Winnetka, News

AP African-American studies, human-centered design are latest courses added to New Trier curriculum

Two new educational opportunities for students will soon be piloted at New Trier High School with an aim to cultivate new skills and expand knowledge, administrators said.

Both were highlighted at the school district’s board of education meeting on Monday, Nov. 14.

Introduction of human-centered design will be offered at New Trier in collaboration with the Siebel Center for Design at the University of Illinois. The Siebel Center defines human centered design as “a problem-solving approach that uses design thinking to identify the unmet needs of a population in order to collaboratively and iteratively develop solutions.”

New Trier’s Peter Tragos, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explained in a memo to the board that the difference between the concept of human-centered design from other problem-solving methods is that it “requires collaboration with other thinkers, typically from different disciplines, and empathy for the end user.”

He explained that in the modern workforce the ability to adapt to ever-changing situations is a critical skill that today’s students need. He added that it used to be true that “a set of skills and high school education and a post-secondary education might last an entire lifetime. With the rate of change, that no longer exists.”

A group of educators has been working on implementing human-centered design at New Trier, and the district has hosted four workshops on the subject since 2020. These workshops have included faculty, administrators, community members and even students.

Tragos said the district is ready implement the concept in the spring semester with two or three classes piloting human-centered design in February 2023. Feedback from that pilot reportedly will be used to shape how the school proceeds with introducing the concept districtwide starting with the 2023-2024 school year.

“Bringing human-centered design to New Trier not only achieves the goals of the strategic plan but also answers the call to develop high demand ‘durable skills’ that will prepare our students for postsecondary and career success,” he wrote in his memo. “Moreover, an experience in human-centered design differentiates New Trier students from their peers in a competitive field of college and career opportunities.”

In response to board member questions, Tragos said human-centered design may eventually end up becoming a class itself, or it could simply be a concept that is taught in existing classes. Feedback from the pilot will be used to determine how the plans will proceed.

Board members also learned more about AP African-American studies, a new course that will be open for juniors and seniors this coming fall.

Dr. Chimille Tillery, director of curriculum and instruction, said the College Board selected New Trier as one of 60 schools across the country to pilot the course.

“This is a multidisciplinary course that examines the breadth of African-American experiences through direct encounters with rich and varied sources, drawing from the fields of literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, science and more,” Tillery said.

The course was created from research conducted by the College Board and collaboration between 11 historically Black colleges and universities and all eight Ivy League schools and conversations with 133 college faculty members across the country.

Board Vice President Jean Hahn asked if enough New Trier students will be interested in the class, as pilot courses require at least 20 students to be enrolled.

Tillery was confident that there will be enough interest and said the social studies department was “extremely excited” to hear that the course will be offered next fall. She said that some teachers have already been talking about the class with their students.

Board member Brad McLane praised the course. He said that when he was in college, he took an African-American studies class that had a profound impact on his life.

“It’s about time we had it here,” he said. “It’s about time we had it as an AP course. It was life-changing for all of us who were in those classes.”

AP African-American studies, as well as the other new classes that were introduced last month, were all unanimously approved Monday as part of the board’s consent agenda.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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