A Pitch for Independent Research

As we start the conversations about course scheduling next year (don’t forget Lion’s Night on Tuesday 1/12 at 6pm), here’s a guest post from sophomore Deanna Schwartz on the benefits of taking Independent Research:
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I’m Studying My Passion and You Can Too!

Imagine your perfect class. What makes it so great? Why do you like it so much? Grasp onto that idea. I bet you the Independent Research program has at least one of those factors that make up your perfect class. It sure is my perfect class. I am a 10th grade student here at Howard. I am currently enrolled in Independent Research I G/T.

I’ve always had the problem of not being interest in class. Most of the classes in school are too easy for me. I’m not challenged. Frankly? I’m bored. I don’t feel valuable and I don’t think I’m working myself to my full ability. However, there is one place in this school where I get that. That place is V131, also known as Ms. Curtin’s classroom.

This class has given me the opportunity to be challenged while studying what I am most passionate about: books. I have always loved reading since I was a child. I currently work in the publishing industry as a book blogger. I get sent books by publishers and I review them on my website. This keeps me up to date with all of the issues plaguing the book community and publishing industry. About a year ago, an issue came up that has stayed with me ever since: diversity in books. The books being published by the Big Five publishers do not represent the community reading them. Does The Fault in Our Stars, an unnervingly popular book by privileged author John Green, have any black characters? Does it have any gay characters? Are any of those characters a religion other than Christian? The book definitely has readers who aren’t white, straight, and Christian.

My passion for this issue has sparked my academic curiosity to new levels. As a result, I am focusing my research on diverse books, or the lack thereof.

This topic hits me on a personal level. I consider myself a minority because of two aspects of my being: I am Jewish and I struggle with mental illness. Judaism is not just my religion; it is my culture. It is my family and it is my upbringing. With all of the books that I read, I RARELY see a Jewish character. 50% of those books are Holocaust books. Another aspect of myself that I so wish to see represented accurately in books is mental illness. In eighth grade, I was clinically depressed. I’m happy now, but I still struggle with anxiety. It’s never going to go away and I’ve come to accept that. I know that I am not the only teenager who faces these issues. I’ve found that the majority of young adult books with depressed characters do not represent them accurately. Their problems are cured by “love” or something trivial–this is simply not how it works.

When I came into this class, I knew that I wanted to study diversity in books. By the end of first quarter, I narrowed down my research to self-esteem. I based my hypothesis on my own personal experience as well as my research. My hypothesis is that children who are not represented in books have lower self-esteem than children who are. Narrowing down my topic was easier than I thought. Once I decided what I wanted to study, it all just fell into place.

I know, I know. This class sounds daunting. It did to me originally. I’m not going to lie–it’s a lot of work. There are a lot of assignments. The thing that separates this work from work in other classes is that this work is fun. It doesn’t seem fun, but it is! When you’re writing about a topic that you love and are passionate about and interested in, it comes naturally and it’s enjoyable. Even though it’s a lot of work, it’s not a lot of homework. We get a large amount of time in class to do our work. We spend about 75% of our class time doing independent work on computers and the other 25% doing helpful and interesting lessons. I rarely ever have homework for this class because of the in-class work time.

Not only does this class give you the opportunity to study what you want, it also helps you in all your other classes. You learn valuable skills about writing, research, and learning in general. My writing in English has improved since I’ve taken this class. My research in science has improved. My critical thinking skills in history have improved. My ability to study my Latin words has improved. This is all because of Independent Research and Ms. Curtin.

The class also teaches you how to interact with professionals. Over Thanksgiving break, I conducted an interview via Skype with Miranda Paul, a vice president at the We Need Diverse Books organization. Believe me, it was scary at first.

I recently participated in the Teacher/Student Shadow program. When Mr. Klotz, a chemistry teacher, shadowed me, do you want to know what his favorite class was? You guessed it. Independent Research.

You’re probably getting bored with me now. I’m going to end by saying this: sign up for Independent Research! It’s a way to study your passion, it’s fun, and it boosts your GPA! Applications are available from the media center and online. Applications are due January 15th. Don’t worry, it’s not a hard process! Here’s the link to apply!: http://mscurtinhowardhigh.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/9/0/20905612/ir_application_2015-16.pdf

This is truly a life changing class. Please, take it! You won’t regret it! See Ms. Curtin in V131 if you have any questions.



-Deanna Schwartz, 10th grade

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