"January Term" eases students back into class at Carmel school

Students at University High School spend three weeks studying various subjects.

A Hamilton County high school has a different approach to get students back into the grind of the classroom after Christmas vacation.

Students at University High School, a college prep school in Carmel, spend three weeks focused on one subject. The program is called "January Term."

"I think that in J-Term, that three-week term, I think it opens up a different side of our minds and it helps us relax. It is still very vigorous, rigorous," said sophomore Anthony Murdock II.

Murdock is spending his three weeks totally focused on drumming. Last January, he spent three weeks studying law and justice.

"I thought that opened up my mind to a different perspective. I want to be a lawyer, a civil rights lawyer, when I grow up," he said.

"We're gonna talk about photography. We're gonna talk about just hiking in general," said sophomore Ellie Klemsz.

Klemsz is studying national parks. As part of the class, students will travel to Yosemite National Park in northern California.

"Being able to take a course, you get to learn, like, everything about a certain subject and you get to look at videos, pictures and read books and just have teachers who are so passionate about what they're teaching about. It's just an amazing thing," she said.

When the school started January Term 12 years ago, there was just one field of study. Now, there are 16 classes to choose from and teachers have found students are eager to return from their Christmas vacations.

One class studied "The New Yorker" magazine. Their studies will take them to New York City for a two-hour meeting with the editor of the magazine.

"This allows us to focus on one thing, like 'The New Yorker.' We couldn't have an entire semester on 'The New Yorker,' but it's such an amazing piece of literary history in America and it's really neat to be able to focus specifically on that for three weeks," said teacher Kirsten Northenscold.

January Term is modeled after similar approaches found at DePauw University in Greencastle and Harvard.

"By the end of three weeks, they'll know something they didn't know before, which is the purpose of a school, and it's fun," said teacher Kip Robisch.