Changes on the horizon: Dana Hall announces curriculum innovations

Things are going to change. A number of courses in the English Department, Computer Science Department and Social Studies Department, along with community service, will have different looks in the next school year.

The brand-new senior English courses will be more theme-driven and more like college courses. “The whole department has been working on this for years to increase the college-level experience,” Dr. Karen Keely, head of the English Department, noted. For example, starting next year, AP English Literature will be divided into two separate classes: Crime and Punishment, taught by Dr. Keely, and New Selves, New Lives in Literature, taught by Ms. Linda Derezinski. Dr. Keely added, “The goal is also to provide the teachers with challenges through creating new classes.”

Injecting fresh blood into the department’s offerings means new styles. The Voice of Black Americans, co-taught by Ms. Krista Falcone and Ms. Nia Hays, is a mixture of literature and the larger social context integrated into an African American studies course. It is a “literary response to a historical situation,” Dr. Keely said. Also, Mr. Fred Lindstrom will teach a new class called Women at the Edge, which will “examine the portrayal of the women on the frontier of societies” and how they created or redefined their identities. Ms. Alice Holstein’s Found Voices creative writing course will remain unchanged. Peggy Lao ’15 expressed her excitement that the courses will be “more specific, which means we will go deeper in each field. I think this is better than being too general.” These new courses are only a small part of the English teachers’ ideas, though; in the future, more courses will be offered, and they will keep cycling and alternating every year, giving students ample choices.

The Computer Science Department has sought changes as well. It will add another major course, iOS App Development, opening another option. “It will fill the gap between the introductory and AP, with the material tying into real life,” said Ms. Cynthia Guerard, head of the department. Also, the name of the minor elective will be changed to Foundations in Computer Science in order to differentiate from the full credit online course, Introduction to Computer Programming. All the major courses will be offered by Online School for Girls, meaning “a lot more flexibility for those who are independent and diligent,” Ms. Guerard said.

Starting next year, students can also take community service for fitness credit, thanks to coordination between Ms. Angela Macedo, director of community service, and Mr. John Suby, head of Athletics Department. For one out of the three trimesters, students will have this opportunity to make a long-term commitment for one organization. “The real benefit comes when you come to the same organization and get to know people there,” Ms. Macedo said. The community service program will be two times per week: Cradles to Crayons on Wednesdays, and the Charles River Center on Fridays. Ms. Macedo hopes that doing this will open some eyes and introduce students to community service habits. Sophomores cannot use this community service option to fulfill their year-long requirement.

In addition, Political Science is getting a new name. Taught by Ms. Heather Panahi, this course will be called Comparative Politics and Economics to emphasize that the course is a blend of political science and economics. “The goal is not just to focus on the United States but to compare the U.S. systems with other parts of the world,” said Ms. Panahi. Examining the role of globalization and how connected the economies are in the world is an important part of this class. “It is to learn how and why people make the choices they do,” said Ms. Panahi.

All these changes are designed to match the students’ interests and further challenge their academic skills.

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