How to Do High School Humanities Projects

Cory Chen
December 28, 2023

Two Types of High School Humanities Projects 

There are essentially two different types of high school humanities projects: research and creative arts projects. The purpose of humanities research is to investigate a problem in the world (in art or in reality) and to explain it to scholars in a beneficial way. The purpose of creative arts projects is similar, but the main focus is to express your opinion or communicate an idea through art. The result of your communication might be reconnecting with your great grandparents by learning their musical instrument and playing their favorite song; or, it might be something more complex like trying to make sense of trauma or the inevitability of death.

Not interested in the humanities? Check out our blog on high school passion projects to make a project for any interest!

Some examples of humanities research include: 

  1. English Literature: writing a 25 page paper on Samuel Beckett’s conception of negative theology in his trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable. A project of such a dimension would require extensive reading of philosophical books, consultation with a college professor, and academic research on other scholars who have written about Samuel Beckett. 
  2. History: Exploring the history of global pandemics from the Black Death to COVID-19. You might analyze and point out trends in global pandemics, or its cultural or social effects on a community or aspect of society. 
  3. Social Science: Researching Ukrainian culture in the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian war by watching documentaries, researching on social media, reading media articles, or interviewing Ukrainians in your community. 
  4. Religion: Exploring Hinduism by going to India or going to Hindu communities in your area and interviewing Hindu priests, analyzing Hindu aesthetics and art, talking with professors of Hinduism and writing a paper or making a documentary about it.  
  5. Political Science: Working with an expert or politician to analyze voting outcomes by demographics— perhaps asking a question such as why Latine voter turnout went down x% in 2020.   

Some examples of creative humanities projects include: 

  1. Societal problem: Creating a piece of art to mourn a public tragedy. For example, people held a memorial concert after the Monterey Park shooting. Another way could be to paint a public mural. 
  2. Family history: Reconnecting with your ancestors and exploring your family tree by going to their home and learning traditions. 
  3. Environmental Photography: Going to Alaska or a sanctuary near you and capturing pictures of endangered species or environmental problems.  
  4. Poetry: Starting your own experimental themed poetry magazine and getting people to submit, then distributing copies at your local library and museums.
  5. Theater: Putting on a play at your school or local theater about the difficulty and sorrow of losing a family or another personal struggle. 

High School Humanities Projects: 8-Step Outline  

  1. Brainstorm an idea that is personal and prevalent 
  2. Research what’s been done so that you can produce a work that is original 
  3. Ask yourself: what is going to be the deliverable of this project? A podcast? An essay? An art exhibit? 
  4. Ask others: Get a faculty mentor or expert to help you or join a program which helps you develop this project 
  5. Plan your project so it has an achievable time frame and is within your resources 
  6. Execute the project 
  7. Edit it 
  8. Distribute it to a wider audience or established platform 

Starting is the Hardest Part

When you’re brainstorming, envision your audience: who do you want to see your work and why? What is the goal of your project in an ideal sense? When you’re researching it’s easy to give up or get tired after a while, it happens to me all the time. Try switching your environment. Go to a library to research or sit in a garden. Sometimes it gives your mind a sufficient amount of novelty that helps you continue. Moreover, don’t do it all by yourself. Pitch your project to your mom and your high school teachers. Tell your friends and your friend’s uncle. This will keep you accountable to your project and give you the necessary creative fuel. 

Personal Examples

Here are some personal examples of high school humanities projects I have done:

  1. I conducted a research experiment about the effect of watching videos of LGBT spoken word poetry on people’s attitudes toward the LGBT community. I had the help of a high school research class, a statistics professor, and several psychology professors (who I cold emailed). 
  2. For my mom’s birthday, I wrote a series of 12 poems, one for each month of the year, and wrote it on a calendar. Then I drew an image to symbolize each poem. The poems traced my mother’s history from inside her mother’s womb to a place beyond death and tied in themes of faith, motherhood, Chinese culture and immigration, and family. 
  3. I created a personal website which displayed all my creative works. 
  4. I wrote a TV show script called, “I’m Smarter than You in Armwrestling” by participating in UCLA’s summer session on TV writing.  

Need help brainstorming a high school humanities project? Schedule an appointment with an admissions counselor here!

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