Independent studies offer unique experiences in flexible schedule


Lizzy Filine/the Sagamore

Senior Paula Garcia-Galindo created her own independent study course with art teacher Donna Sartanowicz so she could challenge herself artistically on her own.

Chris Bell, Opinions Writing Editor

Motivation, patience, perseverance, responsibility. This is what an independent study requires of students who have interests that the school cannot accommodate through a class or schedule.

The unique experience of working on a project or studying something on one’s own offers a host of benefits to the student such as flexibility, drive and passion for a specific topic of study.

Junior Makena Binker-Cosen said she is involved in an independent study with visual arts teacher Krissie Fraser, who also works at the Brookline Interactive Group, or the public access television station in Brookline.

“Basically what I do is I work as a student assistant in the BHS production house,” Binker-Cosen said. “We make videos for the community, mostly for BHS, and we help people make their videos by either showing them how or giving them equipment to do it.”

According to Binker-Cosen, her independent study allowed her to take her passion for film-making a step further.

“I’ve taken lots of her classes already,” Binker-Cosen said. “Working at the B.I.G. gave me more independence to work directly on what we need, and it also makes it more real because instead of just working on projects that we are interested in for class, this is like real world experience.”

Senior Jeremy Noel said he is doing his independent study with three teachers: physics and engineering teacher Aubrey Love, career and technology education teacher Glen Gurner and Career and Technology Education Chair Arnold Marcus. According to him, none of teachers could do it individually with him, so they pooled together to help him out. He is currently working on an off-road buggy.

“It was a project I was working on at home, but it was a pain working on it at home, so I thought it would be nice to start working on it at school,” Noel said.

Senior Paula Garcia-Galindo turned to doing an independent study in art as a way to fit a version of Advanced Placement Studio Art into her schedule, which previously could not fit because of a scheduling conflict. Although there was no AP Studio Art being offered as an independent study, Garcia-Galindo said Donna Sartanowicz created it for her situation.

“I had to talk to the teacher and tell her that I wanted to take AP studio, but I couldn’t and I asked about maybe doing an independent study,” Garcia-Galindo said. “She said ‘Yeah sure that would work,’ but I couldn’t put the AP name on it or anything. I said I would like something more advanced rather than just an independent study, so she decided to make up the name honors advanced.”

Senior Sam Skoler is doing his independent study in European political thought with Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Gary Shiffman and Associate Dean Brian Poon. According to Skoler, the class was started as a replacement for Advanced Placement European History because the class did not get enough interest in recent years.

Skoler said that the class meets once a week and during Z-block with about ten other people aside from him.

“It’s hard, but it’s good. Basically we will read a book one week and then we will write a paper the next week,” Skoler said.

Binker-Cosen said that the experience is not comparable to that of a traditional classroom.

“It gives me experience working in professional environments, so you can’t really do that as a student in a class because you can’t get all the students to do so if you’re really committed to it then it gives you the opportunity,” Binker-Cosen said.

According to Noel, commitment and passion for what he is doing are key factors in being able to do an independent study.

“Honestly independent studies are a pain. It’s only if you really want to do because if you actually want to do it then you will put in the work,” Noel said. “I just do it because it’s fun and I like it. At this point now I have become close with a lot of teachers because of it so I think it’s worth it.”