Winter Term is Back!

Winter Term is Back!

The wait is over: After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, Winter Term will be back this January!

Yesterday, the course catalog for Brooks School's annual three-week, intensive one-topic course session was released, offering students a look at the 27 options for in-depth classes that are all either experiential, topical or approach-based. A bunch of beloved courses — including Walking Boston, Car Wars and SCUBA — will continue their annual appearance (with a twist this year, as Dive In with SCUBA will travel to Roatán to complete their certification during the last week of the course), while compelling new classes focused on artificial intelligence, crime podcasts and entrepreneurship, to cite a few, will make their debut.

View an album of photos from Winter Term 2020 classes in action!

"It feels really special to have Winter Term back," said Interim Curriculum Coordinator and History Teacher Joanna McDonough, who is overseeing the program this year and has been pulling it all together since August. "Our current sixth-formers have only ever experienced two Winter Terms and over half of the current student body has never experienced Winter Term. So, I think that makes it extra-special and I'm grateful for the time and opportunity that we have to learn together in this program."

A little appreciation for Brooks teachers is in order, too, she added: "Teachers have worked really, really hard to create these experiences and to think outside of the box about new classes and courses, really thinking about how we can create and deliver courses and experiences that provide meaningful community learning opportunities."

For the next week-and-a-half, students get to mull over the classes they would be most excited to join and to speak with their family and advisor about their decision.

By November 16, they are required to rank the eight courses in which they have the most interest and share their preferences with their advisor. Students are enrolled in a course based on a number of factors from individual interest, grade and winter afternoon activity, according to the Winter Term course catalog, which also cites, "All things being equal and in the interest of fairness, the academic office will use a randomizer to assist in the course placement of students."

On December 7, advisors reveal which Winter Term course their students will enjoy.

"Just being open to the content of the course and learning something new," said McDonough, "as well as spending time with a group of peers that maybe you don't always get to spend time with, makes Winter Term a great opportunity for students" — no matter if a student gets their first-choice class or not.

Something different this year is that Winter Term will not include any third-form-only courses. The catalog does include, however, a sixth-form-only option for the first time: independent projects.

"Winter Term, as we have had it for a long time, has been really about exploring passions and curiosities," said McDonough. "A lot of that is driven by our amazing faculty and the passions that they have in these various areas. As we were thinking about how to empower our students to say, 'Hey, I have a passion in a specific area and I would appreciate spending three weeks working on this project,' the independent course option emerged as a way to extend that as an on-campus or surrounding-community experience."

COVID-19 restrictions, at museums and places to which various courses have traveled in the past is, of course, a factor in planning for all Winter Term activities. The challenge at this point in the program, said McDonough, is "keeping in mind that we have to make arrangements for things a little bit earlier because a lot of places are not able to host a large number of students or schools ... but we haven't, at this point, found one that's not willing to take us."

Today, and going forward, Winter Term class teachers are "opening ourselves up to the idea that we have to be flexible and willing to pivot at any given time," she said. "We are continuing to plan as if we are going to have all of these off-campus experiences, understanding that we may be here on campus taking all of these great courses, too."

Either way, cemented on the calendar is the annual event concluding the session: Winter Term Symposium, this year on January 21. "We don't know yet exactly what that will look like," said McDonough, "but in the past, it has been an open-house style ... and the plan is to have everybody have the opportunity to showcase all of the great work that they have been doing."

Until then, sneak a peek at some of the exciting new Winter Term courses making their debut in 2022:

  • Artificial Intelligence: From Fact to Fiction
    What makes machines "intelligent?" How do they "'think?" How do intelligent machines make decisions? Hollywood and pop culture tell us one thing about supercomputers and intelligent machines, but how much of that is based in reality? Come and explore both the fiction side (movies, novels, short stories) and the factual side (learning "machine-learning" algorithms and classifiers) to better understand how machines think.
  • Baseball
    The love of baseball takes on many forms. Come and explore your favorite baseball statistics (while learning and even inventing some new ones), debate the possibility of an expansion team, cast your Hall of Fame ballot, try your hand at play-by-play analysis and color commentary, score a game the old-fashioned way and create your own "30-for-30"–style documentary short film. Plus, you get to travel to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York! In class, we will examine and unpack not only the play that happens on the field, but also how the media, broadcasters, baseball operations, players and fans handle pregame, in-game and postgame analysis.
  • "Creatively Maladjusted" — Film, Art, Media and Social Justice
    In a society inundated with media and film, many groups are invisible and silent. Until a group of researchers (you) discovered something different. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that "human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." So, join the maladjusted during winter term for an action-packed session of critical analysis of films, television, art, theater, and social media through the lens of social justice. ...This workshop will culminate with the opportunity for you to create your own art that comments on the racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of bias prevalent in modern society.
  • Crime Junkies
    Students will investigate a fake crime (inspired by true events) through a podcast they will write and perform. They will utilize skills such as fingerprint analysis, blood spatter science, and human anatomy while also discussing historical events. We will head out into the field and investigate a "real" crime scene, putting what we learn to the ultimate test, and we'll also watch some films to get us even more inspired.
  • Dream It, Design It, Build It! Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century
    Do you have BIG IDEAS? Are you interested in designing products? Have you always wanted to monetize your expertise? Dream It, Design It, Build It! Is a Winter Term course focused on dreaming, designing, and building your own business idea! We will use Design Thinking to create a product or service that helps to address a problem (small or large) that you encounter in your life or in the world at large. Join us and you will learn how to pitch an idea for funding, combine teamwork with Makerspace technologies to develop, prototype, and take to-market your original idea. Culminating at the Winter Term symposium, where the entire Brooks community can interact with your design process, and potentially, purchase your product or service!
  • Environmental Artivism
    Students will work with environmental artist/activist Pippin Frisbee Calder on the installation of her interactive exhibition, "Cancelled Edition" and a website for this installation, in the gallery of the Robert Lehman Art Center. With inspiration from Pippin's work, the students will research using the Massachusetts Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species List to identify, sketch, design, and create their own site-specific installation. By incorporating visual and written information about a chosen species extinction relevant to their findings, the students will creatively collaborate to communicate a cultural concern in an exhibition of learning at the gallery. ... Daily activities will include nature walks, journaling, sketching. Trips will include visits to the Isabella Stewart Gardner, MFA, and more.
  • Gaming Unplugged
    Learn the different styles of games from cooperative to 1v1, board games to card games, and everything in between. Discuss the similarities and differences between the different categories of games while developing your very own game. Play the games you and your classmates create as "testers" to help flush out any flaws and give constructive feedback to the creators. All that you need is a love of games, a creative attitude, and maybe a competitive bone or two.
  • How to be an American Dog: Past and Present
    Do you currently share your life with a dog? ... Whether looking at what they are fed, how they are trained, or where they are sourced from, trends over the last century have swung from one end of the spectrum to the other when it comes to what responsible dog guardians are supposed to do. In this course, we'll study that evolution and examine the reasons behind the changes. Why have some breeds seen their popularity skyrocket to such levels that overbreeding has become a real concern while at the same time more than 3 million dogs enter animal shelters in the US each year? These are just some of the questions and issues we'll consider as we examine the evolving role of "man's best friend" in American life using books, articles, podcasts, and films. ... Part of each day will be devoted to dog walking and dog training.
  • "Subversive Stitches" — Embroidery and Quilting as Activism Throughout History
    Throughout history, groups silent in the written record have used craft (particularly quilting and embroidery) as a way to voice their thoughts and ideas. ... In this class, we will explore the use of quilting and embroidery as activism both in the past and today. We will also learn basic embroidery and quilting techniques to allow each student to bring their own craftivism project to life at the conclusion of the course. Join us to explore textile arts in a creative way to speak and bring attention to an issue of your choice whether it is climate change, racial justice, women's rights or any issue you feel needs your voice.
  • Teen-Noir: A Cinematic Winter Term
    Teen-Noir will be devoted to the creation of a Student-Noir film and daily screenings of classic Hollywood Noir Films filled with vigilante antiheroes, corruption, murder, organized crime, existentialism, duplicity, and jazz. We will learn the components of Noir: its themes, its narrative structures, and its aesthetics. ...Students will also make a film of their own! They'll be introduced to the technical and fundamental skills needed to create short films, such as visual/audio capture techniques and Adobe Premiere Pro. ... The short film we create will be bookended by an intro, movie poster, and outro, all filmed and photographed in downtown Boston.

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