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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


Adulting 101
In this class, you will learn the types of things that adults need to know to successfully navigate life. We will cover a large variety of topics beyond graduation including how to manage your finances, buy a house or lease an apartment, buy a car or change a tire, choose the right health insurance for you and your family, interview for you first job, set up a retirement plan, pay your taxes, manage your credit score, pack for a business trip, maintain healthy relationships, cook basic meals, clean the house, wrap gifts, sew, and much more. This course will also include several guest speakers and some interesting local excursions.
The Art of French Cooking & Baking
Throughout this course, students will learn to cook a variety of French foods and pastries as well as develop an understanding of the history and culture of food in France. We will explore why certain approaches to cooking and baking emerged in the regions that they did in France. We will discuss the primary methods and approaches that French chefs utilize in their kitchens and also explore the different ways French and American cooks entertain. By the end of the course, students will be able to cook a variety of French dishes using traditional French techniques, bake a variety of pastries and breads in the French tradition, and be able to identify what areas of France these particular dishes developed in and why. The majority of the course will be spent in the kitchen learning cooking and baking techniques and, of course, sampling our hard work. Additionally, there will be several experiences planned outside the classroom, from eating at local French restaurants to possibly taking a course on specific French culinary techniques and also potentially having a guest pastry chef give us a lesson in French pastry.
Basketball & Beyond
Students in this course will study the origins of basketball and its development from a recreational activity to an internationally appreciated sport. The class will examine styles of play, the business of basketball, and differences between high school, college and professional organizations. Women’s and men’s teams will also be discussed in all aspects of the sport to give a full picture of the game and its impact on society. Also covered will be the rise of high school basketball in the state of Indiana. Over the course of the entire J-Term class, we will be visiting various historic gyms and arenas throughout the state. The class will also attend high school, college, and/or NBA games.

In this course, students will learn all about Broadway, on and off the stage. They will learn the process of producing a show, and they will gain an appreciation of theatre through observing and analyzing filmed productions and listening to guest speakers. The course will end with a performance. Students will have the choice to be on the production team or to be a performer. 

This studio course is an introduction to the basic principles of ceramics with emphasis on the understanding of its formal language and the fundamentals of artistic expression within the clay medium. The students will learn the basic techniques of wheel throwing, as well as hand building techniques and other design concepts of ceramics. Specifically, we will focus on the basic structural aspects of working with clay and discuss methods such as scoring, slipping, and both additive and subtractive methods. Students will also focus on developing the skills of using a potter’s wheel as a tool for making shapes, trimming pottery, making handles, sets, and spouts, decoration with slips and glazes, and glaze application and firing. In addition to studio work, students will participate in demos and discussions on surface embellishments and firing processes and learn how both affect the function and aesthetics of the ceramic object.
Developing Leadership Through Wilderness Exploration

“Wilderness to the people of America is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium.”
– Sigrid Olson

Over the course of J-Term, we will enter the wilderness to seek refuge in ourselves, learning how nature can serve as a catalyst to knowing one’s self with a deeper, more holistic understanding. From leadership surveys to wilderness observation and survival skills, this course will help you garner a deeper understanding of yourself and how to respond to and lead the world around you. A significant portion of this class will take place outside hiking, observing nature and ourselves in nature, and building survival techniques. Warm winter gear and willingness to be, both physically active and solitarily still, outside will be essential. Explorers will build up to spending a significant portion of our day hiking and camping out in the beauty that is winter. It is our hope that our culminating challenge will take place over the course of three days and two nights at an Indiana State Park.

Elements of Design: Art, Architecture & City Centers

This course will examine historical elements of art, architecture, and design within the context of the city landscape. Using Vienna and Indianapolis as our models, we will look back at creative developments to understand what currently exists around us in urban centers and look forward with big ideas to the future of cities.

Graded work will include reading articles and excerpts of books, participating in class discussions, journaling, and producing creative projects. This is not an art class, and while experience or talent in art is not required, willingness to engage in the creative process is a must.

We’ll explore works of art and artists, visit Indianapolis landmarks, take virtual trips to Viennese sites, host virtual guests from both sides of the Atlantic, and have hands-on experiences in the classroom. For those who want more, optional evening or weekend outings will allow additional in-depth exploration. (These optional outings will have no bearing on understanding core course topics or grades.)

At the end of the course, students will have a broadened perspective and understanding of design elements that we can find all around us.

While this J-Term course was originally designed to study the art, architecture, and design of Vienna, Austria, the pandemic has made travel to that city impossible in January 2021. Therefore, we have expanded the course to include Indianapolis for exploration and comparison.

The course and all grades will be complete in January. We hope to offer an optional summer 2021 excursion to Vienna for class members who wish to experience the city directly. We will share more about plans, including costs and timing, as details become available.

Epidemiology: Outbreaks to Pandemics
COVID-19, Ebola, SARS, MERS, HIV are all relatively new diseases that were unknown 50 years ago. Where do they come from? How do they spread? What happens when an outbreak of a new disease occurs? This class will explore the world of epidemiology. We will study the biology of viruses: how they spread, how they mutate, and how they make you sick. We will learn about how diseases are tracked and studied, and why contact tracing is important. We will examine the social and cultural aspects of a disease outbreak, including the moral and ethical choices that occur. There will also be time to share our own experiences and thoughts on the current pandemic. This class will include guest speakers, videos, labs, and potentially some local field trips.
Exploring Korean Culture & K-pop

This class will examine 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 look into the assimilation patterns of Korean immigrants and compare and contrast the widening gap between Korean-American and native-Korean culture. We will listen and study some K-pop and discuss its appeal and the widespread popularity. We will also get a chance to watch the evolution of Korean drama and film in class and explore Korean food by cooking some popular dishes as well as visiting local restaurants.

Heroes & Villains: Conflating Good & Evil in American Popular Culture
Is Batman a hero or just a cool villain? This J-Term course will ask us to consider the core morality of an astonishing variety of American icons. Our exploration will include comic book characters, serial killers, founding fathers, figure skaters, Mafia dons, revolutionaries, captains of industry, pro wrestlers, folk heroes, and fairytale princes(ses). We will use these figures to explore what and who Americans love, resent, and value. We’ll also try to discern where to draw the sometimes faint line between heroism and villainy.
The History of Independent Film in America

This course will explore the evolution of independent cinema in the United States from the New Hollywood period of the late 1960s up to the present. Students will come to understand the basics of film art and the ways in which independent filmmakers have driven the form forward in innovative ways that caused important changes in the film industry as a whole. The course will require students to trace this history through the work of important directors, the viewing of seminal films, and the exploration of the growth of film festivals and independent cinemas in the United States. Students will also be making short independent films of their own. Our work will culminate with the class virtually attending the 2021 Sundance Film Festival through the festival’s online portal.

New Orleans: The One & Only

In this class, we will study the city of New Orleans — its history, its people, and its many contributions to American life. In its 300-year history, New Orleans has seen successive waves of newcomers, each bringing something new to the city and its culture. Whether it is jazz or Mardi Gras or gumbo, everyone knows something about New Orleans. With this J-Term, you will come to know the whole story behind what makes New Orleans unique, read literature inspired by the city, study the forms of music associated with New Orleans, and learn about Creole and Cajun cuisine. While we will not be able to travel to New Orleans in January, we will work hard to recreate the New Orleans experience ourselves, by supplementing the original curriculum with virtual visits to local historical sites, exploration of various musical styles, and the sampling of authentic New Orleans cuisine. 

Paranormal: The Truth Is Out There
Surveys show that many of us believe in the supernatural and that we have a historical fascination with the paranormal. This class, open to both skeptics and believers, will explore various aspects of the paranormal realm. Topics may include, but are not limited to, telepathy, psychic mediums and tarot, reiki, hauntings and possessions as well as UFOs. The class will explore these topics through in-class research, guest speakers, and field trips (including at least one ghost hunting outing). We will learn to look critically at both the phenomena and attempts to explain them through critical thinking and the understanding of psychological concepts that may support paranormal beliefs.  Students are encouraged to form their own opinions on class topics.
The Physics & Metaphysics of Star Wars
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… From Jabba the Hut to Baby Yoda, Star Wars remains one of the most beloved franchises in popular culture. For over forty years, it has captured the imagination of the young and old alike. The answer to why this is easy: because it’s awesome. But Star Wars is more than just an awesome film series/cartoon/book/live-action TV show, etc. In addition to its awesomeness, what continues to draw academics and hardcore fans alike to the franchise is the way in which it challenges our preconceptions about the world around us. Students in The Physics and Metaphysics of Star Wars will encounter a different film each day and analyze it through the lens of physics and metaphysics. Students will be forced to contemplate the viability of hyperspace while deliberating on the nature of evil. In addition, students will consider those historical, religious, and cultural contexts that inform these questions.
Rwanda: A Study of Reconciliation & Reconstruction

Peace and forgiveness begin within. How do you forgive, especially after a horrific tragedy? In 1994, an unbelievable calamity occurred within the nation of Rwanda when more than 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered during a violent genocide, yet the nation has managed to reconcile and rebuild itself successfully. In this course, we will examine the idea of forgiveness as well as reconstruction with a focus on Rwanda. Through in-class activities, guided readings, film viewings, guest speakers, and focused class discussion, we will explore the tools and mindset necessary for forgiveness. Although we will not be able to physically travel to Rwanda, we will explore its gorgeous geography and culture through films, virtual visits, and interactive activities. Emotional maturity is required as genocide will be discussed during this course.

Tennis: A Sport For Everyone
In this course, students will study many topics associated with the sport of tennis. These include, but are not limited to, the history of tennis, important individuals and their impact on the game, and ultimately, how the game is played. We will look at the differences between doubles and singles, study the different court types that are used around the globe, and look at how the equipment associated with the sport has changed over time. We are also going to take some time out of the day to work on tennis fundamentals so that the students can really immerse themselves in the sport. During the third week, we will potentially attend a tennis tournament in the local area.
What Moves Us: An Exploration of Dance
Why do we dance? Why can our bodies express that our words cannot? 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.

This course will be divided into three sections: (1) The origin/history of major dances around the world; (2) The performance of (some) of the dances studied; and (3) The mental, physical and emotional benefits of dance.

Global history of dance will be presented in a variety of learning contexts and via the use of various media. Discussion and presentation of dance styles and genres will include, but will not be limited to the following: early tribal dance, early Greek/Roman dance, courtly dance, contra dance, Kathak, Middle Eastern dance, classical ballet, jazz, modern dance, tap, flamenco dance, capoeira, salsa, merengue, tango, street dancing, breakdancing, hip hop, reggaeton, and Zumba.

A portion of the class will entail learning and performing a variety of dances. Guest instructors will be a part of this course and will introduce and teach several genres of dance both on and off campus. In addition, we will learn how dancing has mental , physical, and intellectual benefits that have the power to maintain or enhance the following: physical fitness, mind/body coordination, social engagement, memory, mental health, accessibility to diversity, and artistic self-expression.

So, put on your dancing shoes and make the mind-body connection!

The Worst of American History
Are you infatuated with serial killers, dumb criminals, ridiculous laws, and political scandals? Do you love terribly acted movies, awful pop music, and overly dramatic television shows? This class will study, analyze, and often make fun of the worst that America has had to offer during its nearly 250 years in existence. That will include the worst scandals, crime sprees, politicians, spies, laws, court decisions, economic and foreign policy decisions, riots, and natural disasters in American history. We will also enjoy getting to know the worst of American popular culture, including the worst films, television shows, plays, books, and music that Americans have created. We will study the factual background and historical context of all of these examples, examine why American popular culture embraces so many horrible works, and analyze ways in which Americans have or have not progressed over time. In addition, students will consult with their inner worst selves to devise their own scandals and crime sprees and create their own intentionally terrible works of art, such as short films that any self-respecting critic would despise and yet could still become popular in America today.
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.