An out-of-state trip. Co-teaching. No global requirement. These are just a few of the things Hockaday is doing to revamp its academic curriculum and better fit the educational needs of Upper School students. With the school year only months from ending, new classes are being introduced for the 2011-2012 school year. Enrollment for new classes began in early February and will continue until the deadline on March 1.
Two new History classes will be added to the curriculum: American Civil War and Spycraft.
The semester-long senior course, American Civil War, will be taught by History Department Chair Steve Kramer and focus on the military aspects of the Civil War. Kramer says the course will be run like a college seminar: one week, students may focus on the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg; another week, Winslor Homer. The course will also offer an overnight trip to the Northeast to visit actual battlefield sites from the Civil War.
Spycraft, a semester-long course available to Forms II through IV, will be taught by Tracy Walder, who worked at the CIA before coming to Hockaday. According to Walder, students will “analyze the role of clandestine intelligence in shaping…diplomatic policy, which will help to broaden students understanding of twentieth and twenty-first century geo-political events.”
“I decided to teach this course to hopefully shed some light into the often dark and misunderstood world of intelligence,” Walder says.
For both classes, there will be no tests—only short papers.
The science department will offer two new interdisciplinary courses: Biophysics and AP Human Geography.
Biology teacher Murry Gans and Physics teacher Richard Taylor will co-teach Biophysics, a semester-long class offered to juniors and seniors. Students will use physics to investigate and experiment hands-on to see how biology is applied to everyday life. Students will determine the class curriculum themselves by asking questions and discovering answers through experimentation.
“We both find the idea of this class very exciting and hope that our students will too,” Gans says.
To Science Department Chair Dr. Beverly Lawson’s knowledge, “Biophysics [is] not taught at the high school level anywhere else in the country.”
The second offering, AP Human Geography, is a yearlong course for juniors and seniors taught by Kirsten Lindsay. Looking at how science and humanities are intertwined, students will examine how the earth’s geography influences the growth of human “civilization and culture including social relationships, politics, economics and religion.” Lindsay believes it is “the perfect class for Hockaday’s mission to create global, well-rounded citizens,” and hopes that students will “walk away with a whole new perspective on the world.”
Advanced Genetics, a semester-long course, will also be offered next year. Taught by Dr. Barbara Fishel, students will “learn more about human genetic diseases, DNA and genetic engineering,” Fishel says. “We had a course on infectious diseases but not on genetic diseases, so girls can learn about how and what we know about inherited diseases.” Prerequisites include a year of AP Biology or both a semester of Biology and Classical Genetics.
English Department Chair Dr. Deborah Moreland will transform her senior seminar Literature and Philosophy course into a blended course by combining technology with traditional methods of teaching.
“It’s the only blended course at Hockaday,” says Moreland, who estimates that about 25 percent of the class will be taught independently online and 75 percent in class.
English III Honors will accept students through open enrollment instead of requiring a portfolio of writings to apply. Furthermore, novelist William Faulkner will be added to its selection of books next year.
“It’s a pretty big deal because he’s a very complex writer,” Moreland says.
The World Language department will replace its current Spanish V Communications class with Advanced Spanish Communications and Culture. Like Spanish V Communications, students will still work with Spanish speakers in the community as well as with local businesses. However, Advanced Spanish Communications and Culture “will have more guts to it,” and students will receive three credits as opposed to no credits in previous years, says department head Lisa Camp. Students will learn how to complete applications and conduct interviews in Spanish. The class concludes with the writing and production of a one-act play.
Two new curriculum changes will make it easier for students to fulfill graduation requirements.
Intro to Journalism, the prerequisite course for entering The Fourcast, the Upper School student-run newspaper, or Cornerstones, Hockaday’s yearbook, will now fulfill the computer literacy requirement. While most students have already fulfilled this requirement from middle school, Intro to Journalism will give girls who have not yet completed it another option besides Web Design or Multimedia Engineering.
Perhaps the most significant change will be the removal of the global requirement, which will affect all students graduating in 2012 or after. The original intention of the requirement was to broaden students’ perspectives and make them more aware of the world outside Hockaday. But, after careful assessment, the Program Committee decided that recent improvements to Hockaday’s curriculum satisfied the initial intentions of the global requirement. Students have responded positively to this change.
“I never felt it was necessary because while I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world around you,” says freshman Megan, “at the same time through the courses Hockaday offers, we kind of learn about that anyway.”
Senior Caitlyn says the global requirement “definitely” hindered her schedule.
“Having that extra thing to check off on the list of graduation requirements meant that I had to limit the classes I had planned on taking,” she says.
John Ashton, head of Upper School, believes that the removal of the requirement “will provide the girls with greater flexibility with their course schedule.” While the former global courses will still be offered next year, no new curricula will replace the global requirement.