January Term 2014

What is Jan Term?

In January 2014 WSA students participated in West Sound Academy's fifth annual Jan Term. The normal seven period class schedule was suspended and students studied just one intensive class for three weeks.  It is during Jan Term where students can put all of their academic skills into one practical application. The day was divided into four blocks – three of which were used to study the Jan Term class. The remaining block was used for enrichment activities. Students were graded and earned .5 elective credits for their Jan Term work.

Below are the courses that were offered for Jan Term 2014:

¡Sabor! Latin Culture and Culinary Arts

Instructors: Julieta Vitullo and Susan Trower

 Julieta, a native of Argentina, and Susan, our librarian, taught students how to cook some dishes that took them on an exquisite journey from Patagonia to the Caribbean, from the Río Grande to the Pampas, from the streets of Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the barrios of Madrid, Spain.

Latin American cuisine originates from five centuries of European, African and Native American cultures coming together. Students learned the stories behind each dish and the way each culture expresses itself through food. While their hands were busy preparing empanada Gallega, patatas bravas, arroz con coco, patacones plantains, paella, enchiladas and rosca de reyes, students let their minds drift to the tunes of samba and Latin hip hop.

On some days, after they tasted the fruits of their hard labor, they stepped to the dance room and put their feet to work by learning the basics of the tango.  One day the group went on a field trip to Seattle to eat lunch at the city's oldest Mexican restaurant and then shop at El Mercado Latino at Pike Place Market.


The ¡Sabor! final project was amazing!  Students decorated the Commons with garlands of papeles picados and bouquets of Mexican paper flowers, and fed the entire school a three course meal.  The finale: a show, with ¡Sabor! students dancing three Argentine tangos for a well-fed and appreciative audience!

Fear and Fantasy: Exploring Monstrosity

Instructors: Eric Bright and Gary White

Our culture is saturated with various images of the mysterious and supernatural, which simultaneously fascinate and disturb audiences whose interest in such subjects is seemingly endless.

This class explored cultural constructions of “monstrosity” in literature, film, art, and media as a way to investigate the particular preoccupations, concerns, and conflicts that exist in society at different moments in history. Students examined theories of monstrosity formulated by scholars, analyzed and reflected upon the attributes of different types of monsters, and connected these to the broader historical and social context within which they appear.

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The daily routine included reading, writing, watching excerpts from film, and discussions. Students also applied their knowledge of monstrosity to imagine and create monsters of their own through writing, music, or other artistic mediums.

Music Immersion

Instructor: Paul Burback

Paul Burback again offered a music class during Jan term this year. Students taking this class were required to have intermediate to advanced experience on at least one instrument, although being able to read music was not mandatory. Students had the opportunity to improve their music reading and playing skills on their instrument of choice. The class worked together as an ensemble, and everyone was actively involved in putting together a concert for their final performance.

The final performance was an incredible concert at Bainbridge Performing Arts on January 24, 2014!  The evening began with a short play introducing all of the WSA Jan Terms, then Music Immersion took center stage and performed an eclectic mix of styles of music. The students were actively involved in coming up with the material as well as how it was arranged.

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Making appearances:  World music, Classical, Gypsy Jazz, Rock, Movie and video game themes and much more.

Paul's wife Justine lent a hand with arranging and conducting the string instruments like violin, viola and cello. The idea of Music Immersion was, according to Paul, "to free your mind and see where the music takes you!" 

Wooden Boat Restoration

Instructors: David Miller, David Sumner-Smith and special guest instructor, Larry Kerr

Thirteen students had the opportunity to help restore a 1939 wooden sailboat known as a "day sailor" or "Scout". This class of boat dates back hundreds of years and was used by the early explorers to Puget Sound as a means of venturing into coves, inlets, and even going up rivers for short stretches. For this project the students finished off the bottom of the boat (named "The Sweetie") then put on a new deck, repaired the cowling, fixed the drop keel, installed the floor boards & seats, stained and painted, and finally rigged the boat for sailing. Students also sanded, stained, and buffed two Navarro canoes that were wooden on the insides with gel coat on the outsides.

wooden boat in workshop

Working with David Miller was Larry Kerr, a former WSA teacher and now a wooden boat builder, and David Sumner-Smith, a WSA teacher and expert sailor!

From Albus to Zabini: The Comprehensive Exploration of Harry Potter

Instructors: Jen Silvernale and D’Arcy Clements

There are some WSA students who recoil at the sight of troll bogies. They can name Ron’s favorite Qudditch team and know how to vanquish a Fireball.  These students can find the Room of Requirement and know what thestrals, acromantulas, skrewts or a Cerberus are.  These are the students who signed up for this Jan Term class! These scholars of J.K. Rowling’s literary genius enjoyed stumping their cohorts with wild H.P. trivia, created amazing – and sometimes disgusting - edible wonders, played a variety of Quidditch Games and Dementor Dash, and last, but not least, read the final book – The Deathly Hallows.  Requirements for this study of Harry Potter were: a copy of The Deathly Hallows, a willing spirit to learn new things and play (like Luna), and a love for all things Harry Potter.

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American Folk Art

Instructors: Gretchen Nordleaf, Catherine Freeman, and Sharon Moncada

In this Jan Term students celebrated traditional folk arts and put their hands and creativity to work! Each student made a fleece tie blanket, learned to crochet a baby hat to give to the Seattle Children’s hospital, sewed their own piece that was used to make a full-sized quilt that was donated to the ALIVE Women’s Shelter, made a slab pot and created some beaded jewelry. Students explored Folk Art traditions of America and took a journey through their own Family Tree. They also learned about the utilitarian but beautiful arts like quilting, knitting, crocheting and even antique wood working tools.


The American Folk Art group went on several field trips: to the Wing Luke Museum, Bainbridge Island Museum of Arts, the Chihuly Glass Museum, to Gretchen’s sister’s personal studio "the Bead Shed", and Greg Moncada’s garage to see his antique wooden hand plane collection.

Time Travel

Instructors: Kim Uyyek and Allan Batchelder

In this class students delved into the concept of time travel via literature, film, television shows, art and science.

The class examined the scientific principles behind time travel and its associated paradoxes, including Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, wormholes and more, and wrote a short story that included time travel. Students also had the opportunity to design the blue prints of their own time machines and build a 3-D prototype.

time machine

Critical discussion of such famous time traveler films as The Time Machine and Back to the Future as well as the phenomenon that is Dr. Who was another focus of the class. Their literary focus also included Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder and other time travel stories. Both instructors visited the future in preparation for this class, so on the first day they were able to tell students it was a huge success!

Independent Jan Term

Upper School students use the Jan Term Independent Proposal Form to propose a three week independent study.

No proposals are considered without a completed form with parental signature and a designated mentor. Independent Jan Terms require initiative and dedication with concrete deliverables assigned in addition to making a presentation to the school community. Students are required to attend the first block of the day but can work offsite with their mentors as well.


Additional required programs

The school day during Jan Term is 8:20 a.m. to 3:00 p.m..  The day is broken into four even blocks of time. During the first block students participate in some of these additional programming activities. Attendance is required for this additional work even if a student is conducting an independent Jan Term class.  Periodically students in grades 11 and 12 are allowed a late arrival of 10 am.

National History Day Work Period for 6th and 7th Grades

Each grade is offered one or two block periods per week to work on National History Day projects with their history teachers. 

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Extended Research Project Work Period for 8th-10th grade


Each grade is offered one or two block periods per week to work on Extended Research Projects with their teachers.

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Math Enrichment & SAT Prep


Periodically students are in their math groups to practice concepts learned, maintain continuity and to keep their math minds sharp during the break from normal classes. Our 11th grade students engaged in SAT prep as well.

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IB Higher Level Coursework


11th and 12th grade students are required to conduct some Higher Level coursework during Jan Term. 

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IB Extended Essay or Senior Project for Juniors Only Work


11th grade students are beginning the journey of their Extended Essay or Senior Project in January and are offered work periods to focus on research.

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9th Grade Health Seminar

Dianah Jackson and David Franklin teach the required health seminar for students in 9th grade during Jan term. Students receive a Pass/Fail grade for this seminar.

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Film Festival

Once per week 9th and 10th graders watch a film related to their academic studies and participate in a required activity related to the film. 


Lemonade Day

Middle School students work with Barrie Hillman on a large CAS project called Lemonade Day once per week.