By: Kavitha Brunner
@lemonjaded on Twitter
On Wednesday, the chilly halls were speckled with students decked out in fiery orange T-shirts with faux nametags in the corner. Why such bold fashion statements, Hammond? I’ll tell you why: The shirts are being used to showcase the G/T Research Program here at our school. This program consists of two classes: Intern/Mentor and Independent Research, both led by April Lerner.
Independent Research is a class in which each student is empowered with the ability to choose his or her own topic of study for the year. It is, essentially, a class about whatever you want it to be. Mrs. Lerner teaches effective research methodology, time management, and organizational skills, but the rest is yours. The content you learn and take away from your field of research is cultivated entirely by you.
In Intern/Mentor, students are similarly enabled with the choice of their topics, but are also given the chance to leave school and take part in on-site, hands-on internships with various mentors in companies and organizations around the region. As long as you have transportation, you can go!
These classes provide students with extremely useful tools for their college toolbelt: Mrs. Lerner thinks every one of you should at least consider taking one of these courses. “A lot need help with things like organization, independence, and other skills that will be of service to them once they get to college,” she says. Imagine taking a class where you are your own teacher and have to hold your own hand as you guide yourself through researching a topic that’s actually relevant to your passions. Trust me when I say that it’s nothing like the mundane research you’re used to trudging through for arbitrary English papers…
Let’s take a look into the world of G/T Research. What’s the buzz about? Two courses, a hundred topics of study.
The Bear Press’s very own Kevin Baker is an Intern through the Intern/Mentor program. An intern at the newspaper, Kevin describes his internship as “breaking through the breakneck pace to get out meaningful stories that really matter [to the target audience].” He has the freedom to oscillate between being in Mrs. Lerner’s classroom during 4A and carrying out responsibilities associated with her class, or being at his mentor site (in this case, Mr. Osborne’s classroom), carrying out responsibilities of his internship. From taking this class, Baker has gained organizational skills and the ability to strictly evaluate his own creative mind. He’s gained insight about how much work really goes into developing an effective product. His internship allows him to experience a semblance of what a real-world newsroom would be like as he uses his keen mind to innovate new ideas for The Bear Press.
Class of 2016’s Ellie Ugot is enrolled in Independent Research. She spends her time studying artificial intelligence. Delving deeper into her research, you can begin to understand how programming is applied to the development of artificial intelligence and how AIs can affect everyday life. Her biggest gains from the class are rooted in the general freedom given to the student researchers when it comes to the formulation of their projects. “There aren’t as many boundaries,” she says. “We have access to lots of tools. We are encouraged to think in new and different ways.”
Loving cartoons ever since she was a little girl, Keche Arrington is a junior who knows what she’s talking about in the animation realm. Her aspirations to be an animator, combined with her creative artistic abilities, have paved the way for an innovative young woman who is researching the representation of mature themes in children’s cartoons. She’s analyzing themes like sexuality, gender roles, and race, as well as how these themes are portrayed and what, if any, effects they have on children. Independent Research has aided Arrington in developing a passion and a strong conviction to knowing her goals and what she wants to do. When she grows up, she hopes to animate cartoons that leave meaningful impacts on children.
This fashionable journalism student in 12th grade is using her time in Independent Research to focus on the topic of sensationalism. “Sensationalism is basically the over-hype of certain topics in the media,” she tells me. She’s observing the changes in the nature of newswriting: “Hard news just keeps getting softer.” She’s also revealing the effects that sensationalism have on celebrities. Since Braithwaite wants to pursue a major in journalism, her freedom to research this topic is giving her as much exposure to the field as she can get.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, you don’t have to be an upperclassman to enroll in Independent Research (Intern/Mentor is different, though, because you need to be able to drive to your mentorship site in order to gain that experience)! Seth Ragan is in his sophomore year at Hammond and takes IR, in which he has, for lack of better wording, fun studying the psychology of serial killers. He notes that the class has helped him with his writing skills for all of his classes, not just IR. Along with writing skills, Seth has been lucky to take effective research techniques and time management strategies away from the class. These skills are essential in all future courses that you will take – high school, college, and beyond!
When you’re registering for your classes for next year, consider applying for Mrs. Lerner’s Research Program! You’ll gain more than you think. You can find Mrs. Lerner in the G/T Resource room, located in the back of the media center.