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Students Take a Break, Learn New Skills in Minimesters

(L-R) Sophomores Jack Warren and Jeremy Avellaneda prepare fruit for their daily cooking experiment. Photo: Marissa Goodman

To welcome students back to school in January, science department chair Dr. John Pearson organizes a series of minimesters each year to give students a break from their regular science classes. Minimesters are unique, educational courses that all upper school students, except those in AP science classes, participate in. They lower stress while also applying scientific concepts to various activities. Since Spirit Week requires a lot of after-school time, minimesters have the added benefit of reducing the amount of homework that students have for the first week of the second semester.

Fantasy Sports is a recurring favorite among students. Leading this minimester was chemistry and anatomy teacher Matthew Smentek. He worked with students on analyzing sports and statistics in ways that help with the understanding of fantasy sports leagues. In addition, students drafted teams and studied the statistics of different players. “In fantasy sports, I learned a lot about basic statistics as well as drastically improving my fantasy sports ability,” said freshman Porter Kendall. With the Super Bowl and March Madness coming up, it helped students learn the logistics of these sports leagues.

Environmental science teacher Kevin Ballard organizes Swamp Ecology every year for students interested in nature. Rain or shine, hot or cold, students ventured to off-campus swamps and explored the wildlife while having fun with their friends. Students were able to learn about various species that they normally would not have the opportunity to. “Swamp (ecology) is really fun, especially because we get to go into the swamp rather than just looking at it,” said junior Lily Kahn. “Mr. Ballard makes it even better and it’s a good break from the school day.”

The Science of Cooking attracted a wide range of students as it involved experimenting with dozens of ingredients while applying multiple scientific concepts. Led by biology teacher Ben Ewing, this minimester provided scientific insight into what goes into peoples’ day-to-day cooking. “My minimester has given me a new outlook on the ways of cooking,” said sophomore Marissa Goodman. “Being able to learn the science behind it has allowed me to expand my cooking knowledge. We also got to make some pretty cool food and have some nice snacks.”

These are just three of the various options that students had to choose from. Students also spent time with Dr. Pearson to create origami figures, did 3-D modeling with computer science teacher Charlie Bryant, learned about different life hacks with chemistry teacher Dr. Melody Walter and tested their problem-solving skills in Break Out Adventure with physics teacher Betsy Costley. In addition, students applied their creativity skills to scrapbooking with English teacher Robert Kaufman, practiced adulting with English teacher Bailey Player and learned to scuba dive with math department chair Gus Whyte. 


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