Research and Snorkeling in the Yucatán Peninsula? Titans’ Thoughts on Intersession

Travel IntersessionIMSA students swimming in the Yucatán Peninsula | Source: Nandana Varma

While Intersession was just a few weeks ago, some students barely know about the other Intersessions that were offered besides their own or other students’ thoughts on them. Teachers probably have similar questions: what did my students think of my class? Was it enjoyable? Thus, to answer all these burning questions, I’ve randomly interviewed some students who crossed my path and asked them what they did in their Intersession, what they liked about it, and what they hated. I’ll also be sharing my own two cents about the Intersessions I engaged in: Ultimate Frisbee and Independent Reading.

Mexico: History, Culture, and Science in the Yucatan Peninsula (Sarah O’Leary Driscoll)

The Travel Intersessions no doubt take first place for the craziest IMSA Intersessions. To enroll in these sessions, students submitted an application and then… well, let’s ask Nandana Varma (’23) what exactly they did:

“We helped researchers from NIU (Northern Illinois University) conduct research on cenotes (sinkholes) in the Yucatan Peninsula by swimming back and forth across two different cenotes and using technology that was measuring depth to the floor of the cenote. This data was then used to map out the depth and floor of those cenotes. (Fun fact, the science of measuring depth in water bodies is called bathymetry.)

During our time there, we also spent a lot of time exploring the town that we lived in, which was Puerto Morelos. We engaged with a variety of local cuisine, traveled to the Coba Mayan ruins, and shopped at a local night market! I really enjoyed learning about the research we were performing, especially because these researchers were searching for a way to make their work more accessible, and I found it really fun to engage with local residents. It was also a chance to practice my Spanish! But I was kinda tired of swimming by the end of it.”

I don’t know what would be a better way for Nandana and her friends to spend their last semester at IMSA before college.

Ultimate Frisbee (Leah Kind)

Until this Intersession, I thought frisbee was just football with a disc, and that there wasn’t much of a difference. That is until I learned about stacks. We learned how to use the stack to play frisbee and had to implement that in our games, making it a very different experience from middle school frisbee. It was actually quite fun thanks to my teammates, and Dr. Kind was very kind about the sport itself, making it enjoyable for everyone. I just wished that the drills were shorter so we could have played the real game against more teams.

Independent Reading (Adam Kotlarczyk)

Reading was something I gave up in middle school because of my busy schedule. Independent Reading was great as it reintroduced reading as a fun activity and not just a chore. This Intersession felt like killing two birds with one stone: I spent 3 hours for 3 days reading a book I enjoy without having to worry about wasting time out of my day, all while getting the Intercession credits. I learned many things from this experience—especially that the auditorium is a horrible place to read at and makes you fall asleep faster.

True Crime (Eric Rettberg)

In True Crime, students read from Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, watched Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line, and then listened to Sarah Koenig’s podcast Serial. Dr. Rettberg went in-depth about the genre and explored questions related to people’s fascination with the genre like “Why are audiences so fascinated by other people’s tragedies?” and “What does it mean that they’re fascinated by the perpetrators of those tragedies?” Rachel Qi (’25), a student who was enrolled in the session, describes it as a good experience, however, “unless you are extremely interested in the topic, the class is not terribly engaging because you just listen and watch things.”

Arrangement and Orchestration (Peter Dong)

In this musical mini-course, students grasped the fundamentals of composition and accompaniment with basic chords, listened to many arrangements, identified key characteristics, and actually wrote their own arrangements which will be recorded on February 8th and fully mixed into a musical piece by the end of the year! Participants enjoyed the class and gained a lot of insight into composition. “It’s a really cool class! The class involves a lot of engaging lectures, but it isn’t for those who despise long lectures,” says Rachel Qi.

Allies (Megan Scherer, Christine Moskalik, Elaine Wu)

Allies trained IMSA students on how to teach kids and manage a classroom. By the end of the week, these students were sent to a Saturday STEM Program where they implemented their training and actually worked with students from 3rd–6th grade, earning service hours for it, too. Lily Zhang (’25) commented that “It was pretty okay. We had to learn how to direct kids at a Saturday STEM session. I looked forward to the actual STEM sessions, which would’ve made it more worthwhile.”

Introduction to Astronomy (Matthew McCutcheon)

Introduction to Astronomy was a very STEM-heavy course that went in-depth about how one researches like an astronomer. Topics like exo-planets, pulsars, and other aspects of stellar evolution were taught in this course, along with methods of astronomy-based research. Emerson Blair (’25) who partook in this online course described its being brief and online as some flaws of the course, but also noted that it was “fun and enjoyable. I learned that light can be a wave or a singular particle, and I also learned about the different variations of light.”

AS1: Independent Research (Paul Gaszak)

Led by Dean of Student Support and Equity, Paul Gaszak, this Intersession allowed students to conduct their own research on a topic of choice (academic or non-academic). Jose Florenzano (’25) who participated in AS1 did his research on Tame Impala and said, “I liked it. I didn’t find anything horrible about it, and it also was not overwhelming. It eases you into school since it’s right after break.”

Art of Dumplings (Christine Zhang, Sophie Wang)

This course helped people gain a deeper understanding of Chinese food, culture, and cuisines. Additionally, students learned how to make dumplings and crafted their own dumplings. An anonymous student (’24) reported that “I liked the Intersession because I was able to make dumplings, but I didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t use our own dough.” Al-dough that’s unfortunate, it’s great that you got food.

Mental Health Podcast (Namrata Pandya)

This virtual course taught students how to structure and make podcasts. As a fun activity, it also allowed them to create their own podcast—one that related to mental health—while using the techniques they learned from class to create one. “It was chill through Zoom. They gave us a lot of freedom, and it was fun because it talked about mental health topics. I also enjoyed collaborating with my peers. There wasn’t anything to hate about it—it was the best thing ever and just one hour long,” said Anna Yang (’25).

Fantastic Adventures and How To Play Them (Alec Mangan, Eric Hawker, Brian Trainor)

This course taught people how to play the enjoyable and popular roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragon, also known as D&D (or the game that the Stranger Things boys were obsessed with). Grant Kettley (’25) stated that he enjoyed playing games, hanging out with people, and collaborating. “It’s really interesting with how much content there is. I played a half-work paladin. There was nothing to hate about it.”

Trick-taking Card Games (Evan Brummet, Lingyi Meng)

Students in this course learned how to play games like Euchre, Oh Hell, and Spades, and discovered strategies that could help them win and outsmart their opponents. It involves a lot of strategic thinking and logic-based methods. “I learned many good strategies and had fun collaborating and playing against people. I didn’t hate anything about it,” says Grant Kettley.

About the Author

Anjali Samal
Hello, I am Anjali, and I currently live in 1506! I love to dance, design graphics, write fictional stories, and daydream about everything.

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