Intensive Learning Close to Home

As M-Terms came to a close last week, the students and teachers who remained on campus presented the work they had done to their peers in Gandhi Hall on March 15. On-campus M-Term classes allow students to focus intensively on a topic of their choice for three weeks, providing them with the opportunity to engage in in-depth learning and reflection.

In Early Education and Community Service, with teachers Jennifer Buklad and Susan Walker, students learned what it was like to be in the front of the classroom by helping Lower School teachers create lesson plans and activities for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade classes. Every day, the students engaged in hands-on work at the Lower School, followed by lesson planning in the afternoon. The lessons complemented the younger students’ current units of study. For example, as part of learning about the elemental force of fire, first graders took a field trip to the Upper School Café, where Sous Chef Brand Fibkins taught them how to bake bread using the wood-burning oven. The M-Term students then piggybacked on that lesson with a scavenger hunt and coloring activity in a book about bread drawn by junior Claire Ching. “I learned how hard it is for the teachers to come up with the lesson plans and to get their point across,” said sophomore Jhane Gibson.

In Global Agents of Change, with teachers Escar Kusema and Elaine Parshall, students focused on internal displacement around the world. They looked at the definition of the concept and causes as well as related underlying tensions—ethnic differences, civil conflicts, wars, natural disasters, discrimination, race, gender, and disparities in economics. The class served as a simulation in which students played the role of board members of the made-up organization Dumela Nonprofit, which focused on internal displacement. They divided into groups and represented countries competing for $4 million in grants from the Clinton Foundation; the money could only be used to invest in the construction of emergency shelters. They built the shelters using materials available in their respective countries—for example, sand bags in desert landscapes, or bamboo in tropical terrains. The students also used infographics, video, mobile apps, and social media to represent their cases.

Meanwhile, in Invention, Innovation, and Design, with teachers Dave Morgan and Urban Reininger, students learned how to use the Innovation Lab’s 3D scanner and printer to fashion their own prototypes of computer mice. They also explored new avenues of online fundraising and distribution, such as Kickstarter and Etsy, and developed business plans for proposed products or services.

Students immersed themselves in Harry Potter’s world of magic in Aboard the Hogwarts Express, with teachers Richard Rainville and Christine Perigen. They read and analyzed the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and watched and critiqued the films based on the remaining six books by J.K. Rowling. They also sought information about their destinies in a “divination class” and learned how to make magic in a “potions class” with Interim Head of Upper School and former science dean Patty Lein.

In The Future Through Science-Fiction Visionaries, students screened numerous science fiction films, including such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and Soylent Green, as well as more modern exemplars of the genre such as The Matrix, Twelve Monkeys, and Avatar. The class discussed the different visions of the future projected by these works. At the culmination of the seminar, students wrote their own script treatments for a proposed science-fiction movie.

The remaining two on-campus M-Terms ventured slightly farther afield to the Big Apple. The students taking Innovation in Art explored the avant-garde in art, writing, theater, movement, and film both on the East End of Long Island and in New York City. They engaged in their own art production and experimental writing, drawing inspiration from visits to artist studios, art centers, museums, and theater and movement performances.

Lastly, students in New York, New York experienced the sights, sounds, and culture of this vibrant city. They visited landmarks, such as Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Brooklyn Bridge. They explored different neighborhoods and sampled various ethnic foods. They also watched New York–based movies, such as The French Connection, and listened to music inspired by the city that never sleeps.

Read about this year’s travel M-Terms! Visit