High School J-Term—What Is That?

High School J-Term—What Is That?
by James Moudry, High School Director

Each January (hence the J in J-Term), Post Oak High School students have the opportunity to participate in courses that they help design. The ideas for the courses come from both students and faculty members. The courses are collaboratively designed by a small group of students with a faculty member.

The goals of the J-Term experience are for students to take on increased responsibility for their own learning. Creating a path of study is challenging work and it calls on students to consider content, timing, field work, assessment, and budgeting. The faculty facilitator for each course supports the students in their work ensuring a successful course experience for everyone.  After J-Term, the students enrolled in each course will present a summary of their course experience to the school.

The work involves a complete course including class work, field experiences, and assessments. The courses are opportunities for students to pursue topics that connect directly with their interests. The student suggestions are developed over several weeks in November and December. Planning groups meet regularly during this time with their faculty facilitator to lay out the course expectations, experiences, and assessment plan.

This year, there are three J-Term courses:

This course assesses the value of a number of historically-themed games for learning about real historical processes. Students read from the works of influential historians that connect with the games and time periods. After playing and observing the games, pairs of students write up their “history” of the game. Students then do research to find out whether the historical patterns they observe in the games appear realistic in the light of the real historical record. The class culminates with presentations of results and assessments of the value of popular video games in modeling real historical events.

In this class, students learn about the basic areas of psychology: personality theory, developmental psychology, animal behavior, social psychology, abnormal psychology, and more. Students choose reading selections and make presentations on the various areas. They learn the basics of psychology research including how to conduct scientific field observation. Museum District experiences take students to The Jung Center, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Rice University’s Fondren Library, and our own main Post Oak campus.

Students in this class work as a collaborative team to design, plan, create, display, and sell a product of their choosing. Each student has a managerial position that covers the design, budget, assembling, supplies, and public relations aspects of the project. The goal is to produce a line of small products (e.g., small furniture, lamps, stationary, buttons/pins, artwork, etc.) that will be sold either in a local store or displayed in a local gallery. Students are responsible for planning the ideas and starting them on their own. This class is a fun, yet challenging experience of creating and running a small business.