Mini-courses are required courses that provide an experiential learning initiative that serves as the capstone of each academic year and emphasize the delight of intellectual pursuits. This trimester in the last few weeks of the school year, offers a curriculum of non-academic courses, crossing grade levels and taught by Ellis teachers, outside experts, alumnae, and the occasional student. Students have time to complete individual projects, travel, and to explore potential passions in courses that are designed to be experiential, interdisciplinary, and community-based.

2015-2016 Mini-courses

List of 20 items.

  • Asian Culture

    In this mini course, we are planning to divide it into two parts. The first one is interesting parts of Asian culture (languages, cultures, history), and the second part is food! We want to let more people in Ellis learn about different cultures, and understand the differences and similarities.
    Ada Wang/Yolanda Zheng/Izzie Dai
  • Biking the C&O Canal

    From south of Cumberland MD to Washington D.C, we will ride our bikes on the C&O Canal exploring America's history along the way stopping in places like Harper's Ferry and Antietam. The first week will find us training and researching, while the second week we realize our trip, which will begin Tuesday after Memorial Day and end that Friday night as we climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and celebrate our arrival. We will camp and eat a lot of diner food along the way. If you're ready for this adventure, pack up your gear, your camera, and your journal and be ready to go at the end of May!
    This course meets all four blocks.
  • Coloring, Convo and Current Events

    We will jump on the trendy coloring bandwagon and color our hearts out while engaging in provocative discussion about things that matter. Each student to bring their own coloring tools (pencils, crayon, marker, etc.).
  • Cooking

    Students will learn about how to shop for food and prepare various dishes.
  • Creative Writing: Fiction

    In this course, students will read a variety of short stories by writers like Raymond Carver, Danielle Evans, Karen Russell, Zadie Smith, George Saunders, and David Foster Wallace. Throughout the course, students will work on a short story or series of short stories. Following the workshop model, we will share our work with one another and offer supportive and constructive feedback. All levels of experience are welcome.
  • Creative Writing: Poetry

    In this creative writing workshop, we will explore a variety of poetic forms and styles, including the sonnet, villanelle, ekphrastic poetry, and ars poetica. Following the workshop model, we will share our work with one another and offer supportive and constructive feedback. All levels of experience are welcome.
  • Dead Poet's Society and American Poetry

    Students will explore the landscape of American poetry through the film, Dead Poet's Society. During this Mini Course, we will view the film in segments and read poetry that corresponds to the literary themes and devices of the film
  • Digital Talking Books

    Students will narrate and monitor the recording of children's books for the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH). They will first take a tour of the LBPH, where they will be trained as narrators before recording books at Ellis. Once published, the digital recordings will be available to patrons of all American public libraries. Students will receive service learning credit for this mini course. 
  • Financial Literacy

    Learn the basics of personal finance -- banking, saving, borrowing, and investing -- including benefits and pitfalls. In your near future, you will be an independent adult, and with some key knowledge you can embrace a life-long goal of responsible financial independence.
  • George Segal Life size Sculpture

    Students will study George Segal's life-size figurative sculptures. We will look at his processes and presentations of his installations. As a group students will choose a figurative pose and recreate Segal's process in plaster.
    C. Sturdevant
  • Illuminating Patterns: Geometric Tiling Installation

    Design, construct, and install a transparent tessellating tiled artwork in the school. Explore the historical cultural context of examples of Islamic tiling. We will use ancient and modern technology for tile design and construction.
    S. Sturdevant/Goldberg
  • Mini-Course Play

    We will be putting on a performance at the end of the 2 weeks of Minicourses. This performance will have a focus on Black female musicians throughout time and their contributions to the music we listen to today.
    Genell Jasper/Leila Reines/Emily Mazur
  • Pilates Plus

    Each class begins and ends with each of us thanking our bodies for being strong, resilient, and unique. Core strength is the focus of our active work since our central strength powers our posture, carriage, and movement. Yoga mat required.
  • Science the S*#t Out of The Martian

    Prepare to dive deeply into the recent Academy Award-nominated film The Martian, as we put its science to the test. Over the course of two weeks we shall watch the film and then vigorously dissect it in approximately 20-minute chunks, assessing the degree to which the science presented is reasonable. You do not need to be capable of surviving on Mars to enjoy this exercise, but you do need to be willing to science the living daylights out of a movie about someone trying to survive on Mars!
  • Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

    Have you ever had the desire to walk the streets of Victorian London with Sherlock Holmes in search of Professor Moriarty? To search the docks for the giant rat of Sumatra? To walk up Baker Street as the fog is rolling in and hear Holmes cry out, "Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!” Now you can! Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a game unlike any other, in which there is no board, no dice, and no pieces. You have only your keen insight and sharp wits to aid you in solving the mysteries at hand. How will you fair in comparison to the great detective? Come, Ellis, come! The game is afoot!
  • Speak French Like A Native

    In this course, you will have an opportunity to improve your pronunciation of French through oral practice and learning the International Phonetic Alphabet.
  • The Queen's Gambit: Learning and Succeeding in Chess

    This course is for players of all levels to experience chess in the form of lessons, games, and competition. Chess combines concentration, planning, and thinking ahead with playing and competing against your opponent. This class not only teaches strategies and defenses to win the game, but also instructs gender equality in a male-dominated sport, motivating Ellis students to embrace competition. Each class will be prepared lessons and exercises that will strengthen each girl’s knowledge of chess and practice games to test what they have learned. At the end of the course, there will be a chess tournament for the members of the class.
    Ashley Priore
  • This Ellis Life

    Modeled after the NPR radio program, "This American Life," this mini-course will introduce students to the narrative story-telling form through several episodes of the program. The course will culminate in a student-created radio hour that focuses on a theme related to Ellis culture and community.
  • Tools for Self-Teaching Japanese

    This mini-course will provide a brief introduction to Japanese language study including a review of different tools students can use to continue after mini courses end! We will focus on four areas of language acquisition: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. Because of the intense nature of self study of a language, this course will require students to practice Japanese for about 1 hour outside of class each night. Laptops are highly recommended.
    Holtgraver/Erika Amemiya
  • Walking For Fitness

    Students will walk around the neighborhoods surrounding Ellis. The pace will be fast enough to elevate the breathing and heart rate, but slow enough for students to still carry on a conversation. Students will need to wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing. If the weather doesn't allow for walking outside, students will be in the weight room.

Mini-courses by Alumnae

List of 3 items.

  • Sketchbook and Journal Making

    The final product: A hand bound, creative, full color journal or sketchbook. We will look at the basics of bookbinding and construction; explore handwriting and lettering, design, collage, and storytelling. While this would be a great opportunity to create work for portfolios or college admissions, no experience is necessary, and materials will be provided.
    Sarah Thornton ’13
    --Sarah attends the University of Pittsburgh
  • Social Policy: What to do about Poverty and Inequality in the US

    Is it possible to live on $2 a day in America? Does the poverty line need an update? How is the US criminal justice system “broken”? In order to begin to answer these questions, among others, we’ll read single mothers’ accounts of extreme poverty, divide into groups to calculate a new poverty line based on Pittsburgh's living costs, and interpret data of inequality and incarceration rates. To add action to words, we’ll create and execute feasible action plans as well as examine what might work on a larger level.
    Christina Ambrosino ’15
    --Christina attends John Hopkins University
  • Water World

    From Pittsburgh to New Orleans and the Jersey shore to island nations, changes along coastlines affect lives every day - from fish sourcing to recreation and more. Coastal protection for urban communities is becoming a “hot trend.” Environmental advocacy is a growing field, too, with attention in the media and by corporations around the world. Join this course to explore issues beyond “pure science” around coastal preservation as well as how you can get involved - and how two Ellis alumni worked on opposite sides of the largest oil spill ever.
    Heather Hilliard ’93
    --Heather Hilliard has been involved for more than two decades in emergency response, working with the government and private sectors as well as NGOs. She was integral in Louisiana’s response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill as well as Pandemic.