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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 robotics to soccer, from protest art to cake decorating, 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.



  • 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


My University

THESE ARE EXPERIENCES. These are ideas that jump from the page of a textbook into real life, and that nourish a love and appreciation for what it really means to be a student and a scholar. In everyday life it is rare for students to be truly and unapologetically passionate about a particular topic, but at University High School in the dead of January, it is not only possible, it is inevitable. And that is exactly what happened to me over these three weeks.

Class of 2017


For details on the cost of each J-Term course, please view the J-Term section of our 2022-23 Course Guide.

Antiracism 101
Antiracism 101 is a student-initiated January Term class that will also be student-driven. At its core, our course will focus on exploring ways we can move beyond our basic expectation of not being actively racist. Students participating in this course will delve into the structural challenges that animate the United States and its predominantly white institutions, like UHS, with a focus on living out our core values.

We will spend part of our January Term connecting with a wide variety of human resources including UHS alumni, college professors, and antiracist activists. Our exploration will be grounded in recent scholarship as well as lived experiences. We are likely to take multiple day trips to connect directly with antiracist work happening in our communities. There will be an emphasis on American culture as a vital engine for (anti)racism, so we will also spend time interrogating TikTok, advertising, and other sites of cultural power.

Antiracism is a simple idea that provokes deep, daily challenges. Consistently meeting those challenges is a lifelong process, which is why this J-Term course, Antiracism 101, will be just the beginning of this vital work.

Cake Decorating
This class will cover the basics of baking cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and making cake pops. Students will investigate various recipes, textures, densities, and flavor profiles. This class will also discuss how to decorate cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and cake pops. Students will learn how to make a variety of frostings, including royal icing, buttercream (American, Italian, French, Swiss), ganache, cream cheese, whipped cream, glazed, gum paste (flower paste), and fondant (rolled and poured). They will learn decoration techniques and how to work with a variety of tools to create decorations such as flowers, patterns, or other unique designs. By the end of this course, students will be able to design, bake, and decorate cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and cake pops.
Crime & Culture
America has a fascination with crime. Television shows about crime captivate viewers on a nightly basis. Films about crime such as The GodfatherScarface, and Goodfellas have captured the attention of generations of movie audiences. Detective novels and spy thrillers regularly appear on best-seller lists. Hip-hop and rock lyrics frequently discuss – and often glorify – criminal acts, while numerous popular video games revolve around murder. Despite criticism that American culture increases crime rates by making crime appear fun and exciting while numbing Americans to its consequences, the impact of crime on culture only seems to be increasing every year. Students in this class will study films, television shows, literature, music, visual art, and video games and will discuss the effect of each of those on crime and vice versa. Students will also look in detail at some particular types of criminals and crimes that are often portrayed in popular culture, such as Mafia organizations, serial killers, drug cartels, racketeering, heists, and kidnapping. While doing that, students will learn about federal and state laws that address those groups and crimes. Students will also study key constitutional rights for criminal defendants and look at how the law attempts to protect civil liberties while still giving federal and local law enforcement the ability to use new technology such as wiretapping and GPS surveillance to fight crime.
Data-Driven Narratives
Learn how to create compelling visualization with gathered data. Learn about the history of data visualization from old maps to Google maps. Students will learn to analyze data from different points of view. No programming experience is needed, but there is a track that will use JavaScript and D3 to create web applications that can add life to your visualization.
Dinosaur Evolution
Whether your inspiration is Land Before Time, stuffed animals, digging in the dirt, or Jurassic Park, who hasn’t been fascinated by dinosaurs at some point in their childhood?  This class will look at the evolution of life on Earth during the Mesozoic Era, specifically focusing on the three primary geologic periods – Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous – in which dinosaurs existed. Key questions will include: What is a dinosaur? What was alive when? What can fossils tell us really? What happened during and after the great extinctions? How has our knowledge of dinosaurs changed with new technological advances and new discoveries? What makes a good museum exhibit?  In addition to the science of dinosaurs, we will also explore how these fascinating creatures are depicted in modern literature and cinema and how these artistic renderings have also changed over time. The course will culminate in an overnight trip to Chicago during the last week of January Term.
The Game of Golf
From professionals to first-timers, golf has become an obsession for millions of people around the globe. Why is it so popular? In this course we will take a broad stroke at the game of golf to better understand this question. We will take deeper dives in certain areas: examining the history of the game, its ongoing cultural evolution (especially efforts in diversity and accessibility), golf course architecture, swing physics, and the increasing popularity of men’s and women’s professional golf. We will spend part of each day practicing golf ourselves, both on campus and at local golf training facilities. The class will culminate with a trip to the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, FL to meet with leaders of today’s game and play a few rounds at one of the nation’s most sought-after golf destinations. No golf experience is required, but you will need to provide your own golf clubs (we can help with this, if needed).
Investigative Journalism & True Crime Reporting
This class will explore different aspects of true crime in America. From podcasts to prosecutions, the landscape of crime solving has changed in the last decade. Civilians now have access to databases of information and digital sleuthing resources, which allow armchair detectives to easily collaborate and piece together information like never before. We will explore how investigative journalism, social media, and advances in science have changed the way crimes are solved. This class have three major themes: the history of crime in America (including famous cases of murder and kidnapping and the methods used in solving the cases); the role that journalists and the media play in crime-solving (including how race, gender, and socioeconomic status influence how resources are allocated); and the scientific methods used in crime-solving and how they have evolved throughout history. This class will inherently deal with sensitive and disturbing topics. Students should keep this in mind when considering this course.
Literature of the American Landscape
America is a pretty expansive place. Under the guise of Manifest Destiny, we’ve sought to cover it, conquer it, claim it as our own. For many Americans, the lure of what lay over the next ridge, in the next town, past the next horizon, fueled trips that crisscrossed the States in intimate ways. From Lewis and Clark, to Steinbeck, to Kerouac and Didion, American writers have chronicled their trips across this country. The wanderlust of exploration and escapism pushed them out across the land and broadened many of their definitions of self, country, and home. This class will focus on the writing of several American travelers. The first two weeks will be spent in discussion and study of various books, poems, essays and such, and the final week will be spent traveling America from the ground-level aboard Amtrak trains. Class will continue in the lounge car as we take in the wide-open spaces of Big Sky country, majesty of the Cascade Mountains, and the awe of the Golden Gate Bridge. The ever-changing American landscape will be our teacher as we chart and record our own journey. Reading, journaling, and a final project will be requirements of the class.
The Lure of Everest
Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world! People had tried to climb the mountain for decades before it was first summited in 1953, and now hundreds of people every year travel to the mountain in hopes of standing on the summit. This class will explore many of the topics that surround the world’s highest mountain, including the exploration of Mount Everest, the adventurers who have come to the mountain, the society, and religion of the people who live near the mountain, the commercialization of the mountain, and the effect of tourism in Nepal.

We will gather our knowledge from many sources, including books, films, lectures, discussions, internet sources, and guest speakers. The course will include a good deal of writing through short response exercises and one longer paper.

Additionally, we will travel to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. We will take a three-day mountaineering course there, learning the basics of winter hiking with crampons and ice axes. This course will culminate with an attempt to climb Mount Washington or one of its subsidiary peaks; these mountains have an extensive rise above treeline and allow for a true alpine feel. Students who are interested in this course need to be in good physical shape. While climbing mountains can be exhilarating, it’s also physically demanding. If spending eight to ten hours out in the cold and hiking the equivalent of 12 miles is your thing, this is the January Term course for you!

An additional variable cost is the possible purchase of some hiking and cold weather gear, if not already owned.

Marvel: From Nerdom to Global Phenomenon
In this course, we will trace the evolution of Marvel from the pages of comic books to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, analyzing how and why a niche hobby among those considered social outsiders became the most successful cultural creation in global history. In addition, we will investigate (and maybe replicate) the creative process involved in producing a comic, discuss the way in which such comics wrestle with larger social issues under the guise of fantasy, explore how Marvel navigated the translation from page to screen, and attempt to understand why superheroes and supervillains are so appealing to people all over the world. This class will give you knowledge. Knowledge is power. And with great power comes great responsibility.
Math Oddities
Math Oddities is a class for people who enjoy thinking logically and solving challenging problems. Students will have the opportunity to explore math topics which are not generally covered in a traditional high school math curriculum. Topics will include fractals, finite differences, spirolaterals, star polygons, mobius strips, modular arithmetic, different levels of infinity, and math-based magic tricks. The course is activity-based rather than lecture-based so that students will be able to discover math ideas and solve math problems for themselves.

The class will include a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago to experience the exhibit Numbers in Nature, which includes an 1,800-square-foot elaborate mirror maze. Local field trips will include a trip to an escape room to practice problem- solving skills and to local businesses which use math in their everyday jobs, such as scientists, land surveyors, and actuaries.

Mexico in the Midwest: An Exploration of Chicago's Mexican-American Heritage
We all know that Mexico is our neighbor and that it is a popular vacation destination for many Americans. But we don’t actually need to travel outside the U.S. in order to meet Mexican people or experience Mexican culture. In this J-Term, we will learn about the Mexican community that calls the Midwest home. We will study the history of this community and the many ways they enrich their chosen communities through art, music, and cuisine. We will find out when and why they chose to settle in cities in the Midwest and how they have created a sort of hybrid culture that honors their Mexican traditions while participating fully in American culture as well. This class is for those who are curious to know more about Mexican history and culture, the relationship between Mexico and the U.S., and the generations of Mexican-Americans that live in our communities and the influence they have on Indianapolis, Chicago, and other Midwestern cities. This class will include a four-day-long stay in Chicago as well as day trips to other Midwestern cities where Mexican-American communities are thriving.
This course is for anyone interested in musical theatre, with a focus on performance. Previous experience is welcome, but not required. Students will travel locally to see as many musicals as possible, including an overnight trip to Chicago to see two shows. The class will focus on bringing together the disciplines of singing, acting, and dancing, and it will culminate in an evening performance showcase.
Philadelphia: Preserving the Past & Forming the Future
Known as the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia is a city steeped in historical and cultural richness. From Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell, from the Philly cheesesteak to water ice, from Benjamin Franklin to Rocky Balboa, Philly is a city worth considerable exploration. Once the first capital of the Union, now home to countless museums and diverse communities, this East Coast city has garnered both nationwide and worldwide fame. In this interactive course, students will engage with the question of how a community or city modernizes yet maintains its roots from the past, using Philadelphia as an example. Students will also learn how to study a city in depth, from its history to its culture to its communities. Guest speakers, interactive projects, readings, films, food tastings, and more will comprise this course. A trip to Philadelphia will occur during the last week of the course during which students will see and engage with what they have learned in the classroom, including visits to Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Liberty Bell, and more to fully experience the “spirit of Philly.”
San Francisco: From the Summer of Love to the Silicon Valley
San Francisco is a city with a rich and vibrant history and culture. To choose one period of time is difficult, but this class will focus on major events occurring from 1967 to the present. We will begin with the significant impact of the 1960s counterculture movement, specifically, the 1967 Summer of Love, which brought more than 100,000 young people to the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, forever changing the course of the city. From there, we will highlight major events that impacted the city and created an atmosphere that would allow San Francisco’s rise as a technology and social media epicenter. In class and on site in San Francisco, we will explore the stories and history (cultural, artistic, demographic) that have fostered, created, and elicited some of the most exciting, groundbreaking, and progressive thinking, artwork, and technology in the world.
The Science of Theme Parks & Roller Coasters
This course will examine how many of the different rides use science and art to get a desired response. We will specifically look at roller coasters, but we will also look at other rides that one may find at a theme park or county fair. We will examine the different launching methods and examine how different quantities (such as size, shape, and mass) impact the motion of the ride. We will also explore the different thematic choices that were made in designing each of the many different types of rides. All in all, the end goal is to gain an appreciation for all the work that goes into designing an enjoyable theme park ride.
Southwest Native American History & Culture
Native Americans played a significant role in our country’s history. As Hoosiers, we are familiar with some of the local tribes. However, different areas of the country are home to different native peoples. Come explore the Native Americans indigenous to the Southwest quadrant of the U.S. – the Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo (Anasazi). This course will spend two weeks learning about history, culture, art, and current events in the lives of the Sinagua, Pueblo (Anasazi), Navajo, and Hopi tribes. Then, we will travel to Arizona and/or New Mexico to visit artifacts, museums, and the current reservations themselves.
The World of Auto Racing
Auto racing is far more than driving fast in a circle. In this course, we’ll look at the many aspects of auto racing, including its origins, history, and growth, as well as different kinds of auto racing, from open-wheel favorites IndyCar and Formula 1 to NASCAR, IMSA, rally racing, and more. Students will be exposed to the sport’s contributions in engineering, automobile safety, medicine, and marketing. Further, we’ll examine movements and inclusivity in the sport, including gender, LGBTQ+, age, race, socioeconomic, and physical abilities.

Not to be missed in our course is the importance of Indianapolis to auto racing. We’ll look into the contributions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis 500, IndyCar racing, and more to the sport and our community. We’ll meet with engineers, crew members, drivers, officials, and other individuals involved in auto racing locally, nationally, and internationally. Students will experience simulated racing, kart racing, and attend the Rolex 24 At Daytona, a 24-hour sports car endurance race at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

Walking & Drawing
People who are good at drawing are people who have learned how to see. Drawing is a language, a way to share information. Moving around the world (walking) gives us more to see. Drawing a lot of things (practice) gives us more to share. If we walk to new places, see what interests us there, and then draw about it, we will learn a lot about ourselves and have a way to remember and share what we learned. This class will give us time and opportunities to fill personal sketchbooks, see interesting places around Indianapolis, explore how to tell stories visually, and then share our work with the school.
World Cinema
How has the art of film been used around the globe, and what similarities and differences emerged? What were some of the major significant film movements across the world and how did they impact one another? In what ways does cinema provide an ability for humans to connect across cultures or languages? This course will survey global cinema in hopes of answering those questions. We’ll pay particular attention to how movements within various regions inspired change in other places, including the film industry here in America. The course will involve watching films from 6 continents (sorry, Antarctica!), with particular focus on films from Europe and East Asia. We’ll discuss pre-WWII film movements a bit, but the majority of the course will focus on film movements after 1945. In case it isn’t clear, the films we watch together will not be in English, so if you are in this course, you should be comfortable watching films with subtitles. Our time together will be spent watching, reading and writing about, analyzing, and discussing important films. We will make trips to local theaters to watch current films, but costs will be minimal and certainly less than $100.
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.