New Courses for 2019-2020

The 2019-2020 academic year will not see too many changes in course offerings, registration, selection. Based on positive feedback from various changes last year, the Academic Office plans to continue with the changes made to course processes next academic year. For example, no changes are being made to the social studies department’s process of sending out a survey to the upper school student body to base course offerings off of.

However, there are a few new classes being offered. One of these new courses will be the 12th grade English elective This is Us: Contemporary Narratives of the Human Experience, taught by Ms. Gayton. The course will focus on the exploration of students’ selves and their communities by asking and attempting to answer questions that are essential to the human experience through topics of individualism, gender identity, race relations, artistic expression, mental health, and the power of memory via pairings of contemporary texts and films that relate thematically.

Another new course will be added to the Science Department called Physics and Engineering. This course will be the new upper level Non-AP Physics course that replaces Physics 11/12. It aims to be more project-based with a focus on engineering based off of student feedback. Ms. Jacobs is also interested in integrating the engineering piece into science so students can understand how to test and make projects better–something students don’t always have the chance to do in science class.

Though not a new course, Mr. Coleman plans to teach Songwriters’ Experience next year, a course not offered this year as it runs in alternation with the current class History of Women in Music. Songwriters’ Experience counts as a half credit course that fulfills the performing arts requirement. Though students don’t need prior experience with music, they still learn a lot about lyric writing, music history, and music theory as it pertains to composition. By the end of the year, students make a CD featuring the work they composed in the course through their work with computers, electronic keyboards, and music software.

While there has been a lot of talk about whether or not trimester one exams should continue or not, nothing has been surely decided yet on the fate of trimester exams. Ms. Welch says the academic office is “still in conversation about whether or not there will be changes to exams and what that looks like and when.. it’s an ongoing discussion about lots of different aspects.” There are many factors to consider, and while most students generally agree that trimester one exams should come to an end, some students appreciate having one exam so they aren’t completely overwhelmed by the end-of-year final. Even teachers are split on this issue. Some teachers see the necessity in having trimester exams to measure students’ progress while others begrudge them for how long it takes to grade them during Thanksgiving break.

Though trimester exams have yet to expire, one change was made to them this year. In the past, students with extended time and regular time were separated from each other in different buildings, creating communication and other logistical problems. This year, all students took their exams in the same room. Though there were still some student with extended time who did not enjoy this change, Ms. Welch acknowledges that “there are pluses and minuses to most changes. This is something we will continue to look at and see how to shake things out.”

In terms of course registration, the academic office made a change this year that Ms. Welch believes is likely to continue until course registration becomes an online process. The change is a new and updated form that streamlines and makes a little bit more clear what the course options are for students. “It just took a lot of irrelevant things out. The forms made it more clear for everyone involved: us, students, and advisors in terms of clarity for what kids wanted to sign up for,” Ms. Welch explains.

Finally, the change that was made to fitness/athletic course registration two years ago looks as though it will be implemented again for another successful year. About two years ago, athletics registration became an online process that gave students little to no trouble putting in their course requests. With this new system, students were able to register for fitness classes a trimester at a time and advisors can easily approve of them (it was also an easy way to get a signature). Before this, students signed up for all three fitness courses at once in the fall, but with the change made two years ago, the academic office saw overall fewer add drops.

Changes to course offerings, selection, and registration will continue each year at varied levels, but many agree with Ms. Welch that “Every time we make a change, it is an opportunity to learn and think about how we can do things better.”

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