AMHERST – Disabled Justice Literature, Textile Arts and Introduction to Dance featuring hip hop, house and lockdown are among the new courses expected to be taught at Regional High School in ‘Amherst next fall.
The offerings, developed by eight teachers, were approved earlier this month in a unanimous vote by the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee.
Superintendent Michael Morris said the classes fit the high school’s goal of providing students with a deeper understanding of the world around them.
But Morris warned that teachers’ creativity can only occur if there is a budget to support their initiatives, noting that Amherst is in a competitive market to exhibit the talents of its educators. Morris said the budget will largely depend on the valuation method that allocates the payments for which Amherst, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett will be responsible.
As budgets are worked out for the next school year, Morris said this would inform the possibility of having these new courses.
School committee chair Allison McDonald said the mission is to support every learner, no matter what their passion.
Amherst representative Peter Demling said he appreciates the variety of courses and it is the duty of committee members to promote and support a budget that will allow them.
“It’s about meeting the students where they are and presenting our offerings to those students,” said Demling.
The Justice for Persons with Disabilities Literature Course is a five-year project for the Director of the English Department, Sara Barber-Just. The 9-week elective course for seniors will focus on reading writers and activists with disabilities and critical historical moments, such as the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the end of institutionalism.
Readings include “Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body” by Rebekah Taussig and “The Secret Life Of A Black Aspie” by Anand Prahlad. “It’s like you really hear the people themselves,” Barber-Just said.
Demling said the course was “kind of innovative” and wondered if there were parts that could be incorporated into the regular curriculum.
Art teacher Kristen Ripley is preparing a course in textile arts which she hopes will interest students and enrich their artistic repertoire.
As a fiber artist herself, Pelham representative Margaret Stancer said the class would be great to have in school.
New dance teacher Remy Fernandez O’Brien said the dance program will study the history, culture and social activism of hip hop, house and foreclosure.
“Having a class like this shows that dancing is for everyone,” said Fernandez O’Brien.
A one-semester course “Engineering for Social Good” will be taught by John Fabel as part of the need for more advanced technological offerings. Paul Polak’s “Out of Poverty” will be the main text.
Other new courses include two electives in physical education, “Net, Wall and Target Games” and “Foundations of Personal Fitness,” a quarter-course of “Advanced Robotics” that will use the $ 5,000 in. VEX robotic equipment already in school, and a new course specializing in advanced chemistry.
The course development comes as the school continues to use a “4 by 4” block schedule, with four classes in the fall and four classes in the spring, instead of the old “7 drop 1” schedule in which the students took seven courses. course at a time, but one course was not taught each day.
While school committees usually do not have a say in what courses are taught in college and elementary schools, Morris said high school courses need to be approved because they can address controversial topics.
More new courses are also introduced in 2022 than in a normal year. “This is a higher number of new courses,” Morris said.
Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]