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Creative Academics


J-Term (January Term) is an innovative ten-day program that provides students with the opportunity to dedicate themselves to a particular course or project. It offers something of interest for everyone and is an excellent way for students to pursue personal passions and explore intellectual and academic curiosities.

There are three options for J-Term: In-depth and fascinating on-campus courses, organized trips, or participation in an internship.

  • In 2018 On-Campus offerings vary from the arts, to mathematics, to engineering, to organic chemistry to name a few areas.
  • The 2018 trips include genetics research at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine.
  • Internships provide yet another option for students. Participants are paired with mentors in a job-shadow environment. This allows these students to delve into the areas of their own choosing from diverse fields such as medical, research, engineering, education, law etc. Thus one of the strongest features of J-Term is that it allows students the opportunity to customize and shape their experience.

MSSM J-Term Offerings 2018

Maine School of Science and Mathematics

J-Term 2018 Course Descriptions

Off Campus Options

Internships - Rhodes (Millie)

During the two-week J-Term period, participating students are paired up with mentors in a job shadow environment which allows these students to delve into the fields of their own choosing. Not only does this provide invaluable experience in at least one area of potential interest, it also identifies the student as having a passion for learning that goes beyond the classroom.

The MSSM is pleased to offer suggestions and assistance in pinning down arrangements, but students and their families are responsible for the bulk of the logistics, including locating an internship site, a mentor sponsor, transportation, and lodging.

Inclusive Dates: Monday, January 8 through Friday, January 19, 2018 (Alternative dates may be available upon request.)

It is expected that students will participate in their internships from 9:00 am through 3:30 pm each weekday with a break for lunch. However, it is understood that some internships may require flexibility regarding these hours. In this case, students will be required to have their approximate hours approved by Mrs. Rhodes prior to the start of J-Term. Students interested in completing additional hours are more than welcome to do so. This could include starting before 9:00 or ending after 3:30 each day, adding extra hours on the weekend in between the two weeks of J-Term, or beginning the internship anytime after the end of the fall semester and prior to the official start of J-Term. While spending as much time as possible on site is extremely beneficial and strongly encouraged, it is important to maintain the integrity of the official hours of 9:00 am through 3:30 pm each weekday.

Prerequisites: An exploratory spirit. Minimum sophomore standing.
Limit: None

Genetics Research at the Jackson Lab (Eustis-Grandy)

Spend J-Term 2018 at the world-renowned genetics research facility, The Jackson Laboratory, located in Bar Harbor, Maine. If you’re interested in genetics, and would like the opportunity to play with some high-tech toys, then this is the J-Term for you. This highly hands-on class will focus on human personalized medicine and another topic still to be determined. Personalized medicine involves developing customized approaches to the treatment/prevention of disease, utilizing a thorough analysis of a person’s genome as a starting point.

Prerequisites: previous Biology class, or currently enrolled in Biological Processes or Anatomy & Physiology. Not recommended for students currently taking Genetics.
Costs: actual cost will depend upon the number of students, but class needs at least 8- 10 students to run. With 10 students cost would be approximately $800 per student. Fee will cover room and board at High Seas (the mansion the JAX summer students stay in) for the two week J-Term period, and lab supplies. A deposit of $200 is needed by Nov. 1.
Enrollment: need a minimum of 8 students to run the class, 10 preferred

Marine Research in the Bahamas (Hamlin & Brigman)

Spend J-Term 2018 at the Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. CEI conducts research in the fields of tropical marine and terrestrial sciences, resource management, aquaculture, and sustainable design. Participants will work on a research project with CEI scientists and MSSM faculty, while also enjoying warm weather, beautiful scenery, and a variety of outdoor activities. Previous projects have included catching and tagging sea turtles, studying bonefish, collecting blood samples from sharks, and dissecting lionfish. In addition to the research aspect, students will have plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, biking, hanging out on the beach, and exploring the island. Jan 3-17 (Two weeks!) Visit for more information.

Prerequisites: none
Costs: actual cost will depend upon the number of students and airline prices. Estimated cost is $3400. A deposit of $1000 is needed by Oct 15th (I need to clear this date with CEI & Business office)
Enrollment: 8-12 students

On Campus Options

Science Fiction in Film and Literature (Berube)

Why is science fiction so popular? In this course we will explore the science fiction genre. As we delve into this genre, we will examine the concept of the futuristic theme, the quest for eternal youth, the Tarzan syndrome, time travel, and how an optimistic or pessimistic influence reveals itself in a story. We will watch famous works such as ET, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds and others. We will also read short stories which may include “The Mortal Immortal” by Mary Shelley, “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Star” by H.G. Wells and “The Stolen Bacillus” also by Wells just to name a few.

After every movie or story, we will discuss the effectiveness of each piece. Students will discuss the story/movie and analyze the literary elements as well as the science fiction elements. Once we have learned the specific criteria that are required to make an effective sci-fi story, students will collaborate and write a short science fiction story to share with the class.

Prerequisite: A love for the world beyond.
Maximum: 12 students

Weight Training and Fitness Programming (Sullivan)

Trying to figure out how to train in the gym to improve your sport, or just trying to get in better shape? Weight training and fitness is a course designed for those who would like to be active every day during the J-term. The course is open to all athletic levels and will be tailored to those levels. The course is designed to offer the participant a way to complete a realistic fitness goal in two weeks, learn about various types of weight-lifting, running and walking as well as introducing nontraditional athletic skills. The class will be active in directed training during the mornings, break for lunch and then there will be opportunity for group sport, inside and or outdoors.

Prerequisite: none
Maximum: 10

Ateliers d’art et d’artisanat/ Arts and Crafts Workshops (Desneiges)

Français : On fait des projets artistiques amusants tout en français. On étudie les grands artistes, les mouvements artistiques, les techniques, la culture et l'histoire de l'art. En faisant un portfolio de nos oeuvres à travers nos deux semaines ensemble, nous nous préparons pour notre exposé communautaire ainsi que pour notre galérie d'art. Vous aurez le choix de travailler dans les petits groupes qui font plusieurs activités différentes.

Conditions préalables: Minimum de deux années de français complétées avec une note finale de B ou plus. Maximum de 16 étudiants.

English: We will be making fun and artistic creations conducted entirely in French. We will study some of the great masters, artistic movements, technique, culture and a bit of art history. In doing our work we create an artist’s portfolio made up of our artistic works over the course of our two week workshops which will culminate in a gallery exposition open to our school community. Students will work in small groups on a variety of different projects and themes.

Prerequisites: Minimum of two years of French completed with a grade of B or higher.
Maximum: 16 students.

Organic Chemistry (Dougan)

This course is an experimentally based introduction to organic chemistry. A one hour lecture will be followed by an experiment involving synthesis or isolation of a compound. This is a very hands-on J-term requiring at least a B average in the first semester of honors chemistry or an overall average of a B for students that have completed a year of honors chemistry. Techniques that will be explored include: thin layer and gas chromatography, use of a separatory funnel, fractional distillation, refluxing and microscale synthesis. Lab reports are required as well as a PowerPoint presentation. This is an excellent course for students with an interest in medical careers, chemical engineering and chemistry.

Prerequisite: at least a B average in the first semester of honors chemistry or an overall average of a B for students that have completed a year of honors chemistry.
Maximum: 10 students

Atmospheric Science (Barrans)

Why are most prominent wineries in France, California, Chile, Australia, and South Africa? Why is Maine colder than Vancouver? Is global warming real? How does a meteorologist make a weather forecast, and can we trust it? Will it snow tomorrow? Is predicting the course of a hurricane different than making a local forecast? In this brief course, you'll learn about important atmospheric variables, what they mean, and why they matter. You will access atmospheric data and interpret it, so that you can explain and predict the weather here and elsewhere. May include visits to the National Weather Service facility in Caribou.

Prerequisites: Sophomore standing or above.
Maximum: 12

Debate Madness: Current Issues and Rhetoric (Melega)

Course Overview:

As a national and global community, we face an ever increasing number of decisions to be made on controversial topics. More often than not, these issues have two sides (if not more) with individuals passionately arguing for both. In this course, students will become well versed in a variety of the more pressing issues of our time. Once students have acquired a content mastery, they will charge up their intellectual batteries for battle on the debate floor. The task will be to convince their peers of their position, but simple facts will not be enough. Students must be ready to perform and use a variety of debate tactics and devices to not only win the debate, but to win it with style. Student input on debate topics will be welcomed and encouraged. In addition to debate, students should also be prepared to participate in a mock trial and/or a mock legislative session.

Prerequisite: none
Maximum: no limit on number of students

Special Notes: Students who have taken previous debate classes during prior J-Terms are welcome to sign up again. Our exploration of issue topics varies from year to year.

Galois, Zariski and Somer (Mark Rhodes)

This mathematically intensive, and amusing(honest), January Term course is intended to give the participant an introduction to the art of forming connections between superficially distinct topics in mathematics. Specifically, this year I will introduce you to algebraic structures such as groups, rings and fields, while simultaneously exploring the beautiful connection between these algebraic objects and sets of points defined by systems of polynomial equations. In short, you will be introduced to Galois Theory(Evariste Galois) and Algebraic Geometry(Oscar Zariski). William Somer(Google is your friend) will certainly make several appearances in the afternoons! As high school students you will primarily have the task of becoming familiar with the following list of mathematical notions over the next ten days.

Prerequisites: The material does require some mathematical maturity. This roughly translates to Before Calculus as a co-requisite. If you are not sure if this course if for you, please come and talk to me.
Costs: One soul.
Enrollment: Yes, enrollment is required.

Old Timey Radio Presents: The War of the Worlds! (McCartney and Scott)

On Halloween in 1938, CBS Radio, in association with The Mercury Theatre on the Air, aired a live adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic story The War of the Worlds, directed and starring Orson Welles… and it scared the heck out of the United States of America (supposedly)! In honor of the 80th anniversary of that seminal production, MSSM is going to take the original script and adapt it, ultimately producing, recording, and marketing our own version of the 1938 spectacular – which may take a variety of forms.

This is a wonderful opportunity for those of you who are yearning to spread your theatrical wings but may not relish the idea of either being onstage or memorizing lines! However, there is more to do than just speak into a microphone! Students will help in all aspects of production, from acting and sound-effects to research and direction. Finally, we will explore how this feature, which was condemned by the serious press of the day as disastrous fake news, compares to our current, troubling conception of “fake news.”

Prerequisites: All students will need to read the original (and short) War of the Worlds before J-Term begins. Apart from that, you should sign up for this class if you’re interested in any of all of aspects of this radio drama as mentioned above!
Maximum: 16

Introduction to Architecture (Hong)

Look up - what do you see? Are you in a classroom? A dining hall? Perhaps you are outside. What is the nearest building you see? Buildings and cities are everywhere around us. But they can be easily unnoticed and blended into our everyday lives. Architecture is a diverse and complex discipline that involves art and science to plan, design and construct physical forms that provide us a place to dwell, work, play and even store things. This course will explore questions such as, What shapes the design of buildings? How do they function? How are they built? Why are they important to us? We will utilize our spatial thinking to find shapes, patterns and spatial relationships, and create a scale model of a building. Patience and attention to detail are skills required for this class.

Learning to Love Winter in Limestone (Tasker/Smith)

MSSM’s location in northeastern Aroostook county allows us a tremendous opportunity to worship the cold! Depending upon snow and weather conditions, we’ll learn about cold weather physiology and adaptation, snow-based transport like snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, cold weather shelter construction, nutrition in the cold- and more! Highlights last year included the 2017 Duct-Tape Derby, building huge Snow Penguins in front of the dorm, skiing over to our “clubhouse” at Trafton Lake, traveling out to the wonderful trails at Aroostook Wildlife Refuge, and discovering how much fun can be had outside in a Limestone January.

Prerequisites: a willingness to be bold in the cold; a sense of adventure.
Maximum: 12

Harry Potter: The Science of and the Methods of Rationality (Pedersen - This course will be offered if and only if I do NOT go to Japan. )

This will be two weeks of exploring and examining the Harry Potter series via the books and movies specializing on the development of the characters, the methods of rationality and the science of Harry Potter. If this course runs, each student will need two books: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Fliezer Yudkowsky and The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really works by Roger Highfield.

J Term in Japan


Submitted by James Robertson, Residential Instructor

Our travels to Japan went quite smoothly and we ended up at our first hotel at the time we had scheduled to arrive. Our first day in Japan was spent at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. While we were there we toured The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, rode a variety of rides, ate Japan’s version of park food, and just had a fun time. In the evening chaos struck in the form of gastrointestinal distress. Our plans immediately changed to accommodate the afflicted. Fortunately, our hosts at Hikone Higashi High School were fantastic accommodating hosts. Unfortunately, the ailments and perceived contagious levels of our students cancelled all but our first day in Hikone.

After a long three days recovering our health and sanity our group headed off to Tokyo. Upon arrival we stopped at a local hospital to confirm that we

were given a clean bill of health and ready to tackle the final third of our trip. (As a side note, if you ever find yourself in Japan and needing to go to the

ER, don’t hesitate to go. The tests we went through, while not cheap, were very affordable.) Upon confirmation that we were all in good health, we unpacked at the luxurious RIHGA Royal Hotel next to Waseda University. For dinner, we made our way to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. You have to credit Japan for this really cool restaurant style where they essentially sit you at the buffet and run it by you for your convenience and you grab what you want from it.

The next morning, we awoke to a rare Tokyo snowstorm. We put on our tough faces and trekked to the train station where we hopped onto a bullet train northbound. This storm cancelled the hopper tour bus we planned to take, closed the restaurant where we were to have dinner, and slowed the bullet trains. In spite of this, we took the normal bus to the

Ōsaki Hachimangū shrine in Sendai where we were met with bitter cold and wet weather which was juxtaposed against ancient and grand scenery which created a foreboding and raw atmosphere that had a wild beauty to it. We then made our way to Koriyama, a medium sized city in Fukushima. We had the opportunity to go shopping, visit a large Japanese arcade, and feast at a “grill your own food” (Yakniku) restaurant. We made it back to Tokyo and thankfully the four inches of snow had melted.

On our final day we explored Tokyo in pristine weather. We were able to see the touristy old district of Asakusa, electronics and anime filled district of Akihabara, and dined on authentic ramen in the often overlooked district of Kanda. By now, we were traveling on the trains and subways like we were professionals, making connections and deftly maneuvering through crowds. It was such a disappointment that we had to pack and leave the next day after getting our feet wet. We did some last minute shopping then made our way to the airport where we bid farewell to Japan and began our long journey back to the states.

J Term in Dominican Republic


Submitted by James Torruelas, Spanish Instructor

On January 11, 2016, five MSSM students and two chaperones, Spanish teacher James Torruellas and Louise Hamlin, R.N., gathered at Logan

International airport, in Boston, ready to embark on a most significant and memorable adventure-The Santo Domingo J-Term.

The event was a resounding success. Here are some of reasons why:

  • We were able to finally establish a working “sister school, partnership plan” wherein the Spanish department and the Spanish club at MSSM have an objective toward providing meaningful and practical service, not only by working with IPPC (Pilar Constanzo Polytechnic Institute), but also with the two community schools managed by the administration of IPPC- The Salesian Society, an order of the Catholic church;
  • All five students received 6 days of rich cultural and linguistic immersion by living with ordinary, Dominican families tied to IPPC;
  • Professional contacts were established with key IPPC faculty and administration that pave the way for future exchanges and academic interaction with MSSM;
  • Our MSSM students created lifelong friends with whom they will continue to share experiences and exchange cultural activities in the future.

All of this—round trip airfare from Boston to the Dominican Republic, 6 days, lodging, food, sites, ground transportation, IPPC school uniforms, 3 days in foreign school environment—for $1,295 per student.

For more photos of this wonderful experience, please visit MSSM’s Facebook page.