21st Century Fund launches novel courses

Outside+of+classrooms+throughout+the+high+school%2C+the+21st+Century+Fund+has+put+up+signs+to+display+the+various+programs+and+classes+they+have+helped+fund.+
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21st Century Fund launches novel courses

Outside of classrooms throughout the high school, the 21st Century Fund has put up signs to display the various programs and classes they have helped fund.

Outside of classrooms throughout the high school, the 21st Century Fund has put up signs to display the various programs and classes they have helped fund.

Leon Yang

Outside of classrooms throughout the high school, the 21st Century Fund has put up signs to display the various programs and classes they have helped fund.

Leon Yang

Leon Yang

Outside of classrooms throughout the high school, the 21st Century Fund has put up signs to display the various programs and classes they have helped fund.

Rachel Vin, Staff Writer

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While many kids sit in class answering questions from  traditional textbooks, visual arts teacher Thato Mwosa watches her students’ eyes light up as they work. Each one learns new skills and expresses themselves creatively as they make their own mini-documentaries for the newly introduced History as Film course.

This new course, as well as many other courses in the high school, was created by a teacher, and was put in motion with funding from the 21st Century Fund, which supports teachers in developing new programs for the high school. According to the fund’s mission statement, its purpose is “to empower the BHS faculty and community by fostering a culture of innovation and supporting the development of new ideas.”

By supporting new and creative courses, the fund provides both students and faculty with opportunities to advance their experiences beyond traditional methods and curricula.

Elizabeth Zachos, chair of the 21st Century Fund, said that one of the Fund’s main purposes is to supplement the high school in a way that is generally not offered.

“It’s about bringing learning opportunities to BHS students that are not typically available in a public school setting,” Zachos said. “Also, it’s about providing teachers with an opportunity to develop professionally outside the normal structure of teaching.”

Junior Liam Downey was involved in two 21st Century Fund courses last year: Global Leadership and Racial Awareness. Downey said that the structure of these classes was more unique than traditional academic courses.

“It’s definitely diversified the way I’m learning because you tend to learn along five courses, but these don’t really fit into any of those lines,” Downey said. “There weren’t a lot of notes or tests. It was more of a discussion based classroom.”

According to Spanish teacher Astrid Allen, who is also the Fund’s program liaison, teachers with ideas for new courses will often approach her. Her job is to help them build a proposal for this potential course or program, and this will later be presented to the Fund’s program committee.

“Part of my job is reaching out to the whole school community to find out if anyone has any innovative ideas that they want to move forward in some specific way and to bring that proposal to the program committee of the 21st Century Fund,” Allen said.

According to Zachos, if funding is approved for a new course, it typically goes through a trial period of two to three years. Some ideas are designed to be temporary programs, but for ongoing classes, the trial period tests the success of the course, which afterwards may be absorbed into the school budget as a permanent elective.

Mwosa co-teaches History as Film with social studies teacher and creator of the course Mark Wheeler. According to Mwosa, the creative aspect of the class makes students more engaged than they are in traditional history classes.

“This is sort of more active. I feel like the students are engaged and participating,” Mwosa said.  “A big part of this class is being creative. You get to learn, but you get to be creative as well.”

Last year, the 21st Century Fund started a new program for teachers to produce fresh ideas called the Innovation Fellowship. According to Allen, The Innovation Fellowship chooses one teacher annually and alleviates their class load by one or two classes, giving them time to develop a potentially groundbreaking idea.

“They wanted to give a teacher an opportunity to really follow a really innovative idea that would benefit the whole school and community,” Allen said.

According to Downey, the individual style of the classes allow students to learn what they’re passionate about without being restricted by curriculum requirements.

“It was taught where the teachers understood that we aren’t bound by a curriculum, but instead we were free to explore our own issues that we want to explore,” Downey said.

Allen said that the programs supported by The 21st Century Fund can expand a teacher’s career as well as the students’.

“The fund provides this opportunity for teachers to do something totally different, to use their expertise to create something that benefits students at the school where they see a need,” Allen said.

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