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It’s a Wrap: An Overview of Winter Intensives
  • Intensives
  • Middle School
  • Upper School

During the fourth year of January intensives at UPrep, a student works on his robot in the Robotics intensive.

It’s a Wrap: An Overview of Winter Intensives
Intensives foster student choice and potential as learners

During the fourth year of January intensives, students engaged in the same course all day long for three weeks. “The intensives are one more opportunity for students to have choice in their educational journey at UPrep,” said Director of Upper School Joel Sohn. “They can choose to go deep into studying a subject with little distraction. This powerful learning is at the core of student-centered education and unlocking the potential in each of our students.”

Project-based work like building a robotic arm in Project Science or creating pieces in Ceramics and M.A.T.H. are more easily done within intensives and complements our semester classes well, adds Director of Middle School Susie Wu. “The amount of work a student can do while broadening their understanding is amazing,” she said. “One side benefit is that intensives come at time when students need a break from the semester routine. Three weeks is long enough to provide a new rhythm before returning to the variety of classes that the semester offers.”

While visiting the Painting intensive, Joel saw artists fully immersed in learning their craft. “I saw students there who I had no idea are artists, but they showcased talents that were being revealed in those moments because they had the opportunity and time to focus on something they wanted to explore,” he said. “The number of pieces they produced over the intensive was staggering.”

Joel adds that many of our intensives were specifically designed to be inclusive of a variety of learners and student interests. “If we value inclusion, invention, and inspiration, then I can’t think of a better example than the intensives. From Marimba to Statistics, students had so many choices and avenues for growth, that they could find inspiration easily during this intensive period,” he said. “Our faculty were highly inventive in designing these intensives to be innovative and multidisciplinary. Our faculty stretch big at UPrep, and I couldn’t be prouder of their work!”

Twenty-eight different intensive classes were offered this January (see list at end of blog) and 61 field trips were scheduled. Below, teachers share their learning objectives and students share their learnings from four of these intensives.

Middle School Graphic Novel Intensive

Zoe M., 8th grade, works on her graphic novel about a singing competition.

“During this intensive, students were introduced to several skills and concepts that are fundamental to the craft of making comic books and graphic novels. These skills were separated into two categories, writing and art, although there was significant crossover between these skillsets. The writing skills included understanding narrative structure, characterization, introduction to the hero’s journey, crafting effective dialogue, and the use of words (dialogue, narration, and sound effects) to enhance the art of the narrative. The art skills included perspective drawing, anatomy, cartooning and caricature, color theory, the use of texture, and page/panel composition. The practice of these skills served to prepare the students for their final project: a three-plus page comic book of their own.” –Veronica Salas, fine arts teacher and intensive co-teacher (co-taught by English Teacher Sean Patella-Buckley)

“I really like to draw; it’s one of my biggest hobbies. I liked that I could spend my whole day drawing. Something I learned was the hero’s journey. Every movie is based around this one story template. It’s incredible to see how different movies use this story template. It’s really simple to build a story using the hero’s journey, too.” ­–Zoe M., 8th grade

Middle School Waves and Optics Intensive

In the Waves and Optics intensive, students answered their questions by conducting experiments. 

“The Waves and Optics intensive is a lab-based course in which students become scientists to explore the fundamentals of light and sound. It is a class focused on inquiry skills and exploration. Emphasis is placed on laboratory explorations, demonstrations, discussions, and problem-solving to further advance student understanding of the content. My goal for them is to learn how to ask questions and then go about investigating their questions to develop a few answers and a lot more questions. I ask my students to use the eight practices of science and engineering, which are from the Next Generation Science Standards, as they explore light and sound. I want them to do stuff that brings their thinking to new frontiers for themselves, and to see themselves as explorers of the world.” –Tom Strouse, science teacher and intensive teacher

“I liked this intensive because I got to control the pace and what I learned. When we went to the Paramount Theatre, I learned a lot about architecture and acoustics. There was an a-ha moment every day of this class when I realized how things affect each other.” –Vivian B., 8th grade

“I liked this intensive because it was experimental. We could answer any questions we had through doing experiments. Mr. Strouse would get us the materials for any experiment that we created. We could branch off and study anything, and we could do things more than once. I learned a lot about light and color frequencies and how light travels. It might look like the same as the brightness outside, but it’s so much brighter outside because the light bounces off everything, including the sun and the clouds. It was also super fun to take photos with the pinhole cameras we made and develop the photos in the light room.” –Paige M., 8th grade

Upper School US History: Arts and Music Intensive

Students in the US History: Arts and Music intensive visited the Olympic Sculpture Park. 

“Students take this course to learn how to be detectives using art and music as lenses to understand the United States, past and present. What do art and music in their many different forms reveal to us about our history and our present? Students examine informative paintings, engravings, sculpture, and photographs to glean important stories and themes. They also study a wide range of music, including folk, ragtime, jazz, blues, rock, hip-hop, and classical. Students look at some key works, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” Civil Rights songs, and war protest songs to acquire a deeper understanding of US history. I hope that students will come away with a much greater appreciation of the messages and meanings in art and music.” –Pat Grant, history teacher and intensive teacher

“I really enjoyed learning about older landscape paintings. I never thought of those paintings as anything but pretty landscapes, so I liked learning about what the artists meant to represent, to know more than that it’s a pretty painting. I really liked the final project, where we picked six pieces of 20th century art and music and wrote about them. I enjoyed the freedom of exploring things and seeing what I found.” –Claire C., 11th grade

“I enjoyed doing more traditional classes in intensives because you get to immerse yourself in a way you don’t get the opportunity to do during the semester. I liked using a critical eye to analyze different songs and paintings and learning about different tools I can use to analyze art and music. It was fun to learn the story behind the pieces that I have seen before in the permanent collection at the Seattle Art Museum. Socially, it’s also fun to learn about students you might not have gotten to know before and learn with them.” –Katherine K., 11th grade

Upper School Filmmaking in Seattle Intensive

Students in the Filmmaking intensive shot scenes on campus. 

“The main learning objective is for students to get an introduction to the process of making a film from script writing to production and post-production. It is an opportunity for students with an interest in filmmaking to have the time, space, and support to help bring their stories to life through filmmaking. My co-teacher was Justin Etheredge, a professional filmmaker who has written and directed many shorts, as well as a feature film. For their final projects, students direct a three- to five-minute short film of their choice. They worked with an assigned group to help them in cinematography, acting, assistant directing, and sound design/lighting. Students rotated roles so they tried each part of the filmmaking process. Many of the students decided to create their own films and write their own scripts. We also provided some scripts for students to film.” Isabel Dietz Hartmann ’09, photography teacher and intensive teacher

“I took this intensive because I am thinking about becoming a filmmaker, but I have never had the opportunity or bravery to start becoming one. I learned quite a bit: how to handle cameras; how cameras work; how to plan a shoot to make it easier while I am filming and for when I am editing later; and the basics of screenwriting and editing. I also learned about all the jobs on a film set. My favorite part of class was being creative in different ways. For example, we got practice scripts and then we would go out in the school and film the practice scripts. It allowed me to be creative in my own way and, later, I could edit the film and try to make it different than you would expect it to be.” –Elena P., 9th grade

To learn more about UPrep’s intensives, check out this 2021 video, and this article by teacher Brian Johnson.

By Writer/Editor Nancy Schatz Alton


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