The chance for Winona Senior High School (WSHS) tenth-grade students to replace a semester’s worth of United States history by partaking in a two-week trip halfway across the U.S. is one step closer to reality. At the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Curriculum Advisory Committee meeting on Monday, members discussed the one-credit class that would be offered the summer following a student's sophomore year.
“They are really thinking out of the box,” WSHS principal Kelly Halvorsen said of the drafters of the proposal.
The potential two-week itinerary starts in Springfield, Ill., and students would make stops at historic sites in Memphis, Virginia, Gettysburg, Washington D.C. and New York City. The course, which would involve students traveling via bus, would be aligned to the same standards as the traditional, classroom U.S. History course at WSHS, according to materials distributed by Halvorsen. One credit of U.S. history is required in tenth grade.
“If you look, a credit is worth approximately 60 hours,” Halvorsen explained of the amount of time students will spend learning about U.S. history in a traditional semester-long class. “So this would be far more [time].”
One committee member likened the course to a college January Term (J-Term), which is a program taught during the break between first and second semester in January. “It’s intense time. It would be like J-Term, but you would be there for four or five hours a day.”
Students who register for the two-week course would not have to attend a class period of U.S. history during the regular school semester. “Course content will be delivered in the summer,” Halvorsen reiterated.
Halvorsen likened the course to a hybrid class that involves students working both in class and outside of class. Students complete projects and documents similar to those done by students in the regular course, according to course proposals.
Jeanne Nelson, a member of the Curriculum Advisory Committee as well as the WAPS School Board, praised the unique course, but also questioned the potential barriers for disadvantaged students.
“It is awesome and I commend anyone taking the initiative. This does make things come alive,” Nelson acknowledged, before adding, “but how can you focus this for students who are financially disadvantaged?”
The current budget breakdown for each student is $663 for housing and admissions fees, not including transportation or food. According to the plan, the cost of transportation will depend on the number of students who sign up for the trip. If the School Board approves the proposal, scholarship money will be available for students, but as for the amount of scholarship money, it is unclear.
“Finances are the ultimate block,” Halvorsen admitted.
On board with the idea
Everyone at the Curriculum Advisory Committee meeting seemed to be excited about the idea of bringing history alive to a group that WAPS administrators hope will be at least 20 students.
“I think it’s awesome,” Mark Anderson, Winona Middle School principle, said. “I want my daughter doing it and my son the year after.”