High Schools Add Electives to Cultivate Interests

Winnie Hu:

The students in the jewelry and metalsmithing class at Pelham Memorial High School painstakingly coiled copper and brass wires into necklaces the other morning, while across the hall, the history of rock ‘n’ roll class pondered the meaning of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
These are two of the 17 electives added this year to the curriculum in this affluent Westchester County suburb, redefining traditional notions of a college-preparatory education and allowing students to pursue specialized interests that once were relegated to after-school clubs and weekend hobbies. Now, budding musicians take guitar lessons, amateur war historians re-enact military battles, and future engineers build solar-powered cars — all during school hours, and for credit.
“It’s letting people learn about what they love rather than dictating what they should be learning,” said Morgan McDaniel, a senior who added the rock ‘n’ roll class to her roster of Advanced Placement classes in calculus, biology, European history and studio art.