In its mission statement, WHS describes itself as a community that “creates[s] scholarly opportunities and inspire[s] wonder” and works to create an environment for all to learn, according to the program of study. To complete this mission, WHS offers an independent study program, which allows students to work on an academic project that values self-directed learning and emphasizes self-discipline. However, in recent years, only a few students have enrolled in the program.
The WHS program of study states that an independent study allows students to create their own specified course of study. Students are required to work with a mentor, usually a faculty member. Once completed, projects are assessed and students are awarded credit.
Before starting an independent study, interested students are required to consult with their counselors and parents about their goals and to contact potential mentors. The next steps are crafting a proposal describing the nature of the study and communicating with the appropriate department supervisor. Students must then present a proposal to the principal for final approval, according to the program of study.
“The application for the independent study has to be taken seriously and the student needs to map out thoroughly what they intend to do and how they are going to accomplish the project,” said Guidance Counselor Ms. Jan Fine.
The program of study describes remedial, extension and creative independent studies. Remedial independent studies are taken to make up credit unearned due to scheduling problems or the inability to attend summer school. For students who wish to study a topic not in any existing curriculum, the extension independent study is available. The creative independent study lets students create a project of interest at a college level.
According to Fine, the school added new courses in science, social studies and math last year. She said that these additions mean that more independent studies are in the arts, such as photography, jewelry making, advanced ceramics, TV production and woods.
Only 10 students are currently participating in an independent study, according to Guidance Counselor Ms. Elizabeth McDermott.
“There used to be more students in the program because there were [fewer] requirements for graduation,” she said. “A few years ago, a student only had to complete 5 credits according to the state, but now they [need] 12.5 required class credits aside from the academics.”
Due to the self-guided nature of Independent Study, students must also utilize time management skills.
“Because the Independent Study usually occurs outside the school day, students may not realize the time needed to put into their project, said Guidance Counselor Mr. Andrew Buckner. It is a course where they receive credit, and it can overburden them.”
“The downside to all this freedom is that there are no regular assessments, which at first sounds good, but makes it hard to get a feel if you really understand the material. You are obligated to teach yourself,” said senior Helen Keating, who completed an independent study in micro/macro economics.
However, according to opencolleges.edu, individualized curriculum opportunities are valuable because “motivation to climb over obstacles is far easier to muster when the student is allowed to choose what educational mountain to tackle first.”
Senior Alexa Derman, who is working on a creative writing independent study, said, “You can tailor what you’re studying and how you’re studying to fit your own desires and needs exactly.”
For more information, consult your counselor and the program of study, available in the Guidance Office and on the school website.
additional reporting by Maddie Katz