Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson’s student-run newspaper
Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson students dive into next-level research

Wilson Wendt and Alexander Golden pursued independent studies during their junior years.
Dino Panos
Wilson Wendt works on his computer for a homework assignment. Wendt completed his independent study last spring.

As each new school year begins, some Branson students launch into a range of creative academic projects spanning everything from the intricacies of sports to the ins and outs of colonial history. 

Independent studies are projects that students work on for generally a year or more with a teacher advisor. Independent studies function as normal classes meaning that students get the same amount of class credits as any other normal class. The topic of independent studies tends to be something that the student has a strong interest in and wants to further explore.

Two students, Wilson Wendt ‘24 and Alexander Golden ‘24, shared their experiences of working on an independent study last year.

“I really like computer science, and there wasn’t a computer science class that I was really amped up about,” Wendt said. “I wanted to continue in the machine learning vein, which none of the other comp sci classes targeted.”

Wendt’s study of baseball analytics even earned success in the regional competitions Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). SABR hosts competitions, in which teams compete against each other ultimately deciding who is most knowledgeable about baseball research.

“I had been the team captain on the winning team of the SABR analytics competition,” said Wendt. The vast majority of SABR teams are undergraduate and graduate students, so it was incredibly rare to see a high school win it.

In general, independent studies require extensive commitment and hard work. 

“I think I spend more time on my independent study than any other class,” Wendt said. “If you’re doing an independent study, it’s not for the heck of it, it’s because you want to really focus in on this one thing.”

Wendt credited Tony Pound, Branson’s computer science teacher, as a contributor to his independent study. Pound shared how unique independent studies are from normal classes.

“It’s obviously not like a regular class where I’m sitting down and teaching skills and expertise,” said Pound. “It tends to be an area of focus and interest and the student just needs some guidance.”

Golden’s independent study, on the other hand, eventually gave birth to an extensive paper on colonial Spain’s protection of indigenous peoples. He said the entire process ran for around 10 months. 

I decided to do an independent study because I was really passionate about history and I knew I wanted to go deeper

— Alexander Golden

“I decided to do an independent study because I was really passionate about history and I knew I wanted to go deeper,” said Golden.

Golden briefly described why he’s so interested in history and what area originally sparked his interest. 

“I started reading some essays from a journal called the Concord Review and the history essays were just amazing quality and they were so captivating,” he said. “I remember when I first read one of these journals, I didn’t realize that high school students were writing [in] these journals.”

Golden said that he could definitely see himself pursuing a career in history.

“It’s kind of the classic debate between doing a job that pays well and a job you’re truly passionate about,” Golden said. “There’s also the quote: if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life and I know that if I was working in history it wouldn’t truly be work for me because I’m really passionate about it.”

Wendt and Golden both highly recommended doing an independent study.

“I think everyone at Branson has things that they’re passionate about and we have so many qualified teachers that it would be a waste of an opportunity to not try it,” Golden said.

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