Students explore independent study option

Tessa Voytovich, Co News-Editor

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A complaint made by many students about high school is that they are not studying exactly what they wish to study. However, what they may not know is that LT offers an Independent Study course in which curriculum is dictated by the student, for the student.

“An independent study gives students the opportunity to go deeper into a topic of their own interest,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction Scott Eggerding said. “It teaches time management as well as independence.”

Independent Study is considered an elective course. Each student with an IS has a teacher sponsor who advises and monitors the student’s progress. A student goes to a place like the library or Discovery Center, for example, and conducts their research or works on a project on a topic of their choice. For instance, Claire Bradley ‘20 is researching organ transplants and the latest surgical transplant technologies.

“Because I already took biology and anatomy last year, I wanted to have a medicine-focused and outside-the-box class during my senior year,” Bradley said.

Bradley’s IS entails not only research, but hands-on experience. Later in the semester, she will be working with a nephrologist (kidney doctor) at RUSH hospital in Chicago. She will shadow and observe ethics committees focused on organ transplants.

“My friend had a kidney transplant sophomore year,” Bradley said. “So, it is a bit personal to me. I’m also really interested in future technologies—the purpose of my IS is finding out the best ways to create the perfect match for organ transplants.”

Some other seniors took their IS in a different direction. Three members of a robotics team, Tim Sands ‘20, Justin Squire ‘20, and Leo Levato ‘20, have an IS to work on their improving their robot for competitions.

“At the end of last year’s [robotics club] season, we qualified for the state tournament but got crushed,” Sands said. “We realized we needed to spend more time on our robot, so we asked Mr. [Blake] Sauders if we could spend more time on it in an independent study rather than just two hours each Monday.”

The three of them work together in the applied tech lab to construct and to program their robot.

“I definitely enjoy going to school a lot more because I know there’s something to look forward to,” Sands said. “It’s definitely made my school days a lot more enjoyable.”

One student is doing an IS for the second year in a row. Last year, Braeden Norris ‘20 took a class that did not have enough students and turned it into his independent study along with another student. His physics teacher Joseph Barker approached him about using his coding skills to enhance the physics class curriculum.

“My culminating project is me making a ton of lessons in terms of introducing programming into the physics department,” Norris said. “Ultimately I want it to help understanding in physics classes.”

Norris is an avid coder and has always been interested in computers. A summer internship, along with computer science classes and his IS, are preparing him for his future, he said.

“It transfers to what I want to study in college,” he said.

Although these examples are science based, not all independent studies are in the science department.

“They have been approved in art, music, creative writing, fashion design, and other areas where we do not have a third or fourth course in a sequence,” Eggerding said.

In order to obtain an IS, a few criteria must be met. An IS application and contract must be signed by the student, the student’s parents, a teacher sponsor, counselor, subject division chair and principal. Prior to approval, the teacher and student must be interviewed by the division chair. Once approved, the student and sponsor must meet on a regular basis to design the curriculum together.

“Students who want to do an IS really need to be focused,” Eggerding said. “This is not appealing to everyone.”

However, students who are currently taking an IS seem to respond positively.

“I’m enjoying my independent study so much and I wouldn’t have known I could do one without knowing someone who already had,” Bradley said. “I want people to know that they can do independent studies.”

For more information regarding independent studies, see the academic program guide at LTHS.net.