New Upper School Electives Engage Students in Astronomy, Computer Science, U.S. History and More

In 1968, Bill Anders was aboard Apollo 8 when he took the famous “Earthrise” photograph while the crew orbited the moon. Anders was quoted as saying “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing we discovered is the Earth.”
 
That quote, and its many interpretations, sparked a lively discussion among Upper School students during their first week enrolled in a new yearlong elective in astronomy. Taught by Upper School science teacher Stephanie Capen, astronomy will engage with contemporary texts from a diverse range of scientists in the field to learn about current theories and research pertaining to some of science’s most pertinent questions about the universe.
 
“Students in this course will also explore the various interpretations and knowledge of the stars, planets and moons across different cultures and communities throughout history, while also considering their own personal connection to the night sky,” Dr. Capen said.
 
The upper-level course is a science elective for juniors and seniors, and a popular one with 34 students enrolled over two blocks. Beyond the academic knowledge of astronomy, students will develop broader skills such as communication, empirical and quantitative reasoning, and understanding self and others.
 
Astronomy is one of several new electives offered to Upper School students this year, as the St. Margaret’s curriculum naturally evolves based on student need, student interest and faculty expertise.
 
Elsewhere, a second-semester post-AP honors course titled “solving STEM problems with computer science” will introduce students to computer science fundamentals and coding programs that simulate scientific and mathematical models. Students will learn to code visual models and analyze data while applying laws and theorems introduced in disciplines like statistics, physics, trigonometry and calculus.
 
In history and social science, a second-semester elective titled “race and racism in United States history” will explore the historical development of race in the United States from colonial times to present day. Through a variety of topics, the course will emphasize the ways in which race and racism have not only affected, but also directed, the course of events in American history. 
 
The 2021-2022 school year also begins a shift in the Upper School’s history and social science curriculum, as United States history and AP United States history will move from grade 11 to grade 10 to allow for the courses to more seamlessly tie in to grade 9 world history and create more choice among grade 11 and grade 12 students.
 
During this transition year, all grade 10 and grade 11 students are taking either U.S. history or AP U.S. history. 
 
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St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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