New to the academic course lineup for the 2012-13 school year are a Chinese language class being offered in the distance learning lab; a course called “mathematics for the trades,” which provides real-world applications of mathematics in business and industry; and an online course in astronomy, which is the second online-only course offered by the high school (the other is business and personal finance).
A course in Chinese would be the fourth foreign language offering at the high school. The other languages offered in traditional classrooms are Spanish and French, while German is offered through the distance learning lab. The Chinese course is introductory in nature and intended for individuals who have no previous experience with the Chinese language.
Mathematics for the trades is a new course that combines various types of math — algebra, geometry, trigonometry and statistics — as they relate to technical trades and careers. Students will study practical applications of math in industry and apply useful equations and formulas to real-life problem-solving situations.
The online astronomy course is in addition to the already popular classroom astronomy course offered at DDHS. The online option offers the same credit opportunities as the classroom course and makes the learning more accessible to students. Learning occurs through the use of a computer and online resources with additional guidance coming from DDHS teachers.
Additionally, although not new, two technology and engineering courses that focus on computer-aided design — AutoCAD Principles and Inventor — are now pre-requisites for students wishing to take advanced woods and advanced metals courses. This ensures students are ready to use the latest technology and apply it to careers after leaving the school.
“All of these new courses and changes speak to our continuing efforts to prepare students for the 21st Century,” Principal Mark Schmitt said.
Beyond the newest academic courses, the high school continues to reshape and expand its physical education and health program offerings with the aid of a $1 million federal grant awarded in 2009.
Freshmen can take a health and wellness course and a general physical education course, but gone are the days of general physical education courses for sophomores and upperclassmen.
The new curriculum offered to sophomores, juniors and seniors includes courses titled: trends in physical education; strength training I and II; body sculpting; team activities; individual activities; adventure, leadership and outdoor pursuits I and II; and healthy lifestyles.
These kinds of physical education courses are offered to develop a learning environment that emphasizes personal wellness and concepts essential to the body’s physical well being, including physical fitness, physical activity, coordination, nutrition, social and emotional wellness, adventure education, physical skill development and game strategy.
Teachers and students will use new equipment and workout areas to achieve fitness goals, including state-of-the art fitness and strength training gyms, a rock-climbing wall, mountain bikes, canoes and kayaks, a high-ropes course and more.
“This is a life-long fitness approach we’re giving our kids,” physical education teacher Ben Herland said. “They’re definitely catching on to it. The results have been showing tremendously. In all of my classes this year, all of our fitness tests have improved and I believe that has to do with all of our new equipment upgrades and the kids understanding the life-long concept of fitness that we’re giving them.
“It’s a very neat opportunity for our kids to get exposed to things they can do for a lifetime.”
Students keep a personal fitness portfolio to monitor their physical wellbeing throughout these courses.
Delavan-Darien High School teachers in all courses will continue to emphasize learning that has application far beyond the high school walls.
A philosophy called Authentic Intellectual Work, instituted at the start of the school year, ensures teachers’ lesson plans have value for students so knowledge is retained past any chapter tests or final exams.
“It’s a shift away from memorization and worksheets and word searches to a level of research, tasks and thinking that are more connected with the students’ world,” Schmitt said. “Teachers are teaching for in-depth understanding and students are gaining real skills needed for the 21st century workforce.”
The approach is in line with a proposed new district mission statement, which looks to “ensure each student is prepared to succeed and contribute as a 21st century citizen by providing a real-world education that is engaging, thought-provoking and culturally diverse.”