Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Sorting and choosing

This week DA students learn their teachers for the coming year. In the Pre and Lower Schools, where teachers are goddesses and gods, these assignments can evoke the work of the Hogwarts Sorting Hat. In the Middle School, where advisory groups eat lunch together each day, news about advisor placement will be lighting up Instagram. In the Upper School, where nearly every student has a unique combination of courses, the news will break in more individuated ways – but the excitement will be just as keen.

In 2015-15, seven new electives will expand the already rich and varied Upper School curriculum, one that already includes electives like Epidemiology, Gothic Literature, Economics, and Forensic Science. Below are the new course previews, soon to be polished and formalized in the Upper School Curriculum Guide on our website.

What luck that our students don't need to wait for college to chase their interests, and that our teachers can plough some new academic ground. The new electives:

Art and Documentary with Harrison Haynes (year)

This class will look at the line that divides fact and fiction in the world of creative expression. Can art depict everyday reality? Can a journalistic piece of writing, photography or video be considered art? Students will look at works by artists and non-artists alike that straddle these lines, and they will produce their own documents, visual and/or written, which explore aspects of their own reality. This year-long class will be split into two sections. During Semester 1, we will examine and critically dissect works of film, photography and writing that waver between art and documentary. In Semester 2, the students will propose and execute a series of independent projects, with the medium of their choice, which will synthesize the Semester 1 concepts with new, imaginative approaches to non-fiction narratives. This class is open to all Juniors and Seniors. Sophomores and Freshman will be admitted by permission only. 

English 12: African-American Literature with Naa Adom (fall)

Folk and fairytales of the oral tradition are more than a soothing bedtime ritual for children. They represent the human experience through symbols and archetypes and establish norms for particular societies. How have dictators manipulated seemingly innocuous folktales into something more sinister? Whom do stories about boogeymen, monsters, and ghosts teach us to fear? In this course, we will examine what we fear or deem monstrous along lines of race, gender, ability, and class. Students will study folktales, fairytales, and horrors and trace how they influence the contemporary works of Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Dandicat, and Victor Lavalle.

English 12: Why Reading Matters with Fran Wittman (spring)

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” - Harry S. Truman.  In 2007 the Associated Press released a poll revealing that one in four Americans don’t read books at all, and half of Americans read less than four each year.  This is a sad figure.  Not only is reading books closely linked with academic success but new studies are coming out showing the link between reading and business success as well as personal success. This course is about all kinds of reading: fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, horror, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, and so on, in the hopes that we can provide more understanding for why engagement in reading is so important. We will look at the significance of reading and writing, reading and emotional intelligence, and reading and empathy as we not only study the research, but attempt to put into practice what we learn. Possible texts for the course will look at different genres of fiction such as, Ready, Player, One by Earnest Kline, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and other Printz, Pullitzer and notable literary award winners. We will also explore nonfiction journals and studies highlighting the effects reading has on one’s quality of life. Assessments will include literary analysis, creative projects, and a portion of the course will be devoted to working with a local school in an attempt to foster reading comprehension and nurture the need to read in younger students.  This course will be unlike the Augustine course, which teaches literacy and reading strategies for struggling readers. 

Latino Writers with Constanza de Radcliffe (fall)

Through reading and analyzing works of immigrant Latino authors prominent in the American cultural landscape, we seek to deepen our understanding of immigration and cultural identities. We will read the work of Junot Díaz (McArthur fellow) from the Dominican Republic, Esmeralda Santiago from Puerto Rico, Héctor Tobar (Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist), an Angelino of Guatemalan descent, Francisco Goldman, a New Englander of Central American ancestry, and Fernando Gonzalez, a Cuban writer from Florida. Classes will be discussion-based. Students will write creative responses to the reading which they will share in a writers workshop environment. The course’s work will culminate with an auto-biographical, journalistic, or fictional piece about immigration. This course is open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Students need not Speak Spanish or have recent immigrant ancestors to join the course. Interest in immigration and writing is required.

Material Science with Kari Newman (spring)

Material Science is a course designed to follow physics, chemistry and biology. It is a multidisciplinary look at properties and uses of materials such as ceramics, glass metal, wood, polymers and composites. Students will learn, through hands-on activities, why glass shatters, wood splinters and nylon can be drawn. Through experiments, demonstrations and projects, students will see why one class of material is preferred over another for certain products and how they can change or “improve” certain materials. Prerequisites: any level of biology, chemistry and physics (all three disciplines must be completed)

Mathematical Modeling with Jarrod Jenzano (spring)

In this one semester course students will be introduced to the creative and analytic aspects of modeling real-world phenomena. Models from engineering, biology, political science, management science, and everyday life are examined through a variety of techniques. When presented with a situation, students will learn to develop, test, and revise an appropriate model. The course is project-oriented and focuses on applying the mathematics students already know. Group work is required, and students will present their work in extensive written reports. Prerequisite: At least one semester of Precalculus or Honors Precalculus

Movement for Men with Laci McDonald (spring)

This semester course is intended for the male student who is interested in learning fundamental dance technique and vocabulary. The class will introduce various dance styles including Hip Hop, Contemporary Jazz, Broadway, and Ballet. The students will spend time discussing spatial awareness, proper body alignment and core control. In addition, students will spend the semester developing their flexibility, coordination, balance and musicality. Students may also be introduced to beginning partnering through collaboration with the other dance classes. Performance in the annual spring dance concert will be required, and experiencing a professional dance concert will be among potential class field trips. Students will earn a total of two PE credits for the semester-long class. The class will meet regularly within the seven-day rotation, unlike other PE courses which rotate. 

Posted by mulkus on Wednesday July, 15, 2015


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