A Newly-Independent March Madness

By Colin Todd, Visual Arts

The Independent Projects 10 Class, affectionately known as March Madness, has had to transform quite a bit this year. With students learning in various types of environments (including some being fully remote) the idea of a student’s development around how to formulate and follow through with an independently driven passion project is more crucial than ever. This Spring, on a structural level, the IP10 program has moved to a more asynchronous model where students are working remotely with small-group supervisors. In the Fall, 10th Grade students met with their group supervisor as a class, once a week, where they developed the ideation of their year-long pursuit and driving questions around what their independent project would strive to answer. During this time they scheduled virtual meetings with experts or advisors in their field of interest and were given a chance to connect with our brilliant alumni for our Expert Evening event. The Fall semester culminated with their mid-year presentations acting as both a chance for them to practice their public speaking as well as preview their plans for a more asynchronous Spring semester. 

Due to the unique schedule and circumstances this year, the students were not able to actually have two consecutive weeks in March dedicated toward their projects as they have in years past. That’s where the March Madness name came from. Instead, they are dividing up that experience: with one week in February and one week in April providing time for their focused deep-dive exploration and completion of their projects. So far, students have seen unexpected benefits in this divided March Madness experience. As we wrapped up our first “March Madness” week during the final week in February, students expressed appreciation of being able to reflect on the work they accomplished that week and have time to tweak their plans before Spring Break and their second “March Madness” week in April. 

With these brief and intense times of focused work on their projects, students have been able to test out elements of their independent process and their development of how they self-learn, while still having time to adapt, re-work, or learn from mistakes along the way. This is invaluable as a teaching structure and a student’s learning experience. The students have about two more months of exploration and asynchronous work on their projects that will be truly independent. There are still weekly check-ins with supervisors throughout the Spring Semester, however, the students will have a lot of time over Spring Break and during the second “March Madness” week in April that will be completely independent. 

The other substantial adaptation the IP10 program has gone through is the fully online symposium which will include an online gallery and database of student projects as well as a live presentation event where students will publicly showcase the journey they took towards completing their independent projects. While this year has definitely been a challenge logistically and pedagogically, the Independent Projects 10 program really blossomed and developed new strengths that bolstered truly independent work that students pursued with joy and determination. 

Eli N. Working on his project