Elective classes suffer, get innovative online

Media Arts students are just one of over two dozen electives currently being delivered via distance learning.

Photo by Renee Demars Dehn

Media Arts students are just one of over two dozen electives currently being delivered via distance learning.

Elective classes are all about hands-on, engaging and fun activities that offer personalized life skills that you couldn’t typically get from your Advanced Algebra class. Elective classes can look like playing basketball in Rec Sports, making a digital artwork on photoshop in Media Arts or playing the clarinet in Band. But with the recent change to online distance learning, how do these interactive classes work on the computer?

Distance learning has brought many challenges, and elective teachers have arguably had to adapt more to this new style of learning than core subject area teachers. What used to be playing basketball, volleyball and soccer in the gym is now keeping an activity log document of 60 minutes of exercise each class. For band classes, students would typically play songs collectively with their classmates and be conducted by the teacher, but now students are assigned music to record and send to the teacher through Smartmusic. Art classes now consist of projects being assigned every week or so, and students taking pictures of their art, along with the addition of presentations and more art history projects. 

Because of all the changes being brought to elective classes, it can feel like the content of the courses has been minimized and reduced. Elective classes are all about interactive work, and the classes being taken at home alone can seem like a major let down. Even so, elective teachers are thinking of creative ways to teach the courses online and give students resources to be engaged. 

“Distance learning has been very challenging for me while teaching both physical education and health,” physical education and health teacher Mr. Darin Luehrs said. “With physical education classes focused on activity/fitness, it was challenging trying to develop tasks/activities for students to do on their own at home and keep social distancing, access to technology and access to equipment in mind.  It proved even more challenging to really determine how to accurately assess what students are actually doing without having the use of things like heart rate monitors or certain fitness-tracking apps one could have on a phone.”

While Columbia Heights High School teachers have done arguably all they can to retain the content and engagement of their courses, some students still feel overwhelmed and underenthused about the classwork that is getting posted.

“Even though we’re being taught the same material in elective classes now, it seems like the classes are a bit more work now during distance learning,” Tenzin Dolkar (11) said. “They’re also not as fun as in school because you’re not actually in class participating.”

Overall, most can agree that quarantine takes away from some of the fun and engaging aspects of these elective classes. Taking your gym and cooking class on the computer isn’t the most ideal situation, but throughout these tough circumstances, elective teachers are trying their best to give students as much of the content and experience from these classes that they can provide. This time of isolation can be hard for some students to stay engaged and participate in any class, not only electives.

However, this new way of learning can give a newfound appreciation for these classes. Online school means implementing the course work in your daily personal lives. That means students are drawing more at home, building new things and maybe adding more physical activity to their daily routine.