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Electing New Choices

Bringing Back Electives

There were no elective options last year, so the addition of five new electives has been a positive addition to the school day, as students get a break from their studies and an opportunity to explore other subjects. According to High School General Studies Instructional Leader Mr. Joel Rojek, there were no electives last year due to the remote schedule and “the limited number of spots [the administration] could populate the schedule with.” While the elective options were lacking, the administration did not prefer it this way. 

“We really wanted to bring back opportunities [this year] where students could explore new skills and passions,” Mr. Rojek said. “I think going from zero to five options…is a step in the right direction.” The schedule now includes electives that run once to twice a week. 

Head of High School Dr. Sim Pearl explained, “I think that the school curriculum [was] missing something really important.” Mr. Rojek agreed, saying, “It’s healthy for students to not just study the core classes… because in our real lives we have passions and interests that aren’t just math, science or English.” Electives serve as an opportunity to “discover yourself more using skills that are important to you.” 

“We really wanted to bring back opportunities [this year] where students could explore new skills and passions.”

Therefore, Dr. Pearl said they started with a subject that the core curriculum lacks: art. Reflecting different aspects of art, studio art and photography were both provided as options. Studio art is a place for students to sketch and paint based on a template provided by art teacher Anita Stein. The photography elective is taught from two perspectives: the technical and the artistic composition of a photograph. “I like photography because I can use my creativity to document things,” elective member Tova Bregman said.  

Following the theme of the arts, music and composition took its place as the third elective option. Taught by music teacher Michael Levine, the students in the elective are working on free online software to create Chanukah music. “By the end of December, everybody should have music to share with the class, so they can make their own holiday songs,” Mr. Levine said. Even students without prior music knowledge or experience can participate in creating holiday tracks. 

As for the fourth elective, Dr. Pearl defined that, “In this day in age, coding seemed like a natural elective to have.” Furthermore, Mr. Rojek continued, “Coding has been something that’s been a popular request when we polled students and parents about what they’d like to see added to our curriculum.” Not surprisingly, many students eagerly signed up to learn computer and coding skills under AJA’s director of technology, Scott Forbus. Mr. Forbus explained that right now, the students are learning the coding language Python. He said, “The grammar of it is pretty easy to understand and learn” and they will use their new skills to discuss situations in which coding data is necessary. 

“The number of elective options certainly gives students a wide range of interesting different options to choose from.”

The fifth option originates from an idea in which Dr. Pearl himself was once involved. Many years ago, he helped organize the Moot Beit Din Shabbaton. The Moot Beit Din is a national competition of Jewish schools all over North America. During the year, the organization’s national sponsor releases a complicated modern-day case, and the competition’s participants explain how Judaism would deal with the problem legally and morally. Over the course of the year, the elective’s participants prepare through research of different Talmudic cases and how they were dealt with to make a decision about the case. Then, over a Shabbaton, the students present their argument to a panel of judges who then evaluate their case. “It’s really exciting to experience,” Dr. Pearl exclaimed.

The number of elective options certainly gives students a wide range of interesting different options to choose from. However, Mr. Rojek acknowledges that not all students want to be in an elective, so a study hall was given as an option. “The whole idea of electives is you get to choose what you want to learn and explore, so we didn’t want to force people to do something they’re not interested in,” he explained. Students who decide not to join an elective utilize this time to stay on top of their work or meet with their teachers.

Overall, Mr. Rojek approves of the options and feels that “there is a variety…and it reflects the student body and their interests pretty well.” He urges students to come forward if there are any other electives they would like to see added to the roster. Dr. Pearl also encourages students to “give more data” and hopes that the school can “double the amount of electives we have for next year.”

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