About Junior Workshop

Each spring, Calhoun's eleventh graders embark on a nine-week  independent, interdisciplinary project with a goal quite different than that of research papers, book reports or essays. The assignment is to "create knowledge, insight, beauty or function."

“A student might propose improved procedures for pedestrian safety, create a new musical instrument, design a leadership program for kids, make a documentary film or create a theory of popularity," explains Bobby Rue '85, Junior Workshop coordinator and US English teacher. “But in order to do any of these things, the students were required to ground their work in relevant research, and create a sound methodology for pursuing and analyzing the “data" they gather.

But the real purpose of Junior Workshop is not the final product, points out Bobby; these independent, inquiry-based projects—a requirement for every junior—are meant to “get students to explore something that they’re genuinely interested in, and to do it in a really serious way—not unlike the way you would do it in ‘the real world.’”

Midway through the project, each student is required to discuss and evaluate his or her work and the process of that work in a critique session with Junior Workshop faculty members and invited members of the school community. “We have a process where kids are constantly being forced to articulate what their ideas are—and not just their ideas, but their methods and relevant research,” says Bobby. Formal critiques are held two weeks before final projects are due, so students can take actionable measures to refine their line of focus and respond to suggestions.

“What’s exciting about it for us as faculty is the process and the moments of discovery—especially those moments when it feels like a kid is blocked, and then goes off and discovers something that you didn’t expect, or suddenly takes a suggestion that works.” But Bobby notes that “even when a product doesn’t succeed’ the way the student—or mentor—had hoped, something really important happens in the process.”

Some of the projects--or "product," in Junior Workshop parlance--have actually been put into play at Calhoun. Scheduling software by Zak Wegweiser '17 is being used  to help Upper Schoolers select electives; a Cougar Sports Network podcast, created by Tyler Battino '17, is  helping promote the school’s athletics program. As the result of a first-year Junior Workshop in 2011, groups of students go each year for an outdoor education experience in Badlands National Park, SD. Another student's documentary video went viral that first year, leading the way to a summer internship and press credentials.  

Recent Projects


  • The Perfect Woman—an interactive, mixed-media installation
  • Healthy recipes and food demos, using ingredients available in the local food pantry
  • An original TV pilot
  • Fairy tales rewritten with LGBTQ issues in mind
  • Dress design using the Ulam spiral (a graphical depiction of the set of prime numbers devised by mathematician Stanislaw Ulam in 1963)
  • App designed for New York State residents, to search by issue for relevant politicians and contact information
  • Design for a new Calhoun Upper School schedule
  • Public service announcement video about sexual harassment and rape, designed for a high school audience


  • Podcast called Cougar Sports Network, featuring Calhoun athletes and coaches
  • Creation of a software program that allows Calhoun Upper School students to sign up online for electives (adopted for fall 2016!)
  • Workshop, curriculum and blog on the Black Lives Matter Movement in the context of being a black woman in a predominantly white institution
  • Documentary film focused on the intersection of race, mental illness and criminal justice
  • Creation of a mobile app for Calhoun’s website, for students and teachers
  • Exploration of the effect that sleep has on the creative process via musical and visual mediums.
  • Investigation into the perception and reality of athletics and academics and the relationship between the two in the context of The Calhoun School.
  • Creation of a horror video game with a plot that teaches players how fear works in the brain.
  • Creation of a socially conscious hip-hop album in the style of Kendrick Lamar and NaS
  • Exploration of the nature of progressive education and its relationship to The Calhoun School
  • Theorem that creates a perfect music playlist
  • Photographic exploration of the impact of technology on friendship among teens
  • Creation of a baseball statistic that measures a pitcher’s “clutchness”
  • Compilation and analysis of interviews with black and white women on the topic of body image
  • Essay on mental effects of injuries on athletes
  • Memoir/biography/photo collection about what it means to be an Indian teenager in America.
  • Collaborative album of songs on the topic of reminiscence
  • Exploration of the value of affinity groups at Calhoun
  • Concept art and dramaturgical work for Shakespeare’s Macbeth
  • Photo and video art exhibition of original work, exploring the theme of reflection
  • Creation of a cosmetic line
  • Collection of original short stories inspired by interviews with students of different ethnic backgrounds
  • Documentary film about the refugee crisis in Syria
  • Case study on teens working with children on the spectrum of autism
  • Gothic coming-of-age story
  • Documentary film exploring a deeply personal loss—a response to the documentary “Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury”
  • Documentary focused on the intersection of race, mental illness and criminal justice
  • Development of workshop, curriculum and blog on the Black Lives Matter Movement in the context of being a black woman in a predominantly white institution
  • Curriculum for mental health and mindfulness initiative for the Calhoun community
  • Curriculum for using hip-hop as a tool for teaching
  • Book of original photography—a personal exploration of Asian American identity
  • Exploration of product labels that depict and explain the history of contraception
  • Exploration of hairstyles and societal expectations for women’s appearances
  • Magazine that explores the intersection between 3D printing technology and the fashion industry
  • Paper that analyzes iconic New York City architecture through the lens of Vitruvius’s principles of beauty
  • Documentary film that explores why runners run
  • Infographic article that asks whether or not school dress codes should exist


  • Research and experiment on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in athletic performance
  • Essay on teenagers and the stigmas of mental health care
  • Magazine-style examination of the under-representation of women of color in ballet
  • Research paper on psychological consequences of method acting
  • Guidebook for Middle School girls growing up without mothers
  • Web-based guide for victims of sexual assault
  • Liner notes for playlists featuring Kendrick Lamar, P!nk and Jack White
  • Exploration of the creative process’s ability to reveal an artists’ “true self”
  • New Statistic that more accurately predicts how college basketball players will perform in the NBA
  • Documentary on a singer’s thoughts while singing
  • Design and creation of a portable 3-D printer
  • Leadership in high school community service organizations
  • Dystopian novella exploring society’s tendency to encourage assimilation
  • Podcast exploring theories of identity development in young people
  • Guide to organizing a trip abroad that includes local interaction
  • Paper on 2-parity properties in the partition and discreet partition function
  • Performance demonstrating the effects of music on the brain during a magic show
  • Exploration of individually-tailored swimming techniques
  • Re-design of Calhoun’s 4th floor
  • Non-fiction stories on the benefits of growing up with separated or divorced parents
  • Recording of a modern-day song in historical style
  • Mythology for a fictional world
  • Creation of fashion company, by teens for teens
  • Web-based guide to Junior Workshop
  • New baseball statistic to measure the value of a class of free agents in Major League Baseball
  • Directory of community service opportunities aimed at student interests
  • A photographic study of first impressions
  • Curated gallery of art by Calhoun women
  • Album of original compositions for guitar and voice
  • Manga-style comic book based on original short stories
  • Art piece in reaction to the college placement process
  • Web-series about music consumption in the last ten years
  • Interactive, web-based exploration of “What keeps young adults up at night?”
  • Illustrated short story exploring biomechanics in a post-apocalyptic world
  • Podcast on psychopathic killers
  • Documentary film on state of mind and gymnastic performance
  • Guide for pet owners
  • Study of home-court advantage in high school basketball
  • Graphic novel based on Emma Morrow’s mythology
  • Roundtable discussion on the concept of “originality”
  • Paper on the relationship between neighborhoods and violence in sports
  • Storyboard and images for a photographic novel
  • Paper on multiple intelligence theory at Calhoun
  • Illustrated book about a famous chess match
  • Documentary film about perspectives on progressive education
  • Study of the Hack-a-Shaq strategy in pro basketball
  • Painted gas masks influenced by histories of several Native American tribes
  • Original comic book and comic book company
  • Advertisement that promotes the Calhoun peer tutoring program
  • Prototype for a monthly Upper School news broadcast
  • Tabloid-style article on the connection between jazz improv and cooking
  • Film on Machiavelli’s and Foucault’s ideas of power
  • Designs for two sets of ceiling panels
  • Paper on gentrification in New York City
  • Multi-media record of how students’ commutes impact their academic and social lives
  • Learning by doing as applied to learning a new musical instrument
  • Video on the importance of the arts in education


Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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