Free to Pursue Interests Outside the Curriculum

Last spring I did an independent study where I built a kinetic sculpture of a flat sheet of metal folding up into a box and coded a 3D model of the sculpture using JavaScript. However, at that time, you weren’t really supposed to do independent studies in the spring because the teachers were too busy with senior exhibitions. I asked the academic dean, Kevin, who is also a math teacher, about the possibility of doing this. He said that he would help me with the coding and that I could do it. I wasn’t surprised, but looking back, it really shows how interested the teachers are in helping you learn, even if it doesn’t show up on my transcript.

I was doing this extra project that Kevin had to put his time and effort into, and he was interested in my learning, so he sponsored me and I checked in with him periodically throughout the process.

This experience for me was normal. I didn’t really see much that was so special about it, but when I look back on it now, Kevin could have just said, “No, we don’t do independent studies in the spring,” and that would have been the end of it. But, that wasn’t what happened. He welcomed my idea with open arms and was excited the whole way through, ready to help whenever I needed him.

The main takeaway from this experience for me was that teachers at Putney really care about your learning, even if they don’t get any credit for doing it. For them, the important thing is teaching students and letting them explore their interests, not just following protocol. If a student wants to do something, if it somehow relates to some new learning area, nine times out of ten, Putney can make it happen for you. This is a school where sometimes the students drive the bus, not the teachers.