Rather than include the traditional curriculum only, Bitney College Prep tried something different this year through a week-long intersession of enrichment classes for students.
All students enrolled in two of the several classes that ran from Jan. 22-25 and included a class on adulthood and responsibility, rock ‘n roll history, the art of film, SAT Prep for English and math, botany, careers, fitness, modern Middle East, photo workshop, art of the essay, superstar student, German, fencing, myth busters, a pizza and root beer-making class, and a song-writing workshop.
“It’s going very well,” said Bruce Herring, principal of Bitney College Prep. “Teachers and students are all quite happy with it.”
Intersessions are common in prep schools on the East Coast, Herring said, but this is the first implementation by a public school in Nevada County.
“Bitney is the only school in Nevada County to offer the intersession,” Herring said. “We thought it was worth a try and we are all pretty encouraged.”
The intersession is a way to utilize the small population of the school, which allows for more flexibility, said English teacher Scott Young, who taught the pizza and root beer-making class.
“We have 92 kids and we don’t have sports or the same level of funding as some schools, so what we have to do to be different from bigger, more established schools is use our size and ingenuity, since we aren’t a school that is too complex with so many kids.”
The different classes allow for a unique and competitive edge, Young said, noting that every student at Bitney has to apply to a four-year college.
“Our goal is to create things on transcripts that are different,” Young said. “If 60,000 apply to Berkeley, more than 59,000 took the same classes.”
For the pizza and root beer class, students made root beer, cheese and pizza dough from scratch, allowing Young to combine his passion for teaching and cooking.
“I love to cook and this has given me the ability to teach this to students,” Young said. “Everyone went home with gourmet mozzarella.”
Young also worked with English teacher Daniel Elkin on the poetry workshop, where students came together to write and share their poetry in a poetry slam.
“The poetry workshop gave kids the time to write,” Elkin said. “They are used to writing alone and this gave them the opportunity to write with peers and experience a lot of encouragement and positive feedback.”
The intersession also gave Elkin the opportunity to teach different subjects than the regular curriculum.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Elkin said. “From my perspective, it gave me an opportunity to teach what I wanted to teach, but couldn’t find the time to.”
The students also benefit from the collaboration with each other, Elkin said.
“From their point of view, they get the opportunity to experience a lot of different things,” Elkin said. “The students were able to perform poetry in front of the whole school.”
Students expressed their enthusiasm about the intersession, which allowed for a refreshing and fun addition to the school year.
“It gives us a break in the middle of the school year and then you have the motivation to get through the year again,” said junior Haley Ricketts.
The fencing class was taught by Rob Woodhall, who teaches fencing at the Grass Valley Veteran’s Hall and helped the school acquire equipment for the class.
“Fencing is like a mental chess game,” Woodhall said. “Kids have a chance to really think about what they’re doing.”
Students in the chess class seemed to appreciate the ability to take out pent-up aggression with the fencing class.
“It sounded like fun,” said Luke Miller.
“I get to hit people with sabers in, Rob says, an orderly and controlled manner.”
The program helped add excitement to school, Miller said, adding “It helps to make school more fun and think of other things.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.