Freshman adjustment class begins its inaugural year
This school year, Blair has introduced a pilot program called Connections to aid freshmen in the transition from middle school to high school, marking Blair's first step in preparation for the fall 2004 instatement of the Downcounty Consortium.
The class, taught by math teachers Catherine Malchodi and Monty Mortensen, and business teacher Linda Rogner, will teach students about character development, time management and communication skills. The program will also introduce the students to the fields of the five Blair academies: Entrepreneurship, Human Service Professions, International Studies, Media Literacy, and Science, Math, & Technology. Academies, according to the Blair Academies website, are "‘schools-within-schools' organized around career themes."
Connections, taught during 5A, consists of three classes of approximately sixty freshmen in the fall semester, with another group of sixty following in the spring. Students did not volunteer for the class, but instead were chosen based on a combination of random selection and eighth grade guidance counselor recommendations.
The students are all non-Magnet, non-CAP students in varying levels of English classes. "[Magnet and CAP students] get a lot of [support] from the Magnet and CAP classes," said academy head Susan Ragan. "We're just trying to provide the rest of Blair the support system that the Magnet and CAP have had all along."
Because the class is one semester long, many students were asked to drop one section of physical education, which they can make up later on in high school. This, along with the random selection format, has bothered many students. "I could be taking gym instead of taking it next year," said freshman Sihle Moffat. "This [class] should be a choice."
Thus far, students have mixed opinions of the class. Some, like Moffat, find the class "boring" and a "waste of time," while others, like freshman Alex Berglund, see the class as an opportunity to jump-start their careers. "I think it's better to have this class because you have an advantage when you get older," he said. "It's a good career builder."
Freshman Lisa Nguyen agreed with Moffat, but knows that the class will become more interesting as the semester progresses. "I know it's going to be fun later on as soon as we're webpage designing and learning HTML," she said.
By the end of the semester, students will have created a web-based "electronic portfolio" of their works and accomplishments, upon which they can build throughout high school, and hopefully use to apply for internships and jobs in the future.
After the end of this school year, Ragan and the three teachers hope to collect data about student records such as attendance and GPA, and compare it to those of students with similar profiles, in order to measure the effectiveness of the class.
Next year, Blair will offer specialty classes as apart of each of the five academies. As this year's freshmen progress to their senior year, more and more classes will be offered. "It's a rollout," said Ragan.
The program hopes to provide students with expanded academic opportunities in their respective academies, while still maintaining the flexibilities of exploring other interests. "It's kind of like picking a major in college," Ragan said.
No matter what happens in the future, the sentiment of the adults is that all the students succeed in whatever they do. "Our job is to get them ready to be productive members of Blair High School," Rogner said. "What we want them to feel is that we're all on their side."
For more information on Connections, the five academies, or the Downcounty Consortium, visit http://academies.mbhs.edu.
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