As the Marine Biology class kicks off its second year at Dayton High School, students are finding innovative ways to take their interest in marine science to new levels. With the independence that they have in the class, they are able to create projects never thought possible in most other science classes.

In Marine Bio, anything under the ocean is a potential topic for these students. There are some pretty amazing marine research projects in the making.

Nick Prendergast is a senior in the class. Because of his love of science in general, Nick signed up for Independent Marine Biology — despite not even needing the science credit. He loves the ocean and knew that in this class, he would have a chance to delve deeper into specific marine studies without feeling rushed or controlled. He says: “By researching what I like, I’m having fun. I like having the interaction.” Nick says: “I assign my own homework because I love the research.”

Currently, Nick is exploring the mysteries of our ocean at the time of Earth’s inception billions of years ago. This is a topic that connects with his deep-seeded interest in the universe as well. It is projected to be a very long project that will span over the course of several weeks, complete with an elaborate research essay in the form of a massive timeline. It is a project he has always wanted to take on in school, but couldn’t until now.

Throughout his experience at Dayton, Nick has found that Independent classes give students a reason to become personally invested in their studies. This collective interest makes for a more productive and enjoyable classroom environment. That is the beauty of Independent Study.

Mrs. Carden, who is the teacher of Independent Marine Biology, says the nature of the class itself is extremely flexible and even differs from period to period depending on what sorts of students are in it. In some classes, marine topics become vibrant classroom discussions, and these open-ended conversations are what prompts students to become more invested in their own projects. Other classes are much more quiet and focused, where introverted students can freely explore their projects without distraction. This flexibility is a significant aspect of the class because there is a place for every type of student.

In regards to the purpose of the class itself, Nick says: “Ignore the term ‘Marine Biology.’ The topic isn’t essential, it’s the idea behind it. The root is ‘independent research.’” He then says, “I don’t follow a curriculum that has to meet a state standard. I make my own standard. It makes it so much more personal because it’s mine. That’s why independent research classes are special to me.”

Dayton’s independent classes all have one thing in common: Recognition of the importance of student-interest. It is clear that students are capable of leading their own educations through personalized studies when they are given the opportunities and encouragement to do so. Dayton’s appreciation of its students is a crucial part of what makes classes like Independent Marine Biology so exceptional.

Bevin Schrag Administrator

Bevin Schrag is a writer for Innovate Oregon. While working in social media and marketing at OnlineNW, she is currently studying the arts at Chemeketa Community College, to later become a media designer.