Middle School Classrooms Expand with Minimesters

JANUARY 29, 2021

Despite the unusual nature of this year, one thing that Nightingale was determined to retain was the minimester program in the Middle School. This bespoke program—first introduced to the Middle School curriculum in 2015—typically engages Class V through Class VIII students with week-long, interdisciplinary, intensive seminars. This year's program was slightly shorter, running two days in the middle of January, but it was no less robust and diverse.

Courses were created and taught by current Nightingale faculty or alumnae and served as an extension of the traditional Middle School academic curriculum. They included such diverse topics as the Classics, Cooking, Shakespeare, and Science. All classes were held virtually, which had the added benefit of allowing students to interact with those they otherwise don't often see due to social distancing and our pod cohorts.

Marin Nass ’13 taught a course entitled “Stripping the Paint: Demystifying Famous Works of Art” which examined famous works of art and why they were considered “famous.” Students then explored references regarding the work in everything from theatre, to music, to fashion, to Disney and considered their effects on society.

Ms. Nass observed that the student’s favorite works and artists were the Mona Lisa for the story of her art heist, Monet and the explanation of Impressionism being more than mere beauty, Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte for the Act I Finale of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George and Ferris Bueller, and Great Wave Off Kanagawa for all the fashion.

“I hope they took away the fact that art is everywhere, not just in a museum. It is more than just facts and droning whispers: art influences each thing we do, and there is always a reason to incorporate it. We may not agree why each work is so famous, but there is always an initial reason, and now fame perpetuates fame in a self-referential cycle.”

The students also participated in the Getty Museum Challenge, which you’ll see in the photo above. This challenge, made popular by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles last spring, asks participants to recreate famous works of art in their homes. In this instance, we see Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.

Melissa Gaglia ’16 offered a course entitled “Off the Court: The Business of Sports” which took a deep dive into all the players behind the scenes who help famous athletes have the careers they do, showing students that a career in sports can exist off the field.

Ms. Gaglia noted, “What compelled me to offer my minimester is that sports are a wildly popular pastime, but unfortunately when you turn on ESPN you do not see as many females being highlighted as there should be. While it is hard to become a professional athlete, and few succeed at that goal, there are other capacities in which one can work in sports. This was a realization I had in my college career as a varsity athlete that while I might not be the one playing the game, I did not have to give up on being a part of the game entirely.”

Students in the course worked on marketing projects, established what kind team culture they would want to cultivate as team owners, analyzed sports in pop culture, and brainstormed how teams can improve their fan experience at games.

Kat Hickey taught a course entitled “De-Stress Fitness” that focused on body movement and meditation techniques students could use to combat boredom and stress, especially in these challenging times. Students took part in HIIT, abdominal, yoga, and meditation workouts. From there, students created their own workouts in small groups and taught them to the class, which included learning how to write a workout and time it appropriately.

“Meditation was a huge hit because the students allowed themselves to open up and be vulnerable. A lot of the students mentioned that meditating in the past hasn't worked for them but found a way to make it happen during our minimester.”

Zack Brida taught a course entitled “Shakespeare on Stage” that cast students as actors, directors, and creative producers to put on a short scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students engaged in theater games, recitations, and line memorization to let their creativity shine, even in the time of Covid.

Mr. Brida shared, “I was compelled to offer Shakespeare on Stage to give the Nightingale student her big artistic moment, whether it was on the stage or behind the stage. I was hoping that students would take away some renewed love of performing in these isolating times.”

Emily Salitan and Megan Sadoff co-taught “Documentary Film: Storytelling for Social Change,“ with the goal to engage students in conversation about social justice in a new format.

The course began with a viewing of the film “The Harvest/La Cosecha,” which follows the stories of three child migrant farm workers and the harmful conditions in which they are forced to work. The class investigated the social inequities and immigration policies that cause American children to work as migrant farmworkers and heard from one of the film’s producers about documentary film and storytelling as a tool for social change.

To wrap up the course, students chose their own artistic way to use storytelling as a tool for social change. Topics ranged from police violence towards people of color to animal cruelty in the form of puppy mills.

See below for a full description of this year’s additional offerings:

An Introduction to The Odyssey and the Epic

Are you a lover of myths? Have you read Percy Jackson and want to know more about Ancient Greek gods and goddesses? If yes, come join us as we look at the founding epic: The Odyssey! We will look at some of the stops Odysseus makes on his twenty-year journey home to Ithaca. Among others, he encounters the Cyclops Polyphemus, Circe, Calypso, and the Sirens. By talking about these exciting and adventure filled stories, we will examine certain basic tenets of the epic that any future writer can employ!


Cooking class will zoom into our kitchens to learn new recipes, techniques, and short-cuts to help you become a better cook. We will begin with salads then move on to soups and sauces. Cooking challenges will be assigned to each student, and you’ll share your own cooking with photos and taste tests. We’ll watch videos of experienced cooks who show us their favorite dishes. If you’re interested in making delicious, healthy food, here’s a good starting place to begin your culinary journey.

Current Events

We live in a 24-7 news cycle and are surrounded by headlines. But what information should we know about the events impacting our world? How do we determine if a source is legitimate? In this course, we will learn about specific current events topics, how to become savvy consumers of the news, and we will even have an opportunity to create innovative ways to share important current events with our community.

Intro to Screenwriting


A young teacher sits at her computer. A group of MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS can be seen on her screen via Zoom.

For this mini-mester, we’re going to focus on the basics of screenwriting. We’ll talk about what we like to watch and why, the elements of a good script, and how to create a compelling plot and characters. We’ll also learn about the three-act story structure used throughout movies and tv.

STUDENT #1 raises her hand and unmutes her mic.

We’re not just gonna talk about screenwriting, right? We’ll have a chance to write scenes of our own too?

Definitely! Let’s get started..


Music Industry 101

Whether you want to be onstage, in the studio, or behind the camera, you don’t have to be Beyonce to make an album. All you need is an idea, some friends, and a pair of headphones. If you love music, but you don’t know where to start or how to finish, then you’ve come to the right place! In this minimester, I’m going to give you the A-Z’s of the music industry, show you how to turn your passions into projects, and teach you how to write, produce, and release a single. We’ll look at some of your favorite recording artists and the teams that helped build them, and show you how one song is all it takes.


From simple to complicated, from daily life to space, origami is not only a simple art about folding paper. Do you want to know how origami inspires NASA's work? Do you wonder how origami affects our daily life? Do you love origami? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then this is the minimester for you!

The Blue Planet: What we can learn about our most precious resource from space!

Picture this: you’re on your spaceship traveling from a galaxy far, far away, when suddenly, you approach a planet unlike any other planet you have ever seen. The planet...it’s blue...it has WATER! You have a sudden desire to learn more about this water. What is water? Where is water? Is it only the blue you can see from your spaceship? Is there an infinite amount? Just as you are about to start your descent to the earth, you see two satellites orbiting in tandem around this mysterious blue planet. Your spaceship’s computer identifies the satellites as GRACE-FO. But what does that mean? Could these satellites help you in your quest to learn more about water? This minimester welcomes all curious cosmonauts, astronauts, and aquanauts interested in science, astronomy or outer space and will challenge you to discover the answers to these questions and more!