Thacher students have a natural curiosity, wide-ranging interests, and a penchant for exploration.

Independent projects offer juniors and seniors the chance to flex these qualities and chart their own path in the afternoons. Instead of choosing an activity from Thacher’s official offerings, eligible students follow a course of study or a training program of their own creation, pursuing personal passions like filmmaking, songwriting, poetry, photography, painting, singing, martial arts, road bicycling, aerial dancing, and more.

Students with an Independent Project work with a mentor to plan out the season, mapping how they will work toward mastery of their pursuit every afternoon and what they ultimately plan to accomplish. Projects generally conclude with a presentation of their work to the community. Not only do students improve their performance in a particular activity, they also learn valuable lessons in self-discipline, personal responsibility, and ingenuity.

Project Spotlight

List of 4 items.

  • Astronomy Research

    Katie has been a trailblazer in the newly energized astronomy program here at Thacher since her freshman year. To invest more time and energy in her study of the subject, Katie developed an independent project that allowed her to spend her afternoons conducting real-world astronomical research at the newly renovated Thacher Observatory. She worked with Dr. Jon Swift, the director of the Observatory and a math, astronomy, and physics teacher at Thacher, on his NASA-funded research into transiting exoplanets. Over the course of the project, she designed and carried out observation of a transiting exoplanet and conducted data analysis, deepening her skills and knowledge in the process.
  • Mountain Biking

    Before Thacher, Liam combined his dual passions for speed and the outdoors in a commitment to skiing. Seeing that the opportunities for hitting the slopes were few and far between in the dry, ever-sunny Ojai Valley, he soon took up mountain biking and loved it. Noticing that he was trying to fit 8+ hours of biking a week into his busy Thacher schedule, he decided to take up an independent project in partnership with another student and set aside dedicated time for the pursuit every afternoon. Focusing on technical skills, fitness, bike maintenance, and backcountry riding, the two trained hard in preparation for two competitive races in Southern California, as well as a big summer riding trip from Denver to Durango, Colorado. Liam noted: We used weekends throughout the Independent to start to find our limits in the backcountry, exploring 20, 30, 40 miles at a time into the Los Padres National Forest. The skills, fitness, and experience we gained from those adventures were crucial in Colorado.
  • Film Promotion & Nonprofit Work

    During the summer, Cara held an internship working to promote the film SOLD. Directed by Academy Award-winner Jeffrey D. Brown and based on a best-selling book by Patricia McCormick, the film follows the story and survival of an 11-year-old girl who is trafficked in India. The team behind the movie has also partnered with a number of nonprofits working to support survivors of sex trafficking—Cara’s work gathering support for screenings and instructing inspired groups on hosting their own screening helped raise awareness for the issue and the organizations working to combat it. She was so inspired by her summer work that she took it up again through an independent project. Of the experience, Cara said: “At the risk of sounding cliché, my heart fills with gratitude and warmth every time I feel like I make a difference, which, with my Independent, happens almost every day.”
  • Trail Mapping

    In the fall, Edison likes to incorporate trail running into his cross country training regimen. During the course of his many runs, he noticed something: the existing map of the trails that crisscross the hills and mountains around Thacher was sometimes inaccurate and incomplete. He set off to change that during his trail mapping independent project. Edison spent his afternoons running the miles and miles of trails near campus with a GPS tool in tow that collected the map data. He also conducted research about the history of the trails in the School’s library archives and put together a website where members of the community could view his new (complete, accurate) map and the associated historical information all in one place.

Recent Projects

Creative Writing
Electronic Music Composition
Painting & Drawing
Pursuing Pilots License
3D Printing Prosthetics for Nonprofit
Digital Imagery
Website Development
Brazilian Jujitsu
Training & Competing in Triathlon
Campus Water Conservation Survey
Costume Design
Documentary Film
Jazz Piano
Programming Augmented Reality
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.