Upper School Explores Topics Outside Core Curriculum During Intensives

Each December, Upper School students and faculty hit pause on regularly scheduled classes and explore topics not typically emphasized in the School’s core curriculum during Intensives. A program that makes the St. Anne's-Belfield education truly special, Intensives allow students to dive deeply into one topic for three weeks, providing unobstructed opportunities to journey off campus, collaborate with experts, and develop bonds among a small group who might not otherwise share an academic experience.

This year a slate of 20 courses was offered by faculty and staff members and a selection of student teaching assistants. Options included Art & Environment, Marine Biology Lab & the Use of Model Organisms; Film: Alfred Hitchcock; Outdoor Leadership & Environmental Education; Reimagining Community Service; Wordplay! A Creative Writing Workshop; Skateboarding and the American Life; and many more. 

"We were concerned that three weeks on electrochemistry and electric power, even when focused on emerging technologies, could easily track like a traditional course," said Upper School science teacher Bob Troy, who co-taught the Powering Our World Intensive with fellow science faculty member Meg Van Liew. "But it didn't take our students long to put our minds at ease. 'Ms. Van Liew, if electrolytes can carry current, why don't we have liquid wires?' That is how our first student-designed project was conceived. We've since had a proposal for a novel approach to capturing energy from thunderstorms and for electroplating clothing. While students are interested in the battery and energy technologies we envisioned, they've been charting their own course through our investigations."

Groups could be found all around campus and the region engaging in discussions, dancing and singing, studying zebrafish at a University of Virginia laboratory, sculpting faces, hiking the Shenandoah Valley, watching and analyzing films, building houses, volunteering at The Haven, building batteries, and bandaging hypothetical wounds, among many other activities.

"I enjoyed the hands-on experiences we did, and I feel prepared for anything that happens. I already have used how to stop bleeding on myself last week!" said Tillie Hall '22 who participated in the Sports & Emergency Medicine Intensive.

"I have learned things that have made me want to go to medical school. Without this class, I wouldn't have been able to be exposed to these things," added Cameron Mann '23.

Special guests, industry experts, and local businesses played an integral role in most Intensive experiences, including hiking with Jennifer Pharr Davis; receiving choreographic support from Chicago assistant choreographer Debra McWaters; being hosted by the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., an affiliate of the University of Chicago; and learning about professional athletics and orienteering from professional triathlete Alyssa Godesky.

Photos from this year's Intensives are available on the School SmugMug account


EXPLORE THE SCHOOL