Geography will be replaced with a new required freshman course, Get Focused, Stay Focused, in the 2017-2018 school year.
This new course involves students developing goals extending ten years into the future. It is a dual enrollment course, meaning that students who pass it will earn credits towards the G-elective requirement required to attend a UC or CSU university, as well as 3 units of college credits valid at UC and CSU universities.
Get Focused, Stay Focused will be a semester-long course and will explore three subject areas: who am I? What do I want? How do I get it? The course is also intended to offer a transition period to allow students to adapt to the culture and pace of San Marin.
“There’s a real need for a transition between middle school and high school, and this course offers that,” said Ms. Jennifer Larson, Novato Unified School District’s Coordinator of Instruction and Innovation. “As many of our students would attest to, there’s a big difference between what life is like on a middle school campus and what you need to really quickly adapt to on a high school campus.”
Larson said Get Focused, Stay Focused will give students time to explore San Marin’s culture and their role in that culture.
The course also aims to instruct students on the importance of finishing one’s education and following one’s interests and passions when choosing a college and career.
“It sounds pretty good; it’s going to help people stay organized and keep on track in school,” said junior Luis Maldonado. “[Get Focused, Stay Focused] basically puts them in a better view to concentrate in school and follow everything, stay organized, attend classes, and not ditch class.”
Some feel that Geography should not be replaced. Geography is also a semester-long course that teaches students about reading maps, recognizing landmarks, and analyzing cultures around the world.
“We need to be aware of the world itself and the people in it if we’re going to figure out a way to get through the problems that are on their way, and Geography is a good way to open up people’s eyes and create that awareness. It can’t answer all the questions, but we can certainly get people to start thinking about them,” said Mr. Bob Lacy, who teaches Geography.
Lacy said Geography is an excellent foundation layer for students for their future classes, especially social studies.
The issue of credits from Geography was raised by administrators.
“With Geography at this point, the way that it’s written, you’re not getting college credit, but you’re also not getting your G-requirement as well,” said Larson.
The administration has been pushing Get Focused, Stay Focused since last spring. During that time, a training on Get Focused, Stay Focused curriculum and two presentations to board members, teachers, and administrators on GFSF have occurred.
“I have been looking at it for about a year now from when I heard about this possible curriculum change, and although I see some value in it, I’m not sure if that value merits getting rid of a class that I know has value based on experience,” said Lacy.
Geography won’t be going away entirely, however. Lacy has pursued an AP Human Geography course, and the San Marin Administration has agreed to offer it next year as an elective course offered to all grade levels.
“In 9th grade Geography, we did a two-phase approach,” said Lacy. “We did the physical world, and then we did the political, or human, world. This will be focusing on the human aspects, so differences between groups and countries based on their Geography, analyzing conflict and the geographic roots of that conflict. It’s going to be awesome.”
by Zach Griggy, reporter