From 'Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse' to Fly-Fishing: Dynamic Intersession Courses

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Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Arthur Custer

From 'Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse' to Fly-Fishing: Dynamic Intersession Courses


Our founder, Theodate Pope Riddle, strongly believed in an approach to education that saw students working alongside their faculty mentors to produce their own meaningful work. Intersession honors that tradition by encouraging students and faculty alike to delve deeply into a single topic that interests them and to produce something tangible and valuable with their efforts. During the week, students and faculty devote all of their academic attention to one course; the course may explore a traditional academic topic in great detail (Roman history, psychology, finance and investing), or it may focus on an area outside the traditional curriculum (beekeeping, situation comedies, food security). At the end of the week, each class, in the manner that best befits its experience, presents its work to the wider community. The idea behind Intersession is to broaden the curriculum while creating opportunities for excursions, making, experiential learning, and interdisciplinary work. Beyond that, we hope that their experience in Intersession will influence how students and faculty approach their work in the traditional curriculum.

Not Your Ordinary Classroom

Now in its third year, Intersession at the private boys school, Avon Old Farms, has offered courses ranging from Understanding Modern Art to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse and from Beekeeping 101 to America's War on Terror. Students and faculty have spent their time researching school history in the archives, tying flies and fishing in the Farmington River, interviewing Goldman Sachs executives about life as an investment banker, sitting in meditation, peering through telescopes into the night sky, and turning their own baseball bats on the lathe. Along the way, they have been exposed to Mr. Tibbles' extensive understanding of game theory, Mr. Lee and Mr. Malchoff's passion for fishing, and Mrs. Pinton's love of all things Italy. They have written songs, made blankets for the needy, repaired drywall, and learned about the magic of compound interest.

Tapping Into Faculty Expertise


The curriculum for Intersession is diverse and wide-ranging because faculty members are encouraged to create courses in their areas of special interest and expertise. When the students get to choose the courses in which they have the most interest, the process pairs highly enthused faculty with highly engaged students. As a result, you can have — as we did this year — the Meditation Retreat group meditating in silence while the Law Enforcement class learns to ‘clear’ a room (presumably not in silence) a few hundred feet away, or one class delving deeply into Roman history while another class lowers their fishing lures deep under the ice on West Hill Lake. The result, we hope, is an engaging experience that broadens the student’s horizons and helps him to see things - potentially including himself - from a different perspective.

Key Takeaway

The students at Avon Old Farms School, the CT college prep school, would seem to agree; their feedback on Intersession 2018 includes: “It embodies the value of scholarship and helps Avon provide a more well-rounded academic experience. I would not change anything,” and, “I really thought it was a life-changing experience.”

About the Author

Arthur Custer Arthur Custer

Dean of Curriculum and Instruction, History Teacher

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