What We've studied in the past

Lawn Games 

Lawn games have been an integral part of summer entertainment for centuries. Lawn games promote competition, cooperation, and strategic thinking with a history rooted in the social elite although they are now available to the masses. In this seminar, learn about the historical roots of the concept of leisure and recreation along with using our math skills to model the act of playing many of these games. Students will learn multiple lawn games with possible trips to visit different clubs that promote these games. Students will develop individual projects expanding or investigating concepts involved in this seminar.  


Ride ‘em, restore ‘em, design ‘em, maintain ‘em. This seminar is dedicated to the joy of bicycles and the possibilities bikes bring to solving world problems. This is a ‘get your hands dirty in bike grease’ kind of seminar as students restore and re-design old bikes into hip modes of transportation. By the end of this seminar, you’ll know the ins and outs of maintaining and a repairing a bicycle and you’ll create a guide book as proof. And let’s not forget the sweet ride you’ll will have designed. Additionally you’ll explore the role of bikes and biking in solving global issues surrounding the environment, poverty, health,  and accessibility. Expect lots of community involvement as Dane County locals show us the best rides, the best gear, the best jobs and the best lifestyles associated with biking. Students will participate in a variety of biking outings with mandatory rides every week. No worries if you don’t have a bike, we’ll make sure you have access to one for all the rides! All fitness levels encouraged and welcomed. There's a ride for everyone.

Movers and Shakers!

Maybe Hans and Franz isn’t your thing, but how about walking, yoga, Pilates, mindfulness and dance? Come be part of a seminar that will encourage positive health through movement as well as understanding the role of nutrition and sleep in your own wellness. Students in this seminar will be expected to participate in common fitness activities both in and out of the building.

Jurassic Clark

Did you love the Jurassic Park movies? Did you know not all dinosaurs lived at the same time? Do you know that not all dinosaurs are extinct and some still walk among us today? In this project-based seminar, we will pay special attention to dinosaurs and humans as we learn about the evolution of life on Earth through different geologic time periods. In groups, will explore changes in the environment and evolutionary trends, and analyze how they impacted our modern world.

Art Exploration 

Often art is thought to be a painting or drawing that hangs on a wall. The truth is, art is all around us, everyday! We will work to discover the art community that is alive in the Madison area by developing a framework to explore different art forms through experiences in the local community (e.g. film, theater, dance, music, studio, word,play, exhibit design, etc.). Students can expect to analyze the experiences, create their own works when applicable, write and reflect, and engage in regular discussions with the class and visiting artists. Students can expect to work collaboratively to develop a method (e.g. exhibit, mini course, PSA, etc.) to teach others about the art happenings in and around Dane County.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is considered to be one of the most noted architects in the world because of his unique style that is inspired so directly by nature. Did you know that this architectural icon lived, worked, studied, traveled, etc. just a hop, skip, and jump from Clark Street?! In this seminar we will read the novel Loving Frank which is a blend of fiction and history, and tells of the life and time between Wright and his mistress, Mamah Borthwick. Not only does the novel provide some insight into Wright’s personal life, it leaves a reader begging to learn more about this mysterious man and his work. Following the novel, we will conduct research on Wright and his work through reading, site visits, and guest speakers. Students can expect to choose an independent lens that they will focus their research on, and will develop projects (either independent or collaborative) based on this. Potential topic ideas could include geometry and the shapes in his work, nature as influence in design, civic process and the Monona Terrace, the history and current status of Taliesin, how Wright changed the Madison area, where is FLW today, etc.  

Game Design 

In this seminar, students will work on designing simple games rooted in the concepts/elements they choose. It is important to note that we will not be creating Call of Duty or Halo 3 level games during this introductory seminar. Students will use a variety of tools, including paper and pencil, to model and test the games during the design process and will have access to multiple content experts during the seminar. Visits to Filament Games will enable students to explore the game studio and potential careers in gaming. Students will play and critique some of the games Filament has designed in order to better understand the concepts related to game design. Students will spend much of the seminar in workshop mode as they work through the creation, testing, revision cycle of design. Students may develop technical writing, reading (RIT), and research artifacts for their annual learning binder.

Music and Memory

Music has the power to put you in a good mood or take you back to a memory from your childhood.  It has the power to make you cry or make you feel fired up, to move us and heal us.  WHY is music so powerful? The connection between your brain, body, and music is AMAZING!  Music is a multi-sensory experience, and we will explore its origins in this seminar. The Music and Memory seminar is the continuation of an ongoing partnership with the Wisconsin Music & Memory Program and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.  Students in this seminar will learn about the work of the Wisconsin Music & Memory Program that brings personalized music to individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.  We will emphasize learning about the brain, biochemistry, and the impacts of dementia on individuals, families, and communities.  This seminar will partner with local nursing homes to learn about the implementation of the Music & Memory program, local experts studying the power of music to impact the brain, and local businesses and community leaders who have led the way in Middleton becoming certified as a Dementia Friendly Community.  Students interested in learning more about the brain and biochemistry, health service careers, public / community service, music, and / or working in careers with aging or elderly individuals should consider this seminar.


Project Voices 

In this seminar students will explore topics and issues that are important to themselves through the mediums of poetry, music and film. We will begin by reading and discussion the work of poets, songwriters and spoken word artists. We will look at historical and contemporary social and political issues and learn how creative individuals have used such realities to create art in the hope of bringing positive change to their lives, We will seek to answer the question, "can music, poetry and art affect the way people see the world." Students will create their own pieces of music, poetry or visual art about topics they they find important. These works will be presented at an end of term event to be planned by the students.

Third World, First World, Our World 

Although Haiti successfully gained their independence from the French in 1804, the country has been beset with many governmental and environmental challenges. Haiti is located only 600 miles away from the United States and shares an island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Understanding the past, present and future of this small country provides insights into understanding many developing countries and the complexities of their relationship to the rest of the world. This seminar will be offered in partnership with Fond Blanc Foundation, a local organization that supports education, health care, nutrition in Fond Blanc, Haiti and supports intercultural understanding in our community. This seminar will function in two parts: First, we will focus on learning about Haiti through literature, informational texts, and films. Second, students will be involved in a service learning project to contribute to the work of Fond Blanc. Current projects we could connect to include: providing playground equipment, supporting sustainable farming through chicken coops, designing health curriculum, and building a school for children living in the Fond Blanc orphanage. Students in this seminar additionally have the opportunity to travel to Haiti in January 2016 with Fond Blanc to implement and support these projects.  

The Modern Native American Experience 

This seminar will start by exploring varied Native American literature including works by Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Thomas King. The literature will serve as a jumping off point for students to delve deeper into the history of the Native people of the US and Canada while gaining an understanding of native spirituality, community, customs and art. The focus of the seminar will ask students to connect the past and the present lives of Native people while understanding the principles of self-governance and the role of government in modern Native American tribes. This seminar will place emphasis on literary analysis, socratic seminars for discussion, and formal academic processes for critiquing primary documents.  

History Writers 

One of the greatest ways to learn about other times, places, cultures, events and people is through their stories. In this seminar we will examine historical events through the lens of historical fiction. Students will have the opportunity to choose historical topics that interest them and will learn about these topics through the use of literature and film. We will analyze and discuss how authors and filmmakers use historical inquiry and creative storytelling to weave tales that help us understand important historical events. Finally, students will choose a historical event that interests them and will research and write about that event by creating a historical fiction piece of their own.

Inequalities in America 

America is known as the land of the free and the home of the brave, but has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This seminar will investigate racial disparities in the criminal justice system and what contributes to these inequities. Our work will center around the Go Big Read, UW-Madison's community-wide read, Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. This book tells the true story of a lawyer working to support individuals trapped in the criminal justice system. In addition to reading, students will study the school to prison pipeline and participate in the YWCA Racial Justice Seminar. Students will have the opportunity to pursue a group or individual project that works to create change and raise awareness of these issues in our community.


New York, New York 

New York City and Wall Street are at the heart of all things financial.   In this seminar you will learn more about the New York Stock Exchange and how investing works as a part of retirement planning. There will be an opportunity to participate in a stock trading simulation game. You will study various financial careers and create your own career and education plan (does not need to be financial). Students will also be studying statistics and linear math and will design a statistical or linear math model related to their understanding of the stock market. The desire is to also use this seminar to plan, prepare, and fund-raise for our first CSCS trip seminar which would allow students to travel to New York City during Winterim in order to take their learning deeper by connecting it to the place where it is all happening!   

The Happiness Seminar 

Everyone says that being happy is what is most important in life. How happy are you? Do the things you do / say / eat / believe make you happy? Could you be happier?  In this seminar students will engage in research, reading, writing, self-assessment and analysis with current scientific research about how to be happier. Students will experiment themselves with these ideas by test-driving practices that research says makes us happier. From exercise to meditation to getting organized, we will see how changes to our lives can make us happier. In addition to individual exploration, we will take a global perspective and learn about the happiest places in the world and what creates the conditions for happy communities. In addition to entries for your annual learning binder and required graduation elements, students will hopefully leave this seminar a little happier than when they started.

Hanz & Franz 

We will be...Working Out! I love it! Maybe you'll look like Aaron Rodgers when you are done? We all know finding the time and energy to work out is tough, so why not have the ultimate experience of doing it while at school! The expectations of the class will be to work out by making progress towards an exposure to resistance training. This doesn't just mean weights like most people think of it. A lot of what we do will be body weight activities. You will do all of the workouts and summarize your wellness progress throughout the term with a journal. At the end you will be asked to review those journal entries and write a summative reflection of your growth and wellness. Students can also design a workout for others and lead your peers in the class or a class at an elementary or middle school. Students will also have the opportunity to study any of the health elements by gathering information from multiple sources and design a brochure, or research paper teaching/informing others about what you discovered.

The Dark Side of Human Behavior 

What would happen if we lived in a world without rules or laws? How would people behave if there was no one telling them what to do? Can we survive a world where consequences are life or death?


This seminar will be anchored with the texts Lord of the Flies or Silver, (student choice) two books that examine a world where no one is in charge and the rules are made up along the way.  As we read, students will do analysis of literary elements including author’s use of mood, tone, theme, figurative language, etc. Students will complete close reads and a literary analysis essay.


Upon completion of the books, students will help decide the direction of the course as well as additional elements and artifacts to address.  Some options include:

• The depiction of adults on deserted islands in shows such as Survivor or Lost.

• Exploration of geography including identifying remote islands where these books might take place.

• A series of team competitions that allows the class to examine various approaches to leadership.

• An exploration of leaders and leadership styles across the globe, including the function of various forms of government.


Nature fascinates, energizes, soothes, and heals us. Together, we will explore how nature and animals enable humans to live healthier lives. Students will do research and report on their findings about nature-deficit disorder, and as a group, we will use the information to evaluate social issues related to fair access to nature and wild spaces. Who doesn't love the outdoors? Let's find out WHY in this seminar!

Mental Wellness 

Do you have trouble managing stress in your life? Have you ever felt like you were losing your mind? If your answer to these questions is "yes" you should know that you are not alone. Mental illness is an issue that will likely touch each of us at some point in our lives. Developing and maintaining mental health is as important a part of personal growth and wellness as getting an education, eating healthy and staying physically fit.  In this seminar students will have the opportunity to learn about brain development, personality development, common mental illnesses and mental wellness practices. In addition, students will explore mindfulness practice as a means of sharpening mental acuity and reducing stress and will develop a personal mental wellness plan and track its impact on their emotional well being during the course of the term.