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New classes join the curriculum for 2017-2018

Students+work+on+a+lab+titled+%22How+green+is+green%3F%22+for+Mrs.+Etnyre%27s+AP+Seminar+class.
Students work on a lab titled

Students work on a lab titled "How green is green?" for Mrs. Etnyre's AP Seminar class.

Students work on a lab titled "How green is green?" for Mrs. Etnyre's AP Seminar class.

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With the start of the 2017-18 school year, Vernon Hills High School has added a wide variety of classes for students to choose from. Specifically, Vernon Hills has added 3 new classes to the curriculum for this year: AP Seminar, Philosophy and Film, and Social Justice Literature.

 

AP Seminar

 

  AP Seminar, a Capstone class, focuses on better preparing students for research and enhances formal writing skills. AP Seminar is the first class in a group of classes which spans two years, concluding with AP Research, a more individual-based research class, next school year.

  Mr. Friedrich, one of the teachers of AP Seminar, explained it as “a class that’s based on reading, researching, writing, and presenting skills, rather than a content base.”

  AP Seminar is unlike any class currently offered at Vernon Hills. The class is co-taught by Mr. Friedrich, a United States History teacher, and Ms. Etnyre, a chemistry teacher. Unlike other AP classes, AP Seminar does not have a pre-determined curriculum that the College Board sets for the class. Each teacher has the ability to choose his or her own theme for the class.

  “Our theme is Science and Conflict,” Friedrich said. “Within that, we are studying a number of different sub-units, like any other class. We did ‘Chemistry and Warfare,’ right now we are doing ‘Global Climate Change,’ our next unit is ‘How Green is Green,’ and then the last unit is ‘Food and Access.’”

  Though some students complain about the abundance of work, many genuinely enjoy the class and its topics.

  “The teachers are great, and the content is interesting, but the skills portion which the class attempts to teach feels more like busy work than learning something new,” David Leshchiner (11), said. “As of now, the class feels a bit tedious, but hopefully as the course finds its footing and as we begin to write the essays we want to write the class will become more engaging.”

  With AP Seminar and its sister class AP Research, the College Board is focused on improving certain skills in students before they enter college.

  “They [The College Board] reached out to colleges and universities for skills they are seeing not present in college applicants, things they would like to see beefed up during the high school period, ” Mrs. Etnyre, who also teaches AP Seminar, said. “The one set of skills that they saw that students were really lacking was the ability to conduct independent research.”

  Thomas Florian (11) thinks the class is succeeding in helping him with skills necessary for proper research.

  “I think AP Seminar is great for working on useful skills such as how to effectively research and format papers,” he said. “I also like working with a variety of different people.”

 

Social Justice Literature

 

  Social Justice Literature, taught by Ms. Young, is a class meant to lead discussion about some of the pressing issues facing America today.

  The class “gives students a wide variety of different social justice issues,” Ms. Young said. “[Social Justice Literature is] doing race and privilege right now, then we’ll get into gender and heterosexism… and then we’ll end with a project where students have to pick a group that has been systematically marginalized in society and think about how we can make that group more visible.”

  Despite being an English course at Vernon Hills, Social Justice Literature has a lot of social studies embedded in the curriculum.

  “I always tell the students ‘You didn’t realize you were signing up for a history course’, but you can’t really talk about issues of justice without getting into the history of it,” Ms. Young said.

  Jessie Ripes (12) really likes the class, as well.

  “I think it’s an extremely beneficial class that is relevant outside of school,” she said. “I feel like I am truly getting something out of this class. We are also addressing issues that are often ignored, but need to be talked about!”

 

Philosophy And Film

 

  The third class introduced to the curriculum this school year is Philosophy and Film, taught by Mr. Conroy and Mr. Curry.

  Philosophy and Film uses films to highlight philosophical concepts from philosophers like René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and Plato.

  Philosophy and Film has viewed movies like ‘The Truman Show,’ which connects to Descartes’ philosophies, and ‘The Siege,’ which connects to Immanuel Kant.

  “[We are] trying to introduce a lot of concepts of philosophy to a group of students who have probably never encountered philosophy in the original sources, or never given a lot of time to think about philosophy primarily,” Mr. Curry said.

  “We’ve all thought philosophically, but we haven’t often thought about where it comes from or what the real structures of philosophy are, so we are trying to give an introduction,” he added.

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New classes join the curriculum for 2017-2018