Project Exploration 2017 Details

About Project Ex

Project Exploration is a hands-on, project-oriented mini-term scheduled for three weeks during February and March. Our Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors have the opportunity to expand their global awareness through intensive travel abroad experiences. Students who remain on campus explore interdisciplinary courses. The program concludes with a Project Exploration Showcase, where students display their work and give presentations to the rest of the school and outside community.

PX 2017:

Case Closed: Crime Scene Investigation


Our students had the opportunity to take on the role of crime scene investigators to solve a hypothetical murder that occurred on campus. Our group had the opportunity to learn how to collect evidence through forensic techniques such as blood spatter, entomology, poisons, and toxins. They integrated math, science, and language arts into the study of forensic science and explored associated professional careers such as district attorneys, law enforcement, pathology, forensic science, and medical examination. Students were introduced to the various units of a crime lab and careers in forensics, as well as proper methods of evidence collection, and chain of custody. Other topics included the importance of expert witnesses and five facets of determined death. With the help of our local detectives and several outings, to meet with a myriad of professionals, our students successfully closed the case!


Purnell students in forensics

Our students had hands-on experience with entomology as they learned the life cycle of bugs and their importance of dating a crime scene.

evidence for purnell students

Our CSI Team had the opportunity to visit Liberty Science Center and learn about fingerprint patterns, as well as how to dust for and identify the type and quality of a print. As they investigated our crime scene they discovered tire tracks. After securing the scene they were able to cast molds of the tracks and identify the getaway vehicle.

Local detectives with students
Prior to submitting their findings, we had our case reviewed by our local detectives. They offered insight for those that are interested in pursuing the forensic field as well as helped us identify other key crime scene points to be aware of.

Students in library finding evidence

Ecotourism and Regeneration: Rwanda


Our students - and three brave faculty members - traveled over 7,000 miles to the beautiful city of Kigali, Rwanda. The girls learned about the conflict and turmoil that composes Rwandan history starting with colonialism all the way through the tragic genocide, and discovered how a country can find its future in the idealism and vision of its people and precious natural resources. Purnell students flew into Kigali and experienced city life before departing for exploration of the protected wildlife that Rwanda is so famous for. They had the opportunity to visit the Genocide Memorial, continuing their study of the social and political history of Rwanda.

Next they traveled to the Musanze District along the Northern border. Here they had the privilege to view Mountain Gorillas up close in a highly protected national reserve. Afterwards, students enjoyed a scenic tour of the famously beautiful twin lakes and toured Akagera National Park, home to many of Africa’s big mammals. The students had the opportunity to relax at the beach while visiting the town of Gisenyi before returning to Kigali. Next, the students visited the memorial at Kibuye, where the Tutsi people were massacred in 2004 and spent time at the Lake Kivu beach. Their last full day was spent continuing to explore Kigali and all that it offered - as well as contributing to the local economy. The twelve days in Rwanda provided students with a rich understanding of Rwandan tradition, culture and history and demonstrated how the protection of natural resources and wildlife is imperative to all aspects of survival.


student looking at monkey
Our students got within inches of these enchanting creatures. We were amazed to know how much the Wildlife Reserve had helped stabilize both the animal population and the community's economy. The care givers at the reserve have an outstanding and remarkable relationship with the Silverbacks. They care for and communicate with each other as if they are a family.

purnell students traveling

As our students explored the city of Kigali, they learned about local art and economy. They had the opportunity to observe various disciplines and try their hand at the local craft.

purnell students in Rwanda

The girls had the opportunity of a lifetime and still beam when they are asked about their experience. This type of hands-on learning had allowed them to not only understand, but experience a culture that contrasts their own and gave them the opportunity to appreciate all that Rwanda embodies.

Rosie the Riveter


Rosie the Riveter was a course designed to prepare girls for real-world life skills they will need outside the classroom. This course included financial planning, vehicle maintenance, home improvement, and woodworking. Our students learned how to pump gas, check engine oil, check tire pressure, change a tire, and maintain a car’s condition. They studied the basics of driver’s education and the interstate system. In the process we discussed financial independence including managing a credit card, balancing a checkbook, student loans, and keeping a budget.

Through instruction based class time, students applied their knowledge of tool identification and use through hands-on activities that ended in a final project. The students created a 3D model, then went and built a coffee table, bookcase, and window bench. For their showcase, our class renovated the senior lounge including painting the walls, building window benches, refurbishing the pool table, and sewing pillows and cushions. Field trips included adventures to home improvement stores, flea markets, IKEA, a self-defense class in NYC, and a woodworking class. Their final project was presenting the newly designed lounge to the Senior Class.


purnell student in a workshop
Our students had some hands-on time in the shop with our very patient and supportive Buildings and Grounds Crew with building the new furniture for the Senior Lounge.

student building a chair
The girls kicked off their financial responsibility project a game of LIFE! This helped provide perspective and aided in the understanding of the importance of balancing all the moving variables life can give you.

students playing board game Life

Strike a Pose!


In this course, students had the opportunity to examine the different aspects of the fashion industry. These included textiles, design, branding, photography, modeling, and marketing. Students explored the process of creating and selling a fashion product, either a clothing item or accessory, from the initial conception through to the marketing and sale of the item. The class consisted of both theoretical and practical instruction. We were fortunate to have designers come to campus to instruct our students with garment construction and production. The culmination was the production and marketing of student designs. Students generated an idea for a product, designed and produced the product, then photographed and marketed their products.


Our students were charged with designing and creating graphic tee's. They were encouraged to layer, experiment with texture and patterns.

a student drawing of a decorative skull

Our students had the opportunity to redesign some of their existing articles. This experiential process included but was not limited to: threading bobbins, ripping stitches, adding zippers or buttons, as well as following and cutting a pattern. If you have the opportunity, ask them about their sewing machine misadventures!

teacher and students sewing

A class steeped in creativity and design would not have been complete without a trek to New York City. Here the girls were given their 'Project Runway' assignment. They spent the day in thrift stores finding unique items they could repurpose into a new functional item.

students in new york city

Production: The Wizard of Oz


The classical musical Wizard of Oz continues to be a staple among high schools, colleges, and professional theaters across the world. With its vast cast it provides the opportunity for performers of all levels to join in many different capacities. Students took part in every aspect of the show from pre-rehearsals to tech week, painting to costumes, building to singing, and all that goes on behind the curtain. All participants were placed based on an audition, and there were many technical crew positions for this theatrical fantasy show. In just 3 weeks the cast and crew put on a full-length musical. This year our students had the chance to work with outside lower school children who were integral members of the cast as well.


Our brave and ambitious stage crew hit the ground running with the production of all of our props and scenery. Their creativity and attention to detail was profound. Our senior Set Designer used every minute of those three weeks to make sure each piece was unique and fully functional.

students working on set

students on stage in character

Production students continued to work hard on creating characters, learning harmonies, painting, designing, sewing, and so much more. Putting together a musical in less than three weeks is nothing short of amazing; most groups have months of after-school rehearsals and professional companies have six to eight weeks of full days. Purnell girls step it up and come together to put on the best show possible. The days are long and tiring but there is nothing like seeing it all come together. Take a look behind the scenes ... (Thanks to Gabby for creating the video!)