Woodstock Academy to offer new courses, technology updates

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Mon., Aug. 19, 2013
The Henry Bowen Building on the campus of Woodstock Academy. Photo by D. Coffey.
The Henry Bowen Building on the campus of Woodstock Academy. Photo by D. Coffey.

When Woodstock Academy students head back to school this year, there will be six new courses, an advisory program and technology updates waiting for them. “The school has invested in equipment that will allow us to virtualize our technology on campus,” said Associate Headmaster Holly Singleton.

An Internet connection will allow students to run all the programs available to WA students, and it won't matter what kind of laptop, tablet or computer they have. They won't need a Mac to access Photoshop. And they'll be able to access school programs from home. “This will be a great benefit to students and families,” Singleton said.

Students won't be limited to what their computers' hard drives or flash devices can store. They will be able to log on to a virtual laptop or desktop and access what they normally would if they had saved files on their own computers. “There will be no need for flash drives, no need to e-mail documents to themselves,” said Singleton.

The initiatives bring Woodstock one step closer to an effective one-to-one program. Last year, 30 students in honors and AP biology classes piloted a one-to-one iPad program. Those classes were completely digital. Students were enrolled in "flip" classrooms, in which they watched lectures at home and came to school to work with their teachers. The application and program went so well that this year it's getting expanded. Every student taking Algebra II and English Language classes will get a Microsoft Surface RT Tablet to work with. The interactive tablets come with detachable screens and can be used like laptops.

Also new this year is a formal advisory program that will partner 12 to 15 students to one to two adults consisting of teachers and support staff. They will meet for one hour every two weeks. Freshmen coming in will be partnered with an adult and a cohort of students that will remain essentially the same for four years. The groups will serve several functions, according to Singleton. All are geared to having a positive impact on school climate. The state requires that every student has a success plan. The advisory program aims to make sure students have a good transition from one grade to the next and a strong connection to at least one adult in high school.

The six new courses available this year are writing lab, art remix, AP photography, community activism, weight room training and Calculus 1. Woodstock partnered with the University of Connecticut Writing Center to establish a student-run writing lab. Students will be able to get help with their writing from trained peers. The center grew from a successful peer tutoring program initiated last year. “This is a natural outgrowth,” Singleton said.

Weight room training is another outgrowth from last year's fitness nutrition class. “We had a big request from kids to have different physical ed. offerings,” Singleton said. This will cover the anatomy and science involved in weight lifting, as well as fitness and nutrition. Students will focus on conditioning in the weight room. 

An independent study has grown into what is now called “community activism.” Students will learn how activism works by studying groups, their philosophies, and how they have created social change. There will be historical and community service components to the class. “What excites me the most is that students are supposed to do something,” Singleton said. “We want to empower kids to know that they can make their communities better. That rocks my socks off.”

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