At MSSM, we want students to dig deeply, explore broadly, and to push themselves to learn and know more.
January Term – affectionately called J-Term by us Penguins – is a special time at MSSM where students can focus on a subject, course, project, or even an off-campus internship. It is a break from the traditional academic calendar, but is essential to the MSSM experience
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. The course offerings are diverse, sometimes quirky, always interesting, and are an excellent way for students to pursue personal passions and explore intellectual and academic curiosities.
I took the Blacksmithing J-Term course this year, and I did it last year too because I really enjoy it,you get to work with metal using your hands, and that's pretty awesome. I've always liked hands-on stuff like building things and whittling, so this class fits right in. Before this, I had some experience with metalwork from a shop class I took. And in Blacksmithing class, I didn't just make small stuff; I also made a guitar stand from scratch because I needed one. In a nutshell, Blacksmithing class is a hands-on, metalworking adventure, and it's a lot of fun. -Quinn Smith '24
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. Student have had internships at dental offices, ski resorts, architecture firms, research labs, tech start-ups, machine shops, and even the National Weather Service.
Maine School of Science & Mathematics
J-Term 2024 Course Offerings
** Registration for J-Term classes needs to be completed with your advisor by Oct. 6 **
Internships - (J. Primiano, Dubois)
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.
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, 2024 (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.
A trip to the Inca Empire (Carson/Hamlin)
During ten days of our J-Term period, you will embark on a trip to Peru in South America. An unforgettable experience where you will see the magic of the Inca Culture, and walk through one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!
We will meet at Logan airport in Boston on 1/7/2024 (time: TBA). Then, we will take a flight to Boston-Miami-Lima. Once in Lima and Cusco, transportation, tour guides, and entrance fees are all included, some meals are not included, this means that you will need to use your credit card.
Tours include: Pre-Hispanic, Colonial and Modern Lima: Miraflores and San Isidro Districts, Huaca Pucllana Site Museum, Government Palace, Underground Catacombs, Sacsay Huaman fortress, The Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes City, Machu Picchu City/Inca Ruins, Maras Salt Mines, Moray Inca Agricultural Laboratory, The Rainbow Mountain, The Valley of the Goblins, and so much more.
The full, 10-day itinerary, can be found here: Trip to Peru 2024
Prerequisites: Preferably Spanish III, IV, or V students
Cost: $2,800/student: hotel/tours/transportation per student (age 17 and under) is $1200; round trip ticket from Boston-Lima-Boston as well as Lima-Cusco-Lima is $1600.
Limit: 12 students
Can You See Atoms? (Rim)
It took more than 2000 years to see atoms, a building block of the matter ever since pondered by Greek Philosophers. We are going to focus on Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) at ambient conditions (in air and room temperature) to see carbon atoms on the surface of a Highly Oriented Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG), and Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) also at ambient conditions to observe nanostructures on the surface of insulating substrates. After a brief introduction of quantum physics and tunneling phenomenon for the operation of STM, and the principle of AFM in the first week at Limestone, we visit Columbia University to have experience running STM and AFM for the second week (1/13 - 1/20). We might visit Manhattan downtown to see a different world after succeeding in observing atoms. We are going to get together at Presque Isle airport to fly to New York on the 13th of January,
Cost: $3,250/student: Roundtrip airfare between Limestone and New York, Hotel/Ground Transportation/Sightseeing
Limits: Science Nerds only (5 students)
Austenland (Brigman, Madore)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” What did author Jane Austen mean when she penned these words? Who was she writing for, and what story was she telling? This crash course on the world of Jane Austen will cover 6 novels in 9 days, looking at short, selected readings from each of Austen’s beloved works as well as brilliant cinematic adaptations of each one. Students will meet some of English literature’s most famous characters: the “obstinate, headstrong girl,” Lizzy Bennet, the aloof and romantic Mr. Darcy, the misguided and well-intended Emma, and the hysterical Mr. Collins. We will also explore various spin-offs of Austen’s world: Bridgerton, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the Lizzy Bennett Diaries, to name a few. So pull up a chair and have a cup of tea. Welcome to Austenland.
Limit: 10 students
The RPM Challenge – MSSM Style (Chouiniere)
The RPM challenge is to write, record, produce, and release an album in 1 month. MSSM students are too awesome to take a full month. Instead, we’ll write, record, produce, and release an album in 1 J-Term. Musical background not required, but it might help!
Limit: 10 students.
This course is designed to familiarize students with the basic techniques of blacksmithing. Although blacksmithing is a folk art that can take a lifetime to master, students in this course will gain a good basic understanding of the techniques necessary to forge steel and to create useful and elegant objects using hand-tools and fire. These will include tapering, twisting, curling, upsetting and shouldering.
Course Requirements: Students are required to have cotton or wool clothing, sturdy leather or cotton shoes (steel toe good but not necessary), hat (if desired), hearing protection, and eye protection. Synthetic fabric can catch fire and melt and thus NO SYNTHETIC FABRIC IS ALLOWED in the forging area. Each student will be provided with a hammer, tongs (which each student will make), and a quantity of steel sufficient for the forging exercises to be undertaken in the class. If a student wishes to undertake a project other than those to be done during class, that student should obtain instructor permission in advance as well as incur the additional material costs associated with the project.
Safety: While every possible precaution will be observed throughout the course run time, it should be noted that the act of blacksmithing carries with it an inherent risk of injury. A safety and forge etiquette lecture will be given PRIOR to any work undertaken. Anyone displaying unsafe or inappropriate behavior will be asked to leave.
Supercalifragilistic Guided Independent Project (Desneiges)
Do you have a topic of special interest you’d like to explore further? Have you always wanted to create a documentary, a podcast, a video game or a webpage dedicated to something you’d love to explore in the areas of math, science or the humanities, but your schedule during the academic year does not allow you to do so because of limited course offerings and time restraints? This J Term is for you!
Students will use this two week course as an occasion to research, explore and create in an area of his or her choice in a fun and safe environment. There will be thinking outside of the box required. Students will submit a project proposal prior to the start of class for approval. You might want to explore an art project, compose music, write a collection of short stories, create resources for a math classroom, explore a fascinating aspect of history or science. Following a plan that you put together in your proposal, you will use the two weeks to work on your topic and create a product that can be shared with our community. (*Your topic must be something that you cannot achieve in one of the other J-Term courses, and one that you have not fully explored in another course.)
Limit: 12 students
Most of MSSM’s academic year occurs during a time that appears to be not ideal for living things. Our first frost occurs in September, and we usually have a bit of snowfall in October. Typically, snow comes to stay in November and lasts until early April. What are organisms doing during this cold period - some leave, some avoid it, and some thrive in it. In this J-Term we’ll look at how plants and animals cope with the cold months of the year. We’ll also go outside to enjoy some winter-time activities, including snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and collecting/analyzing some data on snowpack dynamics.
Limit: 10 students
Experimental Mathematics (Kavle)
Let's design and build cool math demonstrations or experiments! The possibilities are nearly endless, from computational experiments to physical demonstrations. Possible demonstrations could include a double pendulum, a harmonograph, computer-generated fractals or simulations, a bouncing oil droplet experiment, Chladni plates, stick-and-string models of conic sections and other surfaces, crochet models of hyperbolic space, etc. No prerequisites required except a desire to learn about math through experimentation.
Limit: 15 students
Household & Hardware Music (Scott)
What if the apocalypse left you stranded at home with only your cordless drill, your garage full of junk, and your house full of…well, house stuff–and you had the music in you? In H&H Music, we will research and build working, acoustic musical instruments out of materials you might find around your shop or home, using only hand tools and a cordless drill, from diddley bows to PVC flutes to bucket percussion.
Limit: 8 students
Weird Tales and Its Progeny (Boucher)
Founded in 1922, Weird Tales serially printed early fantasy and horror stories on inexpensive pulp paper in magazine form. The publication included the debut of the so-called “Cthulhu Mythos” and regular appearances of Conan the Barbarian, for example. While the magazine popularized numerous writers, our course will focus on the Weird Tales’ big three of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. Over the course, we will read and analyze several short stories by this “big three.” Particular attention will be paid to genre archetypes and the stories’ representations or misrepresentations of certain groups of people. We will also look at how these three authors have contributed to film, television, and tabletop games from the late twentieth century to today. Our final project is TBD, but may include creating our own pulp story, board game prototype, or tabletop scenario.
Limit: 6 students
Rich Culture – Food, Music, and Literature (Nsadha)
Discover and experience the rich Ugandan culture from diverse cultural groups without traveling to East Africa. In 1908, Sir Churchhill described Uganda as "the Pearl of Africa" after he explored several African countries. You can find a variety of cultural richness in Uganda, including diverse cuisines, traditional music, and literature. Whether it's the delicious flavors of local food or the lively beats of the music, there is something for everyone to appreciate.
Indeed, Ugandan cuisine has been significantly influenced by its interactions with other cultures. Its cuisine has been influenced by various African nations and Indian and European traditions, resulting in unique cuisine and varied flavors. Some popular Ugandan dishes include matooke (steamed banana), groundnut stew, and roasted meat skewers. Let's discover some of the popular dishes like matooke (made from green banana), chapati, and posho (Ugali), made from Maize flour, commonly served with meat stew, fish stew, or vegetables. We shall learn how to prepare some of these dishes and explore traditional music and instruments. Ugandan music is widely recognized for its lively beats and captivating tunes. Ugandan people are also known for their hospitality and friendliness towards visitors. Did you know that Uganda ranks ahead of the USA among the most welcoming countries in the World?
Limit: 15 Students
Sidewalk Story: Take a crash-course in GIS and solve the rural transportation crisis in two weeks! (Bezborodko, with assistance from Jarod Farn-Guillette, Maine Department of Transportation and MSSM class of 2001)
Come learn a versatile GIS (Geographic Information System) program that will allow you to make beautiful maps, visualize spatial patterns, and play with vast amounts of geographical data to construct models of real-world phenomena. Practice your map-making skills by tackling the problem of barriers to mobility in rural Maine. This course is co-taught by a geographer (Ms. Bezborodko) and a Department of Transportation planner (and MSSM alum!) who is working on improving access to transportation and pedestrian safety here in Aroostook County. In addition to the technical aspects of GIS, we will also learn innovative planning methods (story mapping) and landscape design and potentially contribute to real projects with the Maine DOT.
Who is this course for? Everyone! GIS is a particularly useful skill in a variety of professions – epidemiologists, wildlife biologists, urban planners, civil engineers, civil servants of all sorts, and many others use it on a daily basis, and you are welcome to engage in additional side-projects of interest to you with Ms. Bezborodko’s assistance. As for rural transit, if you’ve ever worried about how an elderly relative can get to a medical appointment, hiked a “rail-to-trail” path, or had a close call crossing the street, you have a stake in these projects.
Pre-requisites: Basic computer skills (saving files, renaming files, creating folders).
Limit: 16 students
MSSM is committed to fostering student success in our academic and residential programs.
Many MSSM classes qualify for college credit through a unique partnership with the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
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