For many students at Ottawa Hills High School, academic interests expand well beyond the limits of the classes their school is able to offer. At Ottawa Hills High School, however, an opportunity to pursue such topics as cell biology research or advanced music theory present itself in the form of an independent study.  

Randall Johnson is one student who has taken an independent study at OHHS. “You have to fill out a form, what’s called an educational option,” he says, “essentially you have to write your own curriculum.” Over the past two years Randall has completed two independent studies: cell biology research and multivariable calculus. At a small school such as OHHS, having the option to complete independent studies and having a faculty that supports such endeavors has been invaluable for many students.

“Honestly, I think [independent studies] are one of the most valuable tools we have at the school,” claims Randall, “and I would encourage everyone to do one because they allow you to take something that you’re interested in and then go beyond whatever the school has to offer.” Rahul, a senior who recently completed an independent study in Spinal Biomechanics said “[an independent study] is definitely worth it.”

Another OHHS student, Kira Sindhwani, recently completed an independent study entitled 2D Visual Art: Analyzing Dreams Through a Child’s Eyes. “Having an independent study has allowed me to combine two passions of mine to create something very unique and something I am proud of,” claims Kira. Drawing upon her experiences in India and her interest in art, Kira was inspired to share those experiences with people through an artistic medium. For many students such as Kira, independent studies provide more than a means of exploring academic interests. “I have seen a need in India and it really resonated with me […] and I want to share my experience with people.”

Kira’s work will be on display in room 101 from 4:00 to 8:00 pm on Friday, May 25.

Will Rand, an OHHS senior, also found a space to create and explore within his independent study in AP Music Theory. “We spent about three or four weeks on the test material for the AP test,” says Rand, “and then after that we kind of did whatever we wanted in the realm of music.”  Over the course of the schoolyear Will Rand spent his first period class time with Mr. Leeds exploring topics ranging from early Renaissance composers to how to work within music in the modern day. Will even collaborated with Mr. Leeds in the composition of a band piece, which was premiered on Tuesday, May 22.

Many of the students who have completed an independent study express that it was valuable having a teacher to mentor them through the process. “Nine times out of ten there is a faculty member who is excited about what you are excited about and you can get them on board,” says Randall, “and even if they’re not, they’re excited for you to be excited about something and so they’ll help you out.”

“Teachers really only do it for the sole purpose of helping students to gain the knowledge that they want that is usually very specialized. In a lot of other schools that wouldn’t be the case,” says Vice Principal Jackie Patterson, “It’s just another example, I think, of how much commitment our teachers really have to their individual students.”