At Elgin Academy, you’ll hear students and faculty talking about January Term or J Term. They mean the same thing: a month set aside for Upper School students to engage in one of a variety of activities. Students see January as an interlude between 1st and 2nd semesters, a time to expand their intellectual and geographic horizons by taking a study/travel course or test drive a career with an internship.
A History of Organized Crime in America
This course will look at the development and historical drivers of organized crime in America. Students will learn the history of numerous crime groups and their introduction to the United States. Students will learn the connections between historical events and the rise and fall of crime throughout the decades. Students will also explore the effect organized crime has on pop culture, government, and industry. Why is it so glamorized in American media?
Are you interested in graffiti, murals, and public art? Then Mural Making is the J-Term for you! This course allows students to learn about murals, their history, and their importance as a form of art that brings people together and impacts a community. In this course, students will find a location on campus or in the Elgin community to partner with and create a mural for. This will give students experience working with and creating art for a client as they become more aware of the visual art in the local community. Students will learn about the technical restraints and freedoms within the art of mural making as well as the visual symbolism that provides contextual meaning. This course will include a Chicago street art tour experience as students learn about the history of murals in big cities.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Want to begin to “master the elements of good cooking”? Using Samin Nosrat’s book and Netflix mini-series as a guide, students will learn how salt, fat, acid and heat are the four main components to any successful dish. Students will examine different sources for all of these elements and, though cooking and taste-testing, learn how invaluable they are in the kitchen. The science behind cooking will be covered as students will explore concepts such as what differentiates the various types of salts and how osmosis can affect cooking. These concepts will be reinforced through trips to local stores and restaurants.
Everyone talks about “mindfulness” and “being present in the moment,” but how do you do that? This course will focus on building practical stress reduction and anxiety management skills that will serve students now in the Upper School and into their college experience. While practicing yoga and meditation every day, students will discover the rich history of yoga and its origin in ancient India, how yoga has influenced life and culture in the East, the story of its journey to the West, and how yoga is impacting today’s Western society in terms of holistic health care. With chronic stress being the number one cause of life-threatening illnesses and injuries, students will begin to make connections between the mind, body, and soul, and how the nourishment and awareness of all three can help one move closer toward their healthiest authentic selves. This January Term hopes to inspire students to turn their focus inward and consider who they are, what is their purpose, and in what ways might they contribute to the world. We hope students will come away from this experience with a heightened awareness of issues such as coping with stress, holistic healthcare, and the impact of reflection through movement and meditation.
Literature of the American Landscape
During this class, we will read novel excerpts, poetry, essays, plays, and even watch films that explore how the American landscape and geography shape literature, culture and society, culminating in a week-long train journey around the western United States. We will explore what it means to be from a place or in a place and how the spaces around us shape who we are and how we think. We will read from the writings of Rick Bass, John Muir, Lewis and Clark, Norman Mclean, Joan Didion, Terry Tempest Williams, Robert Hass as well as research the communities that we will travel through during our 5,400 mile train trip. The final week will be a train journey from Chicago to Seattle, then Seattle to San Francisco, and finally San Francisco to Chicago, during which we will see the majesty of the Big Sky of Montana, the majestic Cascade Mountains, the forests of Oregon, the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the stark yet beautiful deserts of Nevada and Utah and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Additional Cost: $2,000
“For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”
This class will explore many of the topics that surround our greatest national treasures, our public lands: the national parks, monuments, trails, and historic sites of the United States. We will focus on the history of the parks and contemporary issues facing the parks today, including land use, tourism, conservation, and more. We will also learn about the specific ecological and historical significance of the sites we plan to visit during the J-Term course. We will gather our knowledge from many sources, including books, films, debates, discussions, and guest speakers. The course will conclude with a multi-day trip to south Florida, in which 4 separate national sites can be visited (Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, and Dry Tortugas National Park).
Additional Cost: $1,500
Students who express interest in the Student Internship program must be self-starters who have a passion for or interest in learning more about a particular career, business, or organization. Students will spend each day of January Term off-campus, working with an individual (excluding immediate family members) or an organization. Elgin Academy will not provide transportation for students to and from their internships. The time spent at an internship should be equivalent to a typical school day.
Students are responsible for making their own arrangements, but they will receive the guidance and support of the Student Internship Coordinator. During January, students will submit a daily electronic journal entry at the end of each day. In addition, each student will articulate his or her personal experience and evaluate his or her work during the internship through a longer written piece and an oral presentation at the end of the experience.
This offering is available to seniors and juniors only; space may be limited.
The Comic Books course will focus on the creation, history, and cultural impact of comic books from the early 20th Century until today. We will learn about a wide variety of comic book publishers, writers, artists, editors and others who are/were involved in the creation of comic books. Opportunities will be provided for students who are interested in writing and drawing their own comic books. Over the course of this class we will read a considerable number of different comics from various publishers and different time periods.
Cooking and Cultures
Food is all around us: it is one of the most basic parts of our lives and helps us feel at home. At the same time, how and why food is made can sometimes be a mystery. In this course, students will develop basic cooking skills and learn about the basics of menus and nutrition, as well as about the business of food and restaurants while exploring the cultural background of certain foods. In the first week, participants will spend one week talking about the fundamentals of cooking, looking at a staple such as bread, and coming to understand the varieties of bread, the reasons different forms of bread developed, and how different breads are made. Approximately one week will be spent considering how to make a multi-course meal or construct a menu. The final week will consider the cultural realities that make different cuisines unique. There will be approximately two field trips each week to local grocery stores for supplies as well as to restaurants around the Chicagoland area to sample cuisine and discuss the business of food with entrepreneurs and chefs.
Have you ever wondered how crimes are solved? What exactly are crime scene investigators looking for when they are examining evidence? How is this evidence used in a court of law? In this course, students will learn how to examine and document a crime scene and investigate a wide range of evidence including fingerprints, hair, fiber, blood, ballistics, and handwriting. Through conversations with experts in the field and through practical lab experiences, students will immerse themselves in all branches of forensic investigation. Disciplines from anthropology to psychology to computer science to linguistics all contribute to make a strong legal case or refute one. This hands-on course will study real-life cases from the origins of forensic science to cases currently in the news. Finally, we will analyze a variety of evidence pertaining to on-campus “criminal” activity! The study of forensics allows for a major emphasis on complex reasoning, critical thinking, and creative synthesis, skills that are indispensable in any discipline.
Hard-Boiled Fiction and Film
Hard-boiled crime fiction often features as the protagonist a private detective who has been hired by a woman in trouble and the police either can’t or won’t help her. Of course, there’s more to the case than the client lets on. He’s dealing with killers, so, the private detective acts tough and talks that way, too. He’s a loner, who has a code of honor that may not be strictly legal, but it is moral. He can handle threats and take a beating, so don’t expect him to give up a case or betray a client. He’s a smart-aleck and talks that way. Battling a corrupt political or criminal organization, he prevails because he’s true to his code. Gritty as sandpaper, these stories took the detective out of the parlor and into the city streets. We will read a few of these novels, such as those by Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye, The Big Sleep) and Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man), and watch the movies inspired by them. We will look at how the hard-boiled private detective influenced comic-book characters, such as Batman and The Watchmen’s Rorschach. We may also read a novel or two from the related genre of the roman noir, where the self-destructive protagonist is not a detective, but instead a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator of a crime. Such books (and movies) could include Dorothy Hughes’s In A Lonely Place or James Cain’s Double Indemnity. Some afternoons we will play whodunit board games. Field trips will consist of one or two escape room experiences.
Identity: Portrayal of Self Through the Fine Arts
Many artists use their work to express, explore, and question ideas about identity.
Identity is the way we perceive and express ourselves. Factors and conditions that an individual is born with, whether physical, psychological, or cultural, often play a role in defining one’s identity. However, many aspects of a person’s identity change throughout his or her life. People’s experiences can alter how they see themselves or are perceived by others. Conversely, their identities also influence the decisions they make: Individuals choose their friends, adopt certain fashions, and align themselves with political beliefs based on their identities. Artists also often explore the idea of group identity-- expressions of how people see themselves as part of a nationality, a religion, a region, or other cultural sub-group.
In this interdisciplinary course, students will address the idea of identity by questioning commonly held assumptions about stereotypes, self-awareness, and what it means to be an artist. Students will both create art and experience the art of others, and make connections between the two. Students will evaluate and analyze the artistic processes of multiple artists from different artistic spectrums. From this exploration, students will gain a better understanding of different modalities of expressing identity. The classroom component will include experimentation in various fine arts disciplines, centered around the theme of identity. Students will be focused on the process of creating, whether that be a painting, a scene, or a song. These classroom experiences will be paired with field trips to see professionals working at their craft at Chicago theatres, concert halls, museums, and workshops, as well as observing the work of their high school peers at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.
Natural and Artificial Intelligence
Talk about artificial intelligence seems to be everywhere these days. Businesses all want it, some people dread it, and others can’t wait for it to arrive. But what is it, anyway, and how is it related (if at all) to human intelligence? When will it come, or is it here already? Should we be excited or worried? How will it affect our lives? In this course, we will consider all of these questions. We will investigate the meaning of AI, and try to get a better understanding of the current state of the art, and of the likely future. We will examine where and how it’s being used today. We will look at how writers in the past thought about it, and see how accurate their predictions were. We will even try to build our own AI device. (Note: this is not a computer science class, so no prior programming experience is necessary.)
Northern Minnesota Wilderness Experience
We will spend the first two weeks of this class exploring the history of the Great Lakes region: geologic/glacial; Native inhabitants; and French explorers/fur traders. We will then travel to the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota, where we will stay in a cabin. We plan to depart school early Monday morning, January 20 (Martin Luther King Day) and return to school late Friday evening, January 24.
While in northern Minnesota, we will engage in outdoor activities will allow us to experience how Natives and others may have traveled in cold winter conditions, including snowshoe hiking, cross country skiing, and dog sledding. Equipment for outdoor activities will be provided, although students will need to provide personal winter clothing.
Additional Cost: $1,000
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
This course will be enjoyable for anyone ranging from hardball novices to passionate baseball enthusiasts. We will gain a better understanding of the game of baseball and its influence on our society. We will learn about the history of Major League Baseball as well as other leagues that have existed in the past. Prominent historical players will be discussed for their influence on the game as well as in our larger culture. Students will also learn the mathematics behind the immense world of statistical analysis and the “business” of baseball, including the memorabilia market. This course will culminate with a week-long trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Additional Cost: $1,000
Ocean Studies / SCUBA
SCUBA diving is an intense and amazing aquatic experience, allowing divers to see fish, rays, coral, and shrimp in their native habitat. Students taking the Ocean Studies class will learn SCUBA skills as well as valuable background on reef ecology and conservation.
The first two weeks of this class will focus on two components: science/ math education and local pool training for SCUBA. The classroom component will include discussion of coral reef ecology and raising student awareness of the critical health of coral reefs. Reefs are also a focal point for recreational diving and a tourism opportunity that not many are able to experience. We will also learn about decompression tables and the mathematics involved in the physical impact of SCUBA diving on the body.
The second major component of the first two weeks will be local pool instruction on open water swimming and SCUBA skills. Students interested in this course should be comfortable in water, but only need basic swimming skills. Advanced Open Water Certification will be available for students who are already SCUBA certified through PADI.
The course culminates with an educational dive trip to Belize where students will complete their SCUBA certification and work with a local reef ecology group including participation in reef conservation efforts. When back in Illinois, students will complete a final project to raise awareness for reef and ocean health.
Additional Cost: $3,500
Students who express interest in the Student Internship program must be self-starters who have a passion for or interest in learning more about a particular career, business, or organization. Students spend each day of January Term off campus, working with an individual (excluding immediate family members) or an organization. Elgin Academy will not provide transportation for students to and from their internships. The time spent at an internship should be equivalent to a typical school day.
Students are responsible for making their own arrangements, but they will receive the guidance and support of the Student Internship Coordinators. Students will submit a daily electronic journal entry at the end of each day. In addition, each student will articulate his or her personal experience and evaluate his or her work during the internship through a longer written piece and an oral presentation at the end of the experience.