By Megan Kelley
LAKE ORION — During their meeting on Oct. 26, the Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education reviewed information and heard from teachers at Lake Orion High School regarding new course proposals and a request for new text for ninth grade English Language Arts.
During their meeting on Nov. 9, the board approved all four new courses and the new text.
New course proposals at the high school are presented to the Board of Education annually and reviewed for approval for the following school year. Courses presented are expected to be offered to students in the upcoming 2023-24 school year.
First up was Kelly Day, teacher and co-chair of the English department at LOHS. She began with presenting information on the ELA 9 primary text request.
Over the last several year, the LOHS English department has been considering changing out one of the texts read and taught in ninth grade English class. The current text that is expected to be switched out is Unwind by Neal Shusterman, a book that has been in place for just over 13 years, Day said.
“We actually started this conversation a couple of years ago because eighth grade currently has a dystopian book club unit and Unwind is also a dystopian novel. So, we were really, a couple of years ago, talking about how we need to bring in a different genre for our whole class novel at ninth grade,” Day said.
The book proposed and approved is The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
“It’s definitely more of a realistic fiction, fast-paced action novel that we believe will appeal to a wide range of readers,” said Day.
Day also provided a brief overview of the book, which follows main character Avery Grambs, a high school student who suddenly finds out that she has the potential to inherit a billionaire’s entire estate.
“It’s book one in a trilogy, extremely high interest, (it) definitely deals with a lot of very relevant and universal themes, anything from friendship and family to perseverance and survival,” Day said. “We wanted to make sure that any book that we found also had free audio available for our students that need audio.”
Day also presented two new English courses; Literature and the Big Screen and Literature of Suspense.
“It has been years since the English department at the high school has proposed any kind of electives. I’ve been department chair for probably seven years or so and in the time that I’ve done that we’ve not proposed any electives and we really recognize that there’s a need and some wants from our students to update our electives,” Day said. “In the spring, we first started off with some research – we pulled various curriculum handbooks from area schools and across the county to kind of see what they were offering and each school district had one or two where we were like, ‘oh, we could do something like that,’ so we took all of their best ideas, put them into a survey and gave it to about 200 students in a variety of English classes…to kind of see which ones they would be most interested in.”
Literature and the Big Screen course is expected to focus on contemporary fiction and nonfiction texts that have been transformed into movies, documentaries and TV shows.
“This course really aims to answer the question: is the book always better than the movie,” said Day.
The course will likely have one to two book club units and one to two independent reading units along with comparative work.
According to Day, the department has not landed on any texts as of yet but are hoping that they will be able to purchase enough texts to give both students and teachers a little bit of choice.
“Through all of that work, they hit on any number of our reading standards. In this case, the one I think that they really address the most is the idea that they analyze a representation of a text in multiple artistic forms. They also analyze multiple interpretations of a text,” Day said.
Literature of Suspense is expected to be offered to grades 9 through 12 and focus mystery, thriller and suspense novels, primarily focusing on both modern and classic detective stories.
“Students will have the experience to read a little Sherlock Holmes and a little Agatha Christie, because they’re the originators,” Day said. “But also, young adult literature right now is really having a moment when it comes to young adult mysteries. There are a ton of authors right now that are really exploring this genre that hit on some very powerful themes that are very relevant to students today.”
Like Literature and the Big Screen, students will analyze a variety of text and will focus on the district’s standard that looks at authors choices regarding structure and time help create mystery, tension and suspense, said Day.
LOHS visual arts teacher Sam Rimi was up next to present on a Printmaking course. The course will be offered to students in grades 9 through 12 with a prerequisite of Drawing 1 or Design Concepts.
“We’re looking at an avenue that students can take…that isn’t heavily focused on drawing but it is focused on imagery and narration and using some other materials other than just a pencil,” Rimi said.
According to Rimi, printmaking is essentially the carving of something into a surface and transferring it onto just about any other surface.
The course is expected to put a modern spin on this historical art form by utilizing Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Lastely, Steve Bodiya, co-chair of the LOHS Math department, presented on Explorations in Data Science, a course that will be offered to grades 10 through 12.
“The big rationale is that we want students to learn, understand and ask questions and represent data through project based units,” Bodiya said. “We’re going to allow them to explore the data, create the data to kind of sift through and work all the way through. That rationale really comes from the ability that we have to work, understand and use data is really now an essentially life skill. It used to be something just for engineers or just for mathematicians but really now, it’s any 21st century career you have to be capable to look at data and explore data.”
The course is expected to bridge the gap between computer science courses and math courses.
Board members expressed their appreciation for the work that was put into creating these presentations and courses with some even jokingly asking if they could take the course.
The board voted to approve all of these courses and the new text at their meeting on Nov. 9.
By Megan Kelley