“The Nature of Life is to Grow” (13) GHS Freshmen

Today we visited Goshen High School to observe a couple of freshmen classes. What we saw was both inspiring and slightly nauseating! The first classroom we visited was Preparing for Colleges and Careers where the students were discussing their futures. The second class we visited was a New Tech Biology/English class where the students were dissecting pigs.

When we entered Mrs. Amy Walters’ class, the students were working on an “entrance ticket”. There were two questions for them to answer: 1) When you think about your future, what is the scariest thing for you, and why? 2) What do you feel most confident about with regards to your future, and why?

The students discussed some of the scariest things for them, including: “Paying bills; I am scared about what will happen to me, am I going to be happy, will my family be there to help me?; and dying alone or being lonely”.  Mrs. Walters said that one thing another class mentioned was “How do I find a partner that will stay with me for life?”

The things the students felt most confident about included: “I am confident I will succeed, because if I fail I can always just start over; I am confident in the career I want. I want to be a cardiologist; I feel good knowing I have family around; and knowing I have a good support system.” Mrs. Walters asked the student who wants to be a cardiologist if he is prepared for the amount of hard work ahead of him if he pursues that career. The student said yes, that it is important to him because his grandfather has experienced heart problems. Mrs. Walters told the student to keep in mind the possibility of doing an internship at the hospital during his high school years, as it would give him a chance to learn more about a medical career.

Mrs. Walters then switched gears and spoke about the pressures high school students face when trying to decide what to do after graduation. The students came up with some of the options they have, including college, community college, tech schools, and apprenticeships. Then the students got into small groups and wrote some answers to questions posted around the room about “pressure”. For example, “What pressures do you think you will feel after you graduate?” and “Who pressures you the most?” (As the students moved from question to question, Mrs. Walters played Queen’s “Under Pressure”, which was pretty cool.)

When the students had answered all of the questions, they went around again and circled the answers that they felt were the most important. And then they discussed the answers and the pressures that they feel. At one point, Mrs. Walters asked “How many of you realize you have more in common than you have different from each other?…Are you alone in this journey?” Some students responded by saying yes, to which Mrs. Walters said “NO! You are not alone! You are all going through the same thing, asking the same questions. And we are here to help you, and you have many opportunities to try different things in high school to help you make decisions.” Then she asked the students if “going to college is the only way to get a good job? Do you believe that?” After some discussion by students, they agreed with Mrs. Walters who said, “No, there are plenty of pathways to good jobs.”

And then we were on our way up a couple flights of stairs to visit a freshmen New Tech Biology/English class with two teachers (Aaron Willis and Paige Pobocik) and 38 students. When we arrived, the students were getting ready to do pig dissection, and Mr. Willis was explaining how to make the first cut.

He explained to us that he had been moving the students slowly toward the actual dissection, taking it step by step to ease them into it. What the students will learn from the project according to Mr. Willis is “how oxygen and sugars get through all the systems in the body”.

 

When he was done explaining how to make the first cut, and how to be careful not to cut too deeply and damage the organs that they want to study, the students got started with the dissection (at varying speeds and excitement, to be sure!).

 

 

The students worked on their pigs, all of whom had been given names by the students. Some of the names: Pumbaa, Frank Sinatra, Chris P. Bacon, Miss Piggy, and Penelope.

Ms. Pobocik, pictured below helping students, teaches the English portion of the class. She told us that the class had just started reading their first novel, a Young Adult dystopian book entitled “Breathe” in which the earth has run out of air. She said she is excited because the book fits in well with the things they are learning in biology about cellular respiration. She added that “in the book, all of the citizens are living in a pod with fake, manufactured air.” From a review of the book: The world has no air. If you want to survive, you pay to breathe. But what if you can’t? And what if you think everything could be different? Three teens will leave everything they know behind in Sarah Crossan’s gripping and original dystopian teen novel of danger, longing, and glimmering hope. It sounds like a book that will definitely capture the students’ attention!

The students also had a worksheet to fill out with questions about internal organs. You will notice that the worksheet is actually of a human body, which the students told us “are very similar to a pig’s insides”.

At the end of the class, each group put their pig into a bag with their pig’s name on it, and then got a couple of glasses of preservative put into their bag by Mr. Willis to keep their pig in good shape for their next dissection session.

Pictured below are Mr. Willis and Ms. Pobocik, teachers for this New Tech course.

Once again, we are amazed at the things that GCS students are talking about and doing!

In the first classroom, students were discussing the pressures they feel to plan their lives around a possible career that they haven’t really decided on yet and don’t know if they will really like. However, unlike many generations of students before them, they have been given a specific class to consider their futures, to have a chance to discuss the pressures with their peers and their teacher, and they are getting a much earlier start in planning their career pathway. The students will have plenty of chances during their GHS career to take different classes, pursue internships in areas of interest, and to talk to teachers and school counselors about their futures.

In short, there is now a structure in place to assist students with their questions and planning. During high school, all students will choose some areas that they are interested in, figure out some careers that would fit with those interests, and then with the help of GHS staff, figure out the educational pathway that will help them reach their career goals. The students plan for up to 7 years after high school so that when they graduate their plan is set, all they have to do is work the plan!

In the second classroom, students were dissecting pigs, something that many high school students do not ever get to do in high school. And really, there is just nothing like the valuable, hands-on learning that comes from the real-life scenarios like the students had today! The students will likely always remember this particular day in science lab 3020 at GHS and the additional knowledge that will help them understand their own health and how their own bodies function.

A hearty thank you to Mrs. Walters, Mr. Willis, and Ms. Pobocik for allowing us into your classrooms today. And a huge thank you also to the students who spoke freely even with someone new in their classrooms. Students, you are off to a great start at GHS! Please take full advantage of all the opportunities your school has to offer you.