This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Harker Quarterly
Harker junior Margaret Krackeler signed up to get a course out of the way and found she liked it.
“The teachers are really fun and I’m there with my friends,” she said during the final week. As a bonus, she was able to enter AP Biology this fall, skipping the otherwise-required year of Honors Biology.
Chris Florio, Summer Institute principal, said that most students enroll in the Institute as a result of academic planning: either to knock off a required course or to get ahead in a subject area of interest. Many classes are in core subjects, but enrichment courses are also offered in art, forensics and even driver’s education.
Honors Geometry teacher Misael Fisico revealed how he captures students’ attention as they face the prospect of fourplus hours of geometry daily. “I know my students are into computers,” he said, “so there are always computer activities in my class, especially for the first two weeks. Then, I let them do the thinking once I’ve bombarded them with the fun stuff!”
Computer science teacher Susan King noted that, while many students take programming to complete academic requirements, “it isn’t all that rare for kids to find out they like it and go on to take the AP course as a result.” Like Fisico, King works hard to make her instruction and classwork relevant and fun.
“I try not to be the sage on the stage,” she said, “but to have the kids be very active – not only programming on their computers, but also writing on the white boards and working in teams of two.”
It’s not all fun and games for sure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any: King and her teaching assistant, Partha Vora, grade 11, put on a version of “The Dating Game” in the Advanced Programming class to illustrate the operation of data structures.
Data structures can represent many, many data points, explained King, “or just three pieces of information, like Bachelors One, Two and Three.” In the game, “the bachelorette could question the bachelors but she had to use the correct index,” she said. “If she rejected one, she removed that bachelor from the database, using all the appropriate concepts.”
Prag Batra, grade 11, got to the crux of the matter: “It’s kind of frustrating when it’s not working, and you have to spend all this time debugging. But thinking of the idea and trying to come up with the logic is kind of fun,” he said.