Self-Directed Learning Project Gives Students Full Control

Monument Mountain Regional High School in Massachusetts is running an audacious experiment. Called the "Independent Project," it allows students complete control over how and what they learn. The project functions like a school-within-a-school with traditional fixtures of academia dotting the landscape, yet with students who find themselves in IP answering to no one. There are no principals, teachers or oversight. There are no curricula either – except those the students write themselves.

What goes on in the classroom as well as what happens outside of it is all left up to the participants. They decide on their academic priorities and – something many high schoolers would envy – even get to choose what their homework is and how much of it they will do.

To explain the concept to the unbelievers, one IP student used some of his time to craft a 15-minute video that showcases many projects embraced by his fellow IPers.

Students aren't taking this lightly — instead of reacting irresponsibly to the freedom to design their own studies, they're ambitiously tackling their own interests by writing poetry collections, learning instruments and taking flight lessons.

This is the second time that Principal Marianne Young has approved the Independent Project at her school. "I think the more options we have in our schools, the more students we will help develop into the kind of citizens that we need," she explains in the video above. "And that it's okay for you to need a little bit of a different approach from mine."

There appears to be only one rule that every student taking part must follow. On Monday, they must set in front of themselves a problem to which they will dedicate the rest of their school week. Kids research, experiment and investigate the topic at hand and the results of their work are then presented to the rest of their classmates the following Friday.

The program has proved to be a particular boon not only to students who work better when self-directed but to everyone whose preferred academic environment is something other than a traditional classroom. Among those participating in IP are kids with learning disabilities who require accommodation to succeed in school.

"I have dyslexia so it's very hard reading and writing and doing those sorts of things. School has always been a big problem for me," one student named Sergio explains in the video. "If not for this program, I don't know if I'd be graduating — I don't know where I'd be right now. I think this has really been my savior and got me through the last two years of high school."

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