Courses added to Paly and Gunn

The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) School Board decided on Jan. 29 to add new courses such as The Literature of Comedy, Senior Projects, Positive Psychology and Programming for Mobile Devices to Paly and Gunn High School for the 2013-2014 school year.

A final vote and approval of all courses will take place on Feb. 12 at the next school board meeting.

The ideas for the new classes originated from PAUSD teachers and staff who listened to student interests and tried to apply them to the classroom

“The board was very favorable to all of the new classes, was of course interested in the requirements being met,” School Board member Camille Townsend said. “Each class was introduced and discussed by the teacher expecting to teach the class.”

The Literature of Comedy, taught by English teacher Lucy Filppu, will be added to the Paly English Department and offered only to juniors and seniors.

This new English elective serves to help students’ desires to study literature from the perspective of comedy and satire. Students will study the history, traditions and different writing styles of comedy from ancient Greece to present day.

This semester-long course will help students understand the effect of comedy on certain audiences and comprehend when and why is something is considered funny. This course fulfills the required English elective course selection for juniors and seniors.

Filppu hopes the class will help students loosen up and enjoy their English elective experience.

“I suggest that students can laugh and learn simultaneously,” Filppu said to Palo Alto Weekly.

Junior Camila Vasquez selected the course as her first choice for her senior English elective.

“The whole idea of what is funny and why and studying satire and comedy throughout history just seems very interesting and intriguing to me,” Vasquez said. “And I’ve heard many good things about the teacher, so I am really excited for this new course.”

Although the Literature of Comedy will be the only new course to the Paly curriculum, Gunn will introduce several new courses next year.

One of the new courses, Senior Projects, was proposed by Gunn librarian Meg Omainsky. This semester-long course allows juniors and seniors to research, analyze and develop communication skills useful to students in later years.

The course is designed to teach juniors and seniors lifelong research and information literacy skills needed to be successful researchers in college and work.

Positive Psychology will be taught by Gunn AP Macroeconomics teacher Ronan Habib.

The course will help students reduce stress, become more aware of students change in emotion or actions and give students the opportunity of putting their newly acquired theoretical aspects into practice.

Students will analyze text from textbooks and articles and apply the theories they learn in class into their own lives. Students who have taken similar courses in other high schools have reported an increase in positive outlook, creativity, self-confidence and happiness.

“For many of those students it’s really been an incredible transformation-I’ve seen the power of it,” Habib told Palo Alto Weekly. “I had one student tell me some lessons she learned actually saved her life. As a teacher there’s no better compensation.”

Gunn junior Stacy Chang looks forward to the addition of Positive Psychology to next year’s curriculum.

“The course seems like a good break from all of the stress and pressure from school and college talk,” Chang said. “It’d be nice to have a course that allows me to not only help my friends cope with their own stresses but also to help me actually look at life from a different and positive perspective.”

The final new course titled Programming for Mobile Devices was developed by Gunn math and computer science teacher Chris Bell.

This semester-long course allows students to prepare for AP Computer Science and helps the Gunn Computer Science Department work toward its goal of creating a four-year computer science pathway.

Programming for Mobile Devices covers many topics that are not covered in other computer science courses such as databases, background threading and memory-efficient coding.

Teachers, board members and students look forward to the addition of new high school courses in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year.

“I would guess from the favorable discussion, all the classes will be approved without further discussion,” Townsend said.

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