Unique classes are becoming common in Issaquah high schools

September 2, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

Do you remember the days when the electives available to high school students were limited to band, orchestra, art and shop? Those who feel nostalgic about the good old days probably haven’t recently opened a course catalog from an Issaquah School District high school.

Issaquah, Skyline and Liberty high schools are continuously offering new, unique classes to students, making their course catalogs look more like those of college campuses than high schools.

New classes help students pick up hard skills, delve into the world of literary monsters and even learn about local government. Each course is one semester.

Issaquah High School

At Issaquah High, students planning to enter a technical profession may choose to get a head start by gaining hands-on experience in the school’s engineering robotics course. The course — open to all grade levels — introduces students to programming and building robots for specific tasks.

It will be offered this year for the first time, with teacher Kevin Houghton at the helm.

“What I find is classes like the woodshop classes and metals classes are going away,” Houghton said. “I definitely want kids to get a chance to build, to create. I think it’s going to be pretty cool.”

The class will be about 80 percent hands on, he said. Using their own creativity and intuition, students will build robots to complete specific tasks, such as removing books from bookshelves.

Experience working with tools or building things with Legos or Knex is helpful, but not required.

“I just want kids to be curious,” Houghton said. “More than anything I want them to come in with an open mind. I want them to be excited.”

Completing the course will earn students a half-credit of career/technical education credit.

For those looking for a slightly different take on physical education, the district’s only ballet class may be a good choice. The course focuses on conditioning as well as body placement and posture, lengthening muscles, increasing mobility and improving coordination.

The course is open to all students who have taken at least one physical education class, and it is repeatable for those who wish to take it more than once.


Skyline High School

Students at Skyline this school year have a variety of courses to choose from that are not offered at the district’s other high schools.

Are you fascinated by “CSI,” but want to know what forensics work is really like? Skyline’s two police and forensics sciences classes may be the perfect selections. In the semesterlong classes, students learn about collecting and analyzing evidence, and presenting findings in a courtroom setting.

By getting a true taste of the profession, students will also be able to see through the inaccuracies of mainstream procedural television shows.

“A lot of people come in and think ‘I’m going to be Dick Tracy with a DNA analysis kit in my pocket,’” teacher Chuck Krieble said.

He said the classes are both fun to teach and easy to mold to current events.

“The media is enamored with anything that smacks of DNA evidence,” he said.

Guest speakers and field trips to crime labs aren’t uncommon in the courses, and students typically enjoy the class, Krieble said.

The classes are open to all students, and they do not need to be taken in order. Each is worth a half-credit toward career/technical education requirements.

Ready to be a local leader? Skyline also offers local government studies, examining different departments found in city government. Students choose a concentration within the subject and craft a thesis, researching government documents and attending local meetings.

The class fulfills a half-credit of social studies.

Those interested in literature are also in luck, as a new seniors-only course is making its debut this year: “Monsters in Literature.” The coursework not only examines how authors use monsters to create suspense, but what monsters can tell readers about the cultures that spawned them. The course is good for a half-credit of English.


Liberty High School

At Liberty, distinctive classes imbed themselves in the arts.

For those who like action-packed plots in their books, “Crime & Justice in Literature” is the course to take. The seniors-only class looks at societal attitudes toward deviance, retribution, vengeance and punishment through the lenses of psychology, sociology and pop culture. It satisfies a half-credit in English.

Would you consider the ultimate class to be the one in which you listen to and study music? If so, it doesn’t get better than Liberty’s “Music Appreciation.” Open to all grade levels, the class focuses on music from the medieval times to modern day, touching on classical, jazz, pop and soundtracks. No musical background is necessary, and the class fulfills a half-credit in fine art.



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