Intensive Learning in the Upper School

For one week each March, regular classes are suspended for “Intensive Learning,” when Middle and Upper School students and teachers engage in an in-depth study of a specific subject, often involving off-campus research. This long-standing MFS tradition — which dates back to the mid 1970s — allows teachers and students to break out of the structure of formal class periods and traditional study for a time of experiential learning. Both students and teachers are encouraged to view themselves as life-long learners and students of the world around them.

Spring 2018 Intensive Learning Options: Local

Asian Culture
The exploration of traditions, food, clothing, arts, music, and architecture of Eastern Asia, Southern Asia, Southwestern Asia, and Western Asia will include trips to local Asian communities in the area and also feature guest lecturers on campus.

Bayshore Discovery Project
At Bayshore Discovery Project in Port Norris, students learn about the Delaware Bay wetlands ecosystem and oyster industry and help restore New Jersey’s tall ship, the A.J. Meerwald. Collectively, the group provides hundreds of hours of service work – scraping, sanding, painting, and varnishing the schooner to prepare her for the next sailing season’s educational programs.

Work with a master blacksmith to learn basic techniques of making iron tools and artworks on an outdoor coal forge with space and time for crafting wood-turned objects, especially if/when weather does not permit outdoor smithing. Includes the opportunity to choose personal projects to complete.

Cabinets of Curiosities
Did you know that natural history museums and freak shows had common ancestors? That people studying the first mastodon bones found in the United States were convinced they were the bones of giants? That P.T. Barnum started out exhibiting “mermaids?” That over time natural history museums became visual essays on race, imperialism, and white supremacy? What does it mean that the structure of that earlier story still exists, even as our worldview has changed? We will visit the site of the first natural history museum in the US and speak with curators familiar with the artifacts Charles Wilson Peale displayed there. We will also visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a monument to Theodore Roosevelt, manhood, and outdated racial thinking. Considering how architecture and decisions about the display of objects shape a sense of national identity, we will design an ideal virtual exhibit for the 21st century as a final project. 

Design Thinking: Problem Solving with Purpose
Want to solve real-world problems, but don’t even know where to begin? Through a “Flashlab” we will learn a people-centered problem solving method called Design Thinking (developed at Stanford University) that requires no specific prior knowledge and focuses on innovation, creativity, empathy, and teamwork. We will then collaborate with local partners to seek solutions via the DEEPdt process (Discover, Empathize, Experiment, Produce). 

Glass Art
Have you ever been mesmerized by stained glass? Wondered how stained glass windows were created? Wanted to express your creativity through a new medium? Here is your opportunity to learn about the history of the art form, to portray “light” in this medium, and to create your own stained glass and painted glass pieces by working at a glassblowing studio in Millville, NJ.

Let’s Sew for Babies!
Whether you have strong sewing skills or have never sewn, you can provide adorable clothes for vulnerable newborns to help them on their way! We partner with the Philadelphia chapter of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), an organization that assists low-income women pregnant with their first child to achieve healthier pregnancies and births, stronger child development, and a path toward economic self-sufficiency. In addition to sewing clothes, we will visit the NFP to learn more about the program and meet the nurses who visit and provide support for the families.

Multicultural Philadelphia
Why were certain cultures attracted to certain neighborhoods? What is gentrification and how has it impacted Philadelphia? What is the role of food in different cultures? To learn more about the multicultural diversity of Philadelphia, we will research different neighborhoods and cultures; visit historic sites, museums, and restaurants; gain a better understanding of how neighborhoods have evolved over time and the impact this has had on communities; and increase the level of cultural competency at MFS and beyond.

Quilting: Fidgety Quilts for Alzheimer’s Patients
One effect of this disease that destroys people long before they die from it is that Alzheimer’s patients often fidget with their hands. After learning to use a sewing machine and to quilt, we will make fidgety quilts and donate them to a local assisted living facility, having gained a life skill (sewing), stretched our creativity, and gained a sense of accomplishment while helping others. 

Sacred Spaces in Philadelphia
We will explore places held sacred to a number of world religions – including Arch Street Friends Meeting House, a Buddhist Shrine, a Mosque, and Congregation Mikveh Israel, and also experience spirituality through art at the French Cloisters and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Social Psychology: Canine Corner
If you like dogs and are allergy-free, come join us! Coming into close contact with dogs and other animals, we will meet show dogs and working dogs, earn service hours in a shelter, and spend a day at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center which trains dogs for search and rescue, cancer detection and military and police work. We will also view current research on human-canine interactions, dog training, therapy dogs, service dogs, and canine-related laws. Design projects will focus on the design of dog spaces, dog products, dog breeds, fund-raisers for dogs, and/or a dog service business.

South Jersey Service
This program provides opportunities to volunteer and serve at a variety of organizations with varying missions as students confront the different types of needs in our region.

Spring 2018 Intensive Learning Options: Overnight

Baseball and Service Trip: Myrtle Beach, SC
Mornings we will be working at a local food bank followed by daily practice sessions, team building activities, and games at the Ripken Experience Baseball Complex.

Wilderness Leadership and Mindfulness: Shenandoah National Park, VA
While backpacking through the Shenandoah National Park, we will develop hands-on leadership and decision-making skills – navigation, campsite selection, meal preparation, and use of our “bear bags” to protect provisions – as well as the practice of mindfulness through immersion into the beauty of nature and the rhythm of the trail. 

Spring 2018 Intensive Learning Options: International

Taking in relics of ancient civilization, splendid imperial sites, and the fast pace of life in modern China with many opportunities for students to practice communicating in the target language. 

Costa Rica: Conservation, Adventure, and Service
From a home base at the Buena Vista EcoLodge in the Guanacaste region of northwestern Costa Rica, we will visit farms and attend classes in conservation, hike, go horseback riding, take a canopy zip-line tour, and swim in the thermal waters of Volcan Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Our service project at the Buena Vista School is organized by Green Action Learning Projects of Costa Rica.

Ecuador and the Galapagos
In Ecuador we will visit Quito, the capital city at the second highest altitude in the world and the one closest to the equator, and its colonial quarter; travel to The Middle of the World to stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern; spend a day at the famous Otavalo artesans’ market; drive through the Avenue of the Volcanos to see El Chimborazo, the world’s highest equatorial peak; then spend a day in Guayaquil, Sra Paolello’s hometown, before flying to the Galapagos Islands, known for their vast number of endemic species that were studied by Charles Darwin as he developed his theory of evolution by natural selection.

French Immersion: Paris and the Pyrenees
Visit Casablanca, Fes, and Marrakech to explore the old Medina, a UNESCO world Heritage site, palaces, tombs, and mosques.

Dominican Republic: Service & Sun
Putting language skills into practice and acting as cultural ambassadors for our school abroad begins with an exploration of the museums, monuments, and highlights of Paris and will include a day of language and culture activities at our French sister school. Then we will travel by train to the Pyrenees for a 4-night homestay. 

Italy and Croatia: Rome and Dubrovnik
First we will uncover the history of ancient Rome; stand in the legendary Coliseum, marvel at the Sistine Chapel, feel the heartbeat of political life in the Forum Romanum, all while enjoying the vibrant contemporary culture of the city and its delicious Italian fare. Then on to Croatia which, poised between the Balkans and Central Europe, has been passed between competing kingdoms, empires, and republics for millennia resulting in the rich cultural legacy that each has left behind. Whether visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, a sense of awe descends at the beauty of the city’s marble streets, baroque buildings, and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic.