Two students standing outside looking at a project board about water.Once a year, students in each level engage in an independent project, where they choose a topic based on their own curiosity and interests and share their findings with classmates and families through oral presentations and classroom fairs. The process is structured to suit each age group (for example, as students progress through the levels, they practice the skill of research more intentionally and deeply), and one unit of study during the year is dedicated to independent projects. The learning goals of independent projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Learning (more) about a personal interest or passion
  • Exploring/Researching a subject in depth
  • Breaking a broad topic down into smaller sub topics
  • Building organizational skills
  • Building time management skills
  • Practicing presentation skills
  • Practicing active listening (audience)
  • Asking questions and pursuing the answers to those questions
  • Practicing writing skills (expository, analytical, persuasive)
  • Growing in and reflecting on independent work habits
  • Building a sense of pride and ownership of one’s learning
  • Sharing learning across levels

This year has provided a challenge in terms of how and when to engage the students in independent projects. How might books, construction materials, and other resources be utilized by students in their process when some of those materials are typically shared among students? How might students present their projects to their classmates and families under physical distancing constraints? When in the year are students most ready in terms of their learning and development to handle the independence required at each level to complete the project?

We are proud of the teachers’ flexible and creative thinking, who have asked and worked through (or are currently working through) these questions, that has led to two memorable project fairs this year so far, one virtual (Sky) and one in-person (Lake). When we shift our focus from learning lost to learning gained, we see each child for their strengths, growth, and potential.

-Daniel Torres-Rangel, Director of Education