Every year, as suntanned students walk into the Nantucket High School with backpacks either far too full or far too empty and minds filled with dread or excitement for the coming school year, the curriculum has changed at least a little from the year before. Some classes are restructured or renamed, while others are removed or added. This year, two of the classes added are Journalism and P.E Pals.
P.E Pals, in the words of Ms. Thompson, one of the instructors, “is a more inclusive P.E class that helps with communication and socialization, and offers more access to physical activity to people who would not otherwise get it.”
“The demand is there for an inclusive P.E class,” Thompson added. The Nantucket High School has never had a class like this before, but based on the program’s success this year, it seems likely that it will continue for years to come. The demand truly is there.
Another teacher involved with the program, Ms. Davidson, said that “in the past, there has been an adapted program solely for kids with needs, but [P.E Pals] allows for more socialization.”
Nantucket is not the first to implement a class similar to P.E Pals. P.E Pals is an adapted physical education course, something that was first conceived back in 1975 with the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, a law passed by the U.S Congress requiring all children receive physical education. Since then, the idea has evolved a lot, and classes that help with communication and socialization, like P.E. Pals, have begun to emerge.
Another idea that has evolved a lot in recent years is Journalism. Journalism was last offered at Nantucket High School ten years ago. Since only a limited amount of electives can be offered at any one time at the school, it has not been offered since. However, this year it is making a return. Ms. Phaneuf, who has years of experience in the field of journalism, is teaching the class.
Journalism, while a potential career path for many students, does not only have to be taken in preparation for a career in the field. Phaneuf says journalism is also important because, “students today live in a media saturated society… it is more important than ever for all people, especially young people, to be extremely aware of the mechanisms behind the messages they receive.”
According to a recent study by market research company Emarketer, the average adult in the United States spends over twelve hours a day consuming media. While the study counts an hour spent surfing the internet while watching TV as two hours of media consumed, the point still stands strong. There has never been a point in the past where we have been so surrounded by media, and Phaneuf believes that makes journalism more important now than ever.
Phaneuf said, “my goal is… to help students take a step back and realize ‘someone crafted this message. Why did someone craft this message? Is this a good message?’… Our essential question is ‘what is good journalism.’” She adds that knowing information is also an important skill in our modern world and that, “everyone wants to have dinner with people who are well informed, everyone wants to spend time with you if you’re well informed. If you’re well informed, you’ll have a lot of opportunities in life.”
When asked how teaching journalism has changed in the ten years the class has not been taught, she immediately pointed out that there have been a lot of changes in that time frame. However, Phaneuf says, “the biggest way (teaching journalism) has changed is that students are co-teachers now… students are much more savvy about media channels and information… more than ever, journalism has to be collaborative.”
At first glance, aside from the two classes starting in the same year, there does not seem to be much of a connection between journalism and P.E Pals. But when you look below the surface, there is. Both of the classes focus largely on communication, and when interviewed, Thompson and Phaneuf had one quote in common. The quote? “Communication is important.” In a modern society surrounded by misinformation and filled with division, communication may be more important now than it has been since the first caveman began to scratch letters on a wall. Communication is different for everyone. But for everyone, it is important. Nantucket High School recognizes this, and that is reflected in two of the new classes offered this year.
By John Carl