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May 24, 2022

Laguna Beach High School Authentic Exploratory Research Students Present Their Final Projects

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -  Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) students in the Authentic Exploratory Research (AER) program presented their final projects last week in a walk-through symposium. The AER independent research course, adapted and inspired by Palo Alto Unified School District, has given students the opportunity to explore their passions and future career pathways through their own driving questions and curiosities alongside adult mentors in their respective fields who have helped guide each mentee in their research and analysis.

Student projects and potential career pathways varied from fashion and social media advertising to coral reef protection, video game profits, and the restaurant business. The individual pathway from meeting each mentor to securing a research question and conducting research looked different for every student. Various approaches included business challenges, action projects, and academic research, but they all led to the final symposium where their research was shared, including methods, analysis and evaluation, and final conclusions, implications, and next steps moving forward.

LBHS AER teacher, Jun Shen, reflected back on this year’s project, “I can’t describe how proud I am of the students. They threw so much of themselves into their projects, that each researcher’s end product was far greater than the sum of its parts. As cliche as it sounds, I’ve learned so much from each and every one of their projects. There was never a dull moment.”

“AER was an incredible class that I gained so much knowledge from,” exclaimed LBHS senior, Alex Wyman. “At the end of the year, being able to present all my hard work to friends and family was extremely rewarding.”

“Our AER students surpassed expectations for their work,” explained AER Mentor, Jimmy Azadian. “Their research, study, and reports focused on important national and global issues with an emphasis on reasonable and thoughtful solutions and recommendations for addressing those issues. It was an absolute pleasure serving as a mentor to our AER students and I am very proud of them.”

AER has not only expanded upon current LBHS college and career opportunities for high school students, but it has allowed students in the course to really get a feel for their future interests through their mentors. They have expanded on their academic skills through conducting research, argumentation, communication, professionalism, and critical thinking, preparing them for post-secondary education, life, and future careers.

“The innovative solutions these students designed and researched for the real-world problems that they chose were remarkable,” said LBUSD Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Chad Mabery. “The skills they developed in this class will give them a significant advantage when applying for college or a future job.”

Dr. Jason Allemann, LBHS Principal, shared, “As educators if we are able to maximize student engagement by essentially having them drive what they learn around their own interests, we accomplish academic achievement and build important industry skill sets all in one. This is what AER can do for our young adults.”

Michael Morrison, LBHS CTO added, “The skills and learning experience of AER results in students that are confident that they will be successful in their college and career endeavors.”

This program would not be possible without the support from SchoolPower, AER teacher Jun Shen, AER mentors, and Superintendent Viloria.

All photos from the symposium can be found on LBUSD’s Pixieset.


LBHS student presenting her project