Mini-Seminar Series Offers Unique Summer Learning Experience

While most of Blair’s students and faculty are enjoying time off before the start of the 2021-22 school year, a group came together over the summer holiday for a series of unique learning opportunities. Starting July 19, four Blair faculty members offered a series of mini-seminars on topics that gave students a special opportunity to learn from their teachers free of charge.

The mini-seminar series began in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic as students were unexpectedly stuck at home. Blair teachers came together to create a different way to connect and share interests with students, no matter where they might be on the globe.

This year, the virtual mini-seminars took place from July 19 to August 6. Each participating teacher chose a subject that is not traditionally taught during the year and about which they are passionate.

Science teacher Chris Thatcher, who taught Physics at the Intersection of Fear and Fun: Design Your Own Roller Coaster, noted that for most of the students who participated in his seminar, the physics terms and concepts are new. His seminar offered a look at physics in a fun, low-pressure environment. Experienced physics students were given the opportunity to further apply what they might have learned during the school year.

“Above all, I hope the students enjoyed seeing fellow students during the summer and getting a chance to interact while on-screen in our sessions,” he said.

Mr. Thatcher and his fellow seminar instructors enjoyed having a chance to meet some of the new students before they arrive on campus later this month. It is rewarding, he noted, to see their progress and motivation to optimize the great ideas they discussed and demonstrated.

Learn more about the unique mini-seminars:

The Science of Emotions

Taught by science teacher Joe Wagner, this course explored what scientists think and know about emotions. By using major findings of affective neuroscience and psychology to construct an understanding of the experience of emotion, students examined how the brain uses concepts to simulate our reality.

Physics at the Intersection of Fear and Fun: Design Your Own Roller Coaster

Students discussed what is important for a fun (and safe) roller-coaster ride while exploring the variety of roller coasters in theme parks around the world today. Led by Mr. Thatcher, students used an online program to practice with ready-made rides, then designed their own roller coaster. The program’s interactive simulation model recreated the physics of the roller coaster and tracked statistics including how passengers liked the ride.

The [Space] Odyssey Continues

Under the guidance of science teacher Doc Sayers and Annika Rollock ’14, students took a short look at the history of spaceflight to find out what it took to have “the right stuff” to put people into the cosmos. They also explored the work being done in preparation for a return to space exploration and discussed the pros and cons of current uses of space, including tourism, telecommunications, weather, climate and resource monitoring, national surveillance, and long-range human and robotic exploration.

Annika, who assisted Dr. Sayers, is currently enrolled at the University of Colorado, Boulder, studying bioastronautics, one of the institution’s specialties. Her work centers on changing the design of space habitats, such as the International Space Station, to update them with cutting-edge technology.

The Power of the Phone Camera

Taught by photography teacher Tyson Trish, this seminar had students studying the language of photography, which is further empowered by social media and interactions from around our community and our world. Students explored the power of the smartphone camera and different ways to express themselves through this medium. The group of student photographers created a virtual show with images from the week.

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