Artwork by Catherine Ferguson
As we all know by now, the SMS curriculum requires that each student take at least one online class in order to graduate. Many students opt to take one of the more popular classes like AP Human Geography or AP Psychology. However, a quick glance at the One Schoolhouse website reveals that there is much more to consider.
For those intrigued by the idea of taking an entire class dedicated to deconstructing the popular TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or perhaps for those who would rather spend a class period submerged in a swimming pool, mastering the art of underwater basket weaving Well, those classes may have to wait for college, but here at SMS, there are still plenty of opportunities to take classes specifically tailored to certain interests. Here are a few stories that students have shared from their experiences taking some of the more unique online classes.
Caroline Gramm (11) is taking AP Microeconomics. The class is designed to expand students’ understanding of economic decisions made on all levels. Over the course of the year, students thoroughly study and analyze product markets, production, prices, and more. “So far,” Gramm said, “we’ve done the basics, like supply and demand, terms of trade, and elasticities, which are kind of hard.” What she likes about the class is the fact that it is mostly common sense. “The information is pretty straightforward, but it’s also something you’ve never really thought about before. You learn it, and you’re like, ‘Oh! That makes sense,’ but you just haven’t thought about how the economy works that way until now,” reflected Gramm.
Each year, a few students sign up to take AP Environmental Science; while the course has gained popularity over the years, it does not compare to the tremendous popularity of a class such as AP Psychology. The class provides students with knowledge of the interrelationships and principles of the natural world, so they can apply that knowledge to address climate issues of today’s world. When asked why the class is important to her, Blaise Burbank (12) replied, “I’m learning our impact on our environment and also about how we can minimize that impact. It makes me more aware of what I’m doing and what [I can] do better to help the environment.”
Ellie Bridges Greenfield (11) is taking Gender and Sexual Identity in America, a class that emphasizes not only the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of gender and sexuality in society today, but also to explore topics of the individual student’s interest. Each week, there is a new topic, such as heteronormativity or intersectionality. At the beginning of the week, students conduct their own research on the topic by reading articles, listening to podcasts and watching TED Talks. Then, they participate in group discussions; work on projects; examine case studies or real-life examples of the current topic; and, finally, write reflective essays based on what they learned. “I like that we have that time at the beginning of the week where we can do research,” said Greenfield. “Instead of [our teacher] just teaching us topics, we can look into someone else’s experiences.”
Because she is considering going into neuroscience after high school, Madison Owens (11) decided to take the online Neuroscience course this year. The course teaches students about the different parts of the brain and their functions. Then, they explore diseases and disorders and different ways to treat them. While some class assignments are readings, discussion posts, quizzes and tests, the class is mostly project-based. “One of the projects was actually about zombies,” Owens remarked. “We split into groups and were given the task of finding a cure to a zombie outbreak in the world. We picked a part of the brain that does not function for zombies, like the amygdala, our fear and anger control center, and then tried to discover a way to cure it.” Other projects include analyzing case studies of people who suffer from brain injuries and “inventing” something that could enhance or heal the brain.
These are just a few examples of other online classes that students can take. One Schoolhouse offers over 50 courses, ranging from Marine Science to Social Entrepreneurship. Exploring different classes can help students learn more about topics that pertain to their interests and explore possible career paths. On why online classes are important, Director of Studies Dr. Kate Stakem said, “It is a ‘different’ approach to learning. You not only have to learn the class material, but you also have to learn how to work with different types of people and hear different perspectives outside of your community, which can be especially beneficial in the college setting and beyond.”
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