Intraterm 2019 Preview

School News
December 4, 2018- Taking place during a week in February, Intraterm is a chance for kids to find inspiration, push beyond their comfort zones, and focus intensely on one subject. It is intentionally-designed and purpose-built to be an embodiement of the VMS Mission and to achieve one common goal regardless of age or interests—growth. 

“Our goal in offering Intraterm is to allow students to deeply dive into one course of study for multiple, consecutive days and completely immerse themselves,” says Upper School Director Maggie Pavlik.  “With this experience comes the idea of living in ‘the growth zone’ where students may feel a bit uneasy, but will ultimately gain skill, knowledge, character and certainly memories from their experiences.” 

Intraterm started several years ago as a term between terms for 10th graders. As a result of its wild success, it has grown each year since, and last year it officially became a school-wide program encompassing all grades K-12. Courses have ranged from cultural immersion both domestically and abroad to scientific research on our local ski hill; from specific topics like dog sledding to the vast and broad departure point of “Oceans.”  And each year, the offerings seem to step it up a bit, setting an already very high bar just that much higher. 

So what, exactly, have VMS faculty members dreamed up for 2019? Here’s just a small sampling. 

Upper School

“There's quite a bit new to the Upper School offerings this year,” says Maggie Pavlik, the director of the Upper School.  

Students in the Upper School will have the opportunity to take a course called “Digital Detox” where they will venture to Taos, New Mexico with Ms. Littman and Ms. Verratti on a mindful mission focused on being “present.” Students will practice yoga and mindfulness, disconnect from their devices, and perform service work with local non-profits. 

The Upper School will also be partnering with Where There Be Dragons, a Boulder-based experiential education company, on a trip to Northern Thailand led by Ms. Starr and Ms. Trumpower. The course is called “Human Ecology” and students will travel from Bangkok to a small Karen village in the north where the Thai locals have intentionally severed all technological ties to the outside world. They live without television, phones and even internet connection. 

There’s also an avalanche level one course with Mr. Fogel and Mr. Sweeney that is available to Upper School students. It’s an evolution of previous years’ “Winter safety course” where students will receive level one avalanche certification through the American Institute of Avalanche Safety and Education. 

And, while there is always a college trip available as an Upper School Intraterm program, this year they’re making it a road trip with Ms. Ferrara and Ms. Hooper. They’ll drive up the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco, visiting various different colleges along the way and taking advantage of opportunities on the road as they present themselves. They’ve even planned to meet with some VMS alumni along the way to hear firsthand about the transition from VMS to college life. 

And while Intraterm trips are often extensions of a teacher’s expertise in a given subject area, it is equally a means for faculty to share passions that lie outside their classrooms. One shining example is this year’s Sailing and Stewardship course offered in conjunction with Outward Bound and that will take students to the Bahamas. Lizzy Reed, who came to VMS this year from the Island School in the Bahamas has paired with English Teacher Laurie Mortensen to create a course where students will develop basic sailing skills while exploring local maritime and cultural history in the Bahamas. And they will do this aboard a traditional 30 foot sailing vessel that has no motor or cabin, sleeping above deck and propelling themselves with oars when winds die down. Rugged, right?

“The Upper School faculty continues to amaze me. They are always ready for an adventure, and constantly thinking about how they can bring some of their expertise to their students,” notes Pavlik. “They recognize that an experience like this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students and continue to create fantastic courses so the experiences don’t become stale.” 

Middle School 

Middle schoolers also have some new and exciting options as well, says Kabe ErkenBrack, the director of the Middle School. 

For students interested in building and design, there will be a 3D design and printing course with Mr. Sinnott where they will learn how to create inexpensive, working prosthetics for children that allow for easy replacement as they grow. Or, if they join the “Makerspace Bike Lab” they will have the opportunity to convert a standard fat bike to a pedal-assist year round commuter under the guidance of Mr. Chambers. 

Middle school students interested in writing can take their passion for words one of two ways. The creative writing course led by Ms. Canada Kelly will venture to Aspen to talk with authors and practice writing creatively on their own. “21st Century Storytelling,” will focus on how to craft distilled and targeted narratives through social media with Mr. Mill. 

There will also be a course with Mr. Hustad in Toki Pona, a 100-word language that emphasizes linguistic simplicity and profound communication; a survival skills course where they’ll learn the fundamentals of roughing it in the wilderness, and staying safe in the backcountry led by Mr. Jessup and Mr. Ecker; and a “Science of Skydiving” course led by Mr. Falk where students will get to go to an indoor skydiving facility in Denver to explore the physics and physical nuances of skydiving. 

But, perhaps most exciting for Middle School students, this year they have the option to take a course abroad in Peru with Mr. Felser and Ms. Zook Gibbs. VMS has partnered with the World Leadership School (WLS), a non-profit in Boulder, to create a unique experience tailor-made for VMS students. “We’re partnering with WLS for three reasons,” says ErkenBrack, “First, they understand mountain kids and are building a trip geared for our adventurous student body. Second, they focus on cultural competency and learning from the communities they visit by working with them, not just completing a service project. Finally, they have a unique leadership curriculum that aligns with our school’s goal of helping students identify a purpose or passion in their lives.” 

Students will have a chance to improve their language skills in an authentic setting and grow as global citizens. They will step outside their comfort zones and live with Peruvian families in Ollantaytambo in the Andes, visit Incan ruins like Purmamarca and Machu Picchu, and volunteer with local non-profit organizations. 

Lower School

2019 also marks the second year that the Lower School is participating in Intraterm programs. And while last year, they were making history, this year, they'll be exploring it, going back in time to the the Jurassic period.

“Our driving question will be, ‘How did Colorado's ecosystem change between the formation of the earth and the time when dinosaurs roamed the region?’” says Lower School Director, Kristin Douthitt. “We will also work in cross-age groups for the week so that students have opportunities to hone their collaboration and communication skills with each other.” And, as a special treat, a local expert from Fossil Posse, will be visiting the Lower School Intraterm students to give them a firsthand look at actual Colorado dinosaur fossils.  

The Big Picture(s)

“Intraterm embodies every aspect of the VMS Mission,” says Maggie Pavlik, reflecting on the overall goal of the program. "It is rapport-based, builds cross-age community, develops character, and inspires curiosity amongst our students that is the catalyst for lifelong learning.”

Intraterm begins February 4, 2019. Look for photos and stories in the March issue of Tuesday News Monthly