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During each school year, students have the opportunity to choose a topic that interests them that is outside of the scope of regular middle school schoolwork. Students then research that topic and complete a project that demonstrates what they've learned throughout their study. This year, our independent studies were offered through Power Up.

Students had 9 options to choose from this year, which were:

1. Foreign Language: Choose and research a foreign language of your choosing on duolingo.com. Learn new words and new phrases in this other language. Students will work towards writing 1 complete paragraph and giving a 1 minute speech in their foreign language, with the translation.

2. U.S. History from 1912-present: Research one or many events from United States history starting at the beginning of World War 1 and going up to the present. This can include events such as any war that America was involved in or U.S. presidents through this time period. Students will work towards designing and presenting a 15 minute lesson to the class over your topic/topics.

3. Art of Stagecraft: Find out what all exactly goes on behind the scenes at a theatre or movie. Students will find out how a script gets written, how actors hone their craft, how improvisation helps an actor learn his or her lines, and how all of that gets put on stage or film. Students will work towards writing and acting out a 10 minute scene that can either be live or recorded.

4. Chemistry and the Elements: Research the different parts of the Periodic Table of the Elements and find out how different elements on our Earth interact with one another. Find out the structure of atoms and how that affects their element. Students will work towards designing and conducting a harmless experiment that uses what they’ve learned, then sharing their results.

5. Modern Classics in Literature: Dive into a good piece of classic literature and learn how to interpret it on a deeper level. Develop your own ideas about the story, as well as discussing how those ideas may be different from another’s ideas as well as the author’s intent. Students will work towards creating an interesting way to share your story with the class as well as prepare a speech talking about the book’s meaning.

6. Writer’s Workshop: Write your own exciting piece of creative literature. Then, take it through the workshop process, where many different people read and make suggestions about your piece, and you rewrite it. Students will work towards having a highly polished piece of fiction that is at least 10 pages long.

7. Psychology/Sociology: Choose one or several elements of these two branches of science and delve right in. Students may choose to research different topics such as why scary movies are so scary, why our brains are fooled by illusions, or any other topics in these fields. Students will work towards preparing and conducing a harmless experiment that uses what they’ve learned, then sharing their results.

8. Life on Earth from Dinosaurs to the Future: Research information pertaining to when life started on the planet Earth and how exactly it turned into what we have now. Figure out why all of these changes happened like they did and what purpose all of the changes served. Students will also have an opportunity to use their new knowledge and predict what they think might happen in the future. Students will work towards creating a panoramic timeline with pictures showing life from Earth’s creation to the future that uses at least 25 facts they’ve learned.

9. Architecture: Research how architects design new buildings and why they’re designed that ways. Find out what you need to know to design your own building. Students will work towards designing and drawing their own building using good architectural design that will stand on its own and is at least 10 stories tall or design and build their own building using good architectural design that will stand on its own and will hold at least 10 times its own weight.

Some examples of completed independent studies include:

• A student researched the German language, and delivered a speech talking about his life at school, completely in German, for two minutes.

• A student researched what happened in Operation Desert Storm, including all the major battles, troop movements, and weaponry, and gave a 20 minute presentation over what he learned.

• A student wrote the first 5 chapters to a book that she was interested in writing, all about a group of vampire hunters.

• A student researched the architecture of bridges and built a model bridge made entirely out of Popsicle sticks, straws, and glue, which weighed only 100 grams, but ended up holding over 5000 grams.
Student-made bridge