"Independent kids, minds"

"What do a Roman villa, Italian Renaissance street theater, and the Seven Wonders of the World have in common? The Commodore Center is the place to find out, where fifth and sixth graders use a multiplicity of media to display projects remarkably varied subjects.We've always encouraged kids to present their work in whatever way seems most appropriate, said Emily Grice, teacher for the school district's independent contract studies program. The state curriculum is just catching up. She said the program is unique because it allows kids to decide upon projects with their teachers and monitor improvement through self-evaluation, offering the option to make use of videos or live performance in the course of completing their portfolios.The aim of this week's Portfolio Fair is to share the kids' work with the community. There will be the opportunity to discuss the portfolios with their student creators, with areas of study ranging from children's theater to state history. And though freedom is what the program offers, the projects show that self-imposed discipline is what it demands. Kyle Grice's assertion that I like to learn for myself rather than being lectured to may sound like a carte blanche for scholarly laziness, but his meticulous documentation of how he learned the art of ceramics tells a different story. Likewise, the pared down and informative brochure with which Suzanne Lubovich has chosen to showcase her knowledge of French culture lends credibility to her claim that deciding what to include in her project proved the hardest task. Her portfolio reveals what dividends her willingness to use sources like poetry books and photographs, as well as the Internet, paid in equipping her with the information necessary to tackle her task.For the contract studies program emphasizes that educational efforts are rarely wasted.Kyle Grice said that many of his mistakes contributed to what turned out to be his favorite pottery, and aspiring young dramatist Nicolas Townsend agrees that the program thrives on happy accidents. He said that his desire to gain theater credits with a play for children, by children, coincided fortuitously with kids on the Odyssey Program's urge to put on a play.I'm particularly pleased the program lets me study in a way that would go uncredited at BHS, he said.Townsend is certainly not alone. More and more kids are taking independent courses, said teacher Marit Krueger, stressing that the contract studies waiting list is just as long for core subjects as for less conventional areas of study. By way of explanation, Kyle Grice said, The contract studies program demands not a different school, but a different way of learning. The Bainbridge Island School District's Contract Studies Program holds its Portfolio Fair from 7-9 p.m. June 14 at the Commodore Center. Information: 780-1646."

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