Diversifying the curriculum

Several DBHS teachers offer unusual projects and activities for their students.

Aside from the usual curriculum of tests and quizzes, some Diamond Bar High School teachers also assign out-of-the-box projects.

From putting on plays to showing kindness to creating videos, students are given the chance to show skills that reveal how the concepts they’ve learned can be applied to history or beyond the classroom.

History teacher Lindsay Arnold has several unique projects for her AP and IB classes, including the Isms Tree Project for her AP European History class. In that project, students use trees as a metaphor to show how the Enlightenment and French Revolution led to ideas such as feminism and socialism and their effects on different countries.

 In AP U.S. History, her and Anthony Poullard’s students write, direct and perform plays based on the Manifest Destiny. In IB History, students are separated into the Axis Powers and Allied Powers to argue over who started World War II in a mock trial debate.

“I love doing projects in my classes, because one of my favorite things about being a teacher is getting out of my students’ way and letting them fly on their own with history stories I have told them,” Arnold said via email. “I am always astonished by what they create, and hopefully, they are memories and life lessons that they will remember beyond high school.”

Junior Samantha Mitchell said her favorite project was the APUSH play because she enjoyed seeing her classmates collaborate on their “Narnia”-themed production, where the four main characters time-traveled to the West and became famous historical figures like social activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and President James. K Polk.

“It [the play] was also something I could pour myself into: learning my lines and trying to act,” she said via text. “I think my classmates also had a lot of fun acting and finding ways to make it funny.”

For years, Calculus BC teachers show their students a video in which the late motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia talks about the importance of expressing affection in everyday life. Then, students tell their parents “I love you” and watch their reactions. Last year, Michelle Hansen came up with the idea of including a non-calculus homework assignment every month.

“We [Calculus BC teachers] felt that if we could do something that would help students be happier and healthier, that it was sort of our responsibility to do so,” Jeff Brose said.

Some assignments that students who have Hansen, Brose and Jimmy Kuo do include performing random acts of kindness, answering the question “If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?” along with completing the “I’m Thankful For” project and designing a “New Year” poster.

“My favorite one was the New Year’s Resolution, because I feel like that really allowed me to look back on 2019 and see the memories I made. I also enjoyed it the most because it made me think about my goals going into 2020,” senior Harold Mo said.

On Feb. 24, Calculus BC and Math HL classes will participate in an “Unplugged” challenge, where students cannot use technology for entertainment for 24 hours. Some exceptions include using the computer for homework and making phone calls.

Other classes that have unique projects are Digital Video Production, ROP Graphic Arts/Multimedia and Advanced Digital Media Production, which are taught by Mario Enriquez. His projects are designed to help his students understand topics like camera angles, audio, dialogue and acting. Students in all three levels of the class create silent films, music videos, commercials/public service announcements, documentaries and more.

“The curriculum and the projects that we work on are consistently gravitating toward high levels of industry standards,” Enriquez said via email. “In addition, we’re working to create assignments and content that are driven by the artists and their individual visions.”

Senior Anna Bachman has taken the video classes for three years and is currently working on a documentary focusing on DBHS artists and their processes.

“The documentary has definitely been my favorite, because I’ve really been able to talk to the people that we’re focusing on,” Bachman said. “I like to think that we’re closer friends now because a lot of them I didn’t know before.”

The Project Lead the Way engineering pathway teaches students fundamentals, including learning how to 3D model and print toys and build solar cars, to becoming well-rounded engineers.

In Engineering Design and Development, the fourth year of PLTW, students choose a problem, research and develop a marketable product that solves the problem.

Seniors Jessica Yen, Logan Tang and Kallista Tantiga are working together to create a VEX parts sorter for the parts that students use to prototype and build machines.

“What happens at the end of the year is that we use up so many parts and we have to take around a week or a few days to sort it and it becomes really troublesome, and we believed that by solving this problem we would be able to save a lot of time,” Yen said.

Some students work on side projects to help people with disabilities lower their stress and improve their productivity through nonprofit SourceAmerica.

“I’ve been really proud of these kids because they come up with these awesome solutions to help people, right, which is ultimately what we try to do as engineers,” engineering teacher Johnny Hwang said.