Many people know about the SAS Catalyst class, but few know about the Catalyst program offered to students taking online courses through Global Online Academy. This past April, three SAS students – senior Jennifer Osborne, senior Karisa Poedjirahardjo and junior Jack Kelley – earned the highest distinction for their Catalyst projects at the Global Online Academy Catalyst online conference.
GOA is an online consortium of 62 of the leading independent schools in the world. SAS joined the GOA consortium last spring, and this year over 20 students took 30 courses online with their global peers. These courses cross all content areas and are counted as elective credits on SAS transcripts.
Unlike SAS Catalyst, where students begin a project of their choice from scratch, GOA Catalyst stems from students’ online course curriculum. Some of the GOA courses require students to participate in the Catalyst conference.
In Neuropsychology, students learned about brain anatomy and function while exploring diseases that are currently being researched by neuroscientists, such as Alzheimers. Additionally, students studied topics such as consciousness and emotional intelligence. The course culminated with students choosing a neuropsychological disease to conduct research on and then creating a Kickstarter campaign in an attempt to generate funds to contribute towards that disease. This was also the basis for their Catalyst project.
Another difference noted by Jennifer Osborne is that “the GOA catalyst takes significantly less time and focuses more on the product than the process of creating your project.”
According to the Global Online Academy website, students’ projects stemmed from 10 different courses, including Game Theory and Organic Chemistry in Modern Life. Overall, there are 50+ GOA courses.
Jack Kelley took the Neuropsychology course and decided to focus his end of the year project on researching a possible cause for Multiple Sclerosis. “I chose to research [MS] because I know that my aunt has it,” said Jack. “I wanted to learn more about her disease because it’s important to me.” Jack’s project provides insights as to what the disease is, its symptoms, and discusses current research and understandings surrounding MS. He also includes an interview with his aunt.
Jennifer Osborne also took the Neuropsychology course and researched Synaesthesia. “It’s a little-known neurological condition that has always fascinated me. I wanted to raise awareness of the benefits of funding research for disorders that aren’t necessarily harmful.” Jennifer’s project explains that we don’t know much about what actually causes Synaesthesia and includes an interview with a synaesthete.
Senior Karisa Poedjirahardjo took the Advocacy course, which led her to pursue a Catalyst project focusing on how to make schools more LGBT friendly. “I picked this topic because it’s one that has followed me throughout the past couple of years,” said Karisa. “As I got more involved with SAS’s Gay-Straight Alliance, we started to tackle this looming problem of inclusivity and lack of representation in our education.”
While the projects were successful, they weren’t without challenges. “The biggest challenge was probably timing,” Jennifer said. “My instructor didn’t really give us a concrete deadline for the project, just the date the Catalyst conference opened.”
But overcoming the difficulties was well worth it when the projects were shared online with an audience from over 62 schools. The collection of everyone’s projects created an incredible array of fascinating topics. Jennifer shared that she “really enjoyed looking at other people’s projects, since a lot of them were really impressive and relevant to daily life – even if the course was organic chemistry.”