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Chadwick School - 26800 S Academy Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA - (310) 377-1543


Volume 65 Number 1

Class changes bring more choices for students in Upper School

by Arianna Menzelos - 2014-10-09

The new Chadwick school year has brought many changes to the classes in the Upper School curriculum.

This year’s sophomore class will be the last to experience the history elective system, where students can choose to take a semester-long course in Middle Eastern history, “Issues in Contemporary Asia,” or African history. Instead, a new two-year course has been implemented, which the current freshmen will be the first to experience.

English teacher Erin Nordlund and history teacher Natalie Johnson have been developing the curriculum for the last few years. Their goal is to better connect history and English through assignments and discussions drawn from both disciplines.

The history portion will cover Early Modern through Modern World History, focusing on larger global themes, and the English portion will connect its curriculum to the history topics but still provide a solid foundation in reading, writing and discussion skills.

In an effort to improve the ethical decision-making of each student, there will be larger emphasis put on global citizenship and on the understanding of current events.

“Our end goal is to prepare critical and creative thinkers who make informed, ethical decisions and take courageous action in the face of personal and social issues. By understanding the factors that shape individual, national and global identities, we want our students to be able to embrace and respect cultural differences and multiple perspectives,” Nordlund says.

This year, the option of a World Religions class taught by history teacher Judy Kisor has replaced the Middle Eastern history course previously offered.

“[Kisor’s] expertise and passions are in comparative world religions as well as other things. When she looked at the different things she could teach with enthusiasm and passion, the one that connected most with the students’ interests was World Religions,” said Deborah Dowling, Assistant Head of Academic Affairs.

History teacher Rob Evans is also making a change to his African History class. Evans implemented a new grading system that allows more choices throughout the course. He also hopes to improve the decision-making skills of each student. The point-based grading system provides more flexibility and more opportunities for the success of the student.

There are some mandatory assignments, but the majority of the work is decision-based. Each student begins with zero points and gradually accumulates them. Once a student attains a certain amount of skill proficiency, he or she can begin to gain points.

“When it comes to grading, instead of having a set amount of mandatory activities that students are required to do and then assessing their grade from their performance, I am providing a host of opportunities to help students develop their skills in reading, writing, research and critical thinking,” Evans said.

“Each opportunity has specific skills and points associated with it, thus allowing the students to choose their own path according to their interests.”

In addition the many changes, AP Capstone is a new class offered to upcoming sophomores. A few years ago, Chadwick was one of only 15 schools in the United States given the opportunity of piloting the class, and it began as an option for only juniors and seniors.

One of the reasons for this change was because of Academic Council’s request for a higher-level humanities course that could be available to sophomores. Also, the skills acquired through taking the course are extremely valuable, so it would be that much more beneficial to learn them earlier on in high school.

“It is a two-year sequence, and the first year of the sequence teaches really impressive intellectual skills like how to do research.It teaches how to do much more serious high-level intellectual analysis of what you’re reading,” Dowling said.

There was also the addition of a STEM research class available for juniors and seniors interested in entering a profession in science or engineering. It is a college-level class, though not an Advanced Placement course. The class aims to teach how to ask questions that could ultimately propel a society’s knowledge and technology forward.

Students work on projects spurred by their own interests, and are encouraged to contact famous people in specific fields of research. They also learn to write resumes and cover letters for research institutes or companies.

“It’s about the kind of professional skills you need in the real world, as opposed to the kind of skills you need to pass exams,” Dowling said.



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Article Keywords:

new, school, year, class, history, course, teacher, world, student, also, change, skill, research

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