ISSP Easter Masterclasses

As the summer holidays loom on the horizon, we are aware that some of our readers will be preparing to take part in ISSP Summer School. Whilst we are a separate entity to York ISSP, we are incredibly lucky to be supported by them and they gave us the wonderful opportunity to see some of the fantastic work at the Easter masterclasses this year and even steal a few students for some interviews! 

If you’re attending the Summer school, we hope this might soothe some nerves about coming and get you excited about what you have in store, and, if you’re not, then we hope this will give you something to think about – maybe an ISSP masterclass will help you discover studying something you really love!

Over the course of the Easter holidays, ISSP hosted a number of masterclasses based on the question “What is Human?”. Asking this question from multiple different angles, students were able to inspect areas of what really makes us, individually and as a whole, humans. Students from Year 7 to Year 10 all looked into this question for their unique viewpoints, “tying creative and enjoyable activities to a much deeper, philosophical question” as one student commented.

There was a huge variety in the masterclasses provided, with some even combining multiple disciplines (see the following photo of artistic play-doh replicas of Greek Olympic events!), and many also providing subjects that students don’t have access to until later education or that are only available at a few schools (such as Psychology). The feedback that we gained from the students showed how exciting this is – as young people, we want to learn more and gain knowledge from anyone that will take the time to tell you, so having an enthusiastic and passionate teacher is fantastic, even if you only understand half of what they’re talking about! The ISSP masterclasses (and also the Summer School) give you, the students, the opportunity to ask questions where you don’t have to memorise the answers to pass an exam. A chance to listen, debate and experiment without any constraints of curriculum. 

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Year 7&8 Classics masterclasses’ play-doh replicas of Greek Olympic events

Personally, I think experimenting with knowledge is one of the most exciting parts of learning. Thinking of what could have been different if a tiny variable had been changed, or inventing your own way of doing something engages you in a whole different level of understanding. Some students at the masterclasses really got stuck into this – what elements that define humanity could be changed and experimented with? Different numerical symbols? Creating new languages, just through phonemic symbols or musical notes on a page? The Psychology masterclass, in particular, focused on communicating feelings that are otherwise unexplainable by our language. By creating a neologism (a new word, made out a merging of their two names or other words), pairs of students tried to incorporate a mutual, yet unique feeling/meaning to being human into one word: a word that describes a feeling they could both relate to, but felt was not expressed in our language. Some of my favourites follow:

  • MALURI: the act of flipping your pillow onto the cold side.
  • LEMNAY: when you bang into something in a social situation and hurt yourself accidentally, yet try not to show it.
  • FRUSTANJEC: the mixed emotion of frustration with jealousy.
  • MORECCAN: the feeling of unease when you unexpectedly reveal your darker side to yourself.
  • SIMARRY: to marry a robot or other virtual being
  • LOGARIUM: a very fine display for your logs
  • THOGUBY: an alien species of plant

I think it’s particularly interesting to see how these have been approached: some have incorporated recognisable elements of pre-existing words that fit their definition; others have used a mutual feeling or experience that they can both relate to and some have subverted any expectations that we might have at all! This similarity can be seen across all the years – the research that some year 7&8’s did also followed similar patterns of experimenting, reinventing and creating completely from scratch!


A year 7&8 look into using musical notation for communication
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Y7&8 work into creating hybrid languages after studying a Russian/Norwegian hybrid language. Can you tell what this language is a hybrid of?
Do numerical symbols add to what it means to be human? How would it affect humans if these were changed/reinvented?

The question of “What is Human?” was also particularly well-fitting for questioning current issues and concerns in the world: what implications are created by the subjects the students have studied? Does it change how we live and engage with others and the world? Should it? From Music to Maths, the students were able to engage with their subjects on a personal and existential level, as well as an intellectual interest! This led one student to appeal to other people’s humanity through music, conveying how important issues like climate change could be tackled more effectively!

However, the ISSP masterclasses go further than the work produced: the masterclasses provide new and specialist knowledge for students to engage with and question, as well as showing this through different and less common perspectives and mediums (such as the introduction of ‘zines’ to some masterclasses). Students consistently give feedback that they find it refreshing and encouraging to be in an environment like the masterclasses: that being with like-minded and eager students helps them to learn and thrive. The good news is, Easter masterclasses aren’t the only time this is available in York! ISSP provides a ridiculously impressive amount of opportunities for York students: Summer School, the Brathray Residential, Opinionate!, y=mx+c, additional GCSEs and more! 


Article written by Eve (Co-Editor)

(More images from the Easter masterclasses are shown underneath)

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We are a team of student editors dedicated to showcasing some of the outstanding talent from the young people of York. This is the Student Journal of the York ISSP.