Showing off J-Term

Class is about more than just baseball

PHOTO: New Hampton High School’s gym was filled Wednesday evening with students, parents and community members for a “Showcase Night” to show what students and staff did during the school’s J-Term. Taylor Philo shows off some of the art work she and her friends made in their “Clay and Glass” class. (Photo by Bob Fenske)


The game of baseball is often referred to as the national pastime, so learning about baseball within the context of American history seems natural.

That’s exactly what some students did during this year’s J-Term at New Hampton High School.

The J-Term was a two-week period in which students took one major class and two “skinnies.” J-Term classes met daily from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and before and after the J-Term courses, students took what were called  “skinnies,” which included band, choir, college classes and an ACT prep course, among many others.

One of those J-Term classes was “Play Ball! Baseball’s Place in U.S. History,” taught by Eric Olson, and the students in Olson’s classroom — who had just finished watching Game 7 of the 2017 World Series on Tuesday —unanimously agreed that the class was worth their while.

“I learned how the game has changed over the years and how it has improved, with the equipment, the different rules and guidelines,” said student Grace Burrett.

Burrett also said she learned a lot about how professional baseball was segregated, and how it was important to the country that the game was still played during World War I and II.

“We have people doing different projects about different things that have happened,” said Olson. “Like the steroids scandal of the 90s, the ‘Black Sox Scandal’ of 1919, the origins of baseball, voices of the game. So we’re kind of trying to pull everything in together.”

Olson said there are a lot of parallels between the sport of baseball and American history in the 20th Century, and beyond.

“What we tried to do is look at the origins of baseball and how it connected to American history,” Olson said.  “We went decade by decade and looked at the things that were happening, history-wise, and how they related to the game of baseball.”

Olson said that as America grew into a world superpower, baseball grew with it.

“For example, in the 1920s, we came out of World War I, America had a lot of prosperity, and attendance started to grow,” he said. “Babe Ruth came around, interest in baseball grew, naturally attendance went up. Then the Great Depression hit, things lagged a little bit. When we came out of World War II, America and baseball began to prosper again.”

Olson said changes in American society have often been reflected on the baseball field.

“We watched the movie ’42,’ about Jackie Robinson, and talked about the integration of baseball, and how it corresponded to the Civil Rights movement,” he said.

The class also worked on keeping statistics, and went to the Chickasaw Wellness Center and worked on some physical fundamentals of baseball, such as hitting and throwing. Olson said they also worked on some baseball strategy, skills such as how to cover bases.

“We covered just the basics of baseball, and we tried to have some fun with it,” Olson said.


For more of this article, see Friday's Tribune.

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