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New Advanced Upper School Courses Expand Rigor and Deepen Student Offerings

5 December 2012 admin 3,695 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

The Upper School added six innovative and unique advanced course offerings this school year to continually deepen and broaden the St. Margaret’s curriculum to challenge student ability, interest and scholarship.

“These outstanding new course offerings go beyond the standard and reflect our focus on relevant 21st-century curriculum and the ever-increasing skill and interests of our students. Our students and parents expect this from us, and we have the shared vision, agility and bench-strength in our faculty to continually evolve and deliver dynamic, advanced and unique curriculum,” said Upper School Principal Tony Jordan.

The six new Upper School courses offered this school year are:

  • Advanced Placement Physics C, taught by Steve Harless
  • Multivariable Calculus, taught by Math Department Chair Steve Sherman
  • Introduction to Software Engineering, taught by Gene Wie
  • Holocaust and Contemporary Genocide, taught by Brian Carmer
  • Chinese V, taught by Esther Hsu
  • The Study and Production of American Cinema, taught by Nicki Yokota

“We are very thoughtful about the new courses we add to our curriculum to serve student interest and advanced skill, and we look for ongoing opportunities to motivate our students at the highest levels of study and to tap the superior depth of expertise among our faculty,” said Mr. Jordan.

“Multivariable calculus, for example, is a college-level advanced math course. We recognized that we have a cohort of upper class students who were capable of stretching themselves to work at that level of math study, as well as the faculty expertise in Math Department Chair Steve Sherman to teach the course. It is an outstanding addition to our program—we stretch our students by continuing to stretch our curriculum. We expect students to continue to rise to new levels and take these courses in the coming years as well,” said Mr. Jordan.

Assistant Principal Ryan Dahlem added, “St. Margaret’s students are enthusiastic learners, intellectually curious, highly motivated and possess areas of genuine academic passion. These new course offerings, both in STEM disciplines and the humanities, provide opportunities for students to pursue in-depth study in subjects that matter to them.”

Introduction to software engineering, another course addition this year, is a highly specialized advanced computer science course only for students who have already excelled in Advanced Placement computer science. The breadth of St. Margaret’s computer science program has prepared many students for this advanced study and this course will take them further.

“In delivering increasingly rigorous coursework that is relevant to their lives, we are nurturing the highest level of academic pursuit and engagement to prepare students to thrive in college and ultimately as lifelong learners. We know, too, that college admission offices respond well to students who have demonstrated intellectual vitality in high school and will bring their talents and love of learning to college. The breadth of our curriculum provides opportunities for students to nurture their academic passions and demonstrate the curiosity and energy sought by universities across the country,” said Mr. Dahlem.

Course Descriptions for the Five New Advanced Upper School Offerings

Advanced Placement Physics C

This course is a two-part course broken into AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. The mechanics portion of the class includes units on kinematics, Newton’s Laws of Motion, work, energy, power, linear momentum, circular motion, angular momentum, oscillatory motion and gravitation. The electricity and magnetism portion of the class include units on electrostatics, conductors, capacitors and dielectrics, electric circuits, magnetic fields and electromagnetism. At the end of the course, there are two AP tests, one for each section of the course. AP Physics C is a calculus-based course that will use definite integrals and derivatives. The mechanics portion of the class is equivalent to the introductory physics sequence taken by science and engineering students at most colleges and universities. The electricity and magnetism portion of the class is equivalent to the second semester of the introductory physics sequence typically offered at colleges and universities.

Prerequisite: Pre-Calculus Honors or AP Calculus AB

Corequisite: AP Calculus BC

Multi-variable Calculus

This is a year-long college level course in calculus. It extends the ideas of calculus of a single variable as presented in AP level calculus courses (AB and BC). The course employs a flipped classroom platform using courseware from MIT and parallels similar courses offered at the collegiate level. Topics covered include vectors, matrices, parametric equations for planes and lines, vector valued functions, partial derivatives, gradients, lagrange multipliers, and multiple integration techniques. The course also blends foundational ideas from differential equations and linear algebra. An emphasis will be placed on collaborative analysis as applied to real life problems and student-centered discovery.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of AP Calculus BC and departmental approval

An elective course for Upper School students

The Holocaust and Contemporary Genocide

In this course students will engage in a comprehensive study of the events leading up to the Holocaust, the historical context of the Holocaust itself, and understand the relevance to contemporary society. Students will examine literature and other media reflecting many perspectives in order to gain a greater understanding of how the Holocaust originated, developed, and subsequently affected the lives of people in central Europe and elsewhere in the world. Students in this course will study first-hand accounts of Holocaust survivors, particularly the forgotten or overlooked victims including women, children, the disabled, elderly, homosexuals, and others throughout Europe who dared to oppose the Nazi regime. A major focus of this course is to provoke critical thought about the destructive and constructive ways in which cultural differences may be identified and resolved. Furthermore, students will develop an understanding of the ramifications of stereotyping, prejudice, racism, and anti-Semitism in society. Finally, students will analyze comparisons to cotemporary genocides that have occurred in many different parts of the world. Special topics to be addressed include social oppression, conflict identification and management, international peace and justice, and global citizenship.

Introduction to Software Engineering

For students who have completed AP computer science, this project-based course is a survey into contemporary software engineering techniques. Using the popular Android smartphone platform, students will work in teams to develop a variety of software applications to improve mobile access to campus resources.

Prerequisite: AP Computer Science

An elective course for Upper School students

The Study and Production of American Cinema

Students will learn the history of American cinema by screening classic films from the inception of this art form and its evolution throughout the decades. Students will develop an appreciation of film through classroom lectures and discussion on the climate of change via historical events, societal attitudes, economic conditions, and technological innovation. Students will demonstrate their understanding through project-based assignments of creating media projects based on genres, styles or directors.

Chinese V

This course will give students an opportunity to refine their four language proficiency skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing in the intermediate-high level across the three communicative modes (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational) and the five Cs (communication, culture, connections, comparisons and communities) as defined in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

Essential grammar is reviewed and defined for advanced proficiency in the language. This course provides students an opportunity to immerse in the richness of Chinese language and culture by comparing Chinese-speaking cultures with his/her own culture and presenting selections from a variety of literature and media. Students are required to speak in Chinese as much as possible to increase their confidence in applying target language at home, at school, and in the community.

Prerequisite: Chinese IV or to have passed the Chinese V Placement Test.

An elective course for Upper School students


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