Underappreciated Electives

by Angelina Cao for Silver Quest

In the third week of January, there is only one question on everyone’s mind: “What classes are you taking next year?” Every year, the same courses are always the topic of discussion: Cellular Physiology, Neuroscience, Thermodynamics, Computer Graphics, Quantum Physics, and Multivariable Calculus. The “popular” Magnet electives. But here are three new and underground Magnet electives:

First on the list is Robotics, a course that has, unfortunately, not been taught since 2020. Robotics was started by John Kaluta, Magnet Foundations of Technology teacher, as soon as he joined the Magnet. “The idea that we can experiment and build was very intriguing to me as opposed to me teaching some standard thing to everybody,” Kaluta says. The class is an engineering dream: students are given close to full freedom in what problem they want to solve and how exactly they want to solve said problem. If you still aren’t sure about the class, do not worry! Mission Possible is the perfect opportunity to find out if Robotics is for you. “Mission Possible is like a precursor to Robotics class…and you solve these preset problems. If that's rewarding to you and that pays off, then you do have a penchant for it,” Kaluta says. It is never too late to try new things and this semester-long class is the perfect chance to try out engineering!

If you still do not associate math with fun, there is a class that will change your mind. Introducing: Origins of Math, taught by Edward Kirk and Grace Contreas. These two math teachers have taken up the task of teaching Origins of Science with a slight twist of math! Origins of Math has existed but has not been taught in years. Kirk estimates that the last time Origins of Math was taught was ten years ago—before he was even a teacher at this school. The main objective of the class is to travel around the world and learn about the math that was done and discovered at each location throughout time. Of course, the learning will also include intermittent breaks for fun activities—brain breaks if you will. Kirk says, a “big thing with the history of mankind is the development of food… Ms. Contreas and I are really big bread fans so we want to incorporate something that is near and dear to us: bread baking!” Do not worry though, the class will just have much education as fun: 100% of each. As Mr. Kirk says, “If you’re willing to take a chance on Ms. Contreras and me to do something that has not been done before ever…sign up for the class!”

Another underrated class is Analysis of Equity and Identity in STEM. Piloted last year at Blair, the class is taught by Elizabeth Glenn and Rahman Culver. Here, students are allowed to discuss anything relating to equity and current events. "We provide a framework and guidance," Ms. Glenn says, "but wherever the discussion went, we tried to roll with it..." The freedom of discussion allows for productive conversations as students are allowed to disagree and express their opinion freely in a safe environment. Ms. Glenn even felt as if she was learning along with the students as everyone contributed to the conversation. “Students knew that people were going to listen to their opinions and hear them and I've never seen anything like that in a classroom. It was beautiful,” Ms. Glenn says. “Beautiful” is really the best way to describe this class and the experience is sure to be unforgettable.