IP10: The Value of Independent Study

As Grace’s newly-minted sophomores sat in their first grade-level meeting of the school year, Dean Hickerson and Mr. Todd officially introduced them to the Independent Project curriculum. IP10 (or March Madness as it’s known colloquially) has become an academic right of passage at Grace.
Tenth graders begin by defining an area of interest, after which they pose a driving question, conduct research, analyze data, draw conclusions, and finally, present their findings. It’s an opportunity for students to pursue their chosen area of study autonomously, save for the leadership provided by their dean and advisors and the guidance offered by alumni, who volunteer their time and expertise to help students delve deeper into their projects. And because students have (almost) entirely free rein to select the topic they want to explore, the scope of subjects is as limitless as a high schooler’s imagination. This past Wednesday, after gingerly setting up their displays in the gymnasium, students welcomed families and friends to the Class of 2026 IP10 Symposium and enthusiastically shared their projects. 

Chloe R., who produced a podcast examining the stigmas surrounding homelessness, discussed the question that sparked her project: “Why do people look away from people experiencing homelessness, and could changing the narrative improve the homeless crisis in New York City?” 

The next time you’re at the Astro West store on the Upper West Side, you might just find a copy of Zachary G.’s project, a book for kids about paleontology. Zachary wrote “Fossil Finders: A Guidebook for Young Paleontologists” after conducting research of his own and participating in fieldwork in Big Brooks, New Jersey.

Toren S. created a short narrative film using three animation techniques: AI, digital, and cutout. What he discovered was that each approach lended itself to a different result as well as a different experience. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ease with which he was able to work with the specific technique was inversely proportional to how connected he felt to the final product. “Too much technology takes the life out of art.” He went on to say, however, that advances in technology—including AI—made it possible for him to achieve effects and realize visions in this project that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. He concluded by expressing optimism about the ways technology can build upon human creativity by providing new tools to artists as they seek to bring their ideas to life.

A deep love of ice hockey and a connection to the Trinidadian community inspired Aidan W.’s project. “My grandparents informed me about an ice rink being built in a Trinidadian community. As a hockey player with a family from Trinidad, I was excited about the idea and knew it could be a great way to teach kids in Trinidad how to play ice hockey. I am thrilled about the opportunity to share my passion for ice hockey with kids in Trinidad who have never been on skates before.” 

When Zach E. realized that he could combine his interest in robotics with a desire to improve people’s daily lives, the Carrier Companion was born. Using 3-D design and coding, Zach designed and created a robot to carry items for those struggling with back issues. “In the future,” Zach says, “I hope to continue to improve on my project and apply the skills I have learned to future work.”

Zoe Z. decided that she “wanted to create a magazine that showcases all things relating to sustainability in fashion.” She went on to say, “In my magazine I include interviews with different experts surrounding the fashion industry, examples of sustainable brands, the negative effects of fast fashion, and finally the improvements that have been made in the industry. My hope in making this magazine is to spread awareness about sustainability and to provide examples of ways my readers can make a conscious difference in their purchases.”

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Grace Church School is a co-educational independent school in downtown Manhattan, New York City providing instruction for nearly 800 students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.