Katharina Wetzig combined her love of art, research and botany to create a book on native and invasive plants in the South Cariboo to top off her years of high school.
The book is still a work in progress but the Peter Skene Ogden Secondary student said it was fascinating to learn about various plant uses.
“Wormwood is used by some people to get rid of parasites and it can also be made into absinthe,” Wetzig said. “I’ve always been part of the farming and ranching community so I’ve always had experiences with these plants but through this project, I decided to go deeper into them.”
Wetzig’s research was done as part of her Capstone Project, which is described as a project a student takes on outside of school hours that serves as a culminating academic and intellectual experience. All Grade 12 students are required to complete one as part of graduation.
Others took on projects ranging from building a violin to restoring a truck’s engine and monitoring physical fitness. Last week the students got the chance to share their projects with a dozen members of the community for evaluation and feedback.
PSO’s work experience facilitator Heather Woods said she was impressed by the 70 grads’ creativity and dedication. As long as their chosen project was approved by the school, Woods said they had free rein to choose any topic. Each student had to spend at least 40 hours working on it outside of school with a mentor.
“I nicknamed it the Passion Project a couple of years ago because it should be something they’re passionate about,” Woods said. “We had everything from silverware jewelry to makeup tutorials and barn construction to fixing up trucks.”
Kate Lang, one of the community judges, said the program has changed a lot since she was in high school. When she attended PSO 25 years ago, the projects were more rigid and structured.
“I think it’s a really great direction they’re going with,” Lang said. “I think it makes the kids a lot more at ease so they can enjoy the process.”
Lang said it was an honour to judge the projects, as they were so diverse. One student even built their own barn.
“The variety was quite wide but it was very interesting and they were all so thorough,” Lang said. “It was very inspiring. I think the way the school system is adjusting to different styles of learning and giving kids an opportunity to excel is exciting to see.”
Student Carson Harris chose to redo the exhaust on a 1978 square-body pickup truck. He stripped the truck’s old exhaust manifolds off the sides and replaced them with new ones, making his truck “really loud.”
He said it took him about 43 hours but he didn’t mind spending the extra time. It was good practice for his future as a heavy-duty mechanic, which he plans to study at Thompson Rivers University next fall.
“It felt good to see how the hard work paid off and finally get that stress off my back.”
Wetzig, who has worked with the Invasive Species Council of B.C. in the past, said the time went by quickly. Although she wasn’t able to complete the book, she brought along several components to show to her judge. They included samples of various plants, paintings she made using homemade paints, and a concept for a cover made from tree bark, simulated with paper mache.
She said she enjoys a hands-on approach to learning, and she wanted people to be able to touch and feel her plant samples.
“It’s still in progress and I learned that things take a lot of time,” she said.
Woods said all the projects were a success.
“The students grumbled a bit in the beginning but overall, once they finished their project, you could tell they were proud of their project and were interested in sharing it with somebody,” Woods said. “There were quite a few students who took on big, grand projects that went well beyond the 40 hours that were expected.”
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