January Term

January Term is something University High School students cherish each year. For three weeks in January, between the first and second semesters, students take a break from their usual classes and immerse themselves in a single subject of their choosing.

From broadcasting to law and justice, from oceanic studies to yoga, our J-Term topics change each year, but students always enjoy the opportunity to learn something new, travel, and focus on a single subject. January Term classes count as a single semester class.

The Benefits of Offering a January Term

  • Hands-on, applied, active, and creative learning activities
  • Different kinds of experiences and the teaching of unconventional classes
  • Opportunities to get off campus, travel, and bring in outside speakers and resources
  • In-depth, intensive, and rigorous classes that reflect student interest
  • Deeper understanding of the school’s core values

I am very grateful to be able to attend a school where the faculty and staff thought about something as creative as January Term, something that really changes the students at University High School for the better. January Term really balances fun and education, and it helps turn students into diverse members of society.


Class of 2013

2017 January Term Course Descriptions


The Broadcasting course is for students considering a career in public broadcasting or students who have an interest in media. Throughout this course, students will learn the ins and outs of both radio and television broadcasting. They will explore the different roles present in a newsroom, from on-air positions to producers, from engineers to editors, and learn what it takes to put on a newscast. The class will visit a local news station and radio station, and students will have the opportunity to ask local professionals about their careers. The culminating project will be a mock broadcast.

Dante's Italy

When your political enemies take over the government, what can you do? Dante learned that there wasn’t much, particularly when he was in exile and risked the death penalty should he return to his home: Florence, Italy. So he did what he could and wrote his famous Comedy, later renamed the Divine Comedy. In the first part of that great work, the Inferno, he consigned his political enemies as well as famous figures from Homer, the arts, the Church, and history, to regions of Hell.

Students in this class will read Dante’s Inferno and look into the political history behind Dante’s life and the inhabitants of Hell. We will also examine the political, scientific, religious, and literary influences on Dante, as well as how he influenced the Christian Church’s concept of the afterlife. On a lighter side, the class will also read Dan Brown’s Inferno or check out the movie if it has been released.

Equity M&M's: Money & Music

The focus of this course will be the construction of race in America as well as how to oppose racism in daily life. Students will get exposure to an analysis of race and racism. They will then apply that analysis while touring the cities of Nashville, TN and Memphis, TN. We will examine multiple arenas and focus on money (generational wealth, current wealth, and how communities are affected by financial oppression) and music (Hip Hop, R&B, Country, Pop, Rock, and Gospel). The tour will include trips to three universities in Nashville as well as three museums in Memphis.

Film & Culture: The Sundance Film Festival

This course will cover the history of independent cinema and its impact on world culture, culminating with a trip to the largest film festival in the U.S., the Sundance Film Festival. At the festival, students will see a variety of films and interact with some of the industry’s top filmmakers.

On campus, students will have the opportunity to meet local independent filmmakers and festival programmers from the Heartland Film Festival and Indianapolis Film Festival. This class will be designed for aspiring filmmakers and film lovers.

The Glass Class

Students in this course will receive an introduction to the basic techniques of stained glass making, leaded and copper foil methods, as well as three-dimensional construction techniques. Students will practice drafting patterns, cutting glass, painting and staining, etching, grinding, and soldering the glass together.

In addition to primarily focusing on stained glass, students will also receive instruction on glass blowing techniques at the Indianapolis Art Center. This course will also study the religious significance and iconography contained in stained glass windows. Students will gain a new skill through the creation of their own works of glass art.

Hidden New Orleans

Everyone knows that New Orleans has great food, great music, and a rich history. From stately avenues and antebellum homes to the narrow streets of the French Quarter and the riverboats on the Mississippi, there are many visible reminders of the many cultures and influences that created this unique city. Beneath the flash and color of the city, though, are many mysterious tales of ghosts, vampires, and voodoo practices unlike anything found in other American cities.

In this class, we will learn about the remarkable history of New Orleans, the legends and stories that lurk in the shadows of the city, and of course, experience the diverse and exciting city that New Orleans is today.

The Inca Civilization

For hundreds of years, the Incas flourished throughout the Andean region of South America before the Spaniards conquered them in the 16th century. They left behind a rich culture with a highly developed socioeconomic system and advanced architectural structures.

This course will focus on the history, culture, language, and architecture of the Incas. We will investigate how the Incas rose to power and discuss their downfall at the hands of the Spaniards. Additionally, we will look at the unique construction methods this civilization utilized and learn the various indigenous art forms of the region that are still being practiced today, such as pottery and textile design. During the third week of classes, we will travel to Perú and visit Machu Picchu.

This class will include readings, daily language lessons, homework assignments, tests, an art project, reflections, and a final paper.

Law & Justice

This course will enable students to learn about many important and controversial legal topics involving criminal laws, civil liberties, and the debate over potential reforms of our justice system.

The course’s major project will be an oral argument over a divisive question that students will research, prepare for, and present. Students will also have the opportunity to hear from guest speakers who are judges and lawyers and go on field trips including to the Indiana Supreme Court. The class will culminate in a two-day trip to Chicago that will have an assortment of law-related activities during the day and entertainment activities at night.

Life Hacks

This class is designed to provide students with the knowledge they didn’t know they needed. The class will cover items like how to:

  • apply for a credit card,
  • apply for a mortgage,
  • invest your savings,
  • make a budget so you don’t end up eating ramen noodles every night,
  • set goals,
  • manage a job search (writing a cover letter, constructing a resume, and preparing for an effective interview),
  • communicate well to deal with small problems,
  • deal with roommates,
  • schedule your time,
  • perform CPR,
  • jump start a car,
  • deal with utility bills,
  • learn simple sewing techniques,
  • remove stains,
  • cook basic food,
  • handle a knife,
  • understand credit scores, proper nutrition, laundry,
  • write a good thank you note,
  • make a professional phone call,
  • manage basic finances,
  • negotiate,
  • act on a business lunch, and
  • manage insurance (car, health, life, renter’s, home),

The list is endless, and you will help create it!

Oceanic Studies: Belize

The Oceanic Studies: Belize J-Term is a biology course that studies the world’s oceans as a hyper-complex system from a biological, economic, physical science, and historical perspective. From readings to classroom activities, from a swimming pool to a living coral reef, the class will be both academically and physically demanding.

In the fifth running of Oceanic Studies, we are venturing to the nation of Belize. The coast of Belize hosts the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and second largest reef on the planet. Students in the class will simultaneously earn SCUBA certification.

Students in this course must be able to swim 200 yards without stopping, physically capable of certifying in open water SCUBA (claustrophobia or chronic asthma may medically disqualify a student), and be able to travel easily. Students must also be able to acquire an international passport clearing them to travel to Belize on or by the dates posted.

Pacific Northwest: Art, Photography & Literature in America's Last Frontier

Over the last 30 years, the Pacific Northwest has been one of the epicenters of modern American literature, business, and technology, as well as significant progressive social and artistic movements. Its rich history, coupled with its gorgeous scenery and natural bounty, has provided fertile soil for some of America’s best writers, artists, and thinkers. It is this confluence of geography, history, and culture that makes the Pacific Northwest and its environs an ideal place to explore and study what’s best about our nation.

Students in this class will study the many and varied progressive movements of the region (farm-to-table movement), the history of the region’s indigenous peoples, its vibrant music scene (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix), its myriad tech companies (Microsoft, Amazon), and its geography (Mt. Rainier, Olympic National Park). A week-long trip to Portland and Seattle will be the culminating experience of the class. Students interested in this J-Term should have a strong love of the outdoors and a willingness to spend time out in the Pacific Northwest rain.

Sports & Society

What do amateur and professional sports tell us about a society? This class will examine the intersections among sports and race, gender, nationalism, violence, entertainment, technology, and more. We will discuss the treatment of African-American athletes from Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson to Cam Newton and Serena Williams. We will learn about Title IX and examine the challenges of making the WNBA profitable. We will talk about boxing and football and the limits of socially accepted violence. We will explore why all the great marathoners come from Kenya and why many of the great baseball players come from Latin America. We will examine the impact of hero-worship of high school athletes in small communities throughout America. We will debate about performance enhancing drugs, multi-million dollar contracts for athletes, and more. We may attend local sporting events and view them as both spectacle and competition.

Star Trek: The J-Term

Star Trek and its spawn are some of the most influential television shows in human history. Fifty years after the original show aired, it continues to influence society. It provided insightful social commentary on its times, as well as predicted societal and technological progress in modern society. In this course, we will explore philosophy, gender, nature of war and conflict, role of the state, economics, and technology, all through the lens of Star Trek.

Story of Yoga: Mind-Body Connection

While practicing yoga and meditation every day, students will discover the rich history of yoga and its origin in ancient India, how yoga has influenced life and culture in the East and the story of its journey to the West, and how yoga is impacting today’s Western society in terms of holistic health care. With chronic stress being the number one cause of life-threatening illnesses and injuries, students will begin to make connections among the mind, body, and soul, and they will learn how the nourishment and awareness of all three can help one move closer towards their healthiest, most authentic selves.

This January Term class hopes to inspire students to turn their focus inward and consider who they are, what is their purpose, and in what ways might they contribute to the world. We hope students will come away from this experience with humility, heightened awareness on issues such as coping with stress, holistic healthcare, and the impact of reflection through movement and meditation. To this end the class will make a number of connections with local professionals who explore and utilize yoga to accent the power of the mind-body-soul interaction. As a culminating event we will travel during the third week to Costa Rica, which has become a Western Hemisphere destination for yoga practitioners and students.

This trip will encourage students to make connections with each other and the environment and gain a sense of creativity when asking: “Who Am I?”

Storytelling: Creative Writing Seminar

This course will be a deep dive into fiction writing. The Introduction to Creative Writing course is not necessary a prerequisite, but this class will definitely go beyond intro material. We will read many examples of short stories and novel selections, complete daily writing exercises, and share much of our writing with the class through a writer’s workshop format. We’ll explore many fiction formats, from flash fiction to the novel. This class would be ideal for students who really want time and space to develop an idea they have been working on or brainstorming, but it is also for students who simply want more experience writing. We will make some visits around the city, in particular to Butler University for their Visiting Writer Series.

Student Internships

This offering is available to a junior or senior student who has completed an application to the program that has been accepted by the Academic Affairs Committee and the course instructor. Students should have a passion for or interest in learning more about a particular career, business, or organization. Students spend each day of January Term off campus, working with an individual or an organization.

Students are responsible for making their own arrangements, but they will receive the guidance and support of the director. Students submit a daily electronic journal entry at the end of each day. In addition, each student will articulate his or her personal experience and evaluate his or her work during the internship through a longer written piece and an oral presentation to the school.