Intensive Courses

Intensives are graded, three-week long courses led by Upper School faculty and students on topics not typically emphasized in the School’s core curriculum.

The program is designed to offer students and teachers the chance to explore one topic of academic merit deeply by way of projects, experiential learning, guest lectures, field trips, and community engagement. By halting the core curriculum for the 14 school days between the Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks, Intensives provide unobstructed opportunities to journey off campus, collaborate with local and international experts, and develop deep and lasting bonds among a small group of students and faculty who might not otherwise share an academic experience.

The majority of Intensives are open to students in Grades 9 - 12, so each cohort is significantly diverse. Boys and girls, day and Residential Life students, students across of every grade, and teachers teaching outside their disciplines are part of what make Intensives so unique. Students engage in their Intensive from 9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. during the Intensive period and can be found examining the impact of neuroscience on learning, making motorized vehicles, polishing their debate skills, engaging in local nonprofit work, and much more.

In addition to the most recent offerings, past Intensives offered have included: World Religions in Central Virginia, Wildlife Management, Hispanic Culture Through Food, Dance, and History, the Teenage Brain, the Art of Argument, Social Entrepreneurship, Photojournalism, Introduction to Filmmaking, DIY Culture, Food Science, Everything You Need to Know But Didn’t Learn in High School, Computer Graphics, Fundamentals of Songwriting, Inventeam, Food for Thought, Project Shakespeare, Creative Problem Solving, and more.

Learn more about Intensives here.


I have a passion for the community and giving back. I knew this Intensive would be hands-on and students would be more independent, which I knew fit me, but I didn’t realize how many opportunities would be available to me and how much I would be able to do. Intensives have a really different and special schedule. The trust that the teachers had in us, that we were where we were supposed to be, was really special."
- Madi Glaser ‘19, Nonprofits & Community Service Intensive

2019 Intensive Offerings

All That Jazz: The Art of Performance in American Musical Theater

Faculty Team: Max Bulinski, Michael Remchuk, Debra McWaters (Guest Artist)

The staging of the Upper School Winter Musical, Chicago, is the blank canvas for this Intensive, in which students will engage in an in-depth study of the history of American Musical Theater through preparation for our own production of this classic ground-breaking show. Following an in-depth study of the history of Chicago and script, the group will work closely with guest artist Debra McWaters on learning “the Fosse Style” and applying that to the staging and choreography of our own performance. Students will study and practice the fundamentals of Fosse’s unique style, and then apply these to the choreography of the signature numbers in the show. By the end of the Intensive, students will have mastered these numbers and will be equipped to serve as dance captains at rehearsals.

This Intensive will be a complementary course to Razzle Dazzle: Sets, Sounds & Lights of American Musical Theater. Both Intensives will use their study of and preparation for Chicago as a case study in American Musical Theater. 

Art & Environment

Faculty Team: Sophie Gibson, Elizabeth Herlevsen
Teaching Assistant: Noah Hochrein '21

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Letting the words of poet Mary Oliver inspire us throughout our intensive exploration of art and environment, we will pursue experiences of nature, museums and other creative influences as an impetus for creating our own sculptural expressions. While considering historic and contemporary sculptors, including the work of Andy Goldsworthy, Michelle Lougee, Shay Church, and Patrick Dougherty, we will ask students to examine their personal relationships with their environments and express their ideas in words, sketches, and sculptures. We will begin the course with small-scale projects to introduce students to sculptural materials and processes. These smaller works will culminate in a group installation by the end of our intensive.

Building a World

Faculty Team: Zach Minster, Will Nichols

Building A World is designed to allow students to pursue their passions. In this intensive you will have time to create, draw, write or perform independently. You will also be asked to collaborate with your peers in larger groups each week to produce multimedia art projects. A multimedia project is something that includes elements from two or more disciplines. The visual representation will be paired with voices and a live musical performance. Several of the individual and group projects will aim to address needs within communities.

¢ents & $ensibility: An Introduction to Personal Finance

Faculty Team: Amanda Allen, George Corwin, Peter Quagliaroli
Teaching Assistant: Jay Liu ‘20

Everybody needs to use money, but not everyone uses it wisely.  This course will help you develop basic personal finance skills. Through real-world projects, students will examine the basics of how physical and virtual money works, including budgeting, credit, investments, and taxes, as well as the mathematical skills essential for handling money with confidence. Students will also explore the psychology of money and the ways in which money is irrationally emotional. Projects will ask students to consider how money relates to happiness and how common errors in reasoning can have significant financial impacts in both the short and long term. Students will also travel to various institutions in Charlottesville and Richmond to learn about the world of finance and the global scale of economics.

Creating a Common Good: Character Education for the Modern School

Faculty Team: David Smith, Blake Ware

The late political scientist Hugh Heclo argued that deep satisfaction comes from “strong bonds of mutual attachments to other people and larger causes outside ourselves.” In this intensive we will explore what such a vision could mean for our school community. In particular, we will ask, what shared habits, practices, and values most effectively create an ethical community at St. Anne’s-Belfield School? How do we as a community–in our classrooms and beyond–create a lasting institutional culture that nourishes deep attachments and ethical citizenship? We will ground our journey in a study of ethics reaching back to Plato and Aristotle and then look to contrasting perspectives from both classical liberalism and “new traditionalists”/communitarians. Throughout we will consider the purpose of education and historical and contemporary ideas of the good society. At all times we will be concerned with what it looks like to nurture hearts and minds oriented toward the common good and a thriving culture in our school today.

Culture, Cuisine, & Cinema: A Window into the French-Speaking World

Faculty Team: Isabelle Reeves, Anne Wendling

This intensive is intended to be a deep dive into the Francophonie, or French-speaking, world. We will explore the music, film, food, and the arts of the various vibrant cultures that make up la Francophonie. No knowledge of French is necessary; anyone with an interest in learning about other cultures is welcome!  We hope to take a few field trips locally (local bakeries! local schools!) and also to Richmond (fine art and food!), to experience francophone art and cuisine. We plan to bring in outside speakers to share their expertise on their various cultures (cooking classes! dance classes!). We will begin by establishing a definition and the basic history of the francophone world. Students will explore the various cultures (Quebec, Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, Belgium, Switzerland, Guadeloupe, Haiti, French Polynesia, and France, to name a few!) through different media. Students will become experts in their own francophone nation. Students will share their discoveries through a mini-documentary.

Fairy Tales: The Psychology of Cinderella & Beyond

Faculty Team: Rosanne Simeone, Jimmy Zunka

What purpose(s) did fairy tales once serve? Why do they still guide our thinking about morality, gender, and even murder? We will explore the origins and evolution of fairy tales, from oral history through written and cinematic adaptations. Readings will range from East to West, and points in between, and student will delve into the symbolic and psychological meanings of step-mothers, wolves, selkies, genies, and orphans who lose glass slippers. We hope to read and write fairy tales, to share fairy tales with Mr. Passmore’s class, and to travel to some inspiring locations, such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Film: Alfred Hitchcock

Faculty Team: Brandtly Jones, Jordan Taylor

This course will serve as an introduction to film through a tight-lensed focus on Alfred Hitchcock whose career stretches from silent film to the 1960s. Hitch helped formulate the vocabulary of suspense films through his use of editing, mise-en-scene, and cinematography. We will watch some of his classics (Shadow of a Doubt, the 39 Steps, Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo) to master the particular way of seeing and analyzing film, and then we will look at his wide influence in the culture as Hitchock becomes an adjective synonymous with suspense and intrigue.  We will look at the TV series (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and a few entries from the Hitchcock pulp magazines. We will delve into the colossal amount of writing on Hitchcock including the film criticism of the psychology of Hitchcock and the even more voluminous writing on Hitch’s gender problems, in addition to healthy portions of his path-breaking interviews with Francois Truffault.

After learning the language of film and film criticism, students will embark on independent research of a particular Hitchcock text (film, television, parody, literature) and offer a well researched examination of the text and how it fits into the overall career of Hitchock. We will have discussions of articles, short filmmaking projects to underscore ideas and concepts, and a final week programmed by the participants themselves.

Finding Common Ground: Exploring Diversity & Embracing Multiculturalism

Faculty Team: Beth Miller, Naomi Noyes
Teaching Assistant: Michelle Zheng ‘20

This course is an intensive examination of culture and human behavior. The class focuses on increasing students’ cross-cultural awareness, knowledge and skills to respond appropriately to the problems and opportunities of both domestic and international interactions here at the School and beyond. Projects will involve problem solving and team building in multicultural teams. We will take our learning outside the classroom with field trips, both within and outside of Charlottesville, and actively seek to learn from the many cultures that surround us. By the end of the intensive, students will submit an original video based on the theme of “Welcoming the Stranger” as part of a nationwide video contest. The goal of this course is to provide time and space for students to build a deeper understanding of who we are, what our cultural identity is and how to leverage our unique perspectives to be leaders in diverse and global contexts.

Habitat for Humanity*

Faculty Team: Allie Scheel, Brian Bartholomew

Come and work with the Charlottesville and Staunton Habitats For Humanity. Our time is divided between the local branch (Wednesdays to Fridays) and Staunton (Mondays and Tuesdays). Over the previous three years, our work has included: assisting a bricklayer in mixing concrete, laying foundation and installing footers; installing windows; building a retaining wall and landscaping so that water flows away from the home; helping restore the 100+ year-old doors and stairway in a historic home; installing siding; demolition; paving; deck construction; drywalling; painting. Work is often outside and it can be cold. If you are not comfortable being uncomfortable, then this is not the Intensive for you! Additionally, we depart from school each morning at 8:00. The work this year will again be led by the full-time employees of Habitat, and we will couple our physical work with an understanding of the financial model that Habitat uses. We sometimes meet the families that will occupy the homes on which we work.  

*Students must be 17 years old by December 2, 2019 

Issues of Race, Gender & Social Justice*

Faculty Team: Jon Shoup, Antxon Iturbe, Laura Robertson, Sandra Sohne-Johnson
Teaching Assistants: Nick Reese '20, Aaliyah Wiley '20

This course is designed to engage students in the examination of the role of race and gender in their lives and their world. Students will begin by developing the appropriate vocabulary and basic understanding of the evolution of race and gender in contemporary society before beginning to explore the current conditions in the local, national and global communities. By examining recent events in the US, Supreme Court decisions regarding affirmative action and abortion, as well as the role of privilege and class in American Society, students will be encouraged to explore the ways in which the recent past influences our present. After establishing some basic vocabulary,  students will work to shape the curriculum and will be responsible for teaching a unit before finishing their study with their own social justice project. 

*Grades 10 - 12 only

Magical Realism

Faculty Team: Sara Moses, Alison Ruff

Gabriel García Márquez once said, “My most important problem was destroying the lines that separate what seems real from what seems fantastic.” What is real? What is magical? Do you often question your dreams or compare them with reality? What if you could experience magic in what you perceive to be your “normal” everyday life? In this intensive we will explore the convergence of what we know to be real, normal or everyday and what we consider unreal, hallucinatory and down right crazy. Our roadmap into this world will take us on imaginative journeys through Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Italy, Spain and back to the U.S. We will encounter alternative realities, fantastical plot occurrences and frequent transformations of the average and ordinary into the awesome and extraordinary. We will take a deep dive into film, art and literature that will challenge our perceptions of reality and the world around us. We will question and discuss the many versions of the truth in our global society and why one may imagine an alternative existence. Assignments will include viewing and analyzing movies, short readings and artwork.  We will invite speakers to our class who are experts in the genre of magical realism and will visit a museum in Washington D.C. where students will select and critique a piece of art that portrays elements of Magical Realism. Students will have the opportunity to collaborate and design a final project that will demonstrate their understanding of Magical Realism and the coexistence of reality and fiction.

Marine Biology Lab & the Use of Model Organisms*

Faculty Team: Todd Jarry, Andrea Beardsley

Students will explore the use of various animal models to study ecological impacts and human health. The first week will be a “Bio Boot Camp,” teaching students essential biological content and laboratory skills. We will be visiting Dr. Kucenas’ lab at UVa and view her research on zebrafish. The second week we will travel to the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA, an affiliate of the University of Chicago. Students will examine the anatomy of coral and sea anemones, analyze the effects of global warming on the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae, pilot underwater drones to explore aquatic ecosystems, and use microscopy and statistical analysis to convey results. Upon our return, students will use their experiences to create more opportunities for authentic research in our own science curricula. 

*Grades 10 - 12 only, by application only

Outdoor Leadership & Environmental Education

Faculty Team: Bob Clark, Emily Falk, Sophie Speidel
Teaching Assistants: Will Johnston '20, Viv Shields '20

This intensive seeks to increase appreciation of our local outdoor environment and the rewards that come from time spent outdoors. The program weaves together nature writing, local history, outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental stewardship to help students form a new relationship to the natural world. The intensive envisions a teacher-student partnership with the goal of student-driven, experiential, and place-based learning. In addition to the classroom component, students will hike forty plus miles, plan a camping trip, learn compass and navigation skills, cook for themselves, develop leave-no-trace and expedition behavior skills, and more. The outdoor component is essential for testing learned skills and understanding readings provided on campus; immersion is essential for this experience. 

Powering Our World: Electrochemistry & Battery Technology

Faculty Team: Meg Van Liew, Bob Troy

Our modern digital world contains wonders of data processing and storage, but it would all be useless without reliable, compact power sources. Beyond portable devices, high-capacity batteries are critical for our transportation systems to move beyond fossil fuels. Students will construct and conduct experiments in electrochemistry that form the basis for battery technology and will attempt to build newly-designed batteries, allowing them first-hand experience in this developing research field.

Razzle Dazzle: Sets, Sounds & Lights of American Musical Theater

Faculty Team: David Lourie, Steven Mangano, Joe Browning

The not-yet-designed sets, sounds and lights for the winter musical, Chicago, are the blank canvases for this Intensive, in which students will take the lead with designing and constructing all three for the production. Following an in-depth study of the script, the group will first collaborate on designing the sets and set pieces for the musical’s major scenes and will then work on constructing them.  Students will research the fundamentals of theater set design and then learn and apply the basics of set and set piece construction. The goal is to have a complete set design concept and construction timeline in place, as well as initial construction underway. Similarly, students interested in theatrical sound and lighting design will undertake an analogous process, during which they will study the script and develop a complete sound and lighting design plan and then begin to create sound and lighting effects and program sound cues.  By the end of the Intensive, set, sound and lighting design for the entire production will be completed, with sets and set piece construction underway and sounds and lights in production.

This Intensive will be a complementary course to All That Jazz: The Art of Performance in American Musical Theater.  Both Intensives will use their study of and practical work on Chicago as a case study in American Musical Theater.

Reimagining Community Service*

Faculty Team: Jacob Stoner, Paloma Visscher-Gingerich

This intensive will dive into the meaning, effects and outcomes of community service. What is community service? Whom does community service help? Whom might community service hurt? Is there a better way? Students will have the opportunity to volunteer for local groups such as The Haven and Camp Holiday Trails, as well as hear from leaders in the non-profit sector like The Center for Nonprofit Excellence and The American Red Cross. The intensive will culminate in a redesign and pitch of a new community service policy for our school. Students will receive community service hours for all volunteer time during the intensive. 

*Students must be at least 16

Skateboarding & the American Life

Faculty Team: Mary Frances Harris, Trent Wiseman

Set to make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, skateboarding has evolved dramatically since it emerged from the Dogtown surf scene in the 1970s. Throughout this 50 year history, innovations in board, wheel, and bearing design have made skateboards safer and easier to ride, making skateboarding accessible to more people. The resulting popularity expanded the reach of companies in the skateboarding industry, apparent today by the ubiquity of Supreme stickers, Vans shoes, and Thrasher sweatshirts. Skateboarding has, indeed, woven itself into various aspects of American culture, and in this Intensive we will take a deep dive into how that happened. From the physics of skateboarding to skateboarding’s relationship with the city (Charlottesville and beyond), we will use core principles in both the social and physical sciences as our guides for this exploration. After building a foundation of research skills and knowledge, students will engage in their own projects, employing one of the disciplines we utilized in the course.

Sports & Emergency Medicine

Faculty Team: Lizzie Leitch, Nicole Marvin
Teaching Assistant: Kyia Walker '21

This course is designed to allow students with an interest in medicine to learn more about the human body, sports injuries, emergency care and careers that exist under the medicine umbrella. The secondary purpose is to allow students to explore this area of interest to see if it’s something they will want to pursue in college.

WordPlay! A Creative Writing Workshop

Faculty Team: Ann Wicks, Dorene Fisher, Kelly Hedgspeth, Andy Beardsley, Kate Bussey
Teaching Assistant: Hewson Duffy '20

Whether a reluctant or confident writer, creative writing has the potential to liberate and lead the writer to new horizons and understandings. In this workshop, we will get to know ourselves and each other as writers and readers by participating in a safe, supportive, and creative working community. Using “the self” as our initial source of inspiration, we will explore a variety of ways to play with words on the page. Writing requires exploration and experimentation, particularly as it relates to our inner musings and the personal landscapes of our varied experiences. We will seek to identify and reflect upon memories at the foundation of personal identity. The workshop will include daily writing explorations, shared readings, and a variety of field trips and/or guest speakers.

A teacher assists students with their Intensive projects