Research as Adventure

Turning open-ended questions into new discoveries


For me, the focus on deep, fundamental research at MKA was probably most impactful. Things like the junior [history] thesis [and] independent research [in science] courses . . . were vital in allowing all of us to hone our abilities as researchers. That foundation prepared me well for multi-year research projects at college and the jobs I've held doing research at places like Bridgewater Associates, Goldman Sachs, and now Square.

- Class of 2007 Alumnus



In fields from science to history to global citizenship, students Pre-K–12 use the MKA Research Cycle to ask their own empirical questions, develop hypotheses or theses and synthesize research findings to draw and communicate their conclusions.


100% of Students in Grades Pre-K–12 Actively Engage in the Research Process Each Year

Research at MKA is a cumulative, interdisciplinary experience, guided by a common understanding of the process of inquiry. The MKA Research Cycle provides a consistent, common structure to enable students to transfer research vocabulary and skills from year to year and discipline to discipline and serves as a launchpad for complementary research processes, such as the scientific process. Librarians and teachers collaborate on research instruction, curriculum, and resource development.

At MKA, we believe that researchers–whether in the humanities or the sciences:

  • Embrace research as a process of continual inquiry and revision.
  • Ask and develop their own questions.
  • Pursue their interests and passions.
  • Engage and persevere.
  • Consider the “different stories” about, and perspectives on, their topic.
  • Practice intellectual integrity.
  • Value reliability (in their sources and their data).
  • Support and celebrate the research of others.
  • Make their research process visible.
  • Share their findings effectively.
The following are just a few examples of research experiences across the curriculum.

Primary School

  • After researching Pueblo storytelling, first-grade students use clay to craft storytelling dolls in art and record their own myth using iPads in library class.
  • Second-grade students craft their own digital biography of a self-selected historical figure.
  • Third-grade researchers turn inquiry into social action as they research issues about which they are passionate. They keep an online journal and ultimately write a letter that presents a persuasive argument to gain support for their cause.
  • Third-grade scientists create, test, and improve upon prototypes as they engineer containers that will protect an egg when launched from the Primary School roof.


Middle School

  • Fourth-grade students practice responsible note taking as they collaboratively research Native American tribes and create museum exhibits.
  • Sixth-grade students research social activism and activists in preparation for reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963, which focuses on a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Era.
  • Seventh-grade students write a research paper on a self-selected topic related to the Renaissance and Reformation. Their findings inform their participation in the Renaissance Faire, which supports the interdisciplinary Shakespeare project.
  • Scientific inquiry inspires students in grade 8 to generate hypotheses, design experiments, analyze data, and conduct research to contextualize and understand conclusions. Students publish their findings and present and defend their research to other Middle School science students, faculty, and parents in an annual research forum.

Upper School

  • Biology students investigate the interconnectedness of ecosystems through biome research in which they consider the ramifications of natural disasters on the biome under study. Students document their findings in a newsletter.
  • Tenth-grade students incorporate recent psychological research into essays analyzing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
  • French 3 students research a major city in a francophone country and use their findings to write tabloid articles and to pitch their city as a tourist destination.
  • U.S. history students write a junior thesis, a culminating historical research project in which they question issues as diverse as the Chinese Exclusion Act, Walt Disney’s impact on American childhood, and the ethics of medical testing at Tuskegee.

1,000 Research Adventures

The most avid researchers have opportunities to extend and deepen their research according to their interests. Juniors who have completed an honors thesis can apply to have their paper included in MKA’s The Primary Source: A Collection of History Theses, while interested students can pursue scientific research through the Science Research Honors curriculum.

Some students additionally submit for publication in The Concord Review, a prestigious, international publication that recognizes a handful of exemplary high school history essays. Seven MKA students have had their research published in The Concord Review since 2007. Students in Science Research Honors may go on to compete in state and national competitions.


  • Dont Dive in My Pool: Normalizing Segregated Swimming in Montclair, New Jersey by Will Zaubler (also published in The Concord Review)
  • The Crusade against Comics: When Even Superman Couldn’t Save Himself by Payson Ruhl
  • Hanging by Their Thumbs: Communism and Patriotism in the Iran-Contra Affair by Ben Rapsas
Examples of independent research topics in science selected for the Northern New Jersey Junior Science and Humanities (NNJJSH) symposium:

  • Investigation of the Effectiveness of Yeast, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, in Decreasing Inorganic Fertilizer Requirements for the Plum Purple Radish, Raphanus Sativus by Nikita Israni (first place)
  • Investigation of the Detrimental Effects Imposed on Local Flora and Fauna by Commonly Used Deicers by Nicole Romola
  • Investigation of the Antibacterial Properties of the Essential Oil Component Thymol by Megan Massey