Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting To Know: Mike Powell

Mr.Powell is a guidance counselor at our school and is the faculty advisor for the Independent Project.

Getting To Know: Matt Wohl

Getting To Know: Lisa Baldwin

Getting To Know: Sophie

Getting To Know: Matt

Getting To Know: Sandy

Getting To Know: Annalena

Getting To Know: Wilson

Getting To Know: Peter

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Logistics

This semester of Independent Project will run a little differently than it did last semester, and this will probably be the case with every future generation of the Independent Project because we will always be trying to build off the last year and refine the program.
This is how it breaks down this year:

First Third

Monday- Morning: Pick natural science question
                Afternoon: Work on Individual Endeavor

Tuesday to Thursday- Morning: Research natural science question or read selected book
                                    Afternoon: Work on Individual Endeavor

Friday- Morning: Discuss the week’s book and share written responses
            Afternoon: Share natural science questions

Second Third

Monday- Morning: Pick social science question and math inquiry
                Afternoon: Individual Endeavor

Tuesday to Thursday- Morning: Work on math subjects and social science questions
                                    Afternoon: Individual Endeavor

Friday- Morning: Share math findings
            Afternoon: Share social science research

Last Third

Monday to Friday: Work on Collective Endeavor

Orientation Week Summary

Sandy Reading
Our first week together was spent getting to know each other and doing orientation activities. Monday morning, the first day of the second semester, we all reported to A-03. This is our room. It is a large concrete-floored, garage-like space, previously used for building design classes. Technically, two classes still meet here, but actually they spend most of their time in an adjacent work space. For the most part, we have the room to ourselves. There are two garage doors that can be opened (and will be opened more frequently come spring) to let in fresh air and reveal a view of the campus behind Monument. In the first week we brought in a table cloth to cover our table and requested permission to bring in a few items that would make this gray area a bit more homey and conducive to comfortable study and exploration.
Our View

We had many discussions over the course of the day, starting with why we were participating in this "non-traditional" learning experience. First time members often cited their frustration with the traditional school experience and boredom with topics not of their own choice that were not engaging. The Independent Project was an opportunity to spend time more productively and fit our ideals of learning much better. Those who had participated last year mentioned they learned best when working with a small, tight-knit group, and when exploring questions of particular interest.
We then discussed our worries and concerns. The biggest one was that seven out of eight of us are seniors. We fear senioritis but feel that this environment will be the best suited to fight the inevitable onset of senior slack-off. Some express concern regarding the ability to ask questions that lead to meaningful exploration. Some thought the transition between the first and second semester might be difficult. Others were concerned with the greater weight of letting down a group, not just yourself.
We then transitioned to a more positive discussion: About what are we excited? We're excited that we are in an environment that not only allows, but demands, that we make choices that guide our education and we have the opportunity to go in the direction we choose. We will be doing this with a group of people who are not taking this "class" to fill a credit, but because each member has thought about how his or her time is best spent and decided this project is the means to achieving the ends of a productive semester.
We had a talk about money. Mary Pope Osborne has provided us with $600 dollars for books. Thank you! The Bookloft has agreed to get us the books we need for this amount. Our Language Arts segment involves each member choosing a book that he or she has not read before to be read by the whole group. We also applied for a grant from School Center, Inc., but do not yet know whether or not we will receive that money.
A key difference between The Independent Project and a typical school day is that any homework is self-assigned. The veteran members of the group talked about the difference between homework as most of us know it and the homework we'll do which is really just work that is done at home. Work done in the day is work we have chosen and are interested in; this is the same for work outside of school. Each veteran member described homework in a positive way. Peter said that here homework is a quest for knowledge.
The afternoon was spent doing some orientation activities: a game, a scavenger hunt, and another game.
In the first game, we each wrote down an animal for each member of the group, including ourselves. Then all the pieces of paper we put in a pile. We picked them one by one and guessed to whom each referred and then the writer would explain the choice. The results were interesting. Some people were a whole slew of animals and others were identified as the same one multiple times.
These are the results:
Wilson - Bear, Bear, Ox, Teddy Bear, Black Bear, Bear, Preying Mantis
Sandy - Dog, Robin (as in Batman and), Wolf, Koala, Dog
Peter - Doggie, Monkey, Duck, Wolf, Panda Bear, Giraffe, Silver-Back Gorilla
Sergio - Beaver, Lemur, Sloth, Monkey, Yak, Lizard, Cat
Annalena - Frog, Parrot, Cat, Red Panda, Grizzly Bear, Wild Horse, Elephant, Cat
Matt - Lion, Owl, Walking Stick Bug, Cat, Lion, Human, Gorilla, Chocolate Lab
Jake - Rat, Raccoon, Platypus, Snake, Armadillo, Red Panda, Bird, Newt
Sophie - Owl, Sabertooth Tiger, Dolphin, Owl, Poodle, Owl
(If you do the math, we lost some slips of paper along the way...)
The scavenger hunt involved finding, within the school, something you love, something you hate, something you want to change, something that makes you laugh, something worth exploring further, something designed well, and something you would take to a desert island. This was an interesting activity because it forced us to find a way to document each of these items if they were not portable.
Our final activity was to spend five minutes writing down every question that came to mind. Some were more successful than others with this. We then shared the questions we came up with and made suggestions on ways to refine the questions into something that you could spend a week working to answer.
By two we had each chosen a "mock" question, in the natural sciences, to answer this week. We spent the week working to answer these questions and beginning to work on our individual endeavors. Friday morning, we presented the answer to the questions. In many case the questions had been refined. This was a good exposure to the nature of researching a question you had asked and the difficulties that arise. There were very solid presentations, especially for a practice week, and everyone was able to identify what they would like to work on int he next weeks.
In the future, blog posts will, generally, be shorter and incorporate visuals. We hope to post updates about our individual endeavors as well as the answers to our weekly questions and the rest of our work.
Thanks for reading!

What's The Independent Project?

Check out: and read The White Paper about last year's project.
Last year's group made a video about education as their collective endeavor:

Welcome to The Independent Project

Hello! Welcome to the blog of the The Independent Project of 2012. This is the second pilot of this program. The Project was started by a senior last year, Sam Levin. In his words: "The idea for The Independent Project came about from [Sam]’s own experience of high school, and his observations of the experiences of his peers. The two main things he felt were missing from many high school classrooms were engagement and mastery. He also felt that even students who were engaged were often learning material that was not very intellectually valuable. They were learning lots of information, but very little about how to obtain information on their own, or even create new information. His intent was to design a school in which students would be fully engaged in and passionate about what they were learning, would have the experience of truly mastering something, or developing expertise in something, and would be learning how to learn" (The White Paper).
The second year includes some veterans, Peter Pope Boyce, Annalena Barrett, Sergio Delmolino, and Matt Whalan. The newcomers are Wilson Flower, Jake Borden, Sandy Moore, and Sophie Randolph. The other veterans of the program are our Faculty Advisers, Mr. Powell, Mrs. Baldwin, and Mr. Wohl.
We will use this blog to keep you updated on our projects week to week and we hope you enjoy hearing about our process.