Civics course created for senior class

History teachers Brian Roesler and Bill Brown discuss the new history curriculum. — Courtesy MVRHS

Next school year, senior schedules will include a newly-created mandatory civics course. This will mark the first time MVRHS uses the Performing Arts Center (PAC) as a lecture hall to teach an entire grade at a time.

In the past, seniors have earned history credit by opting into classes such as Global II (a world history course), AP Modern European History, or other history electives.

History department chair Olsen Houghton will be one of seven teachers leading the new class. He said, “There’s been some push from the community that our kids need to learn civics, so we decided to put a senior class in there that would be designed more to prepare kids for life and participating in a democracy.”

The current plan is for the class to be structured like a lecture hall in the PAC, where students will break out into smaller groups to dive further into content and engage in group discussions. The plan is to incorporate guest speakers who can share perspectives on civics-related topics and spark conversation.

Mr. Houghton emphasized his excitement for the new course. “[The civics course] will hopefully influence [students] to become active members of the community,” he said. “We will look at local government, too, and the importance of going to town meetings and voting. It’s going to help strengthen the next generation who will hopefully go out and do some good.”

History teachers are still developing the course curriculum and will be sending out a survey to get suggestions from students.

“[Students] may come up with things we haven’t even thought about, which would be really cool,” Mr. Houghton said. “From what I’ve heard, the kids are excited that this is a new opportunity.”

History teacher Lauren Goethals is particularly excited about the course because it allows for the staff to be creative with the content and how they present it. She said, “[Principal] Dingledy had something similar at her high school, and so she kind of pushed us to be creative and then start it.

While many students are interested in civics, others have expressed concern that adding in another mandatory course to their schedule takes away space for other classes that they had hoped to fit their senior year.

Juniors Ingrid Moore and Zach Utz, who were both looking forward to taking AP Modern European History next year, are concerned about the workload that would come with “doubling up” on history courses.

“I understand that some people will really benefit from the civics course, but I just don’t think I will. I’m just upset that I’m not going to be able to take AP Modern Euro…I can still take it, it’s just that it might be too much [to take it as an elective],” said Zach.

Junior Ingrid Moore had similar thoughts when she first learned of the mandatory course. “I was a little annoyed at first.” Ingrid said. “Then, as I thought about it, I was like…this actually might be a really good idea and really beneficial to us.”

“Overall it’s going to be a good experience and a good change,” said Ms. Goethals. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I think our department is ready to try something new.”

“Change always sort of represents the unknown,” said Mr. Houghton. “I don’t mind chaos. I think a lot of cool things happen in chaos. Will next year be perfect? Will it be the blue ribbon year we are hoping for? Maybe.”