Intensives are graded, three-week long courses led by St. Anne’s-Belfield Upper School faculty 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, and field trips. 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 people 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, girls, boarding students, international students, and teachers teaching outside their disciplines are part of what make Intensives so unique. Students engage in their Intensive from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the month of December and can be found examining the impact of neuroscience on learning, making motorized vehicles, polishing their debate skills, engaging in local non-profit 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.


2018 Intensive Offerings

Board Game Design, Theory, & Marketing

Michael Remchuk, Meg Van Liew

You’ve spent countless hours playing games like Monopoly, Chess, or Hearts, but you might not have considered what makes these games special. In this intensive we will analyze existing board games to determine what makes a game “good”. We will investigate core areas of strategy and the theory of games through a mathematical lens, focusing on the impact rules have on the fairness of a game. Using these understandings we will then design and create our own board game to be brought to the market. For this intensive we need artists, graphic designers, students comfortable with using math to analyze the world around them, creative thinkers, and innovators. Additionally, loving board games is a must!

Cents & Sensibility: An Introduction to Personal Finance

Amanda Allen, Maria Gall, John Going, 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 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.

Finding a Way

Zach Minster, Will Nichols, Jacob Stoner, Yash Tekriwal
Teaching Assistants: Thomas Castleman '19, Olivia Strasburg '19, Anika Volentine '19, Mariah Payne '19

Finding a Way 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. For example, students this year will be working to create a digital introduction for the winter musical Beauty and the Beast. 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 the school community.

Students and teachers will all explore how to create and facilitate a multimedia exposition by bridging the gaps between art, music, and technology through multiple ways of knowing. The goal is to craft a completely original experience through asking in-depth questions about human emotion and expression, software intelligence, and how to collaborate efficiently without limiting individual creativity. All collaborators will explore different disciplines and work together to fashion a unique production that involves elements of still art, video, music, and spoken word. Each project will then be tied together through the use and creation of computer software. Each teacher will offer break out groups for students to explore how their interests align throughout different disciplines. The goal will be finding a method to knit everything together into a cohesive unit.

Generic Film

Brandtly Jones, Jordan Taylor
Teaching Assistants: Sam Gruber '20, Celia Wood '21

This course will serve as a generic introduction to film as well as  student explorations of film as a genre. The idea of genericness, or kind, is part of a way of looking at any cultural text; in other words, what other texts do they resemble?  Film has formed a series of distinctive genres as an outgrowth of studio marketing and structure, as much as from artistic vision. From the western to the gangster to the experimental to the documentary (and mockumentary, its ironic cousin!), different genres have proliferated as tested formulas become stale and seek innovative new responses to the culture. After learning the language of film and film criticism, students will embark on independent research of a genre and will watch films from at least three different decades in order to build a small website of reviews (read and written themselves) and related resources for their particular genre.  We will have discussions of articles, short filmmaking projects to underscore ideas and concepts, and a final week programmed by the participants themselves.

Habitat for Humanity*

Allie Scheel, Brian Bartholomew
Teaching Assistant: Trip Brewer '19

Work with Charlottesville and Staunton Habitats For Humanity.  Our time is divided between the local branch (Wednesdays to Fridays) and Staunton (Mondays and Tuesdays).  Our work over the previous two years has included: assisting 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 doors and stairway in a restored historic home; installing siding; demolition; paving; deck construction; drywalling; painting.  This years work will again be lead by the full time employers 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 that we work on.

*Students must be 17 years old by Nov. 25, 2018

Issues in Local & Regional Resource Management

Mary Frances Harris, Pearce Johnson, Jimmy Zunka
Teaching Assistant: Noah Kurtz '19

This course will explore the current issues affecting four local and regional resources - energy, food, wildlife, and water - and the strategies employed to manage these resources.  You will study the legal, ethical, governmental, and financial implications of resource use and management by engaging with experts in various fields, conducting your own independent research, and visiting local management sites.  By wrestling with the costs and benefits of resource use, extraction, and conservation, you will become more informed citizens who can offer rational and balanced opinions on these complex issues.

Major Topics:

  • Local energy sources as part of the grid
  • Local food sources as part of the regional/national food industry
  • Local water sources as part of the major watersheds
  • Local wildlife as part of state and regional recreation and food industries

Expectations: Student engagement and participation are essential to this Intensive experience.  We want you to think critically about the issues that affect our local and regional communities, as well as enjoy time outdoors in the environment that these management strategies and practices strive to protect.  We have asked numerous professionals to take time from their jobs to teach you about these issues, and we demand that you show them the respect, attention, and appreciation that they deserve. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn about these important issues from the experts -- listen, think, ask questions, voice your opinion, and challenge ideas!  

Issues of Race, Gender, & Social Justice*

Jon Shoup, Antxon Iturbe, Laura Robertson

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 U.S., 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 a their own social justice project.

* Grades 10 - 12 only

Magical Realism

Sara Moses, Bridgette Ewing, Rosanne Simeone

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.

Making Meaning from the World

Beth Miller, Janet Moore-Coll
Teaching Assistants: Piper Holden '19, Sarah Schmidt '20

Travel experiences are often among the most memorable parts of our education, providing unique opportunities for exploration, understanding, and growth. However, it is all too easy to see the magic of these experiences fade as we return to the ‘norm’, leaving unrealized the potential for lasting change. This  Intensive is designed to provide the information, structures, and time necessary to think widely and deeply about how we can best move our learning outside of the classroom and into the world. Participants confront tough questions around how and why they have engaged in international travel, service learning, and cross-cultural interactions. As we process our own experiences, we build a deeper understanding of what ‘makes us tick’ and how we can best transform our uncertainties into action. Students will finish the intensive session with a deep appreciation for the experiential learning cycle, new skills in change management and change action, a toolkit of approaches to the unfamiliar, and a heightened sense of self in (and of) the world.

Marine Biology Lab & the Use of Model Organisms*

Todd Jarry, Andrea Beardsley

Students will explore the use of various animal models to study human disease. 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 U.Va. and view her research on zebrafish.  The second week will travel to the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., an affiliate of the University of Chicago. Students will collect and identify marine specimens, utilize a wide variety of imaging techniques, perform in vitro fertilization on Xenopus frogs, isolate, sequence, and amplify genetic samples, use CRISPR technology  to edit genomic sequences, analyze the resulting mutants, and collect and test water samples to determine eutrophication risks. Upon our return, students will explore how we can incorporate more opportunities for authentic research into our science curricula.

Students chosen will travel to Woods Hole, Mass. for a week.

*Grades 10 - 12 only

Nonprofits & Community Service

Paloma Visscher-Gingerich, Alison Ruff, Phil Stinnie

This will be a largely student-led Intensive which will focus on the nonprofit sector and community service in Charlottesville. It will explore both the ethical and practical dimensions of nonprofits and community service and will have a strong service component. Course activities will include: visits from guest speakers, visits to different local non-profits, attending a service seminar at U.Va., discussion of a documentary and a of a book, research, and training for and volunteering at a local non-profit. Possible internship venues include: The Haven, International Neighbors of Charlottesville, Charlottesville Families in Action, Ready Kids, The Amazon Aid Foundation, The Center for Nonprofit Excellence, and various local soup kitchens, among others. With our guidance, students will be responsible for finding an internship that suits their interest.

*Students must be at least 16 by Nov. 25, 2018 as minimum age required to volunteer at some organizations is 16 or 17 depending on agencies. Preference may be given to older students. Students may need to drive themselves to the venues. Many organizations typically take only a few volunteers at a time.

Outdoor Leadership & Environmental Education

Bob Clark, Emily Falk, Sophie Speidel
Teaching Assistants: Dawson Dickerson '19, Hannah Clark '19

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.

Philosophy & Neuroscience of Consciousness

Bob Troy, Jules Desroches

Are you really in there?  

This cohort of students will explore the emerging fields of the philosophy and  neuroscience of consciousness. Following a review of the history and philosophy of the self and consciousness, students will study what our brains tell us about the world, what the world tells us about our brains, and what progress philosophy and neuroscience have made in resolving and understanding the two.  Students, through engagement with both new and old philosophical texts and recent research in neuroscience, will examine whether neuroscience can help answer some of the questions that have puzzled philosophers for thousands of years. What exactly is consciousness? Do we have free will? Does our perception match reality?  Are we the only beings to have consciousness?

Sculptures & Spaces

Sophie Gibson, Elizabeth Herlevsen

In this intensive we will build large-scale public works to enliven our campus, promote discussion, and engage student artists in exploring relationships between sculptures and their environments. Guided by student interest, we will choose one or two focus areas from the following options: sculptural ceramic totems, inflatables, assemblage, interactive/kinetic sculpture, or place-based installation. Through creative group problem-solving, students in this intensive will learn the value of effective teamwork and clear communication. Participants will also gain craftsmanship skills in a variety of media. Informed by museum visits and slide lectures on historic and contemporary sculptors such as Andy Goldsworthy, Louise Nevelson, & Susie Ganch, we will explore how sculpture can bring a thoughtful pause to a viewer and change the way one feels about a space.

Sets & Sounds

Max Bulinski, David Lourie, Steven Mangano, Joe Browning

The not-yet-designed sets and sound for the winter musical, Beauty and the Beast, are the blank canvases for this Intensive, in which students will take the lead with designing both 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 design will undertake an analogous process, during which they will study the script and develop a complete sound design plan and then begin to create sound effects and program sound cues. Students will research techniques for creating and recording sounds, and then will begin to create the sound cues for the production. Potential off-site visits to the LiveArts, the Theater Departments at Shenandoah University, and/or the University of Virginia will provide examples of set and sounds design in practice. By the end of the Intensive, set and sound design for the entire production will be completed, with sets and set piece construction underway and sounds in production.

Sports & Emergency Medicine

Jeremy Eith, Lizzie Leitch

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.

Sports, Culture, & Politics in American Life

David Smith, Trent Wiseman

In recent years, the voices and actions of athletes have contributed to our national conversations about race, gender, economics, social justice, education, patriotism, and American identity in new and often unexpected ways. Looking back over the long-twentieth century, however, amateur and professional athletes have long shaped American culture and politics. From Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick, Billie Jean King to Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali to STAB’s own Chris Long, athletes have had an outsized impact on transformational cultural movements and moments of national or regional crisis. In this intensive, students will use sports as an entry point into American history. Through classic essays, newspaper articles, documentaries, podcasts, and art, we will seek to understand how athletes have changed American society, become central figures in times of national conflict, and launched countercultural protest movements that have disrupted the status quo. For the culminating research project, students will choose a key event in sports history (not covered in class) and create a paper, podcast, or film that discusses and contextualizes that event.

Vive la Francophonie!

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 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. We hope to take a couple field trips locally and to Richmond, 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!). Students will become experts in their own francophone nation and they will occasionally present their findings to the rest of the class. Assignments will include: brief readings, blog posts, and a final presentation.

WordPlay! A Creative Writing Workshop

Ann Wicks, Dorene Fisher, Kelly Hedgspeth, Aidan Mehigan
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