paper, a publication, a performance, or an original composition that they present to the SEEK faculty committee as well as the Middle School student body. This innovative program encourages interdisciplinary modes of thinking to help students develop knowledge, empathy, and the capacities with which to act. Through SEEK, students build upon the academic foundation learned at Harpeth Hall in real-world situations that will help them thrive in college and beyond.

Reika Nakagawa is no stranger to the independence and motivation needed to complete a SEEK project — this is the 8th grade student's second year in the program. This year, she used Python to code her own website after being inspired by coding videos on YouTube. "Through my project, I had to problem solve and persevere because one incorrect coding element would throw off the whole program," Reika said. "The best part of SEEK, though, is to see the finished product that I set out to complete at the beginning of the program."

For students in the SEEK program, everything around them offers questions to be answered. Eighth grade student Anna Bowman Fletcher wanted to learn the science behind breadmaking after she watched the Netflix cooking show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Seventh grade student Miriam John created her own website to highlight the achievements of women in science after questioning why she was only ever taught about male scientists in elementary school. Inspiration can truly be found anywhere. 

Harpeth Hall's 2021-21 SEEK scholars covered widely varied topics, from “Lifting Spirits with 2D Animation” and “The Art of Character and Setting Development” to "Persuasive Technology and the Adolescent Brain.” Watch this year's SEEK Recognition Assembly to hear more about the extraordinary work produced by the 15 scholars who completed the program this year. 

Elizabeth Lefler, "School Spirit Animation"

2020-21 SEEK Projects

Addie Bowen, “What’s in a Dream? A Qualitative Analysis of 7th Grade Dreams”
Madi Chandler, “Lifting Spirits with 2D Animation”
Anna Bowman Fletcher, “Science in Cooking: Sourdough Bread”
Hallie Gibson, “Understanding Orca Captivity Through Storytelling”
Madeline Graf, “Eco-Friendly Design: Creating an Upcycled Gown”
Helena Harris, “Making Better Worlds: The Art of Character and Setting Development”
Miriam John, “Women in STEM: Closing the Gender Gap”
Elizabeth Lefler, “School Spirit Animation”
Ashley Maliakal, “Persuasive Technology and the Adolescent Brain”
Margaret Moore, “Interior Design: Modern Farmhouse”
Reika Nakagawa, “Coding in Python”
Taylor Gray Oliver, “The View From Behind the Desk: A Documentary About Teachers”
Cailin Rork, “Examining Disney Princesses as Role Models”
Lily Anne Thompson, “The Effects of Social Media and the Internet on Mental Health”
Shelby Tompkins, “Creating an Original Song: ‘You Know Me Better’”