Winter Term Offers Exciting New Courses

Exams are done. Vacation has begun. Now, students are already looking forward to returning to school – seriously! – to explore the exciting Winter Term courses kicking off on January 3.

Each year Brooks School offers an intense, one-topic course of study for three weeks starting right after New Year's with the goal of offering "depth over breadth" in a topic that students select themselves.

Visit Winter Term for more details about the unique program and photos from past courses, such as "The Great Outdoors" (shown above).

"I'm excited for my music class because I think it's going to be really fun," said Austin Mermans '21 of his class: "Making the Brooks Band Creating Original Hip-Hop/R&B Music," during which students create a track with original beats and lyrics, and make a corresponding music video. "I play piano, but in this Winter Term I'm looking forward to doing all of the parts of the project."

Hannah Maver '18 and Riley Baker '18, on the other hand, are happy about their upcoming class – Lego Engineering, focused on design and building Lego objects to meet the criteria of various structural, mechanical, and even artistic challenges – because the sixth-formers now have a chance to just enjoy learning stress-free following a fall focused on college applications.

"I've taken biology classes so now I'm excited to get to explore another area of science and try mechanical engineering," said Baker, who recently received her first acceptance to college. Maver is actually returning to the class and trying her hand at teaching it. "I'm going to work as a teachers' assistant in the class this year," said the student, headed to Vassar in the fall. "It's such a fun one because it's really hands-on and you get to play with Legos!"

Visit Academics Overview to learn more about the curriculum at Brooks, sneak a peek inside of our classrooms and see the course catalog.

In addition to popular repeat courses such as "Brooks Goes to Preschool" (shown below, during which students work in preschool classrooms in the YWCA in Lawrence, Mass. supporting teachers) and "Car Wars" (providing the opportunity to repair a vehicle and learn the fundamentals of automotive theory, maintenance and restoration), ten brand-new courses will be offered this year.

"New courses are the result of new teachers and the variety of interests among the faculty as a whole," said Associate Head for Academic Affairs Lance Latham. "About a third of the courses every year are new."

Students enjoy the annual refresh because "the mix allows students to look forward to established courses and to try interesting new ones," he explained. Teachers benefit too, Latham added: "Winter Term provides a different format for teaching and learning at Brooks that our traditional curriculum doesn't allow."

Read on for a sampling of the new courses being taught at Brooks this Winter Term and learn why their teachers created them – and look forward to sharing the experience with students:

    "How do we know what really happened in the past?" asks the Winter Term course description of this class, in which members learn how to evaluate sources for reliability and validity, tackling two historical mysteries -- such as the crash of Flight 93 and Amelia Earhart's disappearance -- then present the outcome of their research in a short film. Latham proposed the course because he said, "I wanted to do project-based work in which students could research and maybe solve a historical mystery of their choosing. The opportunity to delve into meaningful cases by evaluating evidence has me fired up!" The course will also provide students with valuable experience they can use going forward. "Learning to assess reliability and validity of evidence, working together to solve a mystery, and learning how make a short documentary are all goals of ours," said Latham.
    This course, co-taught with a Mount Holyoke College Arabic professor "takes you on a journey into the Middle East by means of a language that is considered the fourth most important in the world," according to teacher Lucy Hamilton, chair of classical and world languages department. Students will learn the Arabic alphabet, basic phrases, and get an introduction to Arab culture through a Middle Eastern food cooking class and watching Arabic film. "Bringing Arabic to Brooks is a logical next step for our school's global awareness," she said. "I hope the students will learn as much of the language as they can in a few short weeks, appreciate its rich history, and enjoy the food that they will cook."
    Students will discover the past, present and future of food, farming and growing techniques from seed to table with this interdisciplinary course taught by a professional farmer, a food-business entrepreneur, and a Brooks teacher who grew up on a farm. "I want students to learn and understand where their food comes from and what the future holds for food production," said teacher Niki Price, co-founder of "I hope that they become conscientious about the food they put in their bodies." Brooks campus farmer JoAnn Robichaud, for her part, is thrilled about building growing systems with students and taking them to visit a high-tech greenhouse. "If we are lucky, we eat every day," she said. "It's important to know about that food, if only to appreciate it more."
    Visits to private finance firms and government agencies in Boston, New York and Washington D.C. the a highlight of this class focused on exploring "inherent tensions in any capital markets system: the interests of those with money, the interests of those needing money, and the complex and interdependent system of private and public entities bridging the two," shared mathematics teacher Tote Smith. Tackling the topic is a natural fit for Smith. "The course draws from my pre-teaching experience in finance and from the enthusiasm that Brooks students are showing toward the capital markets," he said. "I'm excited to help connect the students' classroom learning in math and economics to one aspect of their possible future. I wish I had learned some of this when I was their age!"
    "Before I started teaching, I was a museum curator for the Newport Restoration Foundation," revealed history department chair Michele Musto. "While there, I oversaw the cataloging of her fashion collection and curated two exhibitions on her fashion. I wanted to draw on that experience to teach a course on the history of fashion." And that she will do in January, leading students through discussion on what clothing tells people about others, trips to museums with fashion and art collections throughout New England, and the steps to creating their very own fashion history exhibition for the Brooks community. "In history we tend to focus on the big topics, and we do not have a lot of time for a lot of details of everyday life that are really interesting," she said. "Fashion reflects the many trends politically, economically, and socially in history, and I wanted students to see that and reflect on how their clothes are a form of artistic expression every day. I hope that students learn that the every day items around them have a huge story to tell."
    Lights, camera, action! Students in this course will immerse themselves in films created locally in Massachusetts. After watching movies and discussing how the works depict our environment in the Bay State, students will visit a few set locations and then learn to make their own short films – highlighting other students' experiences in Winter Term – using digital cameras and editing software. "Students will get a glimpse of the process that it takes to create and develop films," said English and theater teacher Patrick Hitschler. "I'm excited to see students explore their creativity through filmmaking and see what they're able to create in their own films."
    Focused on films, theater, and branding, the Disney Winter Term considers the way that the Disney Corporation impacts cultural ideas and ideals around gender, class, race and sexuality. "The idea is to have students look at material – some new and some that they already know – in a new and different way," said arts department chair and director of theater Robert H. Lazar. "I'm excited to get students to see long-term change and assess the effectiveness of, or the need for, that change. I hope students will come out of the class with an ability to question why something is presented in a certain way, and to question their own bias." The course won't be all talk, however. The group will enjoy a trip to New York City to take in two Disney Broadway shows and visit the Times Square Disney Store. Through the course, co-teacher Julie A. Mavity-Maddalena, school minister and director of spiritual life, said that she hopes "students learn what it looks like to see complexity, even in things we love, and to learn how to question those things in meaningful ways."

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