In an effort to develop rich, interdisciplinary course offerings for its students, Deerfield has cultivated a wide-ranging catalog of 340 different courses. Between school years, however, the Academic Dean’s office works with teachers to develop, merge, and even eliminate courses, leaving the catalog in flux.
To explain the changes, Academic Dean Dr. Ivory Hills said, “Each year, something is discontinued, contingent on two main reasons: either the teacher who taught the course is not available to do so, or student enrollment is too low.”
Catalog changes do not solely depend on such practicalities. The office hopes that some changes will garner students’ interests, explore areas of study not yet touched upon, and remain relevant to students as they confront the future.
“You must ask: what has never been in the catalog before, and should be in the catalog? What is it that we don’t teach, that we should teach, because students would be very interested in it? We are nibbling at the edges, and I think that is healthy,” Dr. Hills said.
Eight years ago, for instance, Deerfield Academy became one of the first fifteen schools worldwide to introduce the AP Capstone program, which consisted of AP Seminar: Global H2O and AP Seminar: Global Food Systems. These courses were merged into AP Seminar: H2O and Food Systems over the summer.
History teacher Dr. Mary Ellen Friends and Director of Educational Initiatives Mr. David Miller both teach this year’s AP Seminar. As before, when the AP Capstone program was first launched, they hope to “[keep an] eye toward empowering students to understand a variety of perspectives on both food and water systems around the Valley and around the world.”
Griffin Dewey ‘20, a former student of Global H2O, believes the change is for the better, as she commented, “I’m very excited for the younger students who will get to explore both food and water systems.”
Greek I and Greek II underwent a merging of a different kind because of scheduling conflicts and student enrollment. The courses officially remain separate but now share a single period under the purview of Classics teacher Dr. Daniel Houston. The sections split class time, alternating between independent and in-class study, to complement varying levels of experience in the language.
“Dr. Houston has realized the impossible task of combining two levels of a challenging Ancient Greek class, while making the classes feel both independent and together at the same time,” second-year Greek student Dylan Bane ‘20 remarked. “Dr Houston has created the optimal conditions for true education at the standard of the Academy and Lyceum.”
Moreover, due to a lack of initial student interest during the course selection process last Spring, the Dean’s office removed AP Art History from the 2019-20 course catalog.
Mia Silberstein, a former student, expressed her disappointment, commenting, “Art History is a discipline that many students in college take, and we Deerfield students were, in years past, fortunate to have had the opportunity to take it during high school. I was personally saddened by their dropping it this year as I knew some people who expressed great interest in taking it.”
“Art History is for everyone and, although it is a difficult AP class, it is ultimately rewarding. The academic deans should still offer classes, even with a small number of interested students, as is the case in the math and language departments,” she continued, referring to an option for students to conduct a Directed Study in subjects of interest not offered in any of the Academy’s courses.
Deerfield also declined to offer Arabic I for this school year because of low enrollment. Only two students had requested the course. A future revamp of the introductory course is contingent on student interest.
Arabic II student Christian Odenius ‘22 said, “It disappoints me that Deerfield did not allow just those two students to take the course and progress through the program, but I can understand that that might have been a logistic challenge.
Still, the Academy is cutting those students off from learning about a language and, more importantly, a culture that has become dear to me and my classmates.”
Ms. Samar Moushabeck, Deerfield’s sole Arabic instructor, added, “Arabic in particular has the added benefit of showing you a culture that has been so unjustly represented in this part of the world.”
As a whole, similar to any new academic year, adjustments have been made to the course offerings available for the 2019 to 2020 academic year, inciting some frustration and some increased intrigue amongst students as the year commences.