Students, getting more creative with independent studies

Brendan Sheehan l Associate Editor


Over the years, education has evolved to give students options into how they learn.

For topics that are not offered individually and advanced courses that lie beyond curriculums, independent studies offer an alternative to the traditional classroom setting.


Independent studies have been available to students for over 15 years and give students the opportunity to expand upon subjects, according to guidance counselor Jennifer Knight. In the past, students have studied courses such as fashion marketing, theory of math, and cancer biology.


Currently, senior Taliah Thomas works on an advanced level geology course with science teacher Richard Fried. She studies different minerals on their classifications, chemical compositions, and where they are found on Earth.


“I asked to take this course because I love collecting different minerals and specimens and learning all about them,” said Thomas.


With a passionate interest in rocks and earth science, Thomas hopes to major in geology in college. She has collections of hundreds of rocks and minerals, all spanning in different colors, luminescence, and value.


She spends much of her time working on the display case outside of the planetarium full of hundreds of gemstones from her own collection, as well as several that Fried provides.


“Doing this independent study is a great opportunity for me since I am self-motivated and eager to learn every day,” said Thomas. “I’m able to accomplish as much work as I want to on my own, but I can also share findings or ask my adviser questions.”


Thomas will take a course through Penn State University next semester studying forensic minerology, the study of Earth’s natural resources and their influence through the legal system.


For others, learning a foreign language not in one of the four courses offered presents the perfect opportunity for independent study.


Junior Kaitlyn Do learns Japanese with adviser Dr. Ana Zorrilla.


Do takes a vested interest in international travel. She hopes that by learning Japanese she’ll be able to connect with more people through meetings or conferences in her anticipated career of choice.


“I feel like it’s important to learn at least one other language than English since it can help you connect to so many more people,” said Do. “I’ve always had an interesting in visiting (Japan) one day.”


Working through a textbook and following prompts, Do uses the materials to study on her own time.


“My favorite part about the study is that I get to learn at my own pace, and I feel much more relaxed doing so,” said Do.


So far, Do has made progress learning basic grammar and sentence structure, while also learning Kanji, the Japanese alphabet. She currently speaks at the basic level of a kindergartener, she said.


“I think other students can benefit from an independent study because it’s self-motivated,” said Do. “People can learn the way they want, and I think that can be really beneficial.”


Other students extend their artistic abilities through an art-based independent study.

Senior Jailyn Duffy takes Painting II with art teacher Tori Dissinger during period 8 to wrap up her day. Working through different projects throughout the semester, Duffy currently works on a replicating a dysmorphic horror piece, picturing a young Macaulay Calkin from home alone gesturing the iconic shaving cream scream.


With hopes of becoming a medical illustrator, depicting procedures and medical subjects for textbooks or diagrams, taking Painting II helps further extend Duffy’s portfolio with different mediums and skillsets.


“I like my independent study because I can work at my own pace and do work that helps improve my skills while also challenging myself,” said Duffy.


With a skill-based course challenging Duffy’s skills in color matching and anatomical accuracy, she works by Dissinger's deskside for guidance and support.


“Mrs. Dissinger is an amazing teacher,” said Duffy. “She’s super helpful with teaching me new skills and showing me ways of improvement while also making me feel loved and supported.”

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