Central to The Gregory School education is a vision for students at all grade levels to be active participants in their own learning, to pursue their passions, and to learn self advocacy. Among the many ways these values are reflected here is through the Upper School’s Independent Study option.
Independent studies are available to Upper School students who have a demonstrated capacity to work independently and have an unusual degree of scholarly interest in a course that is not available in The Gregory School curriculum. Students who wish to have an independent study are required to find a faculty member to oversee the study and then write and submit a proposal for administrative approval.
Since August, Lucia Iurino ‘21 has been engaged in an independent study on the history of piracy with Mr. Dan Young. Lucia got the idea for this study junior year in her economics class with Mr. Young. “We had gotten on the topic of anarchy and Mr. Young mentioned pirates, because pirate ships had kind of anarchistic roots to them,” Lucia said. She realized then that an entire history intrigued her. “I always loved adventure stories growing up. Treasure Island is a story I really loved, and I thought, ‘You know what? What if I just found out everything I can about this?’”
Lucia used some of her new-found free time at the beginning of the pandemic to craft a proposal, and the rest is history—or rather the history of the Golden Age of Piracy, “A
time from about the very end of the 1600s to the 1720s; that’s when you have all the really famous pirates like Jack Rackham and Blackbeard,” Lucia explained.
Along the way, Lucia has read about piracy, written papers, and discovered some entertaining details, such as Welsh pirate Bartholomew Roberts’ penchant for special tea sets and the fact that the traditional “pirate accent” was conceived in the 1950 Treasure Island film. “They didn’t really say ‘Arrrrr,’” Lucia said. For her final project, Lucia is creating a pirate board game.
Lucia has enjoyed and appreciated her independent study experience. “I think it’s really good to be able to study something so closely and something so specific that interests you,” she said. “Sometimes in broader classes you don’t always get to dig into the little details of whatever unit is most interesting to you, and it’s so nice to be able to get into a subject that you’re interested in to a really good degree.”
Lucia will be graduating in May. What advice does she have for younger students who may have an idea for an independent study? “Ask! I was debating about whether or not to ask for a very long time. Just do it!”