Immersive Catalog 2023

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Immersive Course Catalog 2023


Hello, everyone! Welcome to the second-ever course catalog for Branson’s immersive program. Contained herein are over thirty team-taught classes that will run fromTuesday, May 23 to Friday, June 2, 2023.You will sign up for courses beginning February 1.

For now, please familiarize yourself with the offerings, begin to identify your dozen favorite options, and start to get excited! We cannot wait to share these courses with all of you.

– Jeff Symonds, on behalf of the Branson faculty and staff



African Drumming: Building CommunityAnd HealingThrough Rhythm Arranging Popular Music forACappella TheArt of Knitting

TheAvant-Garde: Breaking Stuff and Making Stuff Be a Content Creator / Immersives Reporter

Best Buddies:Thoughtful Engagement throughAuthentic Partnerships

The Bible as Literature BullsEyes at Branson Chocolate!

AClever Gambit:TakingYour Chess to the Next Level Contemporary World Cinema Creating a BayArea FreedomTrail

Creating Calm: Introduction to Meditation, Mindfulness, and Movement Cycling and Marin Death at Sea

Exploring Identity and Creative Voice through Choice Reading Instrumental Music Ensemble Introduction toAmerican Sign Language Introduction to Mahjong

Just for Kicks:AStory of Sneakers Making Money with Money Medical Case Studies

On the Cutting Edge:The History and Practice ofTextileArts Outdoor Skills Poetry asActivism Puzzlepalooza

ARiver RunsThrough It: Learning to Fly Fish

ServiceAnimals andTraining Guide Dog Puppies

Through the Realm of Virtual Reality–An Introduction to 3D Design

The “Ultimate” Immersive Visions of Place: Experiential, Creative Practices in the BayArea Woodworking The World of BodyArt



African Drumming: Building Community and Healing Through Rhythm

This course is designed to use percussion activities, exercises, and games as a way to experience the power of drumming in West African culture. Curricula is designed to provide the opportunity to experience the joy of rhythm that allows students to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas while using instruments as their voice Over the course of the class, students will learn fundamental skills of music and its vocabulary They will also experience the importance of teamwork, community, leadership, and coordination Highlighted exercises will develop self-discipline and increase our muscles of attention span. The content offers an original and fresh approach to learning that develops critical thinking and interdisciplinary problem-solving skills All levels of experience are welcome!

Arranging Popular Music forACappella

The process of taking a song you hear and converting it into a song that can be sung using just the human voice is both an art and a science This immersive will explore different techniques and tech tools to bring your creative vision to life Please join us as we dive into the art of arranging a cappella music with the hopes that each student will experiment with arranging music independently as well as collaboratively. As a group, we also plan to produce a song or two to be performed at the culmination of the immersive period Although you don’t need to have a cappella experience or be a rock star to join us, a strong musical ear and the ability to carry a tune is highly recommended Let’s make some killer music

TheArt of Knitting

Learn how to knit! Or progress further with your craft during this immersive Beginners and more advanced knitters are all welcome Knitting is relaxing and fun and it’s such a pleasure to create your own hats, scarves, mittens, sweaters, and more! We will travel to Petaluma to visit Windrush Farm, where the wonderful and welcoming proprietor raises sheep and llamas for


yarn We will learn about all stages of raising these animals, shearing them, and then dying and spinning the yarn Then we’ll visit local yarn stores, where students will each select their own knitting needles and yarn for their first project and we will learn how to knit together. Each day we will progress and learn new skills, and you can get individual help whenever you need it. You will finish your first project and probably start on a second one during the immersive, and hopefully discover a lifelong passion for knitting

TheAvant-Garde: Breaking Stuff and Making Stuff

Historically, the avant-garde served as a space for artists to investigate and interrogate social assumptions and norms Does it still have legitimacy?This class explores the idea of the avant-garde in as many forms as we can pack in We'll start with definitions No, the avant-garde is not a form of French éclair; it's a military word meaning "in the advance" and it's traditionally been connected to arts movements that defy conventions and seek to upend tradition So that's what we will do We'll look at art and film and literature and dance and music and even things like food We'll study how the avant-garde explored these mediums in order to say something new, and then we'll create our own avant-gardes, our own upending of tradition. If you like breaking norms and creating anew, this is the class for you!

Be a Content Creator / Immersives Storytelling

Go inside Branson’s immersives using the tools of social media content creators and journalists to experience and report on the activities of 1-2 other courses. Students will use the written word, video, and photography to craft a story around the immersives to which they are assigned, giving their audience a unique insider perspective on these incredible learning experiences You’ll work in teams to report on what each course is learning and to share this content on the Branson website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Participants will also have the opportunity to meet with professional content creators and digital storytellers to learn about their craft and the tips and tricks of the trade


Best Buddies: Thoughtful Engagement throughAuthentic Partnerships

Have you not been able to sign up for a Best Buddies lunch because you didn’t respond in the first two minutes it was announced? Well, here is your chance to join in on the fun! For the Best Buddies immersive, we are going to spend our time with daily visits to Oak Hill and Helix Schools Oak Hill and Helix are schools for students that are on the autism spectrum We are going to do projects designed by Branson, Oak Hill and Helix students together Best Buddies student leaders will visit the schools in the winter and design fun projects along with students from Oak Hill and Helix that involve cooking, art, sports, dance, and games. During the spring immersive, we will complete the projects that were designed by students from both schools In addition, we will hear from experts about autism, and we will discuss what it means to engage meaningfully with another institution

The Bible as Literature

Tired of not catching the Biblical references in the other books that you read? Interested in where some of our country’s foundational moral stories and ideas come from? Wondering just what’s in that book in every hotel room you’ve ever been in? Want to learn how 250 words came to define sibling relationships for thousands of years? Then you’re in luck– this course will offer students a chance to take a crash course in the most culturally influential book in their lives by reading and analyzing essential passages from the old and new testaments in week one, and then studying how these stories inform and influence 20th and 21st century American art and life in week two. The final project will give students a chance to communicate how the stories from the Bible have impacted their lives, whether they practice Judaism or Christianity, or don’t

BullsEyes at Branson

Do you want to build upper body strength, refine your focus, or enhance your hand-eye coordination? Whether you’ve hit a bullseye before or have never held a bow and arrow, all skill levels interested in the art of archery are welcome. You will learn and practice the fundamentals of archery to improve mental strength and concentration, freeing the mind from everyday distractions by focusing it You will help design and build our very own range, including wooden


targets, right here on Branson’s campus, and visit different archery ranges in the Bay Area (San Rafael, Napa, Oakland, San Francisco, Martinez) Join us to help usher in a new era of archery at Branson!


Do you like chocolate? Considered “Food of the Gods,” chocolate has unquestionably made a huge impact on our world! The use of the cacao plant can be traced back in history for more than 4000 years. In this immersive, we will explore different facets of chocolate. We will:

● Visit different chocolate makers in the BayArea

● Learn about the science of chocolate and the basics of chocolate making

● Experiment with different variables in our efforts to make delicious chocolate bars

● Learn about the world history of chocolate and the social/economic impact chocolate production has on the environment

● Adventure into the city to taste the best chocolate San Francisco has to offer We will wrap up the course by creating dishes and desserts which include chocolate as an ingredient and share them with our Branson Community!

AClever Gambit: TakingYour Chess to the Next Level

Are you curious but slightly intimidated about learning to play chess? Do you want to beat your dad with a surprise stratagem? Do you find yourself staying up late playing online blitz games? Have you been enthralled by the recent Carlsen-Niemann cheating controversy? Perhaps more than any other game, chess has stood the test of time A truly global pursuit, it has spread across oceans, mountains, and borders to become a focal point of academic study, historical context, and community engagement for over 1,400 years For many, chess is the perfect game, with unparalleled beauty and unfathomable depth. This immersive will explore the history and development of chess and include level-appropriate sessions on chess theory, strategy, tactics, openings and end-games followed by play, practice, and analysis We will also examine the vibrant history of chess in the Bay Area, with visits to San Francisco’s Mechanics Institute (America’s oldest chess club), the Chess com headquarters in Mountain View, and other notable sites. You will learn from local experts, discover online resources for self-improvement, and play Bughouse, Kriegspiel, Chess960, and other chess variants. We invite players of all levels to take part and, hopefully, go on to further enrich Branson’s vibrant chess culture


Contemporary World Cinema

This immersive is an exploration of cinema from various parts of the world How can we understand cinematic production as representative of a culturally significant moment? How do aesthetics traverse both time and geography? How do technology or exhibition practices impact cinema? The discussions that follow film screenings will familiarize students with relevant film historiography, art and aesthetic movements, and significant conversations taking place in cinema across time and culture It goes without saying that we will also center the beauty, power, and potential of this art form

Creating a BayArea Freedom Trail

When people think about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, they tend to think about things like the Montgomery bus boycott; Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma; or Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC Have you ever wondered what was happening in the Bay Area during this time? Turns out that the Bay Area played a pivotal role in the fight for civil rights – for African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Latin-Americans, gay and trans people, and more In this immersive we’ll build a better understanding of the Bay Area’s role in the Civil Rights Movement by exploring records of these events, visiting significant historical sites, and hearing from people who lived through these turbulent times. We’ll try to bring the era to life while considering how the legacy of these events shows up around us today

Creating Calm: Introduction to Meditation, Mindfulness, and Movement

Envision yourself practicing yoga, learning martial arts, forest bathing amidst the beautiful Marin Headlands, mindfully eating delicious food, traveling to magnificent meditation centers, and learning how to let go of stress In this immersive, students will develop the foundational skills in the millennia-old practices of meditation and mindfulness while centering movement, adventure, and community. Students will learn directly from local and global experts regarding their distinctive methods while developing their own unique practice By the end of our journey,


students will have gained the tools to create a sense of calm within themselves no matter what they do or where they go

Cycling and Marin

Do you have a passion for cycling? Or are you curious about bikes and want to learn more? This immersive, open to all levels of cycling experience, will explore the different aspects of cycling in the birthplace of the mountain bike. We will learn how to fix and maintain bikes, construct trails, and take rides Additionally, we will travel to the Cycling Hall of Fame in Fairfax to learn about the history of cycling in Marin We will also discuss equity in cycling and learn about community programs that seek to attract more non-cyclists to cycling.

Death at Sea

In 1820, the whaleship Essex was struck and sunk by an enormous whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean Most of its crew perished and the remaining sought to survive on lifeboats by all means possible, including cannibalism. This incident, the inspiration for the book Moby Dick, raises several questions Why was whaling important enough for men to risk their lives? What were the ecological implications of centuries of this industry? How would you make decisions as a crew in order to survive? Join us as we explore these questions and more by reading and discussing In The Heart Of The Sea and experiencing a whale-watching field trip.

Exploring Identity and Creative Voice through Choice Reading

Have you ever wanted to luxuriate in the reading of your choice? Do you have a stack of books waiting to be devoured? Curious about the publishing industry, generating your creative voice, or what it takes to get published?Then this immersive is for you. Questions framing our class include: Who are you as a reader right now? What does it reveal about who you are, what you love, what you wonder about, and what exhilarates or soothes you? How do you like to be challenged as a reader? What brings you the most joy when you write? How can you deepen your writing practice so that your writing voice feels authentically yours? Students will select their own reading materials for this immersive, create a reading autobiography, do some creative


writing, learn about the publishing industry, and hear from authors Possible field trips include independent bookstores, local publishing houses, and the San Francisco Center for the Book

Instrumental Music Ensemble

Open to all instruments (strings, woodwinds, brass, guitar, percussion, piano, live electronics), and all styles We aim for an eclectic mix of open-minded musicians who would like to explore the possibilities of mind-bending collaboration, creativity, and boundary-free artistic expression. This is an opportunity for musicians currently enrolled in a Branson ensemble to continue with their individual musical development and specialization while simultaneously bumping up against fellow musicians with a slightly different take on the world of sound We especially encourage those of you who may have played in middle school band and/or orchestra but haven’t yet been able to work an instrumental music class into your Branson schedule. Guest musical artists will enrich the experience as we work towards a final presentation.

Introduction toAmerican Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is a fully-fledged and complex language that has evolved over time just like spoken languages. ASL has a grammar, vocabulary, and dialects that are unrelated to spoken English Although processed in the brain like other languages, sign language uses sight and touch rather than sound to communicate Considered by the UN as one of 140 living signed languages in the world, ASL is the indigenous language of Hard of Hearing and Deaf Americans and is considered a cornerstone of Deaf culture. In this introductory course, students will focus on learning the appropriate language used in common communication settings Areas of study will include fingerspelling and vocabulary words in different categories such as colors, numbers and food Students will also practice facial grammar, basic sentence structure and cultural competency. Our objective is to create an open and enjoyable visual-gestural environment that will include positive support using interactive activities such as games, cultural awareness education, and uplifting feedback


Introduction to Mahjong

Love games? Want to learn what it means to stop Chi with Peng? Want to enter a world subculture of enthusiasts?Then Intro to Mahjong is for you! This course will unlock the strategies of one of the greatest games in the world:

1. You will develop the teamwork needed to reach the goal of everyone winning.

2. You will develop the math, long-term and short-term memory, and introductory Chinese counting and speaking needed to master the game (no need to speak Chinese!)

3 You will develop the ability to take risks and read minds Mahjong is a tile-based game that originated in the 19th century in China and has spread throughout the world. It has become so popular because it integrates so many skills and exciting game play into one event. Mahjong is unpredictable and surprising, and commonly played by four players with a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols We will learn to recognize the tiles, learn the basic rules of playing Mahjong, and then learn to become formidable Mahjong players, all on Branson’s beautiful new Mahjong tables!

Just for Kicks:AStory of Sneakers

Do you have a passion for sneakers? Would you consider yourself a sneaker fanatic or a sneakerhead? Have you ever wanted to know more about the history of sneakers? Then this is the right immersive for you. Students will learn about the history of sneakers, and about the different kinds of technologies that are found in sneakers As a class, we will also explore how sneakers are made and what goes into the design of sneakers We will ask students to think about what might influence sneaker designers when they are creating shoes Additionally, we will discuss the cultural influence of sneakers. We will have the opportunity to meet guests to gain knowledge on the different aspects of sneakers and sneaker culture. The goal at the end of this immersive is for students to design their own sneakers using the information they have learned throughout the course

Making Money with Money

In this immersive, you will develop the knowledge and confidence to start managing your own money and make it work for you We will start by examining how the stock market functions and


learning what drives economic cycles Next, we will study proven investment tactics from some of the most famous investors (Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham, etc ) and understand how we can apply them when investing. We will also learn about other money management concepts such as compound interest, how to save for retirement, credit/debt, budgeting, etc. While this Immersive covers a lot of information, we still plan on classes being entertaining and interesting We will invite guest speakers, watch movies, play games, and have fun

Medical Case Studies

This immersive will be a dive into several systems of the human body through the following activities: presentation, discussion and research; dissection or related activities; medical case studies relating to the body systems covered These would involve local area medical professionals.

Each chosen body system will be introduced in the morning through discussion and presentation Following that, students will conduct their own research independently and in groups and will participate in a dissection or other hands-on activity after lunch to round-out the day. The following day, the case study will be presented by a guest presenter in the morning. Following that, students will work in groups to research and draw upon what they have already learned to develop a diagnosis, treatment plan and summary write-up, which would then be shared among the class as a whole and discussed for the purpose of creating one final summary presentation. The result will be sent to the guest presenter for input and final comments This should be a fun and helpful program for anyone potentially interested in a career in medicine Although formal homework will not be assigned, students will be strongly encouraged to read outside of class in order to be more fluent in the terminology and concepts being covered in each case study. Also, while there are no prerequisites for this immersive, students who have not taken biology may find the topics a little more challenging.

On the Cutting Edge: The History and Practice of TextileArts

The textile arts are at once defined by their mundane functionality (clothing, napkins, bed linens) and by their extravagant frivolity (costume, tapestry, embroidery).Textiles encompass both a common arts and crafts practice, and a medium for some of today’s most exciting fine art and avant-garde expression In this immersive we’ll explore both sides of this ancient artistic


tradition Together we will learn basic hand and machine sewing skills, designing with fabrics, techniques for following and personalizing sewing patterns, hand and machine quilting, and common mending stitches. We will introduce a few options for prototype projects and will guide beginners through the process of pattern and fabric selection, tracing and cutting, and sewing and alterations Students are also welcome to envision their own textile project We’ll also study the history of textile artistic practice and explore a number of contemporary artists who work exclusively in textiles Artists include Marie Watt, Sonia Gomes, Cecilia Vicuña, Sheila Hicks, and Bisa Butler. Possible field trips include local art museums, theTextileArts Council of SF, the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design, and/or fabric hot spots!

Outdoor Skills

Spend some days learning to be comfortable and uncomfortable in the great outdoors.Take a hike with us and learn how to navigate with a map and compass; learn to manage your comfort with layering systems and how to pack for an adventure; identify the plants, animals, and birds of your local ecosystem; forage for wild, edible snacks as we hike; discuss how to manage risks and practice decision-making; play fun games and set up a campsite with your classmates while you camp overnight in the Marin Headlands; and then put all your skills to the test in our culminating overnight-backpack adventure!

Poetry asActivism

This immersive will work at the intersections of practice, poetry, and politics, using contemporary poets to help illuminate how we might use poetry to engage the world around us Students will learn about poets and their activism, as well as the ways that one can utilize poetic means and methods to engage in activist movements and causes; by the end of the immersive, you will have explored your passion & commitments through a poetry or poetics project. Moving outside of the classroom, we will work to be part of the world, to see the world, and to talk to the world. We will address issues of class, race, and environmental destruction, amongst other issues This immersive will end in a maker workshop where each student has their own publication



Whether you are an experienced puzzler or a puzzling newbie, this immersive is for you if you would like to dive into puzzlecraft We will learn about and solve all types of puzzles, including word puzzles, logic puzzles, physical puzzles, riddles, and more We will learn about the history of puzzles in different cultures, with examples from film and literature. And we will make our own puzzles that will entertain and confound our friends and classmates, including the option of constructing escape-room style challenges Outings will include an Escape Room, Geocaching, a San Francisco Treasure Hunt, and Orienteering Josh Wardle sold Wordle for $3 million how much will your puzzle go for?

ARiver Runs Through It: Learning to Fly Fish

"Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after" ~Henry DavidThoreau

For this course you might have the good fortune of reeling in a big, beautiful rainbow trout, but that won't be our goal You will learn HOW to fly fish, and, more importantly, you'll gain a deep appreciation for WHY people fly fish You'll learn the fundamentals of this pastime, with attention to topics such as equipment, knot tying, and casting; and you'll also explore its history, the environmental factors that nurture it, and its appearance in literature and film Most importantly, you won't just study the art of fly fishing–you'll practice it You'll gain a hands-on appreciation for the artistry of the sport by tying your own flies, practicing various forms of casting (on campus and at local ponds), and taking an overnight trip to the beautiful California wilderness where you can cast a fly you made from scratch out onto the water, hoping it presents so well that a fish below can't resist it And if you have no luck, no worries: we'll also learn the art of telling tall fishing tales

ServiceAnimals and Training Guide Dog Puppies

This course will look at the role of service animals in general by examining a variety of organizations and uses of their support animals We will then focus more specifically on Guide Dogs for The Blind and the training that their puppies receive We will have hands-on practice with puppies as well as guest speakers who have trained service dogs or used them. We also


hope to do some field trips to local service organizations We know everybody loves a cute puppy; however, this course is designed for students who are serious about learning the skills necessary to train a guide dog puppy. Students will be asked, therefore, to submit a paragraph explaining their interest in the course as part of the enrollment process. Upon completion of this course, you will be eligible to become part of a local guide dog puppy club and start either raising a guide dog puppy or becoming an official “puppy sitter” for GDB

Through the Realm of Virtual Reality–An Introduction to 3D Design

Are you interested in Game design/development, Virtual Reality, digital architecture, or digital art? If so, take a dive into Unity a cross platform 2D/3D engine and learn the basics of building with Probuilder! You will explore materials and shaders, modeling, objects & components, design, and graphics & visual effects Throughout the course you will build as you learn with the ultimate goal being that you have an environment/world, model, and/or asset built as a final project.

The “Ultimate” Immersive

Ultimate frisbee is one of the fastest growing sports in the US, with elements of soccer and football. In this immersive, students will develop skills including throwing, catching, and cutting as well as understand strategic and cultural elements of the sport, including an understanding of the rules and the Spirit of the Game Highlights will include clinics run by current elite players; talks by coaches and executives from professional teams; attending a professional game; learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sport; and not to mention, most importantly, spending time on the turf learning a sport one can play for a lifetime

Visions of Place: Experiential, Creative Practices in the BayArea

Visions of Place is a deep dive into creative practices at locations throughout the Bay Area. With art materials in hand, we will explore how we see ourselves in relation to our environment and the historic times that have shaped us This immersive begins and ends with the land One of our leading questions is “What is the land telling us about our existence and how can we tell about it through creativity?” We will visit six locations including the African American Museum


and Library at Oakland and The Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco Student input will help in deciding other locations we visit and the materials we explore We will begin with pen, colored pencil, watercolor, and other drawing tools in sketchbooks. To close our time together, we will co-create an on-campus installation that celebrates the places and visions we’ve explored together This immersive is open to everyone with a creative spirit, regardless of skill and experience with visual arts practices


Do you want to learn how to use tools and build with wood? We will take a practical and creative approach to woodworking / basic carpentry in this immersive Each student will be provided with tools, and instructed in safety, use, and care We will learn the basics of woodworking as we build our own tool boxes. Students will then select and execute creative projects from a number of options including: coat rack; garden table; cutting board; cabinet; tablet or phone holder; candle holder, media box, bird feeder We will also learn how to engrave using wood burning technologies, select materials, and apply finishing touches (stains/protective finishes/glosses)

The World of BodyArt

The world of makeup and costuming is vast and the business and chemistry behind this world is fascinating Fortune Business Insights says that the global market size was $277 67 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $415 29 billion by 2028 Have you ever wanted to explore this world on several levels––business, science, sustainability, history, and to even transform yourself into someone else? Join us as we explore the variety of ways people use makeup to create a new look, from street makeup to stage makeup to body art (including tattoos) We will be looking at the history of body art through the ages as something that was used simply to beautify, as well as a part of many cultures. We will explore the makeup industry, including how products are designed and developed, how they are produced, and what goes into marketing an item And, of course, we will be playing with makeup, from daily looks to stage makeup to transformational designs that can change you into a different creature

Thank you and congratulations to the over sixty Branson faculty and staff members bringing these classes to life!

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