One-of-a-kind yoga and mindfulness course just one of many fresh offerings

As the sole public school serving ninth- through 12th-graders in Southwest Portland proper, Wilson High School is the site conduit to a large population of students with myriad interests and strengths being educated. And on Sept. 2, when they all return to school, they’ll have more chances to pursue those interests than ever before.

Photo Credit: PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS VIA FACEBOOK - A student paints a mural celebrating Wilson's new yoga and mindfulness class.The 2014-15 school year at Wilson will be marked not only by a new eight-period schedule, but also by expanded course offerings.

“I think it’s really a game-changer … kids being in school all day and having classes that they want to be in, as opposed to classes that we offer and you (have to) take whether you like it or not,” said Principal Brian Chatard. “It’s awesome.”

Two of the most hotly anticipated additions to Wilson’s collection of electives are Video Production (offered to students in grades 9 through 12) and Sound Engineering (10 through 12), the latter of which will take place in a classroom off the Wilson cafeteria that has been renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art, high-tech equipment.Photo Credit: PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS VIA FACEBOOK - The new, state-of-the-art, high-tech technology used in Wilson's new Sound Production classroom.

In the core subject of science, advanced biology and advanced physics have been changed to Advanced Placement (AP) standards and will officially be known as AP Biology and AP Physics respectively.

On top of AP Language and Literature English Literature and Composition, which has long been a mainstay of the Wilson English Language Arts program at the 12th-grade level, junior and senior English students will now have the option to take another Advanced Placement class, AP Language and Composition.

“This other one is focused more on rhetoric and writing skills and things like that — sort of a different approach to AP,” Chatard said.

And 11th and 12th-graders will also now have the chance to take an English class in film and literature called Film and Literature, a course similar to what they might take at a liberal arts college.

Wilson’s World Language program is expanding too, in perhaps unexpected ways. For one thing, students will now have the option to take American Sign Language for their language credit, which was overwhelmingly popular when students forecasted last year, probably, Chatard said, because “ "…it is accessible for students who may struggle to learn a traditional, spoken, second language."

Plus, Chatard has contracted with a former St. Mary’s Academy Latin teacher, Michael Reinbold to offer a fee-based Latin class, for which participating students will receive credit pending successful completion of the National Latin exam in the spring.

Another addition to the Wilson curricular repertoire that could just as easily be found in the halls of a university is a social studies class in ethics and philosophy, offered exclusively to upperclassmen.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s health curriculum has been adjusted. From now on, students will take one semester of conventional health education, and one semester of a course of their choosing — Health Occupations, Nutrition for Health and Wellness or Sports Medicine.

Students will also get to expand their involvement in physical education beyond freshman PE beginning this year.

“We added a bunch of several interest-based PE classes that have different names than PE,” Chatard said. “One of them is called Lifetime Fitness Activities, which is kind of like involves more nontraditional sports, so, not like basketball and hockey and the traditional PE games; kind of more focused on ultimate Frisbee, and rock-climbing and cycling, and things that people will do their whole life. That’s kind of the focus of it; trying to engage more kids students in PE classes beyond their ninth-grade year.”

Chatard described another new PE class, Personal Fitness, as “sort of like a 24 Hour Fitness membership type of class,” taking place in a gutted classroom turned fitness center, and featuring cardio and weights.

There also will be a new girls-only weight training class, designed to give young women and opportunity to work out without feeling too conspicuous, as they might in a mixed-gender class. Chatard said the class has generated a lot of interest.

And Wilson is about to debut a mindfulness and yoga class called Mindful Studies; according to Chatard, it is the first class of its kind to be offered in the United States as a for credit course in a public high school.

Finally, 2014-15 marks the return of Wilson’s Marketing and Entrepreneurship class program.

How was it possible to bring back this course, and moreover, to add so many new ones?

“Some of it is because we have additional staff; some of it … it’s just time to innovate and change what we’re doing; some of it are just things that have gone away (and have been ) added back,” Chatard said. “It’s a lot of different reasons, but resources coming back to the system is as much a driver as anything else.”

Whatever the reason, Chatard is demonstrably excited about all these new courses — though when asked which one he would most like to take if he were not Wilson’s principal, but a student, he admitted that it’s a tossup between Video Production and Sound Engineering.

By Drew Dakessian
503-636-1281, ext. 108
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