The Big Break and Big Plans

My school has an amazing way of dealing with January. For the three weeks after winter break, we throw the standard curriculum to the wind and do a program called Winterim. During this time, two things happen. Juniors and seniors leave campus to travel (we have several trips, educational and service-oriented) OR intern, either here in Nashville or abroad. The freshmen and sophomores stay on campus and participate in mini-classes: 14 class periods (well, less when we have a snow day like yesterday), 80 minutes each, homework and assessments optional.

I love this time. I teach three different classes, to small classes of freshmen and sophomores. One of them is called “The mathematics of harmony” and explores why notes sound good together, the different tuning techniques we have used to maximize harmonic beauty, and the inescapable mathematical problems that arise if we trust too much in Pythagoras’s approach to music. Then we build instruments that take into account our knowledge. The other two are programming classes: an introduction to game design class that uses Processing, and the programming half of our First Tech Challenge robotics challenge, which is really less a traditional class as it is a space for us to work together on making the robot work.

The best part? No homework, no tests, no quizzes, no stress. We learn, but we don’t worry too much about it, and if we go down a rabbit hole of Youtube videos about barbershop quartet arrangement or a Capella singing groups, so be it! It rocks.

I’ve been working hard on new systems for the second semester, especially in AP Stat (because that AP exam is way closer than I want it to be). More on that later.


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