xBlock Electives

Educational experiences enlivened by a spirit of exploration and discovery.

The “x” in xBlock stands for experimental and experiential. These single-term electives revolve around inquiry-driven learning. Together, students and teachers explore topics and projects outside our core curriculum in a spirit of collaboration and discovery. From searching for exoplanets to analyzing baseball statistics to exploring furniture design, the xBlock leads our academic program into uncharted territory.

The learning is not just for students; the faculty uses these classes to test and develop new ideas for courses and teaching methods. Think of it as our faculty’s research and development as we continue to push our academic program to meet the rapidly evolving needs of this century. 

Given their nature, xBlock offerings are the most flexible and mutable aspect of the curriculum. Ideas for offerings routinely spring from current events, strong student interest, or from the expertise of a visiting scholar. The roster of xBlock courses is continuously changing; while the following courses represent recent offerings, future terms will likely feature entirely new course options for students to explore.

A Few Current and Recent xBlock Offerings

List of 18 items.

  • B-Camper Seminar

    The B-Camper Seminar serves to prepare students for a practical and written test that includes guidance on packing, campsite selection, navigation, camp craft, safety, small group leadership, and organization for weekend and Extra-Day Trips. The seminar is a required component for B-Campers at Thacher (exceptions are for students that take a 21 day NOLS, Outward Bound, or similar course, or earn their Eagle Scout rating through the Boy Scouts of America).
  • Conservation Engineering: Turtle Traps

    Have you ever wanted to build something? Have you ever wanted to save the world? Well, now you can do both at the same time! Join this xBlock to engage in the design and construction of a turtle trap. The beginning of the course will focus on learning about the Southwestern Pond Turtle, material science, and an introduction to the power tools you will be using. You will then work in a team to design your trap to meet the required specifications for both the turtle and location. Traps will be used for a mark/recapture population survey at Sespe Cienega in Fillmore and Patton’s Cabin during EDTs.
  • Contemporary Journalism and Global Citizenship

    This class introduces students to the basics of journalism and offers opportunities to publish in conjunction with the school newspaper, The Notes, and our international journalism club, News Decoder. Workshops will help students learn how to pitch an article, research, conduct interviews, and navigate a professional-style revision and publication process. Students will also help expand the opportunities for student-led journalism across the Thacher community and partner with students and teachers in News Decoder's international network of schools on a range of issues through webinars and other events.
  • Design and Fabrication Workshop

    Are you interested in engineering and design thinking? Are you interested in learning how to use the laser cutters, the 3D printers, or the tech shop tools? In this xBlock we will leverage tools and technology to create solutions to problems in Gates. Some ideas include: design and build a rolling lumber storage rack; design and 3D print holders for the VR goggles and controllers; design and build foldable nesting project tables for the fab garage; design and 3D print or laser cut a chess set for the booths upstairs. The options are endless!
  • Documentary Film and Conservation

    Create a 3-5 minute documentary short film about a conservation issue that you are passionate about. Students will learn the basics of documentary storytelling, including cinematography, interview skills, creating a visual narrative, writing a documentary story, editing, and basic finishing skills like color correction. The goal is to take a subject or idea that you are passionate about and learn how to share it with others through the power of film. 
  • El Archivero Production

    Students in this X-Block course will work with the student editors to plan and produce the 2023 yearbook. Tasks may include writing, photography, layout, editing, and design. 
  • Intro to Podcasting

    Have you every thought, "Hey, I should start a podcast..." In this xBlock we study the entertaining and informative world of podcasts. We start by examining your favorite shows and what makes them so captivating. We will study a wide range of podcasts from true crime to news to comedy and much more. This xBlock culminates in designing, recording, editing, and releasing an episode of your very own podcast to the community.
  • Personal Finance

    This course will be a brief overview of some topics in personal finance such as investments, pyramid and Ponzi schemes, mortgages, income taxes, and types of insurance. 
  • Skatepark Engineering

    Have you ever wanted to build something? Have you ever wanted to design a better skate ramp? Do both in this xBlock! We'll research skate ramp designs, check out what we already have at the Thacher skatepark, and decide as a group on what we want to build. No building or skating experience necessary.
  • Social Entrepeneurship

    In this class you will research, implement, and iterate a venture (individual or group) using project management tools and techniques from the professional world to guide your work. You will learn ideation, design, entrepreneurship, and project management through action. Guest mentors from across the finance/creative/tech/cultural industries will share their experiences and workshop your ventures throughout the term. The ultimate goal of this class is that you take your passions and your skills and turn them into something real that impacts and improves the world. Through this experience you will widen your network and build entrepreneurial confidence.
  • Technology-Based Art & Music

    Visual artist Cassandra C. Jones and musician Mikael Jorgensen will introduce manipulating photographs in Adobe Photoshop and mixing music in Ableton Live. Class participants will learn basic techniques in each program, utilize their new skills, and work towards one collaborative group project. Each student will make a short animation by remixing existing photographs and music found in the public domain. Then, at the end of the trimester, we will link all the shorts together to create one cohesive music video.
  • The History of Modern Russia and Ukraine

    This course will introduce students to the history that is in part shaping Russia's war in Ukraine today. Students will gain practice with analyzing primary sources and reading college and graduate-level scholarship as they explore different aspects of this complicated history and current events.
  • Creative Writing

    This course will focus on some key aspects of creative writing. We aim to provide a safe space for everyone to develop their writing skills and put them into practice through a combination of a more structured writing workshop on Tuesdays and a free writing period every Thursday.
  • Designing, Creating, Making

    Come to the Project Studio to learn how to work with the sewing/embroidery machine, Cricut Maker, and other cool tools. Learn to make ridiculously complex cards, vinyl stickers, nifty logos, and more for yourself, club, family, and friends.
  • Documentary Film Production

    In this class, students will learn the basics of film production including camera, sound, directing, and editing. The course will combine in-class instruction with hands-on practice, guiding students through each step of the filmmaking process. Students who took this course in the winter may continue with more advanced work in the spring term.
  • Introduction to Film Studies

    With a focus on American film from 1930-1980, this class considers the major cinematic genres. The group explores the defining conventions and expectations of various genres along with their related cultural and technical implications.
  • Sustainable Food Systems

    In Sustainable Food Systems, we will dive into the power of food and the capabilities we have as consumers of this massive market. We will pick apart questions such as: How do our food choices impact the world on a larger scale? How can we be more informed consumers? We will look in depth behind the real meanings of buzzwords such as organic, local and GMOs and try to understand their real impacts beyond the common opinion of the public.
  • The Psychology of Identity

    This course seeks to provide an environment in which students can critically examine how our multiple identities shape our beliefs, assumptions, behaviors, and life experiences. We will utilize social psychology, community psychology, and educational theory and research, as well as experiential activities to ground our exploration of identity.
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.