Creating thoughtful, intentional, self-directed learners and doers capable of excellence is a central goal at Arbor. We propel students toward that objective in part by means of independent projects. While we always aim to give individuals the latitude to find personally meaningful entry points into our studies, it is essential to us that students also have opportunities to form their own questions, to pursue independent research, and to teach each other what they've learned.
Over the years, simple reports on favorite animals or activities gradually transform into sophisticated projects on marvelously diverse topics—a study of foreign exchange rates, the making of a brief film, the high-wire exploits of Philippe Petit, the architectural history of the Louvre—and each class builds a culture of rich ideas. Parent support is essential, as most of the work takes place at home, but the child should drive the project, honing organizational skills as well as expertise. Over years of practice, Arbor students become adept at engaging an audience with well-rehearsed words and thoughtfully prepared visual and interactive elements. The question and answer period displays both the development of better and better questions on the part of the audience members and the expanding range of the presenters’ knowledge.
Every year's experience builds a skill set that will allow each eighth grader to succeed in the yearlong effort of the Senior Project. And the happy anticipation and mutual interest and support that grows around independent projects enriches the school culture across levels.