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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


For details on the cost of each J-Term course, please view the J-Term section of our 2023-24 Course Guide.

Adulting: A Study of Practical Life Skills

Do you have a few things left to learn before you start your adult life? This class will cover a large variety of things that are good to know before you leave the comfort and care of your parents’ home. We’ll answer questions such as: How do you make and live on a budget? How do retirement plans work? How do you buy a house? What basic car maintenance do you need to have done? How do you sew on a button? How do you plan a week’s worth of meals and cook basic foods? What is basic etiquette for when you are taken to lunch for a job interview? How does health insurance work? How do you get and use a credit card? How do you have a good credit score? How do you manage stress and look for life balance? We will have lots of guest speakers in this class and some interesting local excursions as well.

The Art & Science of Relationships

This class will investigate the joys, challenges, heartaches, controversies, and popular culture portrayals of relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. It will enable students to have numerous opportunities to think, write, and talk about their own experiences and consider how they can try to make their relationships as positive and rewarding as possible in the future. We will spend approximately one week each focusing on family, friends, and dating. We will read books and articles and watch films and television shows relating to each type of relationship, and we will discuss how accurately those forms of media portray how we all interact with each other and how those portrayals might impact our own expectations for relationships. We will talk about challenging topics such as divorce, illness, grief, betrayal, and abuse as well as more uplifting topics such as the process of making friends, interviewing for a job, dating as a teenager and as an adult, falling in love, being a child, and figuring out how to be a parent. We will also look at legal questions such as those relating to gay marriage, polygamy, child custody, and relationship-related crimes. Finally, we will look at how relationship topics vary across cultures, including issues such as arranged marriage, courting practices, and arrangements toward care of the elderly.

Artificial Intelligence & Intelligence Augmentation

Artificial intelligence (AI) now has practical use and is influencing society. It is also augmenting human intelligence (intelligence augmentation = IA). How it continues to do so will dramatically impact society. This course will explore the definition of life, practical and developing technologies for IA, ethical frameworks for thinking about IA and AI, and it will use freeware tools on machine learning to program and train AIs. No programming experience is needed. Finally, we’ll explore future AIs and IA via science fiction.

Caves: Science & Spelunking

Caves have been an important part of human history for thousands of years. Caves have been places of shelter, mining, religion, mystery, fear, and adventure. This class will explore the world of caves from a variety of perspectives. We will explore cave geology and topography. How do different types of caves form, and where can they be found around the world? We will explore cave ecology. What animals and plants call caves home? What unique adaptations do they have for surviving in darkness? We will explore cave lore and the history of caving and spelunking. What are some of the human uses for caves? How are caves explored? We will learn about some well-known and lesser-known stories of exploration, rescue, and disaster. Finally, we will travel and explore some of our own local caves. We are hoping to take a couple of day trips within Indiana and a two-to-three day trip to Mammoth Caves National Park.

The Challenges & Charms of Charleston

Exquisite coastlines, colonial and Georgian architecture, savory she crab soup, vibrant marine life, and the warm “southern hospitality” of the “Low Country” make Charleston, South Carolina a city worth considerable exploration. From pink sunsets in the evening skies to pelicans flying high above, Charleston is a city filled with unparalleled beauty, rich history, and a dynamic way of life. Referred to as “the kingdom by the sea” by Edgar Allan Poe, Charleston has many charms, yet it also has faced and continues to face social challenges. In this course, we will devote time to learning about Charleston as a historically and culturally significant U.S. city. We will explore the city through films, readings, guest speakers, and engaging activities while studying history, environmental science, art, music, cuisine, and literature. From its earliest settlements to its role as one of the major arrival ports for slaves in North America, Charleston has a complex past. A significant city in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, it has endured triumphs and struggles. As with any city, country, culture, or community, Charleston reckons with its past and anticipates its future. During the final week of the course, students will travel to Charleston in order to experience the sites, sounds, and tastes of this magical coastal city.

Chocolate: From Bean to Bon-Bon

The history of chocolate can be traced back more than 3,000 years to the inhabitants of what is today considered Mexico. Using the fruit from the cocoa bean, these inhabitants prepared a beverage that was considered the drink of the gods. This course will explore the historical and cultural journey of chocolate across the globe, from cultivation to consumption. Together we will investigate and more deeply understand how chocolate makes the world go round and is connected with other aspects of life, including health, literature, film, environment, and business. During the final week of the course, students will travel to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in order to experience the wonders of this magical bean. While traveling, we will explore the place where chocolate culture originated. Of course, this class experience will also entail hands-on activities that will heighten one’s senses while understanding why “chocolate is happiness that you can eat.”

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 origin of dance and its socio-historical significance. We will learn about a variety of dances as well as learn and participate in some of the dances themselves.

Dancing has mental, physical, and intellectual benefits that have the power to enhance our daily lives. We will explore how dancing helps maintain and enhance physical fitness, mind/body coordination, social engagement, memory, accessibility to diversity, artistic self-expression, and mental health. 

This class will be divided into two portions that will complement each other and equally enhance a student’s 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. The physical/movement portion of the class will be learning dance styles and genres that 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, break dancing, hip-hop, reggaeton, and Zumba.

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 began, then this class is for you! 

We will focus on the early history of the Disney Company, the development of Disney parks, Imagineers and theming, film history, controversies, “The Disney Way,” and much more. The class will culminate in seeing first-hand what we have learned by traveling to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida during the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Walt Disney Corporation.

**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.

Greece: Mythology & Performance

From Percy Jackson novels and Neoclassical architecture to modern theatre and, well, the entirety of Western civilization itself, the world of Ancient Greece remains with us. Greece: Mythology & Performance will explore Greek mythology and the way this mythos was expressed artistically and theatrically in Ancient Greece. We will pursue how the relationship between a shared mythos and performance serves as a foundation for community. At the same time, we will discuss and even recreate those artifacts fundamental to Ancient Greek theater in order to envision that specific communal ideal. To get an even better sense of this vision, we will be traveling to Greece to explore the very ground, art, and space that bore such a community, watching contemporary adaptations of classical performances. Ultimately, we will strive to consider whether the loss of a shared mythos and a turn away from shared performance has deteriorated our sense of community today.

Hallyu: Riding The Korean Wave

Hallyu, “The Korean Wave,” refers to the dramatic rise in the global popularity of Korean culture. This class will take an in-depth look into the appeal and the widespread popularity of Korean dramas, K-pop, and Korean food amongst global youth. We will cover the history of K-pop including its origins, evolution, and current trends and its impact on global culture. We will also explore the changing face of Korea and how current modernization has impacted Korean culture, language, and traditions. The Korean value system will also be explored through the lens of its oral and written language. We will also get a chance to discover and taste how Korean food has evolved over time and location.

The History of "The Beautiful Game"

Whether you call it soccer, football, or fútbol, “the beautiful game” is the only truly global team sport. This class will explore how and why that came to happen. Along the way, it will trace key developments in the game such as the formation of clubs, governing bodies, international tournaments, the development of stadiums, fan culture, media coverage, formations, styles of play, gambling, corruption, the working conditions of players and hooliganism. The point of the class is to locate these changes in broader historical processes – political, economic, social and cultural – that have transformed the game and made it a global commodity. Broadly speaking, the class follows how since the middle of the 19th century the game was shaped by the history of capitalism and its alternatives, as well as by the formation of nation states, empires, internationalism, regionalism, and globalization. Throughout, the way the game was played and watched remained inseparable from our understanding of gender, class, ethnicity, race, and religion. The course will culminate with travel to London to visit stadia and museums, observe training, and attend men’s and women’s professional matches across multiple levels.

Iron Chef Japan: Exploring Culture Through Food

This course will focus on the show Iron Chef: Japan and its spinoffs. We will look at the history of the show and how it evolved before its tenure ended and how the effects of the show can still be seen to this day. During this course, we will learn about essential cooking skills and techniques. Eventually, we plan to have some timed cooking events that focus on the different styles of cooking that are associated with the show and may even try to recreate some of the dishes that the Iron Chefs have made. We will also examine the similarities and differences between the different types of cuisines that are represented by the different Iron Chefs. Ultimately, this is a course about cooking, cuisine, and culture.


In the spirit of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), we are moving our focused writing efforts to January, thus creating JaNoWriMo — a whole month dedicated to ONE piece of writing! This is the perfect time to start or craft that novel, memoir, or collection of short stories you have been dreaming of writing. The planning will begin in our first semester meetings, and our writing will begin in earnest on January 1! This course will be a safe space to explore ideas, workshop pieces, and write, write, write! During the final week of the class, we will travel to a scenic location for an extended Writer’s Retreat, free from all distractions and left to nothing but our imaginations!

Landscape Art

Students in Landscape Art will learn to perceive and capture the beauty of our surrounding environments through the use of a variety of mediums including drawing, watercolor, acrylic, sound, oil, and photography. Students will also study the history and process of plein air painting along with some of the practice’s most influential artists. A significant portion of this class will involve creating art outdoors in the natural light in and amongst the subject matter. Students will also hear from practicing professional landscape/plein air artists from Indianapolis. There is potential for day trips as well as overnight travel to a state park, nature preserve, or other appropriate venue in a warmer climate.

Musical Instrument Building

This course will offer an introduction to musical instrument building. This is a project-based class where students will make musical instruments. Categories of instruments explored will include: strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, and electronic instruments. Work will range from small projects like building drums to larger projects where we will assemble guitars and ukuleles. Students will also learn history and the basic physics behind some of their favorite instruments.

Trips and visits from instrument manufacturers, repair technicians, and luthiers will enhance student learning and expand vision for career options in musical instrument building and maintenance.

Nature Through the Senses

This class will explore our personal relationship with nature. We will go outdoors, use our senses to feel, hear, see, and smell our natural world, then respond to these experiences through our own unique projects. We will learn how human senses work and how they inform our view of nature. Local animals, plants, and fungi are our beautiful and important neighbors. Their lives impact ours, and they have unique ways of interacting with each other. How do other life forms “see” the world, and what can we learn from them? Students will look closely at our Midwestern ecosystem through readings, field trips, and guest speakers, learning how artists and scientists investigate and reflect on nature. Students will identify personal areas of interest and design ways to respond and share the wonder and awe of their experiences. We will travel within the Midwest for an overnight trip to explore the great outdoors.  

How do humans experience sight, sound, smell, and touch? How do animals, plants, and fungi experience the world differently from us? How can our understanding of natural systems influence our first-hand experiences in the outdoors? How have artists explored the natural world and shared their perspectives?

Roman France

France in Roman times was known as “Gaul,” and the south of France was the first Gallic region to become part of the Roman Empire. Although France today is a modern, advanced society, its Roman and Celtic past is still visible if you know where to look. In this course, we will learn about the lifestyles, religions, art, architecture, and languages of the Celtic tribes and their Roman occupiers, and the ways in which these two cultures — along with the Germanic tribes that eventually displaced the Romans — blended to form the foundations of modern French culture. We will also learn about how the region that the Romans found so alluring became a sought-after destination for artists of all kinds in more modern times. At the end of two weeks of study, we will travel to France to immerse ourselves in the places we have studied, visiting local museums that showcase the artistic treasures of the region, touring some of the sites depicted by artists such as Cézanne and Van Gogh, and get an up-close look at the famed Pont du Gard aqueduct as well as the Roman amphitheaters, temples, and triumphal arches found in cities such as Nîmes, Arles, Orange – and even Paris!

Volcanoes: A Study in Geology

Volcanoes are one of the most destructive forces of nature on Earth. In this class, we will investigate many topics within geology to get a better understanding of the processes that lead to the formation of volcanoes and results in their eruptions — including plate tectonics, the rock cycle, and igneous rocks. We will learn about the properties of magma, different eruption styles, how volcanoes are monitored, and the hazards that are associated with eruptions. From there, we will be able to look more closely at the role that volcanoes have played in the media. We will watch movies and television about volcanoes with an eye on how well they are represented scientifically on screen.

This course will culminate with a five-night trip to the Big Island of Hawaii where we will spend time with two of the world’s most active volcanoes — Kīlauea and Mauna Loa — in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. We will also explore the importance of volcanoes to Hawaiian culture and learn how these active volcanoes dictate how the islanders live.

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 internship coordinator. 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 their personal experience and evaluate their work during the internship through a longer written piece and an oral presentation to the school. 


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.

Katie (’17)