Students and teachers examine McNick’s one-of-a-kind electives

ArchitectureAs students begin to settle into second semester, it’s once again time to plan for what’s up ahead, and really, that can only mean one thing: it’s scheduling time.

Now, anyone could go the easy route, filling schedules with study halls and so-called ‘easy’ electives.  Or students can take a look at some of these diamond-in-the-rough electives that are often overlooked in the midst of the scheduling season.

Contemporary Literature

Readers rejoice – next year, McNick plans to offer a course entirely devoted to the study of contemporary literature.  Making its anticipated return at the start of the 2014-2015school year, the semester-long course is set to cover a broad spectrum of modern works, including novels, short stories, plays, and poems, all of which have been written within the recent years.

“I’m mainly excited to take Contemporary Literature next year because I love reading,” junior Kelsey Bechtol said.  “Books have this way of taking me out of reality for a while, and sometimes that’s just all I need.  My older sister also took the class when she went to McNick, and she talked about how much she loved the class.”

A supplementary course to McNick’s four-year English program, Contemporary Literature is open to students in grades 10, 11, and 12, and requires both an English I credit and a recommendation from a previous English teacher for entry.

Introduction to Legal Procedures

Interested in pursuing a career in law, but stumped as to how you can get a head start in high school?  Look no further than McNick’s one-semester introductory course into legal procedures.  Centered on the exciting world that surrounds the courtroom, this is a challenging course that introduces students to court procedures, concepts within constitutional rights, and incorporates problem-solving skills that are highly-valued in a modern day workplace.

Intro to Legal Procedures is a highly-interactive course that involves students participating in in-class mock trials, similar to real-life the court proceedings in which both criminal and civil trials are thoroughly examined.  Due to previous scheduling conflicts, the course was not offered during the 2013-2014 school year, but is still up for consideration for incoming students to grades 10, 11, and 12, depending on the level of interest.

Architectural Design and Drafting I

Another one of McNick’s career-centered electives, Architectural Design and Drafting I is designed to introduce students to the world of architecture, teaching all of the basic techniques necessary to grasp the concepts of the art of design.  Taught by Art Department Chair Melissa Gaskins, the class aims to expose students to as many aspects of the occupation as possible, allowing for time to create projects based on their interests.

While enrolled in this year-long course, students have the ability to explore a variety of design fields, including industrial design, interior design, and graphic design, all of which are highly valued in the architectural field of work.  Those who take the introductory course to architecture are encouraged to take a look at the subsequent course, Architectural Design and Drafting II, which expands upon the principals learned in the previous class.

Architecture I is only open to upperclassmen and has a limited enrollment, but there is no prerequisite course required for entry.

Digital Arts

In an ever-changing digital world, proficiency with modern technology is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill in the workplace.  Not only are computer programs like Photoshop and iDVD fun to use, they’re also useful in a more practical sense when it comes to thinking of college and beyond.

The Digital Arts program at McNick is largely centered on instruction – learning how to operate various programs on both PC and Mac computer platforms.  Students will also focus on projects that include forms of media ranging from digital cameras to Apple’s Garage Band, putting to use the skills that they have learned in a way that further increases understanding of today’s fast-paced technological environment.

“Our class is studio-based, and we complete various projects throughout the year,” Photography and Digital Arts teacher Ellyn Whiteash said.  “Each project introduces the students to a new software program used to create digital art.”

Open only to students in grades 11 through 12, Digital Arts is an introduction and requires no previous course or teacher recommendation.


Hoping to make a lasting impact on your school?  A spot on the McNicholas Yearbook staff may just be calling your name.  Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, Yearbook has been at McNick for decades and has remained a favorite amongst the staff.

In a year-long course, students who choose to become a part of this class will learn the skills necessary to publish the Countdown, McNick’s annual yearbook.  Basic aspects of the publication process, such as writing, editing, layout, and design, are taught throughout the year in a classroom format, overseen by Yearbook teacher Julie Dill alongside a senior editing staff.

“I would encourage students to take yearbook because it gets you really involved in school activities,” senior and Editor-in-Chief Megan Mottola said.  “I feel like I know who everyone is and at least one thing that they participate in at McNick.  I’ve met so many new people because of it, and have taken on a lot of needed responsibility.”

Yearbook requires an English teacher recommendation, and it is expected that those taking the class have a strong individual work ethic, as assigned pages are completed on a likewise individual basis.  A full year of this course also opens the door for Advanced Yearbook, in which the editorial opportunity becomes available, and students are able to make crucial decisions involving items such as the theme, budget, and layout of the Countdown.

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