Our last issue of Notes from the Board Table highlighted the strategic vision and objectives that will guide the Wilton Public Schools in the coming years. This week, I’d like to focus on a “real-life” demonstration on how those core principles are finding their way into our classrooms.
Specifically, I’m referring to the five-year course projections presented to the board by Wilton High School Principal Robert O’Donnell and members of the high school administrative team and faculty. As Principal O’Donnell explained, the high school follows a carefully constructed, multi-year process in reviewing curriculum subject areas. Any recommendation to add — or delete — a course comes as the result of painstaking research, piloting, tweaking and testing by a team comprised of faculty members and administrators.
Principal O’Donnell began his presentation by stating the overriding goal of the high school curriculum review: “To ensure that Wilton High School remains a premier learning establishment, that is a leader both in Connecticut and in the nation, and an establishment that produces students who are collaborative, creative and curious.”
With that, Principal O’Donnell walked the board through a number of courses planned for the coming years. This includes five courses proposed for the 2017-18 school year:
Principles of Engineering. This would be the second course offered at WHS from the nationally recognized Project Lead the Way curriculum of STEM-courses. You may recall that last year we launched PLTW’s pre-engineering track with implementation of an Introduction to Engineering Design course. The proposed Principles of Engineering Course is the next course in the sequence, and would expose students to different engineering disciplines through rigorous design and problem- solving exercises.
Entrepreneurship. Through this semester-long course, students would have the chance to learn the fundamentals of owning a business, and then have the opportunity to put that learning into practice by launching their own businesses. As high school business teacher Kathy Soderholm noted, today’s entrepreneurs are, on average, just 27 years old. That’s down from an average 35 years of age from the previous generation. Ms. Soderholm envisions students embarking on a wide range of business opportunities including food sales, pet care businesses and spiritwear sales.
Calculus (non-AP). This course will fill a hole in the curriculum’s current math progression. Right now, Level 2 students who take Geometry in ninth grade follow a path where they enroll in Algebra II in 10th grade, then spread out the study of precalculus topics (along with other discrete mathematics topics) over a span of two years in the Analysis course during their junior year and Precalculus during their senior year. As math teacher Cindy Cherico explained, for the 2016-2017 school year, the sequence of the topics covered in the Analysis and Precalculus courses was realigned so that the Analysis course would cover all of the topics requisite for students to be prepared for a calculus course and the discrete topics would be covered in the Precalculus course. As a result, students who have successfully completed Analysis are now ready to handle the challenges of a calculus course. This calculus course will provide these students with the opportunity to learn the fundamental concepts and skills of calculus at a pace consistent with the pace of their previous mathematics courses rather than at the accelerated pace of an AP course. Mrs. Cherico noted the national trend to provide students greater access to calculus in high school as well as the fact that most high schools in our region have such courses in place. (Note: For the 2017-2018 school year, the current Analysis course will be renamed Precalculus and the current Precalculus course will be renamed Discrete Mathematics.)
Modern World History. Wilton freshmen have long been introduced to the high school’s social studies program through the department’s Western Civilization course. But starting next year, the department plans to replace that course with a new Modern World History offering. The new course, according to Instructional Leader David Wilcox, will focus on world history from the 16th Century through the Cold War, will shift focus away from today’s “Euro-centric approach,” and will align the curriculum with the realities of 21st Century globalization.
UConn ECE Digital Media. Computer graphic skills are increasingly in demand as the need for computer- generated visuals now encompasses virtually all industries. Digital media has certainly revolutionized communication, so it’s essential to provide our students with the opportunity to keep pace — and thrive — in this growing field. The UConn Early College Experience Digital Media course will provide a college- level experience in which qualified students can immerse themselves in creative and collaborative project-based learning. The Digital Media course will join the list of UConn courses already available at Wilton High School, through which students can earn college credit.
These proposed courses will be considered by the Board of Education at our regular meeting on Nov. 10. If approved, they will be implemented during the 2017-18 school year. Looking even farther down the road, courses planned for 2018-19 include an addition to the STEM curriculum, Personal Finance 2, AP Computer Science Principles, UConn ECE Human Development, and a public speaking course designed to prepare students for the job market and college admissions interviews.
Each of these courses aligns with our district’s strategic vision and objectives. It’s exciting to see these principles come to life through our curriculum, and to hear our teachers speak with such passion about how these new courses will improve our students’ learning experiences. And it’s one more example of the forward-looking, positive learning taking place in the Wilton Public Schools.
If you have a suggestion for additional courses you think the district should consider, please let us know. One example recently shared which leverages many disciplines we are teaching students is a Private/ Commercial Pilot Ground School, a semester-long elective where students would learn about aeronautics, engineering principles, weather and navigation skills and qualify to take the FAA written exam as a precursor to getting a private or commercial pilot’s license. I wonder how many kids would be interested in that as an elective!