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By Nolan Musselwhite '20
Though the required classes at STA certainly provide a depth of knowledge that spans all across the academic spectrum, elective classes allow one to expand upon this knowledge, as one pursues topics and material either not covered or only touched upon in their required classes. While nearly all electives, being specialty classes that teachers are extremely knowledgeable in and excited about, are engaging and insightful for students, some are oriented more towards students interested in their specific fields, and hence aren’t classes all students would enjoy. Exchanged has compiled a list of five electives for which those restrictions don’t apply — five electives that would interest almost any student, regardless of their academic focus, and would provide the skills and knowledge most useful in one’s life. While geared toward newer students, who’ve not chosen their electives yet and have relatively little experience at STA, this list can apply to anyone on the Close. Hence, in no particular order, Exchanged presents five electives to take before you leave STA, and why you should take them (see the Course Handbook for more general class descriptions):
(Note that the list includes only non-English electives, as choosing English electives is a requirement in the higher Forms)
Economics is, arguably, among the most central of sciences in today’s global and dynamic world, and there is no better place to gain an understanding of the economy as a whole than at STA. Covering topics like unemployment, GDP, the Federal Reserve, and economic policy, Macroeconomics allows one to actually understand what news like “5-Year Treasury Bond Rate hits Multi-Year Low” means. A basic understanding of the economic system is also essential to grasping hot-button political issues, so if Government Club interests you, Macro is the class to take. Plus, the teacher is Mr. Eagles, who is legendary in his own right. Plus, most students who complete Macro do well on the AP Macroeconomics exam.
2. Intro to Programming Language
Intro to Programming Language, or IPL, is a class that provides a “gentle introduction to computer science” and is geared both toward students who “want to learn programming for general knowledge” and toward those who wish to advance up the programming chain at STA (see Course Handbook.) With today’s technology-focused job market and explosive growth in the computer science field, IPL is a class that not only teaches one the basic principles of programming, but also serves as the prerequisite to many of the higher-level computer science electives on the Close. So, if programming is something that might interest you, or something you’ve never tried, IPL is the class for you.
Among the newest classes offered at St. Albans, Biotechnology is another field that is becoming ever more crucial as improved gene-editing technology parallels an increased focus on the issues and ethics of genetic modification. Employing new and cutting-edge technology — the course instructor, Dr. O’Brien, hopes to employ CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology in coming semesters — Biotechnology is a class that keeps pace with the frontiers of its field, a pace St. Albans is determined to keep (look no further than the sizable grant awarded last year for the continued development of the Biotechnology program at STA).
The perfect introduction to singing for the new musician or the ideal segway to STA’s other musical groups for the more advanced performer, Chorale is a co-ed, 100+ member ensemble that meets three times in a seven-day rotation during the dedicated, 55-minute Ensembles period. Requiring only that one come focused and ready to sing (no musical background necessary!), many students from every Form take Chorale each year, meaning you’ll never be without other students from your grade. Requiring little other than concentration and respect, along with regular attendance at performances and rehearsals, Chorale’s pass-fail grading system and its weekly schedule (recall that Chorale has its own dedicated period, rather than occupying one of the rotation schedule blocks) make it relatively low-key in terms of time required compared to other classes, and a great way to fulfill your arts credit for those not interested in the visual or theatrical arts.
5. The Romantic Age
Though all history electives are great to take, several features award ASTRA (the class’s full name is The Arts, Sciences, and Technologies of the Romantic Age) a place on The Exchanged’s list (not to mention its riveting course description.) Firstly, it has a unique and specific focus; the class exclusively covers the 60-year period from 1771 to 1831, a period pivotal in shaping the world as we know it today. Secondly, the class goes beyond the typical hallmarks of this age, delving into the artistic achievements, the scientific discoveries, and the technological breakthroughs of the day. Lastly, the enduring praise of students who’ve taken the class; many laud it as one of their favorite classes at STA, and all hail Mr. Campbell, an STA alum himself, as a fantastic teacher of the material. Even if history is not your thing, ASTRA is a class worth your while.
This list is by no means intended to sway you from a class you’d want to take; if the 1960s interest you more than the Romantic Age, go with Global 1960s, and if science really isn’t your thing, Biotechnology might not be the best class for you. However, to students unsure of their focus or willing to branch out, let this list be a great entry into the rich elective options on the Close. Although all these classes are held at STA (save Chorale, which sometimes is held at NCS), don’t feel limited to take classes at St. Albans, as one would be remiss to avoid the wealth of topics offered at NCS. Whether you are a senior or freshman, it's never too late to take an elective, nor too early.