COVID-19 forces changes to course catalog

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The high school’s 2021 – 2022 course catalog has experienced several changes and adjustments to accommodate the logistical challenges of in-person learning

Most years, updating the high school’s course catalog is a routine event. This year, however, there are several more dramatic changes due to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.

Adjusted courses presented in the course catalog offer unique opportunities to students starting next year.

Due to the remote and hybrid learning models this year, the Visual Arts department modified courses to all be in the style of Art Studio classes, making them broader in terms of the skill sets each class explores and the materials used. Visual Arts Coordinator Alicia Mitchell said next year the department will return to offering material-specific courses.

“For the freshmen, it looks like a new course catalog. For the rest of us, if they took a class this year, they were reassigned to one of the multi-material classes,” Mitchell said. “Now, they get to go back and identify a material they really want to master, so when you sign up for Metals I, your primary material will be metal. If you sign up for Ceramics, you will only be using clay.”

According to Assistant Head of School Hal Mason, the Digital Art course was designed to cope with this year’s challenges and will continue to be offered to students in the future.

“We boiled down a bunch of courses to make them more teachable and more workable in the pandemic. One of those courses that we built is a really popular and well-received course, which is the Digital Art course,” Mason said. “The course is something we sort of invented, and turns out the students love the class the teachers like teaching the class, so we created Digital Art I and II for next year.”

Culinary classes also adapted an approach for the hybrid learning model. All students that signed up for all the different culinary classes originally being offered are now placed in Culinary Exploratory, the culinary team’s response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to traditional culinary classes such as Foods of France, Culinary Exploratory puts a broader emphasis on techniques involved with cooking.

Career and Technology Education Curriculum Coordinator Brittany Stevens said while next year all preexisting culinary courses will be available to students again, Culinary Exploratory will be kept as a course, becoming the prerequisite for the restaurant pathway.

“As teachers, we see the value of learning the technique, and we saw new opportunities to teach technique this year. We see that some students really like that because they get to extend their skill and understanding,” Stevens said. “Our hope is that by taking this course and giving more technical information, it will create the opportunity to do extended learning in the other classes that you can take in culinary in the future.”

Stevens said the restaurant pathway will also undergo new curricular changes as the department prepares to open the new restaurant in the wing that is currently under construction.

“The big task of the new restaurant is to take a lot of the things that the adults were doing outside of class time to manage the restaurant, and turning it into leadership opportunities to empower students to run the program,” Stevens said. “We are interested in expanding the lense through which we teach students, and bringing them into the fold of the business we are running.”

Science teacher Briana Brown and Social Studies teacher Roger Grande will teach a new science and social studies course Climate Change and Social Justice. The course aims to integrate the science of climate change with calls for societal action.

Brown said the course will hopefully merge the scientific studies and challenges of climate change with the social sciences that also encompass the issue.

“Climate change is an all-encompassing problem. It is not something we think should only be covered by science, we think it should really be covered in all subjects, because it is going to affect all facets of life, and it is already impacting many facets of life,” Brown said. “What we’re going to do is merge the science with the social impacts of climate change, and study what we can do socially to mitigate or adapt to climate change.”

The vision is for the students in the course to lead in-school peer education campaigns, magnifying the impact of the course. Brown said the course is unique as it tackles climate change and focuses on how students can become strong voices for change.

“Ideas for this course were born out of many years of my AP Environmental Science students saying to me, ‘I think everybody should be learning what we’re learning, we don’t think that it should just be limited to this class,’” Brown said. “I am really excited that this class is open to all seniors, and they will be able to educate all others about it. I’m hopeful that this will instigate a movement of change in our school.”