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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Beyond the Classroom: Electives in school — essential or entertaining?

Photo: Laurie Futterman,
"‘Elective’ classes — like theater, world language, coding, wood shop, personal finance, photography and others — pique interest and stir inner passions, but they are dangling from a thin budgetary-constricted lifeline." according to Laurie Futterman, chairs the science department and teaches gifted middle school science at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center.

You crunch equations in math class, test hypotheses in science class, read Shakespeare in language arts and explore historical documents in social studies. These core subjects have and continue to be the pillars of education. They are mandatory and high stakes tests revolve around most of them.

But after fifth grade, there are courses that students are asked to choose. In the world of academics it’s like choosing a flavor of ice cream. Classes like theater, world language, coding, wood shop, personal finance, creative writing and photography pique interest and stir inner passions.

These are known as elective classes — and they are dangling from a thin budgetary-constricted lifeline.

What is an elective course?
When I was in junior high — now affectionately referred to as middle school — we had two different elective classes each day. I took Home Economics, where I learned to sew dresses from patterns and how to make a wicked French toast. I took typing, which sure did come in handy when personal computers came along. The boys learned to use power tools in wood shop and how to change the oil in a car. They were life lessons, and they were given in school.

Most kids today would scoff at the idea of sewing a dress or changing a flat tire — they don’t know how.

Electives are thought to be interesting and don’t require a lot of homework. But in reality, elective courses are much more than fun-filled schedule stuffers. If offered correctly, elective classes can be game changers for many kids. Reading, math and science aren’t for everyone — and we need to realize that.

Choosing electives  
In her article “Tips for choosing electives in middle school,” Andrea Stetson says that kids should try out new things, especially while in middle school. Where parents often dissuade kids from taking certain classes like art or music because they won’t like it or won’t be good at it, the decision should be left to the kids.

Taking band in middle school could scaffold to being a member of the marching band in high school.

As a general rule students should maintain a well-rounded, sustainable, yet challenging schedule.

Photo: Marybeth Kravets
Marybeth Kravets, college consultant and former National Association for College Admission Counseling president, says that colleges look for the core curriculum, but they also like to see breadth and depth in the overall high school experience.

When electives such as art, fine art, music, journalism, computer programming or business can provide an interdisciplinary overlap with more traditional courses, it creates a richer learning experience while helping to break up rigorous schedules.

Preparing for college takes hard work and dedication. Electives provide your child a chance to show flair and develop interests and abilities. The school’s guidance counselor can help your child prepare for college by mapping out a challenging core curriculum and an enriching selection of electives.

Source: Miami Herald

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