May Term Returns to Parker

May Term, a program that originally took place in the 1970s, made its way back to Parker this year. Seniors concluded their spring semester classes and spent the last two weeks of the month following their passions, exploring new adventures and volunteering at various nonprofits. Spearheaded by visual arts and graphic design teacher Travis Chandler and Director of Studies Sven Carlsson, this immersive experience aimed to give students the opportunity to create their own projects to potentially discover new and exciting ideas.

Chandler recalled, “I had a ‘May Term’ experience as a high school student, and it literally changed my life. I did a deep-dive into the films of Alfred Hitchcock. That experience made me choose film as a direction in college, which truly changed the direction I was headed, certainly for the better. It’s been my hope since we started to talk about bringing May Term back that we could offer that kind of opportunity to Parker seniors.”

After deciding to make May Term a reality, Chandler and Carlsson set the parameters for the project and had students consider their project focus beginning in November. Students worked alone or in groups of up to four to bring their ideas to life. After meetings for preparation, and under the guidance of advisors, students set off on their two-week projects.

The process culminated in a science-fair-style event in the Kovler Family Library, where all were welcome to take in the projects and hear presentations from the seniors. From the writing of a memoir, to game design, to the creation of a pizza oven from scratch, the projects covered a wide range of interests and topics, leading to a truly fascinating display.

Students brought in props and visual aids—including Porkchop the dog, who is available for adoption at One Tail at a Time—to accompany their presentations. Nsaia Pettis displayed a variety of plants, including the Swiss cheese plant (monstera adansonii), to showcase her time volunteering at Chicago Plants. Pettis hopes one day to house 60 plants in her home, so she learned the best way to care for them. As to her biggest takeaway, Pettis said, “Be patient. Plants are like your kids.”

Jalil Hassan also learned about patience through his project of playing the drums. Influenced by family members who also drum, Hassan took lessons when he was younger, but took the time during May Term to revisit the instrument and created a solo of his own on an electric drum kit. The project has since rekindled his interest in drumming, and he plans to continue developing his skills.

In addition to skill development, some students had their project reflect more on current events. Ruby Radis and Alex Ostrom focused their efforts on the recent leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion regarding Roe v. Wade. Radis and Ostrom created their own zine—in reference to the Riot Grrrl movement of the ’90s—that covered information about the consequences of overturning the court ruling and featured quotes and chants from protestors at a recent march in support of a woman’s right to choose.

“We decided to create a zine to get this information into the hands of the Parker community,” Radis explained. “When you have a platform, you need to use it.”

Overall, the May Term proved to be a successful venture that allowed seniors to go out on their own to discover more about topics that interest them. The projects served almost as a capstone of the seniors’ time at Parker, as they used the power of their voices and self-confidence to forge their own paths and potentially discover something truly inspiring.

To encapsulate the importance of this initiative, Chandler said, “Every project has the potential to show students more about something in the world they wished they had the time to find out more about, and now they do.”

Click here for photos of the May Term Share.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.