JEFFERSON — New courses in zoology, advanced 2D and 3D art, and automotive technology are in the works at Jefferson High School.
The Jefferson school board heard the second reading of the proposed new courses Monday night.
The new automotive course, titled Formula Student, Super-Mileage and Electrathon, would be a hands-on course touching on areas of technology education, science and math.
Students would work together to design an electric or gasoline-powered vehicle to be entered in competition.
The formula student competition would involve students building a mini version of a formula 1 car that uses a riding mower engine.
School-created vehicles compete against each other not wheel-to-wheel, but individually on a closed track, with lap time determining the winner.
The second competition this class would encompass would be the Challenge USA super-mileage challenge.
In this competition, students design and build a vehicle with the goal of making it as fuel-efficient as possible. Aerodynamics, center of gravity, and power-to-weight ratios are all factors students would consider as they developed, tested and modified their vehicles.
Competitors receive a set amount of gasoline and the winning vehicle is the one that can travel the farthest on a finite amount of fuel.
E.J. Pilarski, Jefferson High School automotive teacher, said that the Jefferson district can look to the north for a great example, as the Watertown High School technology education teacher basically spearheaded this program for the state.
The third component of this class, the electrathon, is very similar to the gasoline-powered super-mileage competition, except with an electric vehicle.
These hands-on activities would require cross-curricular skills, with not only small engine technology and metals processing coming into play, but also math, science, and engineering.
As they prepare for these competitions, students would also get out to automotive-related businesses in the community, seeking sponsorships while also learning more about these businesses.
The whole experience would boost students’ teamwork abilities and interpersonal skills, Pilarski said.
The automotive teacher said that he was not looking for additional funds from the school budget to support this program at this time, though at other schools, the costs have been known to run from $1,000 to $8,000 per vehicle in the competitions.
If the class were approved, he said, the program would be looking for community sponsorships.
“It looks like this would open new avenues for students and take us down new roads,” school board member Dick Lovett said.
Lovett asked whether these activities would bring any additional liability to the school.
Pilarski noted that the district’s insurance carrier would cover this activity, as it does for the existing programs at Madison Memorial High School and Verona.
Any student signed up for the class would be able to work on the vehicles, but in the competition, the student serving as the official driver would have to have a license.
Pilarski said he does not need an additional prep hour to handle this course, either, stating that he could accommodate it during the hour already designated for interaction with his department’s youth apprentice students.
“Providing this opportunity would benefit the kids more,” Pilarski said.
Board member Thomas Condon, who works in the automotive industry, said that this course would give students “unbelievable” experience while getting them ready for how the actual industry works.
“This is an absolutely fantastic program,” Condon said.
The new zoology course, proposed by biology teacher John Gotto, would be a one-semester, half-credit class centering on laboratory science, dissection and comparative anatomy.
Students would get an up-close-and-personal look at different types of animals, and on top of classroom work, Gotto said he would be trying to connect students to “real-world” experiences in the field, such as zoo or veterinary clinic visits.
The class has been under consideration in the science department for several years.
The idea arose because the new science curriculum, while rigorous and high-quality, did not afford the same opportunity for dissections as previous versions of the class.
Julia Hardin, art teacher, proposed several changes in the art department.
With declining participation in the metals classes in recent years, the idea was to drop metals I, metals 2 and metals 3 and add advanced art 2D and advanced art 3D.
These two courses create a clearer pathway to ready students for the top-level advanced placement art portfolio class, through which students submit either 2D or 3D art portfolios for review by the advanced placement college board panel and take related college-level exams for potential college level credits or to get prerequisites out of the way, enabling higher-level college study earlier.