The motto “You are free to learn” seemed to hover in the air on Wednesday as eighth graders at Roosevelt Intermediate School gathered in the library for the first Independent Study meeting of the year. Excited participants’ voices and giggles reflected the enthusiastic smiles of their high school mentors who were partnered up with their younger peers based on similar strengths and interests.
Independent Study, created by Westfield alumna Alexa Zepka during her eighth grade year at RIS, was her response to being rejected from another extra-curricular program, according to current coordinator, WHS junior Rebecca Plotkin. Zepka’s aim was to explore and further her skills in an area of her interest and to be able to have something to show for it.
Plotkin, along with fellow coordinators Sarah Davidson and Kaitlin Abrams, also juniors at WHS, got involved with the program after Zepka’s departure from RIS, and still emphasize the same mission. Said Plotkin: “The purpose [of Independent Study] is to give kids a chance to challenge themselves and explore things that traditional education doesn’t allow them to explore. It’s… to showcase their creativity and see what kids can do when they’re not given boundaries… it’s big on learning experiences.”
“[I want people to know] how awesome and different it [the program] is,” Davidson expressed. “It’s an opportunity to do what they [the kids] want and lead their learning, which is really exciting and rare in our school system… Because it’s a result of their passions, every year [the projects] are beyond what you can imagine.”
Students’ projects have been anything and everything, including fashion design, writing a novel, building replicas of Ancient Egyptian pyramids, creating a charity to raise money for a cause and adding another level to an already existing video game.
Participant Sara Frankel explained, “I applied because I thought it would be a fun opportunity to try something new and out-of-the-norm that I wouldn’t find in a classroom.” Frankel’s project is centered around her design for a new iPhone.
“We’re really into the program and what it offers to students… it’s a great opportunity,” stated Abrams. “As long as people are enthusiastic and the school supports us, we will continue to prosper. It doesn’t matter how many students are involved, because the few that are in it are awesome.”
Said Plotkin: “We want to continue to influence people and be a forum for exploration and creativity.”
The coordinators hope to expand the program to all middle school students at both Roosevelt and Edison Intermediate and possibly the elementary schools.
For more information visit: www.freetolearn.weebly.com, or contact
Kaitlin Abrams: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Davidson: email@example.com
Rebecca Plotkin: firstname.lastname@example.org