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(Photo by Caroline Williams)


By Caroline Williams, New Trier

At New Trier, I am in a program called IGSS. In order to talk about it in future posts, I just wanted to explain what it is and give some context.

IGSS, or the Integrated Global Study School, is a two year program, a school within a school, at New Trier. Sophomore year, a student may decided to apply for IGSS. IGSS believes students should be self-directed learners learning for the sake of learning rather than grades. IGSS classes include English, history, and science junior year, and English, history, and art history senior year.

In IGSS, students are asked which topics they would like to explore as opposed to told which they must. After most units, students are given the option to demonstrate their new knowledge. They might write an essay or present their knowledge on a project in a different way they see fit. Maybe teaching the class a supplemental lesson would be best, students will work it out with a teacher and do that.

At New Trier, every junior must complete a junior theme: basically a really long research paper. Saying the words “junior theme” stresses every junior out. IGSS allows students to choose any topic for junior theme, where as other students must pick from a set of guidelines or category. Once, a student outside of IGSS turns in junior theme, the dreaded process is complete. However, in IGSS, our teachers tell us to act upon our junior theme with the only requirement being that we reach into the community. No teacher will give a student an idea because that goes against the mission of IGSS; it is a student’s job to explore the endless amounts of possibility.

As opposed to receiving grades on each project, students in IGSS receive narrative feedback. When students are out in the community doing “real” work as opposed to just school work, it is difficult to attach a letter grade. At the end of each semester, narrative assessments are translated into grades for most students. IGSS provides students in a very traditional high school, with an alternative way of learning.

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