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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 2021-22 course guide


1968 was a momentous year. As Americans watched news coverage of anti-war marches, student protests, rioting in the streets, and political assassinations, many began to feel that the world was spinning out of control. Revolution was in the air — not just in the U.S., but across the globe — and young people were often at the forefront of this worldwide movement. What was behind all this political and social upheaval?

To answer that question, we will immerse ourselves in the world of 1968 through news media reports, TV shows, and popular movies of the era. We will examine how people used fashion, music, and language to express their rejection of mainstream culture. And we will learn the stories behind the names and images associated with that tumultuous year. By taking an in-depth look at the people, ideas, and events that shaped 1968, we will see what made it exceptional, how it fits into the broader context of American culture, and how the social, cultural, and political divisions that developed then continue to have an impact more than 50 years later. 

This class could possibly include local field trips or an overnight trip to Chicago to visit sites associated with the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Art Inspired by Math

Art can inspire math, and math can inspire art. In this class, you will be guided by mathematical concepts to create art projects. Math has many interesting patterns that we see every day in nature or in man-made objects. Frieze patterns repeat in one direction, and they have been used to decorate buildings. How might you use the seven different types of frieze patterns to create your own? DaVinci is known for using the Golden Ratio, which is related to the Fibonacci sequence, to realistically draw humans. How would you take the Fibonacci sequence and represent it in a piece of art? The Pythagorean theorem is used to create a square root spiral. How will the square root spiral inspire a piece of art for you? How could understanding three dimensional solids help you create unique geometric sculptures or even a tetrahedral kite?  Have you ever wondered how a kaleidoscope works? Understanding the concept of reflection will help you to create beautiful art to be seen through a kaleidoscope.

In this January Term course, we will not have sets of math problems to do. Instead, we will discuss math concepts that are accessible to any high school student. Students will then use their creativity to create a piece of art incorporating the math concept. If you enjoy both math and art, this is the class for you!

The Art of Wind

In this class, students will learn how we harness the power of wind to generate electricity, and they will then use that knowledge to create a work of art. Students will design and build their own functioning wind turbines and experimentally determine their efficiency. Students will use their turbines along with basic electric circuit concepts in order to power a lighted sculpture. Students will use the elements and principles of 3D design to guide them through their sculptural creation. This class integrates science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics through the lens of wind power.

Dance: What Moves Us

Why do we dance? Why can our bodies express what our words can’t convey? In what ways does dance reflect our collective history? These are some of the questions we will attempt to answer in our exploration of the art form of dance. We will learn about a variety of dances as well as learn and participate in some of the dances themselves.

This class will be divided into two portions that will complement each other and equally enhance students’ learning and understanding of dance. The origin and global history of dance will be presented in a variety of learning contexts and via the use of various media, texts, and live performances. Dance styles and genres that we will explore include, but are not be limited to: early tribal dance, early Greek/Roman dance, pre-ballet courtly dance, Middle Eastern dance, classical ballet, jazz, modern, tap, flamenco, capoeira, salsa/merengue, tango, breakdancing, hip hop, reggaeton, and Zumba. In addition to learning about dance, students will learn (and perform in the classroom) a variety of dances from instructors with expertise in several dance genres.

Disney: Inside the Magic

Mickey Mouse is one of the world’s most beloved characters. From Iowa to Istanbul, everyone knows Mickey! How did this happen? How has the Disney Corporation become one of the largest in the world, when it “all started with a mouse”? If you love all things Disney and want to learn more about how it all began, then this class is for you!

We will focus on early history, development of the Disney theme parks, the role of theming of rides, film history, controversies, development of the “Disney Way,” and much more. Class will culminate in seeing first-hand what we have learned, by traveling to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. If you need a little bit of “faith, trust, and pixie dust” after our previous year, come join us on the Disney Express!

**Note: Walt Disney World is not a theme park known for extreme rides. If you’re not someone willing to feel the Disney “magic,” this class is not for you.

Equity M&Ms: Money & Music

The focus of the Equity M&Ms course will be the construction of race in America as well as how racism saturates all areas. Students will get exposure to an analysis of race and racism. They will then apply that analysis in 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). This course will culminate in travel that will include trips to three universities in Nashville as well as four museums in Nashville and Memphis.

Fantastic Games

Have you ever had an idea for a game but not the time or chance to develop it? Have you ever had a story you wanted to create but not the time or chance to write it? Have you ever wondered how video games were made or what made some video games better than others? Or are you just inexplicably drawn to games in general? If so, then Fantastic Games might just be the J-Term for you.

In the Fantastic Games J-Term course, we’ll be exploring the intersection between the wonderful worlds of gaming, fantasy, and storytelling. We’ll spend the first part of the J-Term experimenting and learning about what makes a good game and what makes a good story (hint: it’s usually the same thing). During the second part of the class, we’ll be designing our own games, be they digital, card, or board games. If, by the end of the J-Term, you haven’t come up with the next Mass Effect or Legend of Zelda, you’ll at least have a new appreciation for and understanding of gaming and storytelling.

Film Art

From the enormous summer blockbusters to the indie arthouse, films continue to captivate viewers and communicate truths unlike any other art form. The Film Art class will seek to dissect and understand that communication through an appreciation of the nuances of the language of film. We will spend our time together watching, reading about, and analyzing the different ways films speak to us. Along the way students will come to better understand the way filmmakers play upon our common understanding to evoke emotions and communicate ideas. By the end of the course, students will be more discerning consumers of film. Students will learn to appreciate and enjoy films like never before.

Fly Fishing

In this course, students will not only learn how to fly fish, but they will explore the history and science behind fishing. We will look at what types of baits are effective for different species of fish and how different bodies of water play a role in the sport. We may also look at the reasoning/logic behind fishing and hunting licenses and how they play a role in conservation. There will be guest speakers and local mini field trips to ponds and water to practice our skills.

The History of Popular Music & Society

Students in this J-Term class will study popular music genres, artists, and songs from the 1960s to the present day, and they will examine how those works have impacted society and vice versa. Genres will include classic and alternative rock, hip hop and R&B, country, and pure pop music, among others. Students will become more familiar with the history and evolution of those genres while studying key bands, groups, singers, DJs, and MCs. They will also learn how social movements, wars, poverty, economic policies, political figures, legal injustices, and issues relating to race, gender, and sexual orientation have impacted the content and development of popular music and how popular music has in turn affected all of those topics.

Humans: Where We've Been & Where We're Going

From 1,000,000 years ago until 100,000 years ago, various branches of humans expanded and interacted across the Earth. Their interactions were affected by their genetics, their climate, their technology, and their culture. This class explores how these various humans interacted and how this shapes modern humans. What was the role of dogs in human development? Climate change? We will emphasize understanding the research methods that form this developing view of humans. This includes archeology, anthropology, DNA testing, radioactive dating, and other techniques. We will also look at the future of humans, 100,000+ years from now.

Investigating Indiana: What Makes the "Hoosier State" Unique?

In this course, we will explore in depth the unique features of the “Hoosier State.” From the active Amish community of northwest Indiana to the Native American presence in the state to the growing diverse population of the state, we will gain a deeper understanding of what distinguishes Indiana from other states. We will study history, art, music, cuisine, and geography as we explore both urban and rural areas of the state. Through guest speakers, hands-on projects, readings, and more, we will come away from this class with a fuller understanding of the “Crossroads of America,” while better understanding how one’s own local community shapes and influences them and their interactions with others around them. An overnight bus trip across the state is planned with stops at historic and cultural points of interest.

My Liberal Superpower: Learning & Persuading

There will be no partisanship here. Maybe you want to “conserve.” Maybe you want to “progress.” Either way, you will be more powerful in your efforts – and probably a whole lot happier along the way – if you can meet others in a spirit of openness, dialogue, and tolerance. The power to do those things emerges from an understanding of “classical liberalism,” which has become a kind of secret in a time known more for cancelling, trolls, and angry tribes. You can discover the secret in this course. (To be clear: it has nothing to do with liberal versus conservative in today’s partisan sense; this course will take no partisan side.)

Classical liberalism emerged alongside what some historians call “the Miracle,” “the Great Divergence,” or “the Great Enrichment” – dating only to the 18th Century. Classical liberals tend to have a range of views on the role of government and the need to regulate the economy – but we will focus on their shared commitments to the “rule of law,” free speech and religion, and civil discourse. We will cover some history to understand the connections. We will look at the lives and impact of some classical liberals in America.  We will test “civil discourse” – ways of talking with people we don’t agree with – and see it modeled in dialogues on YouTube. We will look at some of the toughest problems of our time through the eyes of those who see things differently. We will learn from a movie or two (WALL-E is a classical liberal: the little robot has more faith in people than people do). Your core assignment will be to consider that you may be wrong about the political goal that you believe in most strongly. You probably will not change your mind. But by the end of the course, with this new “superpower,” you will understand what your goal is up against, why your opponents may have a point, and ultimately how to do better in a competition of ideas.

We will use a curriculum here – seeking student feedback continuously – that the guest instructor (a parent of former UHS students) hopes to develop and offer more broadly among young people in high schools and colleges. It could be the start of something.

Medieval Times: A Study of the Renaissance

Why have Renaissance Faires become such a cult phenomenon? What is it about the late Medieval period and Renaissance that captures our imagination? What would it mean to survive and exist in a world of status and craftsmanship where you were much more dependent on the skills of your neighbor and yourself than you are today?

Throughout the three weeks of January Term, we will explore and answer these questions. This course will give students an overview of the period from the 1400s through the 1600s in Europe, commonly known as the late Medieval and Renaissance periods in history. We will also explore what was happening outside of Europe, and we’ll discuss how and why these parts of the world are often neglected in historical discussions. From sewing your own medieval garment, baking bread and cooking medieval recipes, to trying your hand at archery and learning about medieval medicine, you will acquire knowledge of and put into practice many of the skills and activities people from this period would have needed in order to survive and function in society.

This class will include a four-day travel component to Melbourne, Florida, where the students will attend the world-renowned Brevard Renaissance Festival. Students will attend the faire (in costume) during the trip as well as participate in an archery workshop, horseback riding, and visit Medieval Times to see a jousting tournament.

Microbes: Friends & Foes

This is a hands-on J-Term class, where the focus will be on doing lab experiments to learn about different types of microbes – bacteria, fungi, protists, and viruses. Mostly, microbes are indifferent to you and me, but many are important to humans. Many of the foods we enjoy are produced with the help of microbes. Many life-saving antibiotics and other medicines require microbes for production. However, some microbes are pathogens and cause disease. In this class, we will explore our friends and foes, the microbes. We will do labs with microbes to learn how they live and how we can study them with basic microbiology techniques. We’ll learn how to grow them, observe them with different types of microscopes, and discover some of their strategies that have allowed them to thrive.

National Parks: History & Contemporary Issues

This class will explore many of the topics that surround the national parks of the United States, focusing on the history of the parks and contemporary issues that deal with the parks. Among the issues we will examine are the use of the land in the parks, the social and economic effects on the people who live near the parks, and the effect of tourism in the parks. We will gather our knowledge from many sources, including books, films, lectures, discussions, internet sources, and guest speakers. Additionally, we will have several outdoor activities that will put us in the mindset to consider some of the issues raised. The biggest of these activities is a multi-day trip to Yellowstone National Park or another national park. The course will include a good deal of writing through quizzes, short response exercises, and a longer paper and presentation.

The New Yorker Magazine

The general purpose of this course is to examine The New Yorker magazine as a text that shapes, informs, and mirrors New York City and our country. A majority of class work will focus on the content and writing styles present in the magazine, but students will also develop their own writing skills through the creation of a New Yorker-style magazine that reflects their own interests and worlds. Guest teachers will share on the pressures of periodical publications and importance of The New Yorker magazine to American culture, and a three-night trip to New York City to explore the nexus of the magazine will round out the course.

Sports & Society

The Sports in Society class will focus on the impact of sports in the 20th and 21st centuries. This class will cover how sports are linked to other institutions in society. Topics such as high school sports, media, gender, gender inequality, parental influence, ethical dilemmas, and racial dilemmas will be covered. This class will provide a keen analysis of how sports really work. We will discuss who benefits and who does not from the way sports are organized. We will also discover how sports sensitize us to the contradictions and problems within the overall sports institution. Local field trips may include Butler University, Indiana University, Purdue University, and Indy Fuel.

STOMP: Drumming with Everyday Objects

In this course, we will study and ideally perform our own version of the Broadway show STOMP. STOMP is a show that features non-traditional items as percussion instruments. There are aspects of music and theatre associated with this J-Term, as the performers are often dancing and moving around as part of the show. Students do not need to know how to act or read music to participate in this J-Term, but they should be prepared to drum and dance by the end of this course.

Storytelling As Creative Compass & Cultural Connection

This course is designed to help students engage in the ever-evolving art of storytelling through various lenses, genres, and artistic expressions – from murals to museums and beyond. A mural can be seen as an act of vandalism or beautification. A museum excites and ignites new ideas. Students will be immersed in different forms of storytelling and actively engage in the art through a diverse assortment of visually stunning street art, exhibits, and other interactive materials. Through guest speakers, hands-on projects, student activities, and off-campus explorations, students will discover how to be more artistically expressive by using their creative vision and voices in the sharing of their own stories.

We Are What We Eat: World Heritage Cuisines

UNESCO established a “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage” with the purpose of protecting important cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their practices around food. Food, though it nourishes us, also plays an important social, cultural, and ritual role in all societies. In this class, we will be examining what elements qualify a cuisine to be sanctioned by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage food and exploring these traditions through our own preparation and cooking with highlights on Mexican, Korean, and Mediterranean cuisines.

We will explore the development of community through food and examine how our experiences as individuals and as a collective whole shape how we see food and the world. Though food can be a platform for individual self-expression, it also has the ability to overcome differences and make us feel we all belong. This class will include regional travel that will enable us to further discover and examine how food has evolved from egocentric and different to a platform for free self-expression, community building, and empowerment.

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.