Electives are enjoyed by many students, because they have the option to explore the arts, music, and design. This year, two new courses have been added to the school: Theater Production and Journalism.
We sat down and talked to the teachers of these classes, to get a better understanding of each course.
Unlike other theater classes, which are more focused on performance, this class looks at the technicalities of a play. As a student of this class, I can say how interesting it is to design and produce things for real plays that happen in the school.
Kathleen Caster is the teacher of this class, which is currently only available for 10th grade.
The goal of this course is “To give an overview of the technical side of theater,” Caster says. The topics taught will depend on the semester. This time, students learned about the following topics: set design and building, costume design, and prop designing. For the second semester, the course will be a bit different. She wants the students to work on a publicity campaign for the middle school production, for example.
When asked if the class benefits the students in the class by teaching them skills that can be applied to real life, she compared the class to a design course. The work in the class is a process, and it focuses on problem-solving; figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. She also said that this class is more practical, which is needed these days because most classes students take aren’t.
The students who should take this class would be interested in theater generally, even though this class is not a performance class. Caster believes that students who take this class can gain practical skills that they can apply later on in life.
Although theater production is a new class this year, the class’s main category falls into Theater, which has been at this school for many years. Journalism, however, is a completely new course, which mixes English class and a design class together. Because of the newness of the subject, the school hired a new teacher, Jennifer Stevens.
Stevens teaches one 9th grade journalism class, and one 10th grade.
She talked about the goal of the class, saying that “The goal, initially, was to start a student-led newspaper.” She continues, “my long-term goal is to increase interest among the students to write, and to write creatively, which, oftentimes, they don’t get the opportunity to do in the IB program.”
In terms of what is taught in the class, she claims that “Students learn how to write a variety of articles, including news stories and features. Students have learned about marketing and analytics, and how to structure web articles.”
When asked if the students learn any skills that will help them later in their lives, she nodded, saying, “Definitely. I think especially because it’s largely student- led. It’s a project-based course, and students are learning from their mistakes, so in any kind of situation where we’re able to learn from our mistakes, we’re going to remember the lessons that much more.”
For what kinds of students should take this class, “Students who like writing, because there is a lot of writing in the class, obviously. This is a journalism course,” she responds with a laugh. She does say, however, “it’s not just about writing, it’s also about photography and choosing images that attracts the audience. Marketing is also a big part of the class, as well as Search Engine Optimization and Google Analytics. So, anyone who’s interested in a behind-the-scenes look of web writing, or a behind-the-scenes look at internet statistics and analytics, sign up.”
Next Year’s Electives: Design
Even though this year the school got a brand-new design center, the courses have remained the same. However, next year has new design classes in store. We talked to Mr. George, the head of the design department, about the future of the design classes.
Q: What Kinds of Classes Will Be Offered Next Year?
A: We’re going to change all courses to simple design, and we will be focusing on product design, like 3d printing, and having something tangible, something that people can touch with their hands. This might involve a little bit of electronics – circuits and other stuff like that.
We are still experimenting to see how we’ll integrate the projects, like product design with electronics. This is for middle school. For high school, the same–focusing on product design. Grade 9 has more [options], because they could choose textiles, which is different. The other courses are just Design–focusing on product design and robotics.
Also, middle-school might have a robotics course; but at this point, we don’t know exactly [if] we’re going to have projects with robotics, or [classic] robotics. We’re still debating.
Q: How Would the Classes Benefit the Students?
A: All the design courses are focused on how to think. How to find a solution for a real-life problem. That’s why we have real-life clients. We used to have real-life clients in high school, and now we have real-life clients [starting with] grade 6.
The whole goal is to teach students how to be independent, and how to solve problems. That’s why in all the classes they use a framework called the design cycle, to problem solve. As teachers we don’t offer solutions, sometimes we don’t even find clients. Sometimes we find clients for them, but we try not to. We try to teach them how to keep an eye open and find problems, or clients, or a specific target audience, and solve the problem.
Q: What Will be Taught in the Classes?
A: The design cycle is what we teach. As teachers, we teach this framework-design cycle- that helps students [organize] and [coordinate] a project. They learn [by] themselves, they’re independent. If they get stuck, we go back to the framework and see what didn’t work, why the project is not getting where it’s supposed to.
Q: What Kinds of Students Should Take Each Class?
A: Next year will not be semester-long courses, but year-long courses. That’s why most of them, except textiles, will be called ‘design’.
If it’s a year-long course, we want to offer more, so it’s not like before when we offered only textiles, or only electronics, or only robotics. We may have the opportunity to offer more in a course. Like one project [will] be electronics and programming, another one just product design and 3d printing, another one could be graphic design.
What kind of students? All the students will have design. The particularity will be about robotics and textiles, so students who are more into programming, or students who are into working with textiles, and pieces of clothing, should sign up for it. Although we’ve had students who have no idea what the course was about and they took it and they liked it.
Additionally, DP Design will be offered next year. “It will be a combination of design and science,” he continues, smiling, “So it’s like science next-level, I would say.”