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Thursday, January 18 News

High school proposes courses with real-world applications

DARIEN — As pressure mounts for prospective employees to stand out with marketable skills, many students turn to classes with real-world applications even at the high school level. Consequently, the Darien High School English Department is now proposing several new courses to reflect an increasingly digital and STEM-focused world.

“We’re trying to encourage them to reach out and try other courses,” said Francis Janosco, a Darien High School English teacher who presented the proposed courses with Principal Ellen Dunn at a Board of Education meeting on Jan. 9.

Under the new proposal, students studying journalism and video production would now do so in one combined course, Introduction to Media Studies. The 300-level course would replace Journalism I and Video I and provide an overview of journalism and its genres, as well as video production and social media.

Journalism and video classes are currently separate courses at the high school.

“In a new world of media, I think it’s going to be advantageous for them to have dabbled in video production,” Janosco said.

A follow-up advanced course, Media Studies: Digital Journalism, would be a redesign of the current advanced journalism class. Students in this advanced course would still be involved in the online and digital production of Neirad, the Darien High School paper, and get a chance at more hands-on journalism experience.

Students more interested in the video production side of things would have the chance to enroll in Media Studies: Video Production after taking the introductory course. The class would replace Video Production 2 and Video Advanced. Students in Media Studies: Video Production would help write, edit and produce episodes of “Blue Wave News,” as well as pieces for the online version of the school paper.

Both advanced courses would be open to students of all grades and could be repeated by upperclassmen who would serve as leaders in the class.

Janosco said the proposed courses, which would not impact the school’s budget, are meant to enhance the journalistic experience for students and hopefully allow them to build portfolios.

“What we’ve seen at the high school is a movement toward practical, real-world courses,” he said. “What we’re seeing is a lot of need and desire for is our students to encounter real-world things.”

“We have a group of students for whom journalism news study is a very important aspect of learning at DHS,” Dunn added. “We’re trying to put together two parts, so both those in a journalistic viewpoint and in media benefit from a combination of those two schools.”

This shift toward more skills-based courses is also expanding into the more traditional English classes, too. The high school has proposed several new or enhanced courses with the hope of leaving students with more practical skills.

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Writing with Purpose, an existing senior 300-level course to develop college-level academic writing, is going to be opened up to sophomores and juniors due to a rise in interest.

The department is also proposing the addition of five new semester-long literature classes for seniors and the revision of three existing ones. These 300-level courses are meant for seniors who do not take Advanced Placement English classes and would run in first semester.

“All will have the same core assignments,” Janosco said. “It’s one course taught with different content and maybe a slightly different focus. This is our attempt to energize our students and get them more excited about the choices they see in front of them.”

The proposed courses would draw from traditional and contemporary literature and focus on sports and literature, East Asian literature, suspense, women and fiction, and literature in performances.

Following a first-semester literature course, it is proposed students take a new 300-level English Capstone that would replace the World Literature Seminar currently required.

Janosco mentioned the new course, unlike the current offering, would be tailored to fit the month-long internship program most students partake in at the end of the year. The English Senior Capstone, instead of having a global perspective, would have students reflect on education, particularly their own. The course would place an emphasis on self-directed reading and research, culminating in a capstone essay that combines student reflection and literary analysis.

All of the proposed curriculum changes will need to be approved by the Board of Education.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata

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