Building a Foundation for the Future in Independent Study

At Parker, our approach to teaching and learning provides students with experiences and skills to develop their interests and apply classroom work to life throughout the school and beyond. The success of this approach is visible in the number of students who take part in the school’s Independent Study program.

Beginning in their junior year, students may elect to design and develop unique courses that dive deeper into areas that especially pique their interests. During either a semester or a full academic year, students work under the thoughtful supervision of a faculty member to plan and execute a course tailored to their specific pursuits. This was an opportunity senior Elsie Rattner did not want to pass up.

“The past year of everyone’s life has been affected by the coronavirus,” Rattner shared, “and the recognition of the importance of the medical field has never been higher. This, combined with a personal sports injury, grew my personal fascination with the healthcare industry. My fascination grew into deep research, and that formed a goal of mine: to become a physician assistant.” However, Rattner realized there were no avenues available to her “to learn more in depth than a biology class about the human body.” Enter the Independent Study program.

To begin, Rattner approached Kara Schupp, who was her Middle School advisor and, more recently, a teacher in her Upper School science classes. “One of the main reasons I reached out to [Schupp] to help me with this study is because I’ve always enjoyed that she empowers her students to be in control of their learning and find ways to make your education more enjoyable for what excites you. She would help me through this process by providing resources and answering questions, but I knew she would also engage in discussions with me and help me apply my knowledge to a deeper level of thinking.”

Working together, Rattner developed a course that focused on the larger topic of anatomy, before homing in on more specific body systems, and Schupp provided support through resources and conversations. For example, Rattner explained, “Learning about the musculoskeletal system will help me transition into a sports anatomy study, and from there, I hope to study shoulder injuries, specifically my particular shoulder injury.” As a final project, Rattner used two athletes, NBA players Paul George and Klay Thompson, with injuries as case studies. She divided the recuperation process into multiple sections for explanation, including the situation, the anatomy, the cause, the imaging and the fix.

At the outset, Rattner related, “By the end of this unit, I hope to have more knowledge about the scientific side of the healthcare field and be prepared to move on to further education in the healthcare industry and have a solid foundation of understanding.” It is clear that her hard work with Schupp this past semester has given her the tools necessary for achieving this goal.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.