Students enjoy 2022 JanTerm despite unusual circumstances


The students of the Biodiversity visit Tampa, FL. Photo by Isabel Kase

Along one hallway in Westminster’s Barge Commons, one classroom watches a documentary on the Harlem Music Festival in 1961, while another delves into the history of African artifacts and another studies economics around the world. This variety of subjects can only be covered through JanTerm. For a period of three weeks in January, students participate in JanTerm, where they partake in intensive, project-based courses. JanTerm allows Upper School students to explore topics of interest that typically would not be covered in traditional classes. There is a wide range of JanTerm courses for students to choose from—this year, over 40 different JanTerm courses were offered, with seven involving overnight travel.

“JanTerm was designed to be experiential, cross-disciplinary, and project-based,” said interim head of the Upper School Chanley Small. “The offered courses allow students to connect to the community through travel—whether it be the local Atlanta community or a larger one.”

For many students, the travel component is their favorite part of JanTerm. By traveling, students can immerse themselves in different cultures, gain new perspectives on areas of interest, and further explore the world they live in.

I love to travel during JanTerm because it’s something I don’t normally get to experience in the regular school year,” said junior Melanie Zhang. “It’s always very mind-opening to see things from PowerPoints come to life and to meet people who are experts in the field.”

Zhang’s JanTerm course, Music and the Movies, explored the role of music in mainstream media. Participating students traveled to Los Angeles, California, to explore the role of music in Hollywood films. The trip included visits with prominent composers and filmmaking studios.

“I think it’s very educational and important to be able to see first hand the places we cover in class,” said Zhang. “I’m really grateful for all the unique travel opportunities we have during JanTerm.”

Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hindered travel for some courses (the Guatemala trip for the Global Education: Guatemala JanTerm was unfortunately canceled), many JanTerms were able to proceed with their initial plans. With extra quarantine restrictions, JanTerms traveling to England and Poland were able to keep their plans.

“The travel component of JanTerm is all about connecting with outside communities,” said Small. “Westminster has been taking necessary steps to ensure that students are able to travel safely—proper masking and weekly COVID-testing are extremely important.”

Although overnight travel JanTerms are exciting, many students also enjoyed courses that took trips closer to home. For example, students in the Chemistry in Art JanTerm (a required course for all students enrolled in AP Chemistry) visited the Savannah College of Art and Design in downtown Atlanta to learn more about the chemistry behind printmaking and paints. There, the students toured different areas of the campus art museum and used printmaking equipment to create their own paintings.

“I really enjoy learning about how chemistry is applied in everyday life,” said sophomore Nandana Avasarala. “On top of the usual theory, we’re also doing many exciting experiments and projects.”

As part of their final project, students in the AP Chemistry JanTerm used the concept of oxidation to create colorful “paintings” on niobium metal. Some of these pieces will be displayed in Barge Commons. 

During JanTerm, students that remained on-campus had opportunities for fun outside of their courses. Weekly activities and events organized by the school, such as community karaoke and food trucks, were thoroughly enjoyed by students during Community Time.

“After a few hours of class time, it’s so refreshing to take a break,” said sophomore Jaimie Koh. “I especially enjoyed having a snow cone when the Kona Ice truck came to campus.”

All in all, JanTerm serves as a chance for students to ease back into school by further exploring their unique interests. Though JanTerm courses encompass a large range of subjects—from technology, to art, to community service—they all encourage students to truly foster a love of learning.