Spotlight on ISP's 2019-20

by Emilia Rose, Staff Reporter
Although Latin prides itself on the wide array of courses it offers, there are still some classes that students would like to have. Fortunately, Latin allows students to propose an Independent Student Project (ISP), in which they can design a course that Latin does not already offer. An ISP requires a teacher sponsor to help lead students through the process. As ISP’s are a big aspect of Latin’s curriculum, students participating in an ISP this year were excited to share their projects. 
As ISP’s can be about almost anything, Eli Aronson decided to take his interest in math and sports to the next level and create his own ISP. Eli said, “Mr. McArthur, who is a huge sports fan and a math lover, was on board with the idea and worked with me to shape the curriculum.” Mr. McArthur is a math teacher and boys golf coach at Latin. When beginning an ISP, many students are totally foreign to the topic they’ve chosen, and Mr.McArthur, like most Latin teachers, was willing to put in the work to get to know a new field of study. “My ISP is on sports statistics, so while I’ve never taken statistics at school, Mr. McArthur spent a lot of our class periods teaching me statistical concepts. For homework, I’d find some sort of article that connects it to sports.” When asked whether or not his project was going as expected, Eli responded, “It’s hard for me to say because I’m still working towards my finished product. Ultimately, I am basing my final product off the movie and real-life story of ‘Moneyball.’” 
Angela Gil’s ISP explores sculpture and human anatomy. Mr. Harris, her sponsor, teaches middle school art, but occasionally is involved with the high school. “I wanted to learn about anatomy and biology, and I missed having an art class, so I combined the two,” Angela said. “When I had Mr. Harris as my art teacher last year, he kept talking about how important sculpting was to understand painting and drawing better, and I’d never really pursued it, so over the summer I tried sculpting some faces and a body.” In addition to allowing students to explore new areas of interest, ISP’s can allow students to further pursue familiar fields, as Angela attempted sculpting over the summer. She said that from her experience, “I absolutely recommend doing an ISP if you have the time. It requires a lot more effort than you might expect, but it’s a wonderful opportunity because it means you can get credit for pursuing a passion.”
 Senior Annie Goldenberg shared, “My ISP is on Zoology, aka the study of the behavior, structure, physiology, classification, and distribution of animals.” Annie decided she wanted to further study a concept she had learned from a required course at Latin, saying “In my biology class last year, I became really interested in biodiversity, exotic animals, and the system we use to classify animals.” She is in the process of completing this ISP with the help of Mr. Masino, a faculty member in the science department. “My ISP is a year-long one because there’s so much to learn about the animal kingdom,” Annie explained, “but my final project second semester will be to present a detailed phylogenetic tree in my Honors Biology: Ecology and Evolution class as well as the Learning Commons.” ISP’s aren’t required to be a semester-long course, rather, they can be as long as a student needs as long as it meets all criteria. Annie described her ISP as “being super helpful in my other science class, Honors Biology: Ecology and Evolution, because the material is very closely related to what I’m learning there (so my ISP just goes more in-depth than the class offered to everyone).” In regards to ISP’s in general, Annie said, “Taking on an ISP is a unique experience and, although super fun, it requires a lot of hard work to organize. It’s just as much responsibility as any other class you’re enrolled in. What makes ISP’s cool is how hands-on you are in the process, so you can make a curriculum that’s really personal to you.”
Senior Nora Deeney decided to pursue an ISP in fashion and technology. Nora also decided to do an ISP in order to further study an interest she had from a prior class, saying, “I had taken a number of art classes at the school including fashion design and I knew I wanted to combine my interests with fashion design and technology.” Nora, like most people taking ISP’s, recommended these classes to students who are willing to take on the work. “I recommend ISP’s to students who are especially passionate in a subject that they cannot already study in school. It takes more work than you might initially think to create a class just for you.”
From numerous responses of students that participate in them, ISP’s, although rigorous at times, come highly recommended. The process requires dedication and passion for the chosen topic. For all students who are interested in proposing an ISP, it would be helpful to talk to a student that has completed or is in the process of completing their ISP.