Roslyn pitches new electives for middle, high school students

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Roslyn High School junior Estee Sharabani read her speech "The Gym: an Unlikely Microcosm" that she wrote for the TED Talks elective course during the Roslyn Board of Education meeting Thursday. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

The Roslyn Board of Education was treated to two presentations on Thursday — one about a budding new elective in the high school and another about potential 13 new electives at the middle and high schools for the 2018-19 school year.

Roslyn High School English teachers Joshua Cabat and Joseph Capozzi spoke to trustees as their first semester of the TED talks elective was finishing after years of planning and development.

Roslyn junior Estee Sharabani took a writing enrichment course with Capozzi in eighth grade, which featured TED talk Friday, and wanted to continue with similar studies in high school.

The two developed the idea for the elective, which Cabat said was an easy replacement for the district’s waning public speaking elective, and the course enrolled enough students this year to make the vision a reality.

Sharabani read her speech, “The gym: an unlikely microcosm” during the meeting, which related her summer-long struggles of getting to the gym to the struggles some immigrants face in the United States, and Capozzi said many of his students developed confidence during the course.

“From the onset, the hope was that it would be geared toward public speaking, and that certainly has come true, but it’s not just about getting up and talking,” Capozzi said. “It really is about improving the students’ analytical skills. The course was really watching a lot of TED talks, dissecting them and having them use those to formulate their own TED talks.”

Capozzi said much of the semester was spent watching and analyzing TED talks by famous businessmen like Elon Musk and Bill Gates as well as lesser known subjects like a neuroscientist and a young inventor from Africa.

“When we watched a 14-year-old Nigerian boy who had invented a system to keep his village safe from lion attacks, that was one that really hit home, and that’s what this was all about — our students seeing people that are not professional performers and politicians and speakers,” Capozzi said. “His nervousness was palpable, but the audience was on the edge of their seats because it’s all about what you have to say. If you have a passion for it, there’s going to be an audience for it.”

Roslyn Middle School Assistant Principal David Lazarus presented four potential courses for his school students beginning next school year, including digital citizenship, American Pop culture, film production and medical detectives.

Digital citizenship will be a course for all sixth-graders and will combine the district’s ongoing computer skills and typing curriculum with proper social media use and internet safety.

Lazarus said the final project for the course would give students an opportunity to look at the do’s and don’ts of social media and internet safety before making a presentation to the elementary students about what they should know about technology before middle school.

Lazarus said the other three courses would alternate years, giving each student a chance to take the courses throughout their seventh- and eighth-grade years.

American Pop culture will look at different aspects of teen culture, from news and media to fashion and music, from the 1970s through the 2000s.

Lazarus said the final project will put the students in the mindset of future historians, asking what they think the 2010 decade will be known for in a few decades.

Film production is designed to help students who are interested in the high school’s existing film elective, Lazarus said, and will rotate students through the roles of writer, cinematographer, editor and director using the American Film Institute’s model curriculum to give students a well-rounded view of the production side.

Medical detectives is a “classic whodunit forensic approach to medicine and biology,” Lazarus said, building on sixth-grade skills to continue to prepare students for the high school’s curriculum as well.

At the high school, Assistant Principal Carol Murphy presented the board with nine future electives.

Murphy said the two science-based electives, general chemistry and general physics, are for students who want to learn more about the basics of the subjects without the rigor of the Regents course.

Murphy said both courses would be hands-on classes that focus more on the scientific concepts and less on the mathematics.

The school’s three physical education-based courses — dance and fitness, CrossFit and yoga — will be replacement options for the existing physical education course and will last the entire school year.

Trustee David Dubner expressed some concern about the rigor of the CrossFit curriculum, which includes shoulder presses, front squats and the deadlift.

Murphy, however, said the instructor will be a certified trainer, and each student’s workout will be tailored to his or her  abilities.

Mindfulness and the advanced mindset, Murphy said, will give the students a space to relax while teaching basic principles for stress management and reducing emotional reactivity.

The proposed introduction to Romance languages course will split the year into one semester of Latin and one semester of Italian, Murphy said, and will be helpful for students who plan to enter medical or legal fields.

Legal history: a gendered United States of America will focus on gender as a sense of identity, examining the history of gender in relation to economic, political and social views of the past.

The high school’s ninth proposed elective, INCubator, will be a business incubator for the students, taking their ideas and bringing them to life. Murphy said the course would end with a Shark Tank-like pitch to local investors.

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