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 16 items.

  • Advanced French: Slam Poetry and French Cinema

    This course provides an overview of contemporary issues in French-speaking societies as reflected in cinema and in slam poetry. We will view movie excerpts and discuss the text in some of the poetry in their appropriate contexts. Students will gain an appreciation for both genres in the process. Class discussions will focus on historical references and themes deeply rooted in a traditional society forced to morph after the “Trente Glorieuses.”
  • Advanced Topics in Astronomy Research

    This is a rare opportunity for high school students to participate in meaningful scientific research as part of an ongoing NASA-funded program. Working in small groups of two or three, students play central roles in projects ranging from advanced data modeling and data analysis techniques, to differential photometry, data visualization, and commissioning the new dome at the observatory.
  • Christian Spirituality: Finding meaning through the Gospels

    Across the globe people find religious ideas and messages as a source of ultimate meaning and direction for how to live one’s life. In this understanding of the word spirituality, we will focus on the Christian perspective of what animates one’s life towards richness and fullness. One goal of this course is to understand these essential teachings by reading and discussing the primary texts of Christian spirituality.
  • 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.
  • Ethics and Global Citizenship

    Through cases relating to current events and readings in ethics and political philosophy, students explore what it means to be a citizen leader. Discussions will be enlivened by guests from off campus as well as members of the campus community, who will share their expertise and perspectives.
  • The F-word: A Look at Feminism in the 21st Century

    Feminism. When most people hear that word, they have a strong reaction to it. Some reactions are positive, others negative. But why do we have such differing opinions? Most of us believe that women and men deserve equal rights, so why don’t we all support a movement for that? Or, is said movement not really about equal rights anymore?
  • 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.
  • Introduction to Programming

    This class approaches computer programming from several angles. By working with Sphero robots, students will gain an introduction to control systems and directing autonomous movement. Design software will expose students to approaches to handling visual information and creating animations like those seen in gaming formats. Finally, students will be able to create their own projects using the School's three-dimensional printers. 
  • Life Skills

    This course provides a broad base of skills seminars to help students develop the confidence to solve many practical, real-world problems. Basic wilderness survival, financial literacy, fire making, plant identification, bread making, car and bicycle repair, and the basics of personal investing are all tackled in this hands-on course. 
  • Public Speaking and Debate

    This class aims to help students better their public speaking and debate skills. Students will initially focus on developing the confidence and skills needed to speak effectively and compellingly in front of a crowd through both speech exercises (vocal mechanics, inflection, and posture) and practice in various genres. In addition, students will write short speeches to present to the class and perhaps to the community at Assembly. Towards the end of the term, attention will be given to basic debate skills such as constructing arguments and refutations on the fly.
  • 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.
  • Theater Design and Production

    This course introduces the general principles of light, sound, and set design through hands-on application in Thacher's Milligan Center for the Performing Arts. Students come away with firsthand experience in preparing and running an actual show.
  • Wilderness First Aid

    This class fulfills requirements for first aid and CPR training as well as earning participants Thacher B-camper certification. The basic skills covered include: response and assessment, musculoskeletal injuries, environmental emergencies, survival skills, soft tissue injuries, and medical emergencies.

—Blossom Beatty Pidduck

When I think of the qualities that I most admire in a Thacher student, the first thing I think of is an adventurous spirit. And in the classroom that often manifests itself in a willingness to try something different, to be creative, to test out something new. That’s so much the spirit of who we are here at Thacher.

Head of School

Films created by xBlock Documentary Film Production students.
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.