Vicksburg district eyes adding new courses

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg Community Schools appears poised to add new courses to its curriculum, including environmental science, personal finance, middle-school Spanish and a course for 7th and 8th graders incorporating a research project.

Board members heard pitches for the proposed new courses at an April meeting.

An AP environmental science course, outlined by Tina Porter, high school science department chair. “At the moment, we are trying to incorporate the majority of the environmental/earth science objectives into either our introductory chemistry, physics or biology classes with varying success,” Porter said. “With PFAS in our drinking water, lead (pipes) in Flint and even the railway collision that happened in New Palestine, Ohio, the importance of environmental science in legislation and in our daily lives can’t really be overstated.”

Porter said more exposure to such content and helping to develop critical-thinking skills are too important to overlook.

A personal finance course, described by District Curriculum Director Gail VanDaff, who said such a course would fall under economics. VanDaff said personal finance will soon become a required course and offering through economics appears to make the most sense.

“We’re looking at building (personal finance) into our econ course, so we are looking for resources that will support us,” she said, noting the district is contemplating the program “The Principles in Action” from Savvas Learning Company. “They do have a piece of the personal finance, a whole unit on personal finance that will align with those standards so students taking economics will be able to meet that requirement.”

Middle school language arts teacher Jody Young sought approval of adding an elective course for higher-achieving students in seventh and eighth grades. “The (proposed) elective is a semester-long course, so it will be offered two times during the school year. It will incorporate an I-Search philosophy, which is just a curiosity research involving all the reading and writing standards,” Young said, pointing out that it would be offered to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

The first half of the semester would focus on research of Vicksburg’s history. The second half would include a community-service project, the student’s own curiosity project,” Young said.
Shannon Howard, high school Spanish teacher, proposed a one-semester elective in Spanish for sixth and seventh-grade students. The district is phasing out its French program, creating a need for more Spanish courses.

“All of those kids who were in French now are going to only have one language option,” she said. “So, more sections of Spanish mean we need more sections and more teachers.”

“This course will set the foundation for their language learning … offering it to our younger learners will hopefully set them up for success,” she added. “The course would be taught through natural acquisition … which focuses on high-frequency words and reading throughout the curriculum.”

The board approved first reading of the proposals and may take further action at its May 8 meeting.

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