The Immersive Experience

One course, three weeks. Go deep.


What happens during those three weeks? Below, you’ll find descriptions of the arc of different types of Immersives. Whether a course focuses on a single topic, like geology, or crosses disciplines, like Water in the West, you get to be fully engaged in hands-on work. On the last day we hold Exhibition, with presentations of learning that reflect your full experience in the course: What went right in your project? What went wrong? Did your perspective change? What would you do differently?

    Multidisciplinary Course Samples

    Science + Social Studies

    Whose water is it? This investigation into California’s water systems and politics takes place largely at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory in the eastern Sierras. Students explore stream systems and their inhabitants, hydrology, and the history of water manipulation as seen through the eyes of different stakeholders in and around the Owens Valley. For the scientific portion of their work, the group spends days collecting and analyzing water samples in a variety of locations, including Mono Lake. Their social research has them talking to ranchers, members of the Paiute tribe who are trying to regain water rights, and local historians. 

    Students also bond as a community as they live and work together, cook meals, and take on the aspects of the pro that animate them.

    Humanities + Art

    How does our family shape us? How does culture shape our notions of family? How is family represented in art? Working in a small writing group, each student will produce a memoir and a portfolio at the end of the term. In conversations with visiting artists and studies of different types of memoir, the class delves into concepts of how text and imagery work together and how to make choices in which parts of a story to tell. In learning to write and creatively present their own story, class members come away with the skills to construct an artful personal narrative. During the course, the teachers are creating their own memoirs, so they can relate to the process that the students are participating in.

    Math + Social Studies

    This class investigates representation and voting—the fundamental features of democracies—through a mathematical lens, while also learning about the history and current state of democratic government. Students examine different types of voting systems to learn about how their design influences strategies and outcomes. The essential questions guiding the work include: What is the function of representation in a democracy? How can/should groups of people make decisions? How can an individual make an impact on policy?

    Single-Subject Course Samples

    Students observe the night sky, gather data, and spend a week running the research-level Tuolumne Skies Observatory, near Yosemite. They’ll learn the basics of telescope operation, data collection and management, and image processing techniques. Just like real astronomers, they’ll sleep during the day and work at night as they run projects and search for exoplanets. For Exhibition, students present on an aspect of their work from the observatory, such as a light curve, a scientifically interesting object, or an astronomical image.

    Why does a pancake turn out dense instead of fluffy? Will your sourdough turn out different in February than in October? (Spoiler alert: Yes. But why?) Cooking is live-action chemistry, and the beauty of this Immersive is that it takes abstract concepts, like polarity, and makes them real. Through systematically breaking down recipes and processes and documenting findings in lab reports, students come to understand acids and bases, emulsion, heat, and other key concepts in chemistry, all while gaining cooking techniques and confidence in the kitchen. Bonus: Exhibition is a feast of sampling delicious creations.

    Learn and apply the essential skills of negotiation and policy-making. Students engage in research to draft policy papers, debate, collaborate, and compromise. Domestic and international policy themes include data privacy, energy, women’s rights, and migration. Public-health conditions allowing, this course requires all students to attend the Harvard Model Congress and a Model UN event (location varies).