Bonus class proves popular at Hammond High School [North Laurel/Savage]

Howard County Times

Two teachers at Hammond High School are empowering students to think about social issues while they read classic literature. A few years ago, Alec Livieratos, social studies instructional team leader, and Scott Osborne, 10th-grade English teacher and curriculum team leader, discovered the vast amount of curricular connections between the government and English classes they teach. They wanted to build on that and so have been working with students for the past three years in their Bonus Class offered a few times a year after school. Osborne told me they strive to find times when the most students can participate, working around concerts, athletics and other events. They plan an integrated lesson and invite students to join them after school with the purpose of learning something new and having a fun experience. No extra credit or service learning hours are provided, so students come because simply because they have an intellectual curiosity. Typically, between 60 and 90 students participate.

A variety of topics have been covered, including a student debate about the best form of government, an exploration and discussion about a variety of philosophers who have influenced literature and government, and a Sherlock Holmes-themed murder mystery that sent students around the building, participating in academic challenges and looking for clues. Activities around the themes of collaboration and teamwork have been planned and implemented as well.

A recent video showing interviews with Livieratos and Osborne, as well as excerpts of them leading a Bonus Class, has been shared on the Howard County Public Schools website. In that video, Osborne noted social injustices that could be discussed while reading famous literature such “1984” and “MacBeth.”

Students were highlighted in a session studying some short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Groups of students learned about themes from Poe’s short stories and participated in challenges that had to be completed before moving on to another one; in the end, all students gathered to solve a puzzle and discuss the connections to today’s society. Livieratos discussed how students who participated in this Bonus Class engaged in conversation about how society looks to judge others and divisions among people occur. Breaking down those societal barriers then became the focus for further discussion and these Hammond High School students shared ways to prevent that kind of thinking at their school. Instead, Livieratos said they focused on the idea that “people are important” and their school “is a community that lifts each other up.”

Osborne credits the program’s success to fellow teachers who assist by leading some of the academic games and challenges and the administration of Hammond High under the leadership of former principal, Marcy Leonard, and current principal, John DiPaula. They have created a culture “where teachers feel inspired and have the support to take risks and try new things.” This kind of program is sure to promote positive thinking and create a community of students who will continue to grow and mature into non-judgmental, caring adults.

Recently, the ice hockey team at Reservoir High School celebrated Senior Night. Players Willy Watts, Ben Williams, Cameron Hyder and Mike Thomas were recognized before the game for their hard work and dedication to their team over the last four years. The Gators pulled out a win against the WHO, made up of players from Wilde Lake, Hammond and Oakland Mills high schools. Goals scored by Williams, Thomas and Hyder and timely assists by Watts all contributed to the win. The WHO also honored two seniors, Matthew Schlauch and Matthew Stralka. Congratulations players!

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