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On Tues. February 28, students attended a variety of ‘U Learn’ classes with topics  commemorating the final day of Black History Month. Students chose one class to participate in from a long list of topics, including Black History and Golf, Robert Bullard and Environmental Justice, Afrofuturism in Rally Racing, and much more!

“This week, we did U Learns to celebrate the end of Black History Month,” said Jake Thurman, Dean of Student Affairs. 

“Our students provided us with brilliant community meetings all month on topics they generated and did an amazing job. The idea was to build upon their work by having the faculty (and a few student volunteers) come up with topics they cared about to demonstrate the breadth and importance of celebrating a more representative and true look at the history of this country and the ways in which Black History intersects and enriches every subject and person in this place.”

‘U Learn’ is a 50-minute assembly that is [divided] into smaller sessions covering topics of interest to students and faculty that can be as wide ranging as how to construct the perfect ice cream sundae, to how vaccines work. Each U Learn class has around 15-18 students, which can facilitate more engagement and interactivity versus a 350-person all school assembly. This week’s topics were all generated by the students and teachers who led the sessions.

The concept began in 2017 as a student suggestion, with the first U Learn classes taking place during the following school year. Today, UHS offers about one U Learn assembly per semester on average.

“The idea came to them from discussions about education and ideas of students learning from students. They then brought the idea to the Stewardship Council and we ran with it,” said Thurman. “Since then, we’ve done several, sometimes with students teaching, other times with teachers leading them–or a mixture of both.”

Thurman explains that student-led U Learns are intended to allow students to be the primary communicators of their interests. 

“They are the ones that teach each other and their teachers. Additionally, teacher-led U  Learns are usually as much about how and why the teachers have cultivated the interest or skill they’re sharing, as they are about the material being taught. Modeling the process of lifelong learning is important to us, and U Learn is a great way to demonstrate it.”

This week’s U Learn classes follow an entire month of school-wide presentations on Black History topics presented by University’s Black Affinity student organization. Students shared and celebrated black history and culture with the school community during every morning meeting and seminar period. 

“This would’ve been much less of a meaningful exercise if it hadn’t been for the students from Black Affinity, who truly exhibited the best of this place as they explored their interests, passions, and histories in morning meetings all month,” said Thurman. “The work of doing those meetings is substantial–they volunteered to do it, organized themselves, chose their topics, and executed their shared vision speaks to the brilliance of those kids. Truly, they are Trailblazers.”