GOSHEN — During Bethany Christian Schools’ two-week J-Term this year, some students are producing a play, some are learning to fly an airplane and some are studying basketball.
This is the second week of J-Term, when most Bethany students spend their days exploring a particular topic or two in-depth.
One class has only been meeting this week because the second part of the course will be a trip to Paraguay this summer.
Students said they’ve been spending the week preparing, including learning about the culture of Paraguay.
Tuesday, teacher Craig Mast had the students visit downtown Goshen shops with Spanish-speaking owners with instructions to only speak Spanish and to buy certain items at each store.
At Carnicería San Jose, the students were to purchase something from the meat counter. At least two groups walked away with a pig’s foot.
“We thought we were ordering something else, but this is what we got,” said Katie Hurst, a junior from Goshen.
Several students noted, though, how great it was to be able to recognize Spanish words they had learned on grocery items.
During the week, the students had also heard from a Paraguayan woman about the Guaraní natives and learned a few words in their language.
That was one of junior Katie Kauffman’s favorite parts of the week, though she said she’d probably forget many of the Guaraní phrases by the time they head to Paraguay this summer.
“I’m really excited,” she said, “but I’m a little nervous about being fully immersed.”
Other Bethany high school J-Term courses include studying civil rights in Mississippi, studying and visiting northern Michigan and learning about the technical side of theater, among others. Middle school students take two courses during J-Term, studying one topic during the mornings and another during the afternoons. This year, options include a fitness class that introduced students to several different kinds of exercise and healthy eating habits, a three-dimensional art class and a sports poetry course, among others.
Bethany Bible teacher Dale Shenk wanted to bring his love of playing and building guitars to his J-Term class.
This year, each student in Shenk’s J-Term is building a ukulele from a kit and learning some basic chords. They’ll perform a few songs next week during one of the school’s chapels, he said.
“One thing I think our culture is losing is the ability to work with our hands,” Shenk said. Kids do a lot of texting and are digitally savvy, but Shenk wanted to see his students go “away with that whole tool world demystified.”
Shenk also likes the idea that students will be able to leave the course with an instrument they made and own.
Lena Yeakey, a sophomore from Goshen, plays cello and piano and said she was interested in the ukulele course because she wanted to learn to play a more “social” instrument — one she can just pick up and play along with singers.
“We’ve definitely learned a lot about woodworking,” she said, listing off power tools the group has used, including a bandsaw, power sander and drills. Those are skills that could definitely come in handy, Lena added.
She also really likes the set-up of J-Term.
“It’s kind of an extension from Christmas break,” she said, “except you get to focus on something really interesting.”