It isn't every week that students have a chance to learn Systems Thinking from the Head of School, hot sauce making from the Director of Admissions, or boat building from the Math Department Chair. No, it is only during the Winter Week of Wisdom and Wonder, MSA's signature program created a decade ago to provide students and teachers an opportunity to learn topics outside the regular curriculum.

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Curiosity, I don’t know if it can be manufactured, but I think that it can be inspired.
— Rheannon Loth, MSA Junior

wwoww showcase


wwoww courses previously offered



Can’t go a meal without adding a bit of the greatest condiment in the world? Me either! Come join us as we investigate what makes a great hot sauce and then we try our hands at making our own batches. If we have time, we will also make some quick pickled vegetables that will be ready to eat in a few days and good for months to come. Be sure to bring lots of courage and a bottle of your favorite sauce to share.


How many of you have seen Mr. Jacinto Loya around campus cleaning and fixing and doing all that he can to make MSA a better community to live and grow up in? If so, here is your chance to give back to him! Mr. Loya has three small Pomeranian dogs that currently need a home. And over the last few months, a few Applied Engineering students have been working tirelessly to build Mr. Loya a “Luxury Dog House” for his dogs. This luxury dog house is nearly complete and will have working windows, a painted interior, a vinyl siding exterior, a hobbit-sized door for human access, a doggie door for his four-legged furry friends, and a shingled roof… think “Tiny House” but for dogs!

We are nearly complete with the Luxury Dog House, but need your help to finally finish it off! If you are willing to dress warmly to work outside, and don’t mind learning new things such as siding installation or how to build a roof, then give this WWOWW class a try. What a great way to learn some valuable home construction skills, as well as to help three valuable members of our MSA community… Mr. Loya’s dogs! (Special guest appearance and construction support to be offered by Mr. Loya himself.)

*Applied Engineering credit!


In this three-day course, you will craft a personal statement to be used in the college application process and familiarize yourself with Naviance and the Common App. On days two and three, you will have the opportunity to tour two universities: James Madison University (a large, public institution) and University of Richmond (a smaller, private institution).


We will learn basic electronics and assemble different hands-on kits, such as a functioning Google Home 2-way mirror using a Raspberry Pi Computer  Click Here! or Raspberry Pi 3 B+ computer retro gaming consoles. Click Here! We will even dabble in the robotics world. Pick your poison!

*Applied Engineering credit!


Tools for Mastering the Most Challenging Component of AP History Exams

The Document Based Question (DBQ) is the most notorious section of the Advanced Placement European, World, and American History exams. It requires quick-on-your-feet critical thinking, smart close reading, and a very specific style of writing. All this must be accomplished in under an hour.

Mr. Riddick and Mr. Fickley are offering a three-day tutorial on how to master the DBQ, so it doesn’t master you. The course will be a mixture of instruction and focused practice, offering students a chance to drill specific skills and practice historical analysis. The week will culminate in a full simulation with students writing a real AP DBQ.

Mr. Riddick is an experienced AP grader with years of indispensable insider wisdom to share. Mr. Fickley loves to read student writing. Whether you’re taking AP Euro or APUSH, this class is not to be missed!

*Humanities credit!


Are Zeus and Jupiter the same god? If so, why do they have different names? Thor’s a god, but is that only in the MCU or is it based in reality? Wonder Woman is an Amazon, but what does that even mean? Rick Riordan has written three book series -- Percy Jackson, the Kane Chronicles and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard -- which have brought different mythologies into our popular culture. In this course, you’ll get the basics on the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Norse and maybe even the Irish. You’ll consider what it means to be a god or a hero, how these different mythologies overlap, and how they teach us something very fundamental about ourselves.  


Mr. Randy Rinehart (Member of the MSA Board of Trustees)

In the not-so-distant future, Old Main will undergo a pretty substantial renovation. While the outside will remain its timeless self, different parts of the interior will be entirely transformed. So far, many teachers, administrators, board members, and staff members have weighed in about what renovations should be made. Now it’s the students’ turn! What would you do with the 4th floor? Should dorm rooms be relocated? What kind of tech should be put in the classrooms? What would the ideal library look like? We will discuss all these items and more, as we envision Old Main’s future from a student perspective. Once we settle on a student-driven plan, we will compare it to the existing architectural plans, and we will draw up a proposal to present to the Board of Trustees!

*Applied Engineering credit!


Mrs. Gillespie & Mrs. Gregory

In this workshop, you will learn fundamental baking techniques. No experience in the kitchen? No problem! First, you will explore the mystery and magic of the most ancient form of baking: sourdough. Explore unique flavor profiles using spices, fresh ingredients, and extracts while making sourdough scones. Then, visit a commercial kitchen while touring the Albemarle Baking Company in downtown Charlottesville. Enjoy a pastry or three at this exquisite local bakery. Finally, put your artistic skills to the test while learning decorating techniques for show-stopping sugar cookies.  


Ms. Eisloeffel

Our media plays an important role in our lives today. We spend our days listening and watching music videos, reading and sharing articles online with each other on social media. These things are constantly affecting how we perceive things. Music and text have an especially great influence on how women are portrayed. We will analyze various writings, music videos, and other media, in order to uncover what underlying themes and messages are being sent to and about women.


Ms. Francis

An awesome resume and cover letter can open the door to your future career! In this course, we will locate practical jobs available to you today or internships available at prospective colleges. You will craft your resume to use continuously throughout life and to showcase your skills and experiences. We will explore the art of the cover letter and why potential employers focus on them prior to an interview offer. Finally, you will practice interview skills.  


Mr. Hanson

Learn the basics of employing a multi-role fighter aircraft. We’ll spend one day on air-to-air, one day on air-to-ground, and one day on miscellaneous other stuff (life support, differences among various aircraft, mission planning, etc).  

*Applied Engineering credit!


Ms. Barrett

In this fun, hands-on course offered by sewing enthusiast, Ms. Barrett, you will learn to use a sewing machine to complete a variety of cozy, beginner projects. You will use colorful fabrics to complete your projects, which will include a flannel pillowcase. Students who’ve taken this course before may choose to make a pair of flannel pajama pants instead of a pillowcase! Sew, so cozy!


Mrs. Landseadel

You don't have to be a seasoned artist to try your hand at these fun, easy painting techniques. We will get creative designing several works of art using a different technique each day. The first technique is called pour painting, where you will mix a combination of colors together that you will pour over a canvas. The ingredients in your pour will create fluid motion and interesting natural designs. The second technique we will try is called resist painting. You will be able to choose between using soap or tape to create shapes and/or lines in your painting. And, last but not least, in the third method, you will melt crayons into a work of art. If you would like a visual of what type of art you will be creating, check out examples of these techniques on YouTube!

*Humanities credit!


Mr. Mac

Last year the Board Game class played Cuba Libre, a complex yet rewarding game about the Cuban Revolution and the dynamics of insurgent and counterinsurgent conflicts. We will be looking to get that game back on the table as well as “A Distant Plain,” a game about the U.S. war in Afghanistan based on the same system as Cuba Libre. We will play a couple of extra titles, including the award winning game Scythe, which is a game set in an alternate-history 1920s Eastern European period with factions that have asymmetric abilities and mechs. Come on people, it has mechs! Also in consideration is the new Pandemic game, Pandemic: The Fall of Rome, where 5th century Rome has Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Vandals, and Huns at its borders and you and your team need to cooperatively work to keep the Empire safe from the barbarian hordes.


Ms. Goodbar and Ms. Ewell

For two years in a row, Preservation Virginia’s list of the most endangered places in the state of Virginia has included all African-American cemeteries. These cemeteries have been threatened by industry, neglected due to lack of funds, or abandoned when African-American communities have been forced out of localities for economic reasons. We have one of these endangered  cemeteries in our own backyard. The Mt. View Baptist Cemetery, located at the edge of the Miller School’s property, was neglected for decades. Until last year, the Virginia Department of Transportation was using its property as a parking lot for maintenance vehicles. Grave markers are gone. Gravesites are covered in brush in the woods. But one notable gravestone still standing reads:  Elizabeth Sims-- 3/13/13- 12/23/92 --Loved by Those at Miller School. We believe many of the men and women buried at the Mt. View cemetery were Miller School employees who cooked the food, washed the laundry, and swept the floors of our school throughout the 20th century. In this WWOWW course, we will attempt to recover the identities and stories of some of these men and women who were loved by those at Miller, but whose legacies have been lost.  Using online databases, funeral home records, public records available through Ancestry.com, and files and papers stored in the basement of Old Main, we will help the effort to recover this lost history of the Miller School and to promote racial justice in the preservation of historic places in the South. There will be at least one guest speaker to tell the story of the cemetery’s history.


Mr. Leary

Soccer, also known as futbol and sometimes even Communist Kickball, is the world’s most beautiful game. Played in every country of the world by billions of people, young and old, even the liberal U.S. Winter is the perfect time to take the game indoors, where the pace of the game increases and footwork becomes paramount. If you enjoy soccer and are looking for an intense way to get your heart rate up this WWOWW, join us in the gym. Joga Bonito, Friends!


Ms. Ainsworth

Lillian Clay Goolsby was the first girl to attend Miller School. I have no idea what she ended up doing with her life, but as a woman growing up in Albemarle County in the 1800’s, no doubt she knew how to utilize the botanicals she found in nature. During this workshop, you’ll learn to design custom fragrances by blending herbs, oils, and natural botanicals. Participants will use a variety of natural ingredients to create body scrubs, bath soaks, hand soaps, and scented candles. Imagine an invigorating rosemary-eucalyptus salt scrub or a soothing lavender-thyme candle! This three-day experience promises to be both relaxing and inspiring!


Mr. Hufnagel

Surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding have had a meteoric rise in the sports world over the past twenty years. What were once considered rebellious activities for trouble-making teens are now high-dollar, mainstream action sports that support a multi-billion-dollar industry. The first half of the course examines the marketing, branding, and films that have launched these extreme sports into the spotlight. The second half of the week is spent outside building skateboards and learning basic skateboarding skills. Students learn basic skateboard tricks on campus and take a trip to Nelson Skate Park.


Mr. Drude

Learn leadership skills through a discipline known as “systems thinking.” Systems thinking is the ability to see the consequences of our own actions, to see all the connections in any situation, to seek to understand how things unfold over time, to see how any situation may have been influenced by things we (or others) did in the past, and to look at situations through different “frames” or “lenses.”

In this WWOWW class, you will learn the concepts of systems thinking through playing games and participating in team exercises. The class will examine a real issue at MSA (as identified by the class), and using systems thinking techniques, seek solutions to that problem.


Mrs. Gillespie

Ready to test your mettle?  In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of modern day sword fighting.  Although once a necessity, fencing continues to be a popular sport around the world.  You will begin your journey with young Edmond Dantes and the film The Count of Monte Cristo.  Afterwards, you’ll study footwork, etiquette and develop your technique through a rigorous series of drills and conditioning exercises. On our final day together, you will enjoy live demonstrations and get the chance to face off with an opponent.  This course provides mental and physical challenges that are not for the faint of heart. En garde!


The miraculous beverage known as “coffee” starts its life in a most unassuming form:   as the hard, beige seed hidden inside the coffee fruit. To unleash its flavor, you have to roast it! In this class, we will study the art and the science of roasting coffee, and we will taste our results through a practice known as cupping, in which we observe and describe the flavors and aromas that result from different levels of roasts, different bean varieties, and different grinding/brewing methods. We will be roasting/cupping bean varieties from all over Africa and Central America, and we’ll even try our hand with a batch of the coveted Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee!


Mr. Hanson

Gain confidence in the outdoors while learning skills that will help in enjoying the outdoors and aid in a survival situation.  We will learn about preparation for a trip outdoors, fire, shelter, food and water, navigation, and signaling. We will be hiking in the woods (not on trails) regardless of the weather, so appropriate dress is required (warm, layered clothing and appropriate footwear, maybe rain gear and gloves depending on weather conditions).


Mr. Pallante

In this offering students will explore the various tools and techniques to capture and create short films.  Stop motion animation is a technique using a camera to capture individual frames (still photos) of objects such as clay, paper, drawings and even people that have been manipulated or moved from one frame to the next.  Students will use everything from iphones to professional DSLRs (digital cameras) and simple computer software to generate 1-2 minute short films accompanied by the music of their choice. No experience necessary.


Mr. Barnes (former Headmaster of MSA!)

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of the most infamous events of the 20th century. In this course, we will carefully examine (1) the historical context of John Kennedy's rise to prominence, the state of the world and the country from the end of WWII to JFK's election as president; (2) the major domestic and international events facing JFK after his election as president; (3) November 22, 1963, a day in American history long remembered, and its aftermath; and (4) post-assassination studies, including (i) the conclusions of the Warren Commission, (ii) the conspiracy and related theories of those who differed with the Warren Commission, and (iii) more recently, data-driven, empirical analyses of the crime scene.  

All of the above is presented as objectively as possible via lectures, articles, discussions, and DVD presentations, with all sides of the story examined as comprehensively as time allows.  On our final day, students will work together in offering to the rest of the group a cogent theory re: who killed JFK and why, and then defend that particular theory as others ask questions. As you can imagine, this discussion can take some interesting twists and turns and is a good exercise in reasoned advocacy.