I remember staring at my computer screen in the middle school library as the teachers assisted us in signing up for our first high school classes. Even though the majority of the classes had already been predetermined for us, there was one block up for choice. I looked through all the classes offered in The Program of Studies feeling very overwhelmed. Eventually, I gave up and went with the safe choice of a study hall. Now looking back on this as a senior, I know that a study hall is not needed freshman year, and I regret not using the opportunity to sign up for a fun elective. As time runs out on my high school career there are many classes I wish I could have taken.
Signing up for classes can be stressful, especially with a loaded Program of Studies. At first glance, the classes offered can seem intimidating, but hearing from students who have taken these classes can ease these nerves. Whether it’s cooking a full-course meal or making movies, courses at Oyster River can be a blast. Juniors and Seniors at Oyster River have given their input on their favorite electives, and strongly recommend students sign up for them next year.
Introduction to Culinary
An area of classes I wish I had more time in my schedule for were the culinary and cooking classes, but it is common knowledge that classes taught by Nick Ricciardi tend to be the hardest to get into due to their popularity. Many students sign up for these classes because the perception of them is that they are easy and fun classes. But do students really know what the classes entail?
Haley Pickering (’23), has taken multiple classes taught by Ricciardi and says that her favorite class has been Introduction to Culinary. Pickering describes the class saying, “we’ll do a lesson on a specific [cooking] technique or a specific type of food for one day and then we’ll watch a video, or we’ll talk about it. The next day we’ll go in and put it to use in the kitchens.”
Pickering has also taken Nutrition and Fuel and Fitness but says Culinary has been the most enjoyable. “I like being able to cook because it is more of a hands-on learning activity.” She even said that she would recommend this class more than a Ricciardi class like Bake Shop. “We’ve done things from making breakfast foods all the way to making our own pastas…it’s more diverse than Bake Shop would be in terms of the kinds of foods that you make.”
Unfortunately, I have not had the luck of getting into multiple classes taught by Ricciardi. However, I took Fuel and Fitness (now Nutrition) in my sophomore year. Despite the class being online for the majority of the year due to the pandemic, it was one of my favorite classes, and not just because it was easy. The class was my favorite because of the amount of new information I learned from it.
As someone who participates in school sports this class gave me a strong understanding of how to properly train and nourish my body (hence the name, Fuel and Fitness). I learned quick meals to use before practice or game, and I learned how to safely and effectively create a workout plan that will benefit me in the sports I play. If you’re a student athlete or you enjoy going to the gym and want to learn how to make the most of it, Nutrition would be the perfect class for you!
Team and Individual Sports
If instead of learning about being active, if you want to participate in athletics during school, look at the EPW (Exercise Physiology and Wellness) electives. Although freshman gym class is not for everyone, the EPW department provides a wide variety of electives that tend to be more enjoyable for students, even if they did not find success their freshman year. As someone who struggled in EPW and took the chance of signing up for this elective, it was worth it.
“Mr. Maynard treats everybody with maturity and everyone there is really excited to play whatever game or unit we’re doing,” said Waverly Oake-Libow (‘23) when discussing her experience in Team and Individual sports and how it differs from EPW.
This class, taught by EPW teacher Don Maynard, is open to grades 10-12. So far this year, Oake-Libow says the class has played sports like volleyball, flag football, and softball. “We’ll give [Mr. Maynard] a list of the sports the class is interested in playing over the semester. Then, we start the unit and [Mr. Maynard] create fair teams and even lets members of the class contribute to make the teams.”
Oake-Libow says the games are competitive but fun because the class gets to choose what they are doing. “Mr. Maynard will really hype you up and he makes the games really exciting. Everybody there has a lot of fun while also taking it seriously enough.”
As someone who is currently taking the class, I recommend signing up for it with your friends. Having familiar people with you who you feel comfortable with can make the class more enjoyable and encourages more participation.
Digital Video Production
Subjects like Social Studies, English, and World Language also have some of the favorite electives in Oyster River. Although sophomore year English classes are limited, Devon Wasiewski (‘23), recommends adding Digital Video Production to your schedule.
The class is taught by English teacher Jennifer Weeks and has been a popular way to earn the English communication credit needed to graduate. “Throughout the semester, you are given prompts of digital videos you can create… the first few assignments you can either make a music video, podcast, day in the life, or DIY video,” said Wasiewski.
For me, public speaking and presentations cause me a great deal of stress. The idea of taking a discussion-based English class scared me and I tried to put it off for as long as I could. I wish I knew that Digital Video Production could’ve filled that communication credit, so I didn’t have to deal with the stress of public speaking.
Another benefit Wasiewski mentions is that as the class goes on, you get more freedom in the types of videos you make which spark a lot of creativity. If you are looking for an English class that gives you opportunities to be creative and are want a switch from the typical essay writing English classes, Digital Video Production is the class for you!
Introduction to Photography
Like Digital Video Production, there are many other electives that offer a great deal of creativity. Gabby Harriton (’24), recommends Introduction to Photography, a class offered through the Art Department. Personally, I am not a talented artist and the idea of taking an art class to fill the Fine Arts credit to graduate stressed me out. I ended up taking Introduction to Art and did not enjoy the class because I was self-conscious of my work. If this sounds like you, taking a Photography class could be a great way to earn your Fine Arts credit.
Harriton says that the class is not only about learning what to photograph, but also how. “You learn how to use the camera and learn all the different buttons on it. Then there are six units where you learn how to photograph certain things.” Harriton says her favorite class was when they learned to photograph birds. “We sat outside the entire class on the field just taking pictures; I had a lot of fun.”
Although the word “Introduction” in front of a class title might make it sound easier, Harriton says that would not apply to this class. Like what I experienced when taking Introduction to Art, the class requires a lot of work to be put into it. Harriton describes this saying, “be prepared to get creative. A lot of people take the class thinking it’s going to be an ‘easy A’, but you have to work for it.”
However, don’t let the effort aspect of the class discourage you from taking it. Harriton mentions that it was a nice break in her day compared to the rest of her classes. I think this is something that is important for students to have. Even though I consider art one of my weaknesses, having an art class during the day helped me decompress from the constant stress of academic classes.
Other classes to keep on your radar when signing up for classes this year include Introduction to Art recommended by Talia Banafato (’24), Nutrition recommended by Sophia Royal (‘23), Evolution of Film recommended by Melanie Storace (‘24), Women’s Literature recommended by Sophia Duyon (‘24), and Sociology recommended by Riley Drapeau (‘24).
As time flies by in your high school career, remember that not all high school is supposed to be stressful. Signing up for fun electives is a way to balance your day so that the whole school day doesn’t feel like a drag. Hopefully these classes recommended by students will help you find ways to spice up your schedule and make for a fun high school experience.
– Abby Deane