Intensives: Two Weeks of Immersive Learning

by Will Wickizer
Intensives, an annual event at SGS, consist of two-weeks of courses designed to encourage a growth mindset, enhance communication skills, improve problem-solving abilities, and foster community-building and inclusion practices. During half of the day, students concentrate on grade-specific projects related to their grade-level themes. The remaining half of the day is dedicated to fostering relationships across different grades. In total, there are 8 courses segmented into either STEAM (Sweet Sweet Science, Illuminations, Utopia Village, and Urban Market Quest) or Humanities (Creative Worlds: Narrative Game Design, 7th-grade Mock Trial, and 8th-grade Filmmaking Challenges).

Now that intensives have officially concluded, we'd like to take a moment to spotlight four stories from intensives – two from STEAM and two from Humanities.

To learn more about our 8 intensives, follow this LINK.


Illuminations is an immersive intensive exploring laser cutting, graphic design, and electrical circuitry. It introduces students to new tools and software, providing an enriching hands-on learning journey. The end result is to have a lamp that not only is functional but represents something meaningful to the student – whether that be a cutout of their favorite book or their favorite skiing mountain (more on that later).

As we all know, starting a new skill can pose challenges, yet, with perseverance and teamwork, overcoming these hurdles often leads to mastering a new skill. Vio, a 6th-grade participant in this intensive, shares her personal experience tackling challenges and emerging with newfound skills:

“I was challenged with an app called Inkscapes. It was really technical and sometimes confusing to work with. To overcome this, I asked for help from my friends and teachers and figured it out. Now I feel confident with the app and love my final design!” - Vio 

At the Showcase event – a time where peers and mentors observe and speak to students about their designs – the lights are turned off, making their lamps glow in colors – hand-picked by students – that range from gold to blue. Observers packed the classroom, pointing and bending down to take closer looks. One student created an impressive cutout that represented Whistler Mountain, a ski resort in British Columbia. The student said it was her favorite mountain to ski and that her family goes there every year. All around the room were truly amazing designs that not only illuminated the space, but illuminated our inspiration! 

Utopia Village
In Utopia Village, breaking through creative barriers takes center stage. Before embarking on their creative journey, students are confronted with three pivotal questions: How can we create equitable communities? How do we design spaces that cater to community needs? And how can we make structures that harmonize with the environment? Before heading to the drawing board, students participated in a no-hands cup stacking challenge, which served as an opportunity for students to work together with a shared objective. 

As students began designing, they ensured their structures were a response to the three aforementioned questions. (How can we create equitable communities? How do we design spaces that cater to community needs? And how can we build structures that sit lightly on the environment?) When we asked Tallulah, a 6th-grade student, about her biggest challenge, she shared:

"I found it challenging to push myself to think outside the box, and to make something I’ve never made before. I found this difficult and it really made me think of what I need to do to make this more accessible."  - Tallulah

In addition to encouraging creative thinking and growth mindset, Utopia Village afforded students the opportunity to practice how to cohesively organize and share their ideas. They did this by presenting their structures during our school Showcase, where mentors and students go around asking our young designers the reasoning behind their design choices. It was remarkable seeing the students explain their decisions and present their ideas. Well done to all those who participated and helped!


Mock Trial 
“One skill emphasized in the 7th grade curriculum is the ability to see multiple perspectives on a topic. Preparing a legal case [for mock trial] necessitates really understanding both sides of the dispute.” – Wendy Ewbank, Social/Global Studies Teacher

If you were to ask any SGS Alum about their most memorable experience at SGS, odds are they would say the 7th grade mock trial. In this demanding and highly engaging two-week “Law School” intensive, students learn the steps in a trial, analyze facts and witness statements, come up with a theory of the case and work collaboratively on a prosecution or defense team. At the end, they present their cases before a real judge and live jury of parent volunteers!

Wendy Ewbank, our illustrious social/global studies teacher, wrote an amazing piece on how students learn our justice system first-hand by participating in this intensive. You can read it HERE

It’s no surprise that an immense amount of learning and teamwork takes place; but, what may not be known is the sheer amount of community power it takes to pull this off. This year – and every year – families, judges, and high school students rally together and help make this event happen. Gabbi Robbins, one of the volunteers, co-captains of the Franklin High School mock trial team, and SGS Alum, stated: 

“Being at SGS doing Mock trial in 7th grade really ignited my passion for law, so much so that I’m considering going to law school now – and so it means a lot to come back and start that experience for these 7th graders. I hope that as they move on, they know not only can they pursue law but they can pursue anything if they work hard enough.” - Gabi Robbins, SGS Alum 

A big, heartfelt thank you to all of the volunteers who helped make this a successful experience, one that is sure to be remembered by students and families for years to come. 

Narrative Game Design
Ever wondered what goes into creating a game? At first, it may sound simple, but upon deeper contemplation, a seemingly simple game can turn into a complex work of art. It involves story-telling, world-building, and the necessity of giving precise instructions. In Narrative Game Design, our 5th and 6th grade students delved into the world of game-making, exploring how to build narratives, create conflicts, write clear instructions, and, above all, the art of making games fun!

It seems one of the underlying themes in this intensive is that simplicity can be deceivingly complex. We had a chance to witness this concept in action in one of Ms. T's lessons. The task? Instruct Ms. T on how to put on a jacket exclusively through verbal communication. The primary objective of this lesson was to familiarize students with the intricacies of communication and equip them with the skills to deliver clear and cohesive instructions.

We were able to catch up with Ms. T, asking for more insight into the Narrative Game Design experience: 

“[In Narrative Game Design] We discussed aspects of both narrative and instructional writing, and designed their own narrative board games. Their games are set in worlds ranging from Miami Beach to haunted cabins to faraway planets.”


Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.