At 8:50 a.m., a modern-day Paul McCartney took to the stage to sing his rendition of The Beatles’ classic “Hey Jude.”
At 10 a.m., a class of George Ella Lyon-inspired poets shared personal versions of the self-reflective poem “Where I’m From,” while a room of scientists presented research on the world’s largest chemical disasters across campus.
No one skipped a beat at 11 a.m. as philanthropists theorized how to make the world a better place while potential doctors outlined the importance of the first immortal human cell line known as “HeLa” and the way in which they were unknowingly obtained from Henrietta Lacks.
If you aren’t tired yet, know that the day was only half over. After a celebration of food created by students in courses like “Why Vegan?” and “You Are Where You Eat,” the community gathered in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration for a gallery walk of poster presentations, photo projects, bat houses and so much more.
Last week’s J-term presentation day was filled with a flurry of excitement from students and faculty eager to share the culmination of their efforts and the community willing to take part in as many presentations as possible. From family table conversations of sustainability with local farmers to ways to disconnect to connect, the number of experiences students had to share from a week’s worth of intensive coursework was endless.
“At the end of the term, we’re hoping students have enjoyed the experience and are proud to share what they’ve learned,” language department chair and J-term coordinator Joyce Lang said. “The beauty of J-term is that by explaining their knowledge to others and applying it through sharing, students deepen their understanding.”
The subject matter in all 37 J-term offerings varied greatly, affording students the opportunity to focus on one of their passions or explore topics entirely different from their normal schedule. Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni has long advocated for this approach to learning:
“While J-term is just a week of what we do, it is also a key reminder to our students of the inherent value of learning as its own pursuit, freed from some of the structural trappings of a normal school experience,” Mr. Molteni said. “I’m a strong believer that the curiosity we hope to spark right now pays dividends for students across all other learning experiences for the year.”
Another advantage of J-term is that, in designing classes, faculty aren’t limited to their typical areas of study, so the opportunities to get to know and work with teachers and students that one might not have otherwise creates new relationships. Students also have the chance to work with classmates outside their grade, introducing an interesting dynamic to classroom discussions, according to prefect Ellie Walker ’23, who took part in the “Trial of the Century: The People vs. O.J. Simpson'' course alongside her prefectee, Kennedy Henry ’25.
Outside the classroom, this was a momentous year for the J-term program as relaxing COVID-19 restrictions allowed for more travel. Students embarked on day and overnight trips to places like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., to enhance their course teachings and connect with Blair alumni and friends. Visits to the Pentagon, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority training facility, Broadway shows and multiple museums brought learning to life and engaged students in real-world applications.
“When students get to choose what they want to discover and explore, we find out what truly matters to them,” Mrs. Lang said of the curiosity-filled week. Getting to know students well is at the heart of Blair, and the addition of the J-term program has only driven that mission home further.
2023 J-term Course Offerings
Bats & Their Homes: Why & How to Build an Effective Bat House
Bread—The Great Human Unifier: Its Origins, History & Cultural Impact
Business Plans for Changing the World
Can I Be of Service?
Conscientious Carpentry: Building by Hand to Better Understand Buying Online
Current Events Forum in Washington, D.C.
Development: Mirrors & Mentors
Diplomacy & Human Nature
Exploring Personal Identity Through Creative Writing
The Frida Kahlo Experience
Game-Changers: Connecting to Our Food
Historical Personalities Who Altered the Course of Mathematics
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Incarceration Nation: A Critical Look at the U.S. Prison System
Inside the Mind of Man’s Best Friend
International Sports in Society
Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Create a Graphic Novel & Find Out
Keep Calm & Guard On
Modeling Global Changes Through Coding
New York City: The Greatest City on Earth!
Passion + Empathy + Design = A Better World
Philanthropy: Love of Mankind
Race & Sociology of “The Wire”
Say What Needs to Be Said: Crafting Effective Presentation for the Blair Community & Beyond
School of Rock
The Science of Happiness
Trial of the Century: The People vs. O.J. Simpson
When Chemistry Kills: Poison & Environmental Disaster
Why Vegan? Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
You Are Where You Eat
You’ll Know It When You Sense It