Independent Study

All Renaissance School students complete a two-year course of Independent Studies on topics of their choice, culminating in a formal thesis defense before the faculty. While the related projects and original research have covered subjects as varied as the conservation of a keystone endangered species to offering an EMT training workshop on Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing patients, the core skills developed in research, academic writing, and public speaking are central components of our college prep approach. ​The Independent Study Program is a hallmark of a Renaissance education and students feel an enormous sense of accomplishment at its conclusion. Many have commented that “this was the best thing they ever did in school!”

The public is invited to attend the Senior Thesis defense in the first Wednesday of May - please email for details.

In their Junior year, students research a subject of their choosing while training rigorously for public speaking. Their year of investigation is completed with an 18-minute presentation to the school, accompanied by slides. In the second year of the program, Seniors conduct original research and subject-expert interviews in addition to traditional academic research on their topic. They formulate an original thesis, argue it in a 20-page MLA style research paper, and finally, in the Dean’s favorite moment of the year, the Seniors formally defend their theses to the faculty on the first Wednesday in May. A successful thesis defense is a Renaissance School graduation requirement, but more importantly, a beloved tradition. Graduates of Renaissance School have completed a level of study in their areas of interest that college students often do not see until graduate school.

During grades nine and ten, students take required courses in nine academic disciplines across the arts, humanities, and sciences. With an interdisciplinary focus as the guiding principle, faculty work together to integrate subject matter and help students make critical connections. This broad exposure prepares juniors to take on the first level of independent research at Renaissance. Working closely with an academic adviser, students select a topic of interest and prepare a proposal of study for the year. Work involves research, interviews, writing, and class performance, all leading to a presentation to the school community at year’s end.

​Seniors take independent research one step further in the Renaissance Senior Thesis program. Students may elect to continue in the same field of study chosen as juniors, or perhaps a new spark leads them down another path. During the process, students learn how to frame an academic argument and prepare a research proposal, ultimately planning for the culminating academic experience of Renaissance School: the preparation and presentation of a Senior Thesis. The Senior Thesis is given as both a research paper to faculty and “oral defense” to the school community.

​The goals of the Independent Study Program include:

  • fostering a sense of academic curiosity and independence
  • ​engaging in interdisciplinary study, and learning to view a topic through different lenses, historical, scientific, and via the arts
  • ​learning responsibility and self-discipline
  • seeking academic opportunities outside the boundaries of the Renaissance School walls and the established Renaissance School curriculum

​Students have worked in a variety of fields during their independent study projects, including: study of green architecture, culinary arts and local agriculture, art and practice of skydiving, evolution of drums since the 1800’s, wine making and wine history, construction of a guitar, film acting technique, designing and engineering roller coasters, photography, and the history and practice of martial arts.

​The Independent Study Program is a hallmark of a Renaissance education and students feel an enormous accomplishment at its conclusion. Many have commented that “this was the best thing they ever did in school”. Undertaking serious independent research, described as “college level work” by parents, and presenting results to the school community has numerous benefits, and may contribute to the Renaissance reputation for stellar performance during college interviews.