Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Opportunities for Students

Teachers are putting the finishing touches on curricular documents for new courses being offered during 2011-2012 school year. Like last year when a series of new courses were introduced into the program of studies, students are being presented with a wider range of intriguing options. A primary goal has been to provide challenging and intellectually stimulating opportunities for students and support a belief that unique pathways through high school should exist.

I think we are certainly taking steps to provide unique pathways. I provided below some excerpts to courses being offered next year. I appreciate the fact that teachers are willing to challenge traditional notions of what is offered to high school students. Furthermore, these courses remind us of how important it is to create passion-based experiences. Teachers are being allowed to follow personal passions and share with students ideas and topics that interest in them. In the process, I see teachers mentoring students on how to be life-long learners and that education is a place where personal interests matter and serve as a driving force behind curriculum.

Curious as to what others think about these courses.


AP Government and Politics (Chris Kenny)

Digital Citizenship Component


Jefferson once stated that “if a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” In the 21st century, becoming an informed citizen has become easier than ever in some ways because of the resources made available by the Internet. Conversely, the free-flow of information can be overwhelming and full of misinformation and bias. Students will develop their skills at finding information relevant to their decision-making process and evaluating the veracity of the information effectively. This process is constant, making it significantly different than history classes to the extent that topics we discuss are always unfolding and changing; a conversation discussed one week could be made irrelevant by events the following week. To that end, the most significant part of this class will be creating a personal learning network (PLN) for each student so that students remain on top of the ever-evolving national discussion, especially in regards to their chosen political issue.

Students will share these findings with the the class through Diigo, a social bookmarking site, so that as students investigate their issues, articles will be gathered in a space where they can be accessible to the whole class, giving students a rich database to draw discussion from. This will be helpful for the purposes of presentations, papers, and class discussions and will make concepts students learn more meaningful.

Every student will be expected to contribute regularly to a class blog as the resident expert on their issue. The diversity of issues and exchange of ideas will create a level of discourse that will help them learn from one another. The blog will be open to the public outside of the classroom, expanding the number of “teachers” and learning opportunities. To compliment this, students will also use Twitter accounts to follow politicians, journalists, academics, fellow students, and institutions that are related to government and specifically to their field. Hopefully they will find resources and commentary that will be bookmarked in their Diigo accounts and commented on in their blogs. In addition, there is also the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with individuals that have an expertise in politics, journalism, or in the field the students are researching.

The World According to Dante (Maria Laffler and Marya Wilpert)
In this course students will explore Dante’s classic writings through an analysis of Italian culture and late medieval and early Renaissance history. La Commedia is as much a reflection of the time in which it was written as it is a reflection of Dante’s life itself, especially his own personal struggle to reconcile and atone for his own behavior in Florence’s brutal political arena. Immersion in the history, culture, religion, and politics of the time as well as the study of the poet’s earlier works will therefore enable students to better understand Dante’s inspiration and overall purpose in constructing his famous poem. With this in mind, Dante’s writings become more accessible in that students will explore La Commedia through historical, biographical, and linguistic lenses that will in turn increase their analytical abilities, leading to not just a contextual understanding of Dante’s world and work but an appreciation for Dante in their own lives. Specifically, students will reevaluate and think critically about the world today to gain an understanding of how this classic piece of literature shapes the modern world and its beliefs. Overall, this course aims to give students insight into how and why this classic literary piece matters to the world at large.

Latin American Studies (Marietta Scorsune and Bertiana Caprioli)
Latin American Studies (LAS) is a ten-credit, interdisciplinary course which is divided into four major units of study. This course will provide a in depth look into Latin America1 from both a historical perspective and will spend significant time examining the contemporary world. LAS will focus on the similarities between American and Latin American history, current events, and the interrelationship of the two. It will also provide intense discussions revolving around the themes of identity, culture and their connection with the private and public spheres in which we move.-


How Sports Explain the World (Brian Kiernan)
Abstracts: Abstracts are concepts that are exhibited in ways that go beyond concrete objects. They express ideas that we see are a part of a society’s non-material culture. In examining events, a reflection on certain abstracts will be made evident.

The intent is to provide proof or an argument as to how a particular sporting event is a reflection on the following:
  1. Politics- A greater issue between nations that deals with power, manipulation, and influence in the world. (1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team win over the U.S.S.R., The Black Power salute by American athletes in the 1968 Olympics)
  2. Economics- An issue involving wealth, globalization, and power to achieve means to an end. (The “Black Sox Scandal, Realignment of collegiate conferences)
  3. Culture- An issue where specific socially accepted traits has made an impact on that society and possibly beyond. (Lary Doby, Jackie Robinson, and the breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball, The rivalry and violence of Hooligans and other fans of the English Premier League)
  4. Ethics- An issue where morals and values have influenced the decisions made by a culture, government, or organized civilization. (Steroids in Sports, The “Hand of God” goal by Diego Maradona in the 1986 World Cup)
Graphic Storytelling (George Lavigne)

Definition of Course: The Graphic Storytelling course is a full year elective English course offered to all students who have an interest in the rich variety of graphic novels that exist today. Students will read and analyze works in a literary framework while learning about the history, fundamentals, and genres within the graphic novel universe. This course will appeal to visual learners, fans of art and comics, and students who enjoy reading works not typically found in traditional English courses.

Purpose of Course: As an elective, the Graphic Storytelling course can provide students with alternative reading experiences to capitalize on their enthusiasm and motivation and produce stronger connections to reading and writing. The course will use graphic novels to engage student interest, improve literacy, expand vocabulary, enhance understandings of storytelling skills, foster creative expression, and examine prevalent themes in popular culture.