Brooklyn private independent school

Spring Intensive Course Descriptions

Our six Global Spring Intensives in 2023 are listed here.


The Aesthetics of Blackness: Black Pop Cultural History

This Spring Intensive will examine modern African American culture and identity with a focus on how mass media has enabled and disrupted the social construction of “Blackness.” This course will explore Black pop cultural history by viewing selected films and movies, reading short stories and spending two days visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Howard University and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. We will also spend some time doing research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Through our class activities, trips and projects, we will start what we endeavor to be life-long conversations about the roots and impact of popular Black culture.

Beyond 9 to 5: The Modern Working World

So much of young people’s lives and education is centered on a vague idea of their future as adults. But what does that future actually look like? It turns out the working world looks very different for different people. In this Spring Intensive, we’ll be meeting with and learning from professionals across the working world, from business owners to caregivers; doctors to social media experts. We’ll also be discussing work-life balance and how to apply these skills to student’s lives now. Students will engage in reflective work that will help them identify their skills and interests in order to consider what careers may be in their future.

Broadcasting: Neighborhoods in Transition

What demographic trends accompany gentrification? How is development transforming specific neighborhoods in Brooklyn economically, culturally and racially? Who benefits and who loses when a neighborhood transforms? Are you interested in podcasting?

Using the development of Industry City in Sunset Park as a case study, we will explore these questions and more. The process will begin by gathering research derived from academic books, podcasts, documentary films, current periodicals, and academic research databases on the topic of gentrification and development in Brooklyn. We will then travel to the offices of key figures in development, public housing, city government, community organizing and more to interview them and hear the pros and cons of neighborhood transformation.

Conscious Cuisine

How do we prepare meals and menus? What makes food taste good? What factors should I consider when I choose what to cook and eat? During this spring intensive, we will practice a range of basic cooking skills, identify and develop our palates, and research current issues around food sourcing, production and consumption, in order to become more critical and conscious consumers of food. For our final project we will conceive and cook a full dinner menu. Along the way we’ll consider: what is healthy eating? What are the connections between climate and food production? We’ll do small group research projects on topics such as: the impact of cultural and religious practices on nutrition/ cooking practices, and the significance of food that is local, raw, plantbased, seasonal, organic, culturally appropriate, or diet-specific.

The Devil Designs Prada?: Behind the Scenes in the Design Industry

Have you ever wondered who designs our world and how their decisions impact your life? How do they grab your attention? Come up with new trends? Make and transport their products? We will go behind the scenes and meet with top NY designers in graphics/media, fashion design/products, and architecture to see how designers create the objects, spaces and messages all around us. Getting to know the human beings in these roles will demystify these professions and help us to think critically about how we are constantly impacted by design.

The Epic Adventure of Devised Theater: Reinventing The Odyssey

Does the idea of making a giant cyclops out of things you might find in the recycling bin sound like fun to you? What about acting out a scene from the Odyssey using action figures? You’ve heard about building a set, but what about building a play? In this intensive, we’ll devise a piece of theater (loosely) based on Homer’s The Odyssey as part of the Middle School play. Our days will consist of interpreting the text, moving, and creating (this is where the cyclops comes in), and then teaching whatever we’ve made to middle school actors. First, we’ll explore how we can use this ancient text to say something about our modern existence. Then, we’ll take whatever we make and hone our teaching and directing skills. Along the way, we may perform pieces of the production ourselves.

The Evolution of Hip Hop: From Social Justice to Pop Culture

Since its emergence in the 1970s in New York, hip hop has developed into a billion-dollar industry with a broad range of cultural legacies and commercial products. In The Evolution of Hip Hop: From Social Justice to Pop Culture, we will examine the historical, social, and political roots of hip hop culture and music. We will look at its beginnings in urban black and Latinx communities, its contributions to popular music and cultural expression, and its place in a larger global commercial exchange. In addition to analyzing hip hop lyrics, the course will look at DJing, breakdancing, graffiti, advertising, fashion, music videos, sports, and other cultural forms influenced by hip hop. We will contribute music to listen to and analyze, and expect class members to do the same.

Illuminated Manuscripts: Manuscript Culture from the Sacred to the Satanic

In his prophetic poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790), the English poet William Blake describes a journey into hell to witness the creation of a visionary book: adorned with “gold, silver and precious stones” and gilded with rivulets of “metals melted into living fluids,” the book will transmit knowledge “from generation to generation” and “display the infinite which was hid.” But Blake’s vision was nothing new: he was in fact describing the Illuminated Manuscript, a literary-artistic form which dates back to the early Middle Ages. Often produced by monastic scribes in Christian monasteries, these breathtaking manuscripts supplemented and surrounded written text with ornate illustrations, elaborate borders, and intricate marginalia.

In this course, we’ll encounter and explore the production and rich history of these manuscripts. Our journey will take us from medieval Florence and Renaissance England to nineteenth-century Russia and Nazi Germany to modern Paris and the Morgan Library*. Along the way we’ll study and discuss recipes, songs, stories, and battle strategies from historic manuscripts (including how to throw glass bottles full of venomous snakes onto the deck of an enemy ship), learn to decipher the inscrutable handwriting of Renaissance scribes, and of course create our own illuminated manuscript books. Ultimately we’ll come to a richer appreciation of the vibrant and living history of these works. In probing these documents of the past and producing our own, we’ll forge both a critical and creative link with the ephemeral and the enchanting world of text and image: of world made word and word made world.

Marine Biology: Impacts of a Changing World

Did you know that scientists have mapped and explored 90% of Mars but only about 20% of Earth’s ocean floor? Are you aware that 70% of the oxygen you breathe is produced by photosynthetic marine organisms? Oceans are a source of mystery, beauty, and incredible power. Throughout our history, humans have pondered the mystifying realm of the seas through literature, mythology, and art. Scientists have long sought to understand the physical and biological inner workings of the oceans. It is estimated that over 91% of marine species are unclassified and yet we know marine life is facing a barrage of daily threats. There are approximately 137 marine organisms on the endangered species list and the number is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. This course will help you gain insight into marine ecosystems and the challenges they face. In addition, you will learn about the work being developed to preserve and protect this precious resource. Students in this course will gain understanding through a wide variety of hands-on activities, readings, films, and field trips. Together we’ll hear from scientists, college students and others who have dedicated their lives to studying and saving this big blue marble!

The Melting Pot and The Salad Bowl: Food and the History of Immigration in New York City

There are more than 3.3 million immigrants in New York; collectively, our city’s residents speak at least 800 languages. New York City’s government calculates that, in the city’s 25,000 restaurants, immigrants make up about two-thirds of the cooks and half the servers. Our spring intensive will explore the connections between these extraordinary facts by examining how different communities use food both to stay connected to their native countries and to give outsiders glimpses of their cultures.

In recent years, academic disciplines including history, sociology, and anthropology have developed serious ways of thinking about how food reflects history and culture, and we will use their lenses to frame our study of several NYC immigrant communities. We will also spend time discussing the business of food: how have immigrants used restaurants to gain an economic foothold in this city and country? Just as importantly, how has being in the United States shaped the food we associate with different cultures? For example, it’s well-known that the Chinese food most popular in the United States is not the same food that most Chinese people eat at home. And where is the line between cultural influence and appropriation when it comes to food, which has always adapted and incorporated new influences over time?

Ornithology 101: The Pigeon and Beyond

What is it that captivates so many people about birds? Their beauty? Their ability to fly? Their songs? In this course we will look closely at birds and learn about their behavior, evolution, anatomy, and physiology, as well as how to identify them. But birds are also in the news: In the past half-century, North America has lost nearly 30% of its bird population. Why? What makes birds so vulnerable? What can we learn from them? We will examine bird migration--and how cities interfere with it--as well as climate change and its effects on bird populations. We will learn how the lowly pigeon plays an important role in helping scientists identify which parts of our city have dangerous levels of lead in the environment. And we’ll also look into what we city-dwelling humans can do to help the avian wildlife around us.

Poetry in Performance

What can language say, and what is inexpressible? How can poetry help us to see the world, and what happens when we perform and witness poems in person? In this intensive we will read poetry, write poetry, and perform poetry in as many places (school? the subway? Greenwood Cemetery?) and in as many ways (whispered? sung? choral? Morse Code?) as we can imagine, all in order to deepen our relationship with language, and intensify our relationship with the world around us. Students will write and perform pieces inspired by published poems, by places, and by each other, and will work alone and in small and large groups to create immersive poetry performances for each other and for guests who visit our class. We are excited by the many prompts we’ve thought of to get you started as poets, performers, and audience members—but we are even more excited for you to surprise yourselves and each other.

Politics in America: the 2020 Elections and Beyond

In Politics in America: the 2020 Elections and Beyond, we will build out our understanding of the democracy we live within—from discussing why it was founded the way it was to examining how it currently operates and discovering ways we can be engaged and active citizens today. With impeachment hearings, an upcoming 2020 Presidential election and a NY gubernatorial race, our local and national future hangs in the balance. Our goal is to help students understand the process our country will go through as we move towards the November elections and create a knowledge base such that students can have informed conversations about our democratic system, the rhetoric used by politicians and news media, and the role that we each have in these processes.

Ultimately, by the end of the two weeks we hope students will be able to answer these questions: Who’s running for president? Who represents me? How can I participate in democracy? This is a great class if you love and follow politics and if you’ve never followed it and finally want to dip in to the subject. We’ll learn from one another!

What Is A Photograph - Beyond Basic Photography

Photography is capable of much more than representing a particular moment in time. We are presently at a period when photography is shifting effortlessly between platforms and media. This course involves experimenting with and investigating a variety of artistic techniques and media. Students will explore the standard definition of a photograph, and expand its meaning by answering the following questions, using their knowledge of film and digital photography: How has the definition of “photograph” changed in the contemporary art scene? How can I manipulate the images of film and digital photography to create innovative photographs with good compositions? How do I go beyond the wet and dry darkroom to create or manipulate a photograph? What techniques can I incorporate from other media to create my photographs?

Woodworking in the Studio

Woodworking in the Studio is a course designed to give students a basic understanding of wood working techniques and skills. You will learn how to use a variety of tools, such as a table saw, router, drill, drill press, band saw, lathe, orbital sander, belt sander, and more. You’ll learn how to make accurate measurements and cuts, as well as the importance of finishing your piece. A large portion of the course will also be geared towards design — you will be responsible for designing, creating, and finishing at least three projects. Designs will be generated with pen and paper as well as CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software. This course is for students with or without previous woodworking experience, but is geared towards students who are able to come up with their own designs and are motivated to build several pieces of wooden furniture. Students are encouraged to bring their own ideas and designs in on Day 1.