Middlebury offers students a change of pace during month-long winter term

December 16, 2008

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? Ceramics as a metaphor for life? Science up your sleeve? Coaches in the classroom? From Jan. 5 - 30, Middlebury College students will take a brief hiatus from the conventional course-load of fall and spring terms to focus on a single winter term class, often unrelated to their major. Faculty often combine talents and team-teach these popular interdisciplinary courses, and number of visiting faculty join the campus community for the month. And though the courses are often somewhat fanciful in title, they are thoroughly serious in content.

For example, in the course "Trial by Fire" a group of students will undertake the study of ceramics as a metaphor for life's tensions and resolutions. From the shaping of the clay to the firing and the final product, students will discuss the experience and process. The course will take place at The Frog Hollow Craft Center in Middlebury, and in addition to the hands-on activities, the students - many of whom are non-art majors - will read and discuss works by the Japanese potter Yanagi and others.

In "Almost Magic: The Amazing Science of Ordinary Things," students will explore the hidden science in everyday life, asking such questions as "Why do leaves change color in autumn?" By uncovering the answers through weekly labs that will include the demonstration of magic tricks, students will be introduced to scientific method and basic concepts. The course will conclude with the performance of science-focused magic shows for local children.

The course "Coaching and Issues in Sports" brings athletic faculty into the classroom for an intensive consideration of coaching and its impact, from elementary school through the college level. Students will develop a portfolio that will include coaching philosophy, sport psychology, physiology and sport pedagogy for his or her sport or sports of interest. The course is organized and led by Middlebury College Men's Hockey and Golf Coach Bill Beaney, who was recently named one of "100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America" by the Institute for International Sport. Guest speakers such as seven-time Olympian John Morton, a graduate of Middlebury's class of 1968, and prominent sports psychologist Wayne Halliwell, a graduate of Middlebury's class of 1966, as well as other prominent sports experts, will lead discussions on current issues happening in the field.

"I think winter term is one of the most educational and fun times at Middlebury," said sophomore Anne Runkel. "It allows students to focus on one particular subject and become very involved in the material, something that is hard to do when taking three other classes."

Faculty also enjoy the change of pace that the short term brings. "This winter I'm teaching a class on private pathways for environmental protection, things like land trusts, green consuming and corporate social responsibility. It's something I became interested in while finishing up my last book and talked about a bit in my classes. The students are quite interested, so winter term seemed the perfect time for me and them to delve more deeply into the topic," said Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Environmental Studies Chris Klyza."