JanTerm Debrief #3–Smart Logistics and Keeping the Temperature Low

IMG_1280In three weeks…

  • 370 separate buses traveled off campus as part of JanTerm and traveled more than 17,000 miles.
  • Westminster students visited Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, California, and Guatemala.
  • Westminster students enjoyed 790 cupcakes, 690 snow cones, and 500 ice cream sandwiches.

Logistics. Success in any complex step forward in a school requires a thoughtful and flexible approach to logistics. The primacy of making the trains run on time is not simply a cliche–it is requisite to garner the support necessary to move forward.

Our first experience with JanTerm was not an end unto itself. It was always part of something larger. As the final part of a two-year rollout of a new daily schedule and school calendar, the JanTerm represents the single biggest curricular step forward in the Upper School since its founding–45 new challenging and varied electives, offered over the first three weeks of January for the entire 820 student Upper School at The Westminster Schools. The new schedule, in addition to adding a JanTerm, includes a later start, longer classes that meet less often, and more time for teachers to work in teams. The schedule falls from the school’s Strategic Plan, and it is a creation of a group we called the Time Task Force, an outstanding group of six faculty members. Over the course of a Spring, Summer and Fall, the Time Task Force did deep research, listened carefully to all the school’s constituents–faculty, students, and parents–and then crafted a remarkable proposal, which both aligned beautifully with the school’s vision and challenged us deeply.

The challenges of changes this significant were and are vast. One of those challenge areas, and the area most relevant here, is visible only when something goes awry–logistics. We were extraordinarily fortunate to have an amazing team who both planned for and then executed management of all logistics during JanTerm.

Key characteristics:

  • An early start on planning.
  • A team sized appropriately to the task ahead.
  • A team that has a good sense of humor, an investment in the success of the project, confidence to handle issues autonomously or to process challenges together.
  • Division of labor, but not so a rigid division that the team cannot process confounding issues efficiently and well.
  • Inventing new organizational systems when necessary rather than trying to stick regular school year systems as square pegs in round holes.
  • A customer service approach that strives to take logistical pressure off of teachers who are in the midst of intensely demanding teaching tasks by greeting everyone warmly, keeping the temperature low when something goes wrong, and solving as many problems as possible before the teacher has to spot them.

Though we never formally named them as such, there was a team of folks that addressed the logistical challenges, large and small. That group had good partnerships with the school’s Business Office, as well as with the other key divisions of the school, including the Office of Institutional Advancement and the Communications Office. Our JanTerm logistics team was made up in alphabetical order:

Gwen Andrews (Director of Administrative Computing), Rick Byrd (Director of Studies), Beth Downes (Assistant to the Upper School Head), Jim Justice (Associate Head of Upper School), Erin Morrison (Upper School Assistant), and Laura-Hill Patton (Registrar).

I learned a lesson from our experience with logistical planning and execution: a kind, smart, and generous logistics team dramatically raises the ceiling of possibility in a moment of school change implementation.

JanTerm Debrief #2–The Course Catalogue and Reimagining the Campus

[I am including the course catalogue here of JanTerm Courses from this January at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. Even a cursory read through the course descriptions reveals the interdisciplinary focus of much of our JanTerm work. Other themes become apparent as well, including pushing out the boundaries of what has traditionally defined our campus. With this lens, the campus becomes not simply a single place, an address, but the community in which we live and the world beyond.]


AP Chemistry

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For Grade 10

The AP examination administered in May represents the culmination of college-level work in chemistry. After completing introductory topics in chemistry, JanTerm provides the additional time necessary to connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains. Students continue to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. Along with laboratory investigations, field trips will help relate the chemistry concepts to the world around us. Required of and open only to students currently enrolled in AP Chemistry.


Appalachia: History, Music, Culture

Overnight travel: January 11-14, 2015 Evening obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

Satisfies the History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016

“Appalachia” tends to conjure up images in people’s minds: of poverty, of natural beauty, of economic deprivation, and of music. This interdisciplinary course seeks to introduce students to this famous area of the Southeast. The emphasis of the course will be on culture: history, music, literature, and more specifically, how those have been exaggerated and stereotyped in American culture.

The course will include a 4-day, 3-night trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, and the surrounding areas. We will visit Dollywood, the Museum of Appalachia, and engage in an interdisciplinary project involving the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We anticipate that this project will include a hike in Cades Cove.


Behind the Scenes: Theater, Film, and Television in Atlanta

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: Yes. For grades 9, 10, 11, 12

This course is designed to broadly introduce students to many facets of stage and screen work in Atlanta, GA. Have you ever wanted to visit a film set and watch a movie being made? Do you want to hear the voices of NPR live in a radio studio? From feature films at Pinewood Studios to the Alliance Theater, students will learn about the work that is onstage and on- camera here in our own hometown.

Students will study job descriptions for the people who work “behind the scenes” and then visit the workplace to watch them in action. By end of this course, students will be able to describe the people and process involved in the creation of a movie, a television show, a radio program, and a theater production from start to finish. In addition to work that happens “behind the scenes,” students will have one short segment of public speaking and media training, where they will learn how to present themselves while speaking on camera.

Students will go on-location in Atlanta to meet working professionals who are currently practicing the arts of Theatre, Film, Television, and Broadcast Journalism. As an added bonus, many of the professionals that we meet will be Westminster alumni and friends of the school.


Biomechanics and Sports Medicine

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 10 and 11

This course is designed to include the basic concepts of athletic training as a profession, human anatomy, mechanism of injury, and administration of athletic training. Students will demonstrate a basic mastery of how athletic injuries occur, how they are treated, and how they can be prevented. Project-based learning about various athletic injuries will take place. The Westminster training room will become our laboratory. Guest speakers will include professionals such as doctors, physical therapists, trainers, chiropractors and nutritionists. Students will travel to clinics and hostpitals such as Emory and Georgia Tech. Service learning will take place as student trainers volunteer in the Westminster sports community.



Overnight Travel: No Evening Obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

This course is designed to give students a comprehensive introduction to the scientific concepts and laboratory techniques used in Biotechnology. The course will incorporate hands-on labs, conceptual background in biotechnological methods, and reviewing books and films in terms of content accuracy. Subject material covered will include: nucleic acid and protein isolations, vectors, cloning, hybridizations, Polymerase Chain Reaction, ELISA, sequencing,, and sequence analysis. The course will include a number of local off-campus field trips.


Cross-Cultural Immersion in Atlanta

For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12
Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No

What is your culture? What cultures thrive in Atlanta? Would you like to get to know these cultures and learn about various languages, customs, foods, people, art, and values? This course will integrate French, Chinese, and Hispanic (Latino) communities of Atlanta, which will allow for comparisons and contrast of the aforementioned cultures and their needs. Students will be exposed to French, Hispanic (Latino), and Chinese cultures for a week at a time. During the “Chinese Week” students will explore Chinese language, cultural events, and community; during the “Spanish Week” students will explore language, music, movies, and community; during the “French Week” students will explore language, artm and community. Students will visit various sites and community agencies in the city of Atlanta and will host/attend numerous speaking events. This course will culminate in a cross-cultural project in which students’ experiences and reflections will be made public to the Westminster community via a website. In the project, students will include the following: videos, photos, interviews, and journals exposing the rich cultural diversity of the city of Atlanta.


Ecology and Culture of the Georgia Coast

Overnight Travel: January 11-17, 2015 Evening obligations: No. For grades 9 and 10

Through classwork, coastal fieldwork, and lab studies, students learn about the estuarine, beach, and maritime forest ecosystems that comprise the Georgia coast. The essential focus is learning the foundations of biodiversity, how it is related to ecosystem health, and mathematically calculating the biodiversity of several coastal ecosystems. The additional study of the crabbing industry and its history will elucidate some of the ways humans have impacted the functioning of the coastal ecosystem. Students will complete a final project connecting anthropogenic actions with changes in coastal biodiversity using a format of their choice. Please note: Students enrolled in this class will travel for 7 days to the Georgia coast where we will stay overnight at the UGA dorm facilities on Skidaway Island. Daily fieldwork will be conducted outside in natural marsh habitats (i.e., muddy) and on boats, regardless of weather conditions. Average temperatures are approximately 45 degrees and rain is common.


Electronic Fashion: e-textiles & Wearable Computers

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: Optional. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

Electronic fashion is the union of technology and wearables – computers that are part of your clothes! In this class you will learn everything you need to know to create your own electronic interactive garment. You will learn how to sew circuitry into cloth, how to utilize special sensors that can detect motion, temperature, light and touch, and how to program for the Lilypad Arduino – a flat computer designed for integrating into clothing. At times, throughout the course, we will be teaming up with the fashion course, “The Devil wears Lulu,” to explore and discuss fashion design. Field trips will include a shopping excursion, the High Museum of Art, and possible visits to art performance venues. At course’s end, you will have a functional electronic garment that you can take home.


Entrepreneurship: An Introduction

Overnight travel: No
Evening Obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

Are you an entrepreneur?

This course is designed for advanced high school students who are interested in starting, plan to start, or who have already started their own business. Students who hold leadership or management positions in the school environment or within a business, who are part of an existing family-business, or who want to know what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur will find real-world applications and solutions to the everyday challenges of owning and running a business.

In this course, students learn the essential attributes of an entrepreneur and the stages one goes through in taking the seed of an idea and growing it into a successful business. Of course it takes more than a good business plan and money to succeed—entrepreneurs must understand that all too often, the strengths that helped them succeed as a start-up become liabilities to overcome in order to take their business to the next level. This course provides practical insights on how to be successful at all levels, with an emphasis on the beginning or startup stages.


Finding Yoknopatawpha: Faulkner’s World

Overnight travel: January 22-25, 2015 Evening obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

In writing about the American South, William Faulkner created stories that grapple with the history of the region while also experimenting with how to tell a story. We will travel to his fictional county—Yoknapatawpha—by reading his works, principally his collection of short stories, Go Down, Moses, and conclude the course with a visit to Faulkner’s ancestral home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford, Mississippi. In addition to the trip to Mississippi, the class will travel each week in and around the city of Atlanta, visiting people and places that inform stories about the South. Likewise, students will have ample opportunity to interact with one another and the literature as they develop and articulate an understanding of their own regional identities.


From Zumba to Hip Hop: Contemporary Forms of Community-Generated Expression in Atlanta

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: Yes. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

This course will allow students to identify and understand modes of expression that do not originate from institutions of power. Students will be exposed to various forms of expression as well as the context from which they were created. They will explore oral poetry traditions such as spoken word, rap, and speakers’ corner; dance traditions such as flamenco, zumba, hip-hop, and tango; and music traditions such as African drumming, jazz, R&B, and Latin music genres (el son cubano, salsa, mambo, rumba, Cha-cha-chá.) The course will include guest speakers and instructors, such as spoken word and rap artists; visits to Java Monkey’s poetry slam, a flamenco studio, a hip-hop dance studio, an African drumming class, and zumba class; and attending a conference about popular music and Latinos in the US.

The final project for this class is a dynamic portfolio on a specific form of community-generated expression. The portfolio will include research, writing, a creative product, and an interactive application of the form of expression of the student’s choice. For instance, a student interested in spoken word poetry might research and write about the origin and evolution of spoken word (perhaps through interviews, reading, viewing, and visiting spoken word venues), writing and revising several spoken word pieces, performing poems around the campus, and writing reflectively about their poetry. We are looking forward to an energized and creative JanTerm experience!


Giving Voice to Atlanta: Stories and Histories in Atlanta

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No
Satisfies History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016

In Giving Voice to Atlanta, students will explore “oral history” and the ways in which first-hand accounts deepen our understanding of history and the world in which we live. While building relationships with their subjects, gathering background information, and practicing the art of interviewing, students will come to understand the power and complexity of oral history or storytelling. Students will read oral histories of American slaves, World War II survivors, refugees living in America, and American workers during the 1970s. We will also visit local universities and The Atlanta History Center to talk with historians and professionals working to preserve the legacy and historical value of the oral tradition. As a final project, students will create their own oral history.


Going 3D in Architecture and Design

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 10, 11, and 12

One of the most influential recent technological game changers is the 3D printer. The 3D printer and associated software have tremendous potential for the design and the manufacturing worlds. Students in this course will build their own 3D printers and learn how they can be used as powerful design tools, particularly in the field of architecture. Students will learn how architects design 3D spaces that are pleasing and effective, and will use their own 3D printers to develop models of prototype buildings.

Students will–

  1. 1)  Learn about the field of CAD (computer-assisted design) systems and in particular will learn how to use OPENSCAD software for creating solid 3D CAD models;
  2. 2)  Build (in teams) Rostock “Delta” style 3D printers that will allow them to print models;
  3. 3)  Learn some of the fundamentals of architectural design and study the work of severalcontemporary architects;
  4. 4)  Design and, using the 3-D printers, print the component pieces of a 3D model of abuilding;
  5. 5)  As a service component, donate some of the constructed 3D printers to schools that donot currently have the budgets for this transformational technology.

The course will feature lab time at school, guest presentations from professional architects and designers, and field trips to some of Atlanta’s most exciting new spaces, including The Hatch (Chick-Fil-A’s Innovation Center), Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons at Ga. Tech, and the offices of Perkins+Will Architects.


Guatemala: Colonialism, Postcolonialism, Service-Learning

Overnight travel: January 7-17, 2015
Evening obligations: No
Satisfies History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016
*A minimum of 2 years of Spanish study since 7th grade (current ’14-15 school year counts toward total)
*Biweekly meetings (45 minutes) on campus during October/November
*Fundraising efforts from October until December in order to raise money for cost of building materials, and then continued efforts during the spring in conjunction with the July ’15 Guatemala group.

The Guatemala Global Education program offers Westminster Sophomores and Juniors an experiential learning opportunity that includes discovering the ties between the United States and Guatemala, working as a team to raise funds, building a new home, and connecting with the people of Guatemala. Preparatory class work will focus on pre-Columbian, colonial, and postcolonial history, and 20th century US policy in Central America. It will also cover Guatemalan demographics, including geography, languages, religion, government, and economics. Using the materials purchased from the fundraising, Westminster students will work with Guatemala families and our partner organization From Houses to Homes to build houses, making them strong, safe, culturally appropriate, and affordable to maintain. The homes are part of a wider attempt to connect the families with educational, healthcare, and housing opportunities. Recognizing that housing is not enough on its own, FH2H carefully selects the families it works with in order to ensure each family will have access to healthcare for the entire family, elementary education for the children, and parenting and marriage assistance for the adults. Upon our return to Atlanta, students will write reflective essays on their experience in order to connect the dots from the learning experience.


If You Build It: Designing Stadiums for Communities

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No
Satisfies History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016

“And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirt sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magical waters. People will come, Ray.”
-Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

Since the days of the Roman Coliseum, stadiums have captured our imagination, serving as near mythic gathering spaces, wherein communities believe their dreams can come true. With two new stadiums currently planned or under construction in Atlanta, students in this course will examine our drive to construct such coliseums and evaluate the idea that they support economic progress and community development. Guiding questions will be: To what extent do new stadiums impact a city’s economy? To what extent do they serve and build community? Who benefits? Who pays? And how do we design them in such a way that ensures they provide “the greatest good for the greatest number?” Broadly, students will engage a range of stakeholders, review published literature and their own research, and learn about the hopes and fears of neighborhood residents in the communities near these future stadium sites. Ultimately, students will define a specific challenge related to these builds and design and present a potential solution to a range of community leaders.


Introduction to Engineering Design

Overnight Travel: No
Evening Obligations: Yes. For grades 9, 10, 11, 12

How would you design a machine to sort recyclables, separating aluminum, plastic, and glass? Create a solar-powered water purifier that maximizes efficiency while reducing cost? This course explores problems that use engineering and design creatively and productively to make the world a better place. Using the design cycle, students will gain the technical know-how to build functioning prototypes and present inventions to engineering experts. Some students may choose to engage in engineering and design competitions such as FIRST Robotics and Science Olympiad with projects developed during this course. Topics in the course include mechanical design, control systems, and modes & methods of power.


“It’s the End of the World As We Know It!”: Apocalyptic Thought in Contemporary Film, Television, Music, and Literature

Overnight Travel: No Evening obligations: No. for grades 11 and 12

The apocalypse is here!!! There is an intense preoccupation in Western culture with the idea that the world might just come to an end someday. Indeed, much of the basis for this interest is a book that incites both curiosity and confusion, the book of Revelation, one of the most engaging and disputed books in the Bible. In this course, we will define apocalypse and discuss how the word has been misused; read and analyze the book of Revelation (also known as The Apocalypse), as well as other apocalyptic works; explore how Revelation has been used throughout history to predict the end of the world; and investigate how the idea of the apocalypse has been reimagined in contemporary film, television, music, and literature in both secular and religious ways. The course will include field trips to the sets of “The Walking Dead,” as well as to the Centers for Disease Control (for those concerned how to survive a zombie apocalypse). To culminate the course, students will have the opportunity to create their own “apocalypse.”


“Let My People Go!”: The Bible and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States

Overnight travel: January 15-17, 2015
Evening obligations: No
Satisfies the History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016. For grades 10, 11, and 12

This course will offer a unique perspective on the Civil Rights Movement and its relationship to the Sacred Scriptures in the Bible. Ms. Fleming and Father Bailey will facilitate lectures and group discussions related to this course. A trip to Birmingham and Selma in January will reinforce the powerful relationship of the interpretation of faith, salvation, liberation, providence and even martyrdom to the deep meaning of the Movement. The main goal is to help our students establish an intelligible context for how Salvation History had a foundational basis to the language that the Movement conveyed to the world. Guest speakers, video media, and field trips will help to supplement the powerful learning experience that will occur in this course.


Music and the Movies

Overnight Travel: January 15–19, 2015 Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

This course explores the role of music in film, television, and video games, surveying music from the silent film era through the present, with an emphasis on feature-length films from Hollywood. Significant time will be spent studying the elements of music and how composers have manipulated musical materials to form artistically effective soundtracks. The course will also examine film music and sound from several other perspectives: technology and history, aesthetics and culture, and economics and business.

The middle section of this course will be spent in Los Angeles, California with direct contact with composers, studios, and other elements of the Film/TV/Video Game industry.


Of Quarks and Quasars: Counterintuitive Concepts In Post-Nineteenth Century Physics—Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

Overnight travel: No. For grades 10, 11, and 12

Most of us carry a convenient device that fully depends upon Einstein’s Relativity in order to operate. All of us routinely use any number of devices and systems that fully incorporate Quantum Physics in their design. Despite these ubiquitous real-life applications of post- Newtonian physics, many people are completely unaware of how deeply their lives are intertwined with modern, post-nineteenth century physics.

This course aims to change that, introducing interested students into the mysterious, challenging, profound concepts found in Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Mathematics will be kept to the level of first year algebra. Intellectual concepts in these areas have been likened to Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole, and we will meet them head on. Students will use lab equipment that is beyond that encountered in the usual physics classes. A Geiger counter, a homemade cloud chamber, and various optical measuring instruments will allow students to begin to investigate the universe beyond the Newtonian world that is mainly studied in ninth grade, and studied again, in more detail, in AP Physics.

This course will include an investigation of professional labs at the Georgia Tech Department of Physics. Each group of students will become conversant in the operation of a physics lab at Tech, from ultra-fast optics to relativistic astrophysics. They will immerse themselves in the work of a specific lab, learning what physical properties are being measured, how they are

being measured, and the motivations and possible consequences of the research. Then we will drive down to Tech to meet with researchers who will show us the equipment in action. While each group will be more specialized in one particular lab, the entire group will hear presentations on each other’s work, thereby attaining some introductory understanding of several labs engaged in real relativistic and quantum mechanical research.


Painting with a Purpose: The History and Practice of Painting

Overnight Travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

This is a hands on experiential course in which students will study the history and practices of painting while applying them to their own artwork. Students will develop their portfolio and engage with the art community by visiting museums, galleries, and artists’ studios. Interaction with this community will help students define a purpose for their art in the form of social, political, or environmental concepts.


Plagues: The Science, History, and Mathematics of Disease

Overnight travel: January 14-17, 2015 Evening obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

Satisfies History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016

This course will be an interdisciplinary survey of how plagues are spread along with an examination of social responses to major epidemic diseases in world history. One of the questions we want to consider is the cultural and scientific construction of health and illness. We will examine specific diseases (examples may include leprosy, bubonic plague, smallpox, typhoid fever, 1918 influenza, yellow fever, AIDS, and newly emerging infections) from the medieval to the modern era, with emphasis on newly emerging diseases and in the contemporary world. The dynamics of disease progress (epidemics) will be modeled using computer software, providing opportunities to explore possible intervention strategies in preventing or stopping an outbreak. The course will include a 4-day, 3-night trip to Savannah, the site of a major yellow fever epidemic in the 19th century. The course will culminate in an interdisciplinary project on a disease.


Religious Diversity and Sacred Spaces in Atlanta

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10

This three-week course is a dynamic and interactive exploration of “the self” and spiritual communities. How do we as individuals arrive at our understandings around faith (belief/non- belief), religious rituals and expression? How can physical spaces help shape and support this journey? How are different expressions of faith and freedom negotiated in a multi-cultural society? On the Westminster campus? How do others in Atlanta and around the world experience and express their religious beliefs? How are conflicts resolved or ignored? Why does it all matter?

Students will experience: sharing personal stories; small group work and interactive exercises; films, music and site visits including: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir; Al-Farooq Masjid of Atlanta; Cathedral of Christ the King; a Buddhist Temple; and The Temple (Synagogue). Afternoons will include stops at area restaurants to experience cultural cuisine affiliated with particular religious traditions and cultural celebrations. We will use world religion texts and incorporate guest speakers and Skype sessions with academics and activists involved in interfaith studies and youth around the country. Students will learn about a range of religious communities in the Atlanta area and explore their own personal belief systems and ways in which they intersect with those of others.

Ending Project: Reflection Narrative



Street Art Statements: The How-To’s of Printmaking for Purpose, Politics, and Scientific Awareness

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

Students will use printmaking as an artistic medium to raise awareness for scientific issues of global, political or ethical importance. Students will learn the how to’s of several forms of printmaking including: silk screen, carborundum, woodblock, monoprinting, copper
etching. Students will spend several days at a professional print lab learning the process of silk screening. Students will create several works of art surrounding a single scientific theme of their choice that they will explore further through research. Examples include: endangered species, emerging infectious diseases, global warming, genetic engineering and others.


Sacred Music, Sacred Texts

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

The guiding principles of this course will address such questions as: Why does music exist in worship? Specifically – why do we sing in worship? How has singing — both congregational and choral — evolved through the centuries and across denominations? How and when did we evolve from monophony (one voice) to polyphony (many voices)? Are the terms “contemporary” and “traditional” really accurate when speaking about worship? We will examine these ideas and others from the foundations of Christian worship and its antecedents, specifically Judaism, but also including non-Christian forms of sacred music. This course will focus on experiential-learning, incorporating field trips to concerts and places of worship, offering a variety of liturgical experiences. While there will be several, short objective quizzes, the primary assessment of student learning will be a final project — paper and presentation, which incorporates an understanding of historical background and evolving context and content.


Science & Medicine: The Impact of Race, Culture & Economics

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

This is a multi-disciplinary course that examines some of the more recent major scientific discoveries in the context of the racial, political, economic, and religious climate of the
time. The story of Henrietta Lacks will provide the foundation and architecture for the course. Specific topics include: genetics, the human genome project, mitosis (cell reproduction), stem cell research, racism, class, and medical/scientific ethics. Students may engage in bench science as part of this course, but there will be no dissections. This class will include field trips. Examples of some trips include: Tuskegee, AL which is the site of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study; The Human Bodies exhibit in Atlanta; Milledgeville, GA which is the site of one of the first mental health hospitals in GA; a local university to review the process of human subjects research. Students will keep a blog over the course of our studies in which they include reflections, current events, and responses to readings.


Serving to Learn, Learning to Serve

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No. For grades 9 and 10

In this course students will begin to form relationships by engaging in service projects around the city. As students are introduced to the concept of volunteerism, they will specifically be working in partnership with two fifth grade classes at the Atlanta Public School’s Scott Elementary. In addition to learning about the Scott Elementary neighborhood, students will be working closely with the school’s STEAM Curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Westminster students will produce and demonstrate projects in collaboration with Scott students, and will be available once each week to serve as Homework Assistants. Various civic leaders will speak to the class on the importance of understanding “community,” an orientation will be held to certify students as volunteers through Hands on Atlanta, and students will engage in a number of service projects both on and off campus. Many of these will come from input by the students of their interests and recommendations. Through journaling, collaborative research projects, and class presentations, students will be evaluated on what they have learned about building relationships and understanding themselves in relation to their community. The hope is that students will find ways to continue their relationships throughout the year, engaging in other service-learning programs and volunteer projects.


Shakespeare: Context and Substance

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: Yes. For grades 11 and 12

Satisfies History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016

This course will look at four of Shakespeare’s history plays (Henry IV: Part I, Henry I: Part II, Henry V, and RICHARD III.) The course will analyze Shakespeare’s take on the issues surrounding these Kings’ reigns, and analyze the historical truth of the times. These Kings brought England out of the Middle Ages and into the more modern world. The course will utilize the resources in Atlanta and the surrounding region.


Shakespeare and Music

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, 12

Shakespeare’s plays have not only inspired audiences and readers over the years, they have enchanted and inspired some of the greatest composers in history.

In considering this creative relationship, we will experience and immerse ourselves in both the brilliance of the bard but also the power of composers such as Verdi and Mendelssohn, Britten and Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz and a host of others.

During the course, we will focus on Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream paired Verdi’s Macbeth and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

We will dive into textual analysis and swim through performing and creative responses. Additionally, we will interact with Shakespearean actors from Atlanta’s thriving theater community.

When working with the operas, we will study classic performances, historical recordings, and consider the craft of orchestration.

And at all times, we will consider where these two art forms meet. Is “your” Lady Macbeth an oboe or a cello? Is “your” Puck a teenager or an old lady? What happens when Macbeth meets the Mafia? Come to Shakespeare and Music and find out! Come to Shakespeare and Music—make your words sing!


Songwriting and Music Production

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: Yes. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

A course that will help beginners and experienced songwriters alike move from thinking about composing and producing their music to actually creating tracks and finished recordings of songs. Beginning songwriters will learn Garageband and basic recording and tracking techniques. More experienced songwriters will continue to use the recording software they currently use to refine the quality of their recordings and improve their recording skills. All students will produce one finished solo project and one collaborative project in the course of the term, but each day will focus on a mix of independent work and collaboration among all the students.

Day-to-day work will focus on composing, recording, tracking, mixing, and engineering their own music as well as some experience scoring music for a scene from a video or writing a jingle for a product as a way to understand other “real world” applications for both songwriting and production.

Students will travel off campus to visit recording studios and songwriting events like open mics and roundtables at least once each week. In addition, local songwriters will come to workshop ideas and offer suggestions on writing, recording- and performing.

Lack of expertise should not deter any student from signing up. Students will be great resources for one another as well as for the instructors. No one will know how to do everything, so we will all need to discover new and better ways to explore our passion.


Technical Aspects of Computers: Technical Certification & Service Experience

Overnight travel: TBD Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

This course will provide students with the knowledge and skills to become Apple Certified Macintosh Technicians (ACMT) able to perform warranty and non-warranty repairs on Apple desktop and portable products. Students will be required to complete self-paced online training materials, participate in demonstrations and utilize diagnostic tools in hands-on lab exercises. Service opportunities include partnering with local Apple Authorized Repair facilities and laptop schools to practice skills and demonstrate troubleshooting knowledge. The course

will culminate with the opportunity to take the ACMT examinations for official
certification. Students that successfully pass their examinations will be eligible for other experiences throughout the year such as the opportunity to serve at Westminster’s Knowledge Bars, working with Westminster’s IT Services (Tech Department) for behind-the-scenes projects, or helping to expand the program into the lower grades.


The Battle of Atlanta and the Civil War

Overnight travel: January 8-9, 2015 and January 20-21, 2015 Other evening obligations: No
Satisfies History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016

Ever made a Civil War tent? Didn’t think so. Come experience the most defining chapter in Atlanta’s history in this JanTerm course. We’ll explore the daily life of the soldiers and citizens as well as the grand strategy that made it all happen. What did the soldiers eat? How did they spend their time in between battles? What weapons and tactics did they use, and were some more effective than others? What are the facts behind some of the legends of the Battle of Atlanta and the Civil War, e.g. Sherman, Lee, Grant, Jackson, etc.? How did the war affect life beyond the battlefield, positively and negatively? We will travel to many of the sites in Atlanta and in the surrounding area to deepen our understanding of the legacy of the War beyond notions of heroes and villains. Some of those sites are places all around us. We will enrich them with the meanings that you might never have known they have. We will attempt to re-create as many of the things that they carried as possible: from tents, to food, to shoes. From this course, you will have an enhanced understanding of how the Civil War has affected the history of warfare tactics, weaponry development, civilian life during wars, and, most of all, Atlanta’s current shape and character.


The Business of Sports

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No. For grades 11 and 12

This course will explore the organizational business structure of sports programs at the professional and collegiate levels. We will examine the various operational departments within these organizations to include: general operations, business operations, facility operations, finance, merchandising, special events, security, ticket sales, marketing, public relations, information technology, scouting, equipment, etc. Students will have the opportunity to visit some professional organizations such as the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons along with college athletic programs Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, and the University of Georgia.

Guest lectures will further enhance the experience. The class will engage in creating their own final project of a specific area of interest within the organizational business structure of sports programs.


The Chemistry and Culture of Food

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: No. For grades 10, 11, and 12

Cooking…situates us in the world in a very special place, facing the natural world on one side and the social world on the other. The cook stands squarely between nature and culture, conducting a process of translation and negotiation. – from Cooked by Michael Pollan

This course will examine food through a variety of lenses. The primary method of inquiry will engage the chemical composition and processes involved in cooking many of our food staples such as bread, cheese, chocolate, and many others. Additionally, this course will integrate hands-on cooking techniques, a brief study of the agricultural and economic infrastructure that sustains the food industry, and descriptive food writing focused on the historical, cultural, and personal importance of food in our daily lives. Through the expertise of local culinary leaders, field trips to restaurants and kitchens, a development of focused and evocative writing, as well as laboratory-based experiments, students will immerse themselves in food culture. As we move towards a final gathering at the “family table,” the course will culminate in a cooking demonstration and final piece of food writing that incorporates the chemistry, history, cultural and personal significance of a culinary dish of each student’s choosing.


The Devil Wears Lulu: The Craft and Business of Fashion

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 9, 10, 11, and 12

Did you know that fringe on clothing was originally to repel rainwater? That skirts are making a comeback for men? Clothing has evolved over hundreds of years as both a form of protection and a form of self-expression. While the fashion industry is a relatively new concept, it is a multi-billion dollar industry globally, a powerful economic force. From haute couture to budget brands, from economically sustainable to technologically savvy products, we will examine the history, the psychology, the art, the craft and the business of the fashion world. The focus will be primarily on American fashion, and there will be several guest speakers from different areas in the fashion industry. The class will visit a few local places of business and each student will

be expected to create a product (research paper, business plan, portfolio of designs, etc.) as his or her final assessment. Come join us on our journey into fashion!


The History and Physics of Flight

Overnight travel: January 7-10, 2015 Evening obligations: Yes. For grades 9 and 10

This course will offer students an overview of the history of flight, focusing on the cultural, social, and military impacts that this exciting field has had in American history. Also integrated into this class is the science of flight, where students will explore the physics behind flight through interactive and hands on experiments. Students will have the opportunity to build model rockets and airplanes, fly these models, and conduct experiments examining drag, lift, and thrust. Off campus experience will include a visit to a university flight laboratory. Students will also take an introductory pilots training course with actual flight time with an instructor. In addition, the course will include a two-day trip to Charleston, SC to visit the Boeing facility.


The Icon of God: The New Testament & Sacred Art

Overnight travel: No
Evening obligations: Optional
Satisfies Bible requirement for Class of 2015 and open only to students taking PL/Band/Chorus/Orchestra AND fourth year of math, science, language (all three)

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul calls Jesus the eikōn of God (1:15). This Greek word and its English derivative “icon” mean, simply, “image,” but in the stricter sense an exact image or likeness. Via Christian iconography and the Christian scriptures, students will delve into the branch of theology known as Christology which, ultimately, hopes to answer the question Jesus poses to his own followers: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29, par.). The answers to this question are as manifold in both their scope and their implication as can possibly be imagined. Students will examine the literary portraits of Jesus that each of the Gospel writers presented in their texts, the portrait presented by the Apostle Paul and his contemporaries in their writings, and in the visual portraits of Jesus from the iconographic tradition. Through this dual approach students will gain unique and qualitatively significant to the scriptures and traditions of Christianity, from their seminal moments in the Early Church until our own time and context.


The Mathematics of Fantasy Sports

Overnight travel: No Evening obligations: No. For grades 10, 11, and 12

In this course, students will explore sports data and design a mathematical model that will enable them to maximize the number of points that their fantasy sports team can earn. The course will begin with a history of fantasy sports and an opportunity to play Strato-Matic, the original sports game that relied heavily on statistics. Students will then begin developing a model for a sport with limited data, such as golf or hockey, and then extend their model to sports with much more data, such as basketball, football, and baseball. The model will also be compared to professional sports and how they may select and manage their teams including payroll, injury replacement, free agency, etc.


Wilderness, Photography, and American Culture

Overnight travel: January 12-15, 2015
Satisfies the History requirement for Class of 2015 & Class of 2016 No previous experience with photography is necessary.

This course examines the changing understandings of and approaches to wilderness in America and the ways in which photography has reflected and helped to shape those understandings and approaches. We will consider the words of wilderness writers (John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, and others) as well as the works of wilderness photographers (Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Eliot Porter, and others) within different historical contexts, from the late nineteenth century to today. We will look at the role of government and private citizens in managing wilderness, as in the creation of the national parks system and the Sierra Club, and we will explore past and present controversies in the ongoing struggle to define what “conservation” should mean, often pitting market interests against ethical and spiritual values. Students will have daily reading assignments and will routinely reflect on course topics, and develop their own ideas, in writing and in picture taking. Students will collaborate on a final project (likely an exhibit or booklet) combining their photographs and written commentary.

This course includes an overnight trip (three to four days) to a location along the Appalachian Trail in the second week of classes, as well as periodic day trips near Atlanta, for photography, hiking, and reflection.

The Global Online Academy and “The Promise of Online Learning”

About the Global Online Academy

Today I have spent some time thinking about a course I will teach next fall for the Global Online Academy. I have mentioned GOA before in a post entitled, “A Shout-Out to Partnerships: Their Relevance in A Progress Culture.” As opposed to the other courses at GOA that serve students drawn from the member schools, this course will be designed as professional development for school administrators, and it will seek to help us make sense of the exploding impact of online learning.  Titled, “The Promise of Online Learning,” we will strive to determine that promise and to use many of the tools available in an online learning environment in order to accomplish that goal.

I hope to use “Ross All Over the Map” as a means to share both some of my planning leading up to the actual course, as well as some of the artifacts of the course created as our work together unfolds. That said, my thinking is at such an early stage that I am uncertain the extent to which I will have valuable things to share, particularly at this early moment in the planning process

Currently I am thinking about a few questions that I am certain will garner the class’s attention to one degree or another:

  • For what purposes will schools need to grow toward online learning?
  • How will schools grow in healthy and sustainable ways toward making online learning a significant factor for most, if not all, students?
  • How will online learning serve to democratize educational opportunities?
  • What models for online learning will find the most traction in an increasingly crowded marketplace?
  • How can an online course create a dynamic learning environment that allows for purposeful interaction not only between students and the instructor but also between a student and other students?
  • How will school leadership build the requisite credibility regarding online learning in order to make allies out of our boards, our faculties, our families, and most importantly, our students.

In future posts I hope to share more about what I learn regarding several models for online learning. A different approach than GOA is Coursera—I have provided a screen shot below of their landing page.

Coursera landing page screenshot

Pilots: Showing the Way Forward in Schools

In a recent post, “Creating a Progress Culture One Pilot at a Time,” I identified four reasons to support piloting ideas and programs in schools. In this post I will expand on the fourth of those ideas:

  • “Supporting pilots creates opportunities for the school community to see the efficacy of the school’s direction. We need chances to demonstrate success in the specific context of our school. Just having examples from other schools is not enough. Just speaking in the abstract has an even shorter lifespan.”

Particularly when the direction a school has chosen may seem abstract, piloting programs can help a community develop a definition of the components of the plan and a vocabulary to describe those components. It may not be overstatement to assert that, without such early artifacts of the strategy, getting people to commit to the bigger picture of progress may be impossible.

During the early stages of any significant initiative, communities vacillate between arguing that the progress the school seeks is not really progress at all (but rather only the latest sound and fury representing nothing) or that it is a dangerous veering from core aspects of the school’s mission, tradition, and identity. A school needs stories to counter these equally inaccurate ideas of the steps the school is taking and the purposefulness of them. Piloting courses and programs can be the basis for that effort by creating institutional campfire stories.

Pilot courses and programs allow for some students and teachers to benefit first hand, but importantly, if the story is told well, they also allow the larger school community to share vicariously in success. In this way the school begins to build what is new into the school identity, and at this point the legacy of the strategy begins to set-up on firmer and firmer ground.