Virtual Academic Fair showcases next year’s courses

Kate Burry

Upper school students and teachers gathered over Zoom to discuss next year’s course options at the first virtual Academic Fair on March 15 during Community Flex Time.

In past years, teachers would set up designated tables for each class, and students would roam freely throughout Taper Gymnasium , stopping and chatting at each station they were interested in.

Because the event took place virtually, the school redesigned the format of the fair. Each subject department had its own Zoom link; courses within each subject were assigned different breakout rooms, and the 50-minute period was separated into four 10-minute time intervals, allowing participants to transition between Zoom sessions.

At the beginning of each 10-minute segment , teachers gave a summary of their classes, including the general topics covered, the pre-requisites or co-requisites necessary to enroll, the workload and the type of student who would enjoy the class. Students were then given the opportunity to ask more specific questions about the trajectory of the class throughout the year.

English Teacher Lucas Gonzalez said while he and the rest of the teachers missed the adrenaline rush typically brought by herds of students during the in-person Academic Fair, it was still the highlight of his virtual day.

“I miss the blossoming crowds of eager students and the collective sense of soaking up academic possibility,” Gonzalez said. “I miss dragging out my typewriter [and] some worn-out novels and geeking out over what excited me about the class I teach. Today’s Academic Fair was the best alternative, capturing the spontaneity and a sense of whimsy and optimism about learning.”

Some juniors in the Class of 2022 participated in the virtual event while in classrooms or on the quad, emulating the physical experience of past years more closely than those who opted not to return to campus. Shanti Hinkin ’22, who ate lunch in the newly built flag court cafeteria, said that the Academic Fair was especially meaningful to her because she connected with teachers she had not interacted with in nearly a year.

“This year the fair felt all the more special,” Hinkin said. “Something that COVID-19 has really taken away is the ability to see your teachers from years prior and catch up with them, so getting to see some teachers from last year was really awesome. It’s cool to watch teachers talk about their class because it’s so clear how passionate they are about them and how much they truly love what they’re teaching. It gets you excited about your future years at the school.”

During the event, seniors who took certain classes during their junior or sophomore years were able to engage in conversation with students who could potentially take them. Eli Nickoll ’21, who served as a senior representative for Honors World History, AP Literature: Good Grief and Philosophy in Art and Science, said he enjoyed sharing his passion for the courses with underclassmen.

“The Academic Fair is a great way to understand your choices for classes next year,” Nickoll said. “I remember being influenced by the Honors World History station last year and was just glad I was able to contribute to the juniors’ decision-making process.”