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.

  • Watercolor by Saga

    Sketching Birds

    “Birds have always been some of my favorite subjects to draw and paint,” said Saga of the impetus for her Independent project. The busy Thacher schedule made it difficult to consistently find time for her art is Saga applied for an Independent—Sketching Birds. The project took her into the foothills around campus for quick graphite sketches of the birds she encountered—birds that might be recognizable to anyone who has spent time in the area—red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, acorn woodpeckers, western scrub jays, and over a dozen other species. Those sketches became the reference materials for watercolor paintings. The art student jumped right into this new medium, learned basic techniques, and ultimately fell in love with watercolors. Where will she take her art? “I'm definitely going to keep working with watercolors and improving on that process and those techniques.”
  • Gavin and his guitar

    Make an Electric Guitar

    For some musicians, playing an instrument fashioned with their own hands makes music more rewarding. This is the case for Gavin who made an electric guitar during his spring Independent. For his project, Gavin developed skills in both woodworking and electronics. As the quality of his solders translated to the quality of sound, he had to redo those when the new guitar played only intermittently. When it does play, the solid-bodied instrument fashioned after the well-known Fender Stratocaster has a rich sound and plays easily. The student luthier had already started building a second guitar by the evening of the presentations. 
  • 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.”

Recent Projects

Controlling Invasive Species (Arundo Grass)
Bird Sketching
Making an Electric Guitar
Sabre Fencing
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
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.