Project Week Coordinator and Math Teacher Anna Moss '06

Project Week Assembly 2024: Embracing Mistakes

High school can breed an unfortunate penchant for perfectionism—striving for flawless grades, top-tier college admissions, or a résumé brimming with extracurriculars and awards. But Project Week, Commonwealth’s annual week of student-designed endeavors in any field that sparks their interest, affords students the opportunity to lean into imperfection, get their hands dirty, make mistakes, reassess, and travel wherever their minds and ambitions take them, as eight students related at our recent Project Week Assembly.

Staying close to school, Luca ’27 spent their Project Week collecting and analyzing survey data regarding how the Commonwealth community commutes every day. After reflecting on the data, Luca explained, they realized that their results may have looked rather different if they had rephrased certain questions; for example, they asked respondents if there are any means of transportation they would like to try. How different might answers have been with more context? (“You could be skateboarding from Worcester! That would be a totally valid answer”). 

Kailani ’26, who spent her week in Commonwealth’s kitchen with Chef Manager Dethie Faye, offered similar musings on the need to reassess as you go, like learning how to save an over-salted soup by adding potatoes. Whether seasoning dishes or chopping vegetables using various techniques, Kailani kept returning to one main takeaway from her week: “I was worried that cooking needed perfection; however, I learned that I was very wrong…I think of [cooking] as a true learning experience. There really is no perfect way.” 

For some students, Project Week was an opportunity to slow down and take an in-depth look at an area of interest outside the usual frenetic pace of the school year. Ethan ’26 spent his week using C++ to write a frontend compiler for a programming language of his own design, called Salmon. (Some classic haxxor humor helped lighten up his presentation for all the lay people in the crowd, too.) Milana ’25, leaning in a different direction, spent Project Week interning in the clerk’s office of the Boston Municipal Court, Roxbury Division, where she could delve into files and sit in on various hearings and trials. Embedded in the court’s inner workings, Milana was able to pick up on legal nuances, like the subtle differences in language used by prosecutors and defense attorneys (defense attorneys addressing defendants by their first name while prosecutors use titles and last names, for example). 

At its core, Project Week is an opportunity to do something students would likely never have the time to do otherwise—like, for example, writing that novel you’ve always said you were going to get around to. Bianca ’25 and Ella ’25 set out to do just that, joining forces to write a collection of short stories to be woven together as a novella. After settling on overarching themes involving class tensions and climate change, as well as doing some sci-fi world building, Bianca and Ella split up characters to work individually on their stories while simultaneously collaborating to make everything fit together. “We didn’t realize there’d be that much editing,” Ella remarked of the project, although the two successfully put together a rough draft by the end of the week. 

Taking an equally creative yet more manual path, one group of students ventured to Artisans Asylum in Boston, spending five days learning the ins and outs of metalworking. Representing the group, Will ’26 and Kevin ’26 explained what their week entailed, including melting down aluminum and copper, building clay molds, blacksmithing, welding, and plasma cutting. As Kevin quipped, capturing the ethos of Project Week: “We all made coat hangers, and I also made a crowbar, because, why not?”

If Project Week is meant to inspire any question, it’s that one.

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