New media arts and journalism classes offered to freshmen

Second semester classes offer more variety as department experiments with curriculum


Neima Fax

EXPLORE: Mrs. Samantha Garelick, right, explained to Michelle Navi and Yehudah Zadeh in the new art room, B102.

Freshmen rushed to their phones, laptops and iPads Jan. 19 to submit their preferences for their second semester electives, something never offered before at Shalhevet.

After 14 years of Music Appreciation filling both semesters of ninth grade, this year Shalhevet offered three different electives for their second semester, though not everyone had the same  choices.

Just a few hours before the end of a week-long semester break, General Studies Principal Daniel Weslow sent out an email to all parents of ninth-graders informing them of the change.

“Due to enormous growth and success of our choir and student newspaper, The Boiling Point, Ms. Keene will be focusing more of her time on her leadership of these co-curriculars,” Mr. Weslow wrote. “This adjustment will allow our ninth-grade students a unique opportunity to engage in a more robust elective program in the second semester.”

The three electives are Music Appreciation and two new classes: Visual Arts, and Journalism.

Mrs. Keene is continuing to teach one music class, as well as the new journalism class.

The new art class is being taught by a new teacher, Mrs. Samantha Garelick, in Room B102, which according to Mrs. Garelick was almost like a blank canvas which she could transform into an art studio.

The room is now very colorful, with students’ artwork plastered all over the walls, which Mrs. Garelick thought would inspire the students when they walked in. It also has plastic tarping on the floor, to protect the carpet.

Mrs. Garelick said that in Ms. Salem’s 10th-grade course, students spend a lot of time sketching, while in her two Visual Arts classes, ninth-graders are being exposed to all different ways to look at art, including paint and collage.

“I just want to give everyone a chance to explore art for themselves,” said Mrs. Garelick. “I think it’s really giving them a chance to have a break from some of the more traditional learning and instead be able to tap into their creative side.”

Freshmen Michael Dahan said that they do many different things in the art class, sometimes learning about the history of art and sometimes even venturing to the outdoors for inspiration.

“Last class, we went outside to take pictures,” Michael said.

According to freshman Gaby Bentolila, in one class Mrs. Garelick taught the students that you don’t need specific or traditional art supplies in order to create art.

“For example, in order to make abstract paintings, we used celery,” Gaby said.

Mrs. Garelick has many plans she hopes the class will have time to do in the future.

“The kids are gonna be working on… creating their own pieces of art through using spray paint, acrylics, collage, and 3D.”

Freshman Yael Rubin is in the journalism class, one never offered before at Shalhevet.

“I think it’s very helpful and I really enjoy it,”  said Yael. “It’s really helping me and impacting me in ways that Music Appreciation was not. We’re learning grammar and punctuation and the goals of journalism, and how to interview people in an appropriate way.”

Freshman Max Wintner said he’s enjoying his second semester of Music Appreciation, where the class is preparing to write music for an “orchestra” of instruments made out of vegetables.

“I really love the new elective change,” said Max. “We are learning a lot more interesting things in music, such as how to read and write music.”

The change was made possible by the hiring of Mrs. Garelick, who Mr. Weslow said had been working under the mentorship of longtime art teacher Ms. Roen Salem.

Mr. Weslow said no change was planned to the 10th-grade visual arts curriculum, which is a required course taught by Ms. Salem called Composition and Design. In an interview with the Boiling Point, Mr. Weslow explained that the students who take art in ninth grade will not be covering the same material next year as they did with Ms. Garelick, so all freshmen will be on the same page in their sophomore year.

However, not everything went well with the change. Despite the Google form students filled out with their preferences, all students who had Music Appreciation during their MAP 2 period were placed in Visual Arts, even if it was not their first option. Contrastingly, everyone who had had music during MAP 1 was placed in either music or journalism, and none could take Visual Arts. Each of the three classes meets twice a week.

Since students were assigned to MAP periods based on their math classes, it was impossible for students to switch their MAP periods. But according to Mr. Weslow, all students got either their first- or second-choice option.

A Boiling Point survey conducted on Schoology a week after the change was implemented found that 82 percent of students were happy with the second semester elective change, even if they were not placed in their first elective option.  

“This is kind of something that came up organically,” said Mr. Weslow. “I think the appropriate next step would be for our team and Ms. Keene and Roen and Sam to kind of get together and discuss a plan for moving forward, whether that’s staying with the same format we’ve had for many years or if that’s kind of continuing with this elective option opt in class… At this point all options are on the table.”

Mr. Weslow also said they will collect student feedback on how  they feel the semester went in in deciding what to do in the future.

“It’s something that we don’t need to lock in by the time Pesach comes,” he said. “We can be thoughtful about how we approach it and we can take our time with it.”