All the Classes That You Don’t Know

By Grace Gu ’16
Staff Writer

Have you heard of the Popular Music in America or Eco-Art electives? Have you heard of the International Relations in Southeast Asia or Microeconomic Theory electives? Peddie offers students many interesting electives that community members have not heard of.

“Electives have been popular at Peddie for a long time, in which some are required and some are optional,” Associate Head of School Catherine Rodrigue said. “We have other spring electives students really enjoy, including Organic Chemistry, Genetics, Robotics, Middle East, Pirates, Finance, Computer Science and a host of arts electives in theater, visual arts and music.”

Besides required physics, chemistry and biology courses, the science department offers many electives, ranging from microbiology to astronomy.

Robotics, a Science elective, is taught by Physics Teacher Martin Patt and is open to all interested students. Many students said they joined this course because they wanted a new and different experience in engineering and coding, but their positive feedbacks showed that the course has far exceeded expectations.

“The course is super fun. I’ve picked up on so many skills that include programming and also building robots,” Emma Becker ’16 said. “The best project so far was that in which we had to build an arm robot and write a code so that our robot could pick up a bottle and then dispose of it in a specific area. My robot was able to pick up six bottles in a row!”

Joshua Sham, a science teacher, decided to bring the Astronomy elective back to Peddie last spring. The elective gives students an opportunity to explore the cosmos both in the classroom and through night time observations. It covers a brief history of the cosmos starting with the big bang and concludes with the discussion of the future universe and possibility of life on other planets.

“I think students enjoy the unit on black holes.  Most people have heard of black holes but they do not know how or why they form,” Sham said. “I would recommend this elective to students if they are interested in forming a better understanding of the universe.”

Students who have taken Astronomy also enjoyed their “intimacy” with space and the projects they have worked on, such as making their own telescopes.

“One of the best experiences I had in Astronomy was when a real astronaut came to our class and explained to us life in space,” Amy Carcamo ’14 said. “He had some equipment and some real footage from his mission in space.”

New electives are also being created while old ones are continued. Andrew Caglieris, a math teacher, is offering a Mathematical Modeling course in the spring. It provides students with the opportunity to study problems in a variety of real world settings, such as engineering, social science and political science.

Motivated by his past summer research and workshops that he has done on modeling, Caglieris decided to introduce the course to Peddie.

“Mathematical modeling is a very important 21st century skill. It helps students to engage in collaboration, communication and critical thinking,” Caglieris said. “An example would be: ‘What could be done to improve traffic flow in the dining hall during meal times?’”

While modeling applies to real life, economics cover a wide range of present economic and financial topics as well. Peddie offers Microeconomic Theory, Macroeconomic Theory and Financial Markets & Investments respectively in fall, winter and spring term.

Imad Labban, who worked in Wall Street for almost 25 years, and Jason Keefer, who had previous experience of teaching mathematics and economics, teamed up to put together an economic elective about two years ago.

“What is happening today economically and financially in this country has become so important that we wanted to give students the ability and knowledge to be part of the discussion,” said Labban.

This elective is designed to help students understand how to analyze various investment and saving vehicles, how to open and manage a brokerage account, and how to use tools like Excel or other online resources to model and better understand the risks and benefits associated with investing.

Alexis Papanicolaou ’15, who is a currently taking Macroeconomics, highly recommends the economics elective to all students.

“I think the excitement in Econ is that it is constantly changing.  Econ is all about using what you know to predict what might happen,” Papanicolaou said. “It is also about looking at the present and trying to piece together why you are in such a state.  This class is so interesting because of its direct relation to real life. ”

According to most students who have taken electives, these classes help them to specialize in their interests and learn about real-life materials besides what they learn from the normal academic courses.