Independent Study Program (ISP)

Established in 1964 by Headmaster John Esty, Taft's Independent Studies Program (ISP) was the first of its kind in the nation. Now, more than 50 years later, it continues to challenge Taft students to think about learning in new ways, offering ISP scholars both avenue and opportunity to extend their learning beyond the traditional curriculum.

The program is open to upper mids and seniors, who are invited to submit project proposals to the ISP committee in the fall. Accepted students work with a project adviser throughout the year; they may also receive support and guidance from faculty volunteers serving on the ISP committee.

"ISP scholars create, research, and explore, purely for their own interest, purely to pursue their passions," says ISP Director Dr. Amanda Benedict. "It is just for them—just to fulfill their intellectual curiosity—without consequence for failure. There is no stick with this program, only carrot."

ISP scholars may apply for a one-semester exemption from their afternoon obligations while working on an ISP project, though most do not. The yearlong program emphasizes that the journey is as important to the project as the ultimate destination. Student projects—displayed or performed—are presented in early spring.

Since the inception of the program, Taft students have completed more than 1,000 independent study projects in all fields of learning, from writing and recording original music in Taft’s digital recording studio to designing a photovoltaic cell. Students have produced plays, crafted musical instruments, delved into British history, built websites, studied soil microbiology, explored biofuel technology, and more.

Leigh Sharpless '18

The Future of Cancer Therapies

Leigh is studying the future of cancer therapies, and it looks bright.

Joanna Kleszczewski '18

Telling Stories Through Portraiture

Joanna is telling stories through portraiture, and and her work speaks volumes.

Benjamin Roberts '18

Society and Disease

Society and Disease: Ben looked to the plagues of the past to predict what's next.

Gabriela Gonzalez Carpio '17

Capturing Ambiguity in Poems and Images

Gabby is continuously evolving as artist, and constantly growing her repertoire.

Maeve Millen '17

Understanding Wealth Inequality

Maeve is passionate about social issues, with wealth inequality at the top of the list.

Emily Weaver '17 & Belle McDougald '17

Food Waste: A Matter of Mindset

Belle and Emily produced an original film, offering simple ideas for helping the environment.