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New MayMester is student-driven

December 05, 2012 - Instead of getting graded to read a novel, how would you like to watch a movie and analyze it? How about doing yoga as opposed to sweating in gym class or playing a video game you created instead of writing a paper?

Oxford High School's freshman, sophomores and juniors will get their chance with this year's MayMester, which begins May 13.

"These are more the kind of courses you don't even see until you're in college," said OHS Todd Dunckley. "It allows for a real spike of 'Hey, let's finish this with some real interest-based energy coming in.'"

Dunckley said a survey went out with the MayMester course guide with more than 100 electives to choose from. The courses selected will be based upon student interest.

Students will choose a total of eight classes, four main and four alternates. Those four classes will be 90 minutes each as opposed to the traditional six-class school day. However, students who are failing a class that's in a core requirement will be placed in a remedial course for those 18 days in that particular area where they are failing.

"It's our first time actually putting the May term in place," Dunckley said. "Obviously, over the next few years, it will be refined and tweaked. As both teachers and students (gain) experience, they will come up with better ideas of ways to submit proposals and so forth."

The classes will be taught mainly by existing teachers.

"We're actually going to have more room because the seniors who graduate leave more teachers available, so we're able to do more creative things," added Dunckley. "We might articulate or partner up with somebody that wants to do some really creative things with one of the colleges maybe they want to co-teach."

As for grading, students will receive traditional letter grades. But the courses themselves will only be worth a quarter credit each, so basically all four classes will equal one full credit for MayMester.

"These classes are still wrapped around state standards and support those areas," noted Dunckley.

Dunckley said they actually borrowed the program from another school on the other side of the state who borrowed it from a school in Kentucky. "We're not recreating the wheel on this one," he said.

He also said they ran the first part of the program last year by introducing a seven-period rotating schedule, in which students had six classes each day, one of which rotated on a daily basis.

"I think it's more educationally sound than what we had in place," Dunckley said. "We also had to make adjustments in order to meet the requirements of (the) International Baccalaureate (program), which required us to have eight to 10 subjects, (something) we could not accomplish on the old schedule," he said.

"This allows us to maintain those electives beyond the core (curriculum), which is always an attraction. I personally really like it."

This year will be a learning curve as it relates to MayMester, but Dunckley believes it will prove successful because of all of the effort the staff has put into it.

"You know how it is with anything, you do it the first time and they go 'Oh, we can do it better the next time,'" he said. "So, we're going learn a little bit from this and make some improvements the following year."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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