Advanced classes offer a new challengeRHS added new math and computer science classes this year to challenge advanced students
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Most high school students faced with a need to contact a classmate in another part of the building might get up and go for a walk. Maybe they would call or send a text message. In either case, the solution would be pretty straightforward.
On Tuesday afternoon, a student in Rosemount High School’s new advanced computer science class took another approach. He pulled out his phone and tried to use the school’s network to access an overhead projector in a computer lab one floor and half of the school away. He wanted to use the projector to flash morse code to let his classmate know he was in the wrong room.
It’s not clear whether the attempt worked – it turns out there was nobody in the lab to see whether the projector came to life – but it’s an example of the kind of solutions you come up with when you spend part of your day plumbing the inner workings of computers and their software.
The advanced computer science class, which provides another step beyond the Advanced Placement computer science class the school already offers, is one of two new classes this year meant to provide a new challenge for some of Rosemount High School’s brightest math and science minds. Along with a multi-variable calculus class, it’s a chance for students to explore an interest while earning college credits.
“We were seeing a need for it,” assistant principal Pete Roback said. “We were seeing more and more students who were accelerated in the area of math and computer science. Really, those (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related fields. We felt we needed another rung on the ladder.”
RHS developed both classes in partnership with Inver Hills Community College. The school previously offered an AP computer science much like the one added this year, but Thomas Reinartz, who teaches the new class, said it was canceled when enrolment fell. This year’s class was added when the 15 students who took the AP class last year wanted more opportunities. The curriculum is much the same as the old AP class, but without a formal AP test at the end of the course there is more freedom for students to explore.
Students like that freedom. Working in a computer lab they lean over each other’s shoulders and talk about what they’re working on. Students typically work on projects through the first four days of the week, then hold a show-and-tell session on Friday to share their work.
Reinartz has also brought in former computer science students to talk about their experiences in college and beyond.
“We can all learn from each other,” said Andrew Hasting, one member of the class. “I learn more in this class than I do in most of my other classes that have tests and are more rigid.”
Reinartz said because the class allows students to pursue things they’re passionate about they tend to be more engaged. His goal is to break the stigma of computer science as a field for lone coders huddled over keyboards in a dark room. He’d also like to help students understand that there is a need for computer science skills in the working world. Both of the alumni who visited his class this week are midway through their senior year at Iowa State University and both already have post-graduation jobs lined up.
If the computer science class is small, the multi-variable calculus class is smaller still. It has just four students, two juniors and two seniors. RHS brought back retired math teacher Rose Gundacker to teach the course. There were a couple of options for the new course, but Gundacker, who has done some college-level teaching since leaving RHS, felt more comfortable with the multi-variable calculus.
Roback hopes both classes will grow. He wants to reach out to students at a younger age, possibly with summer camps and pre-AP classes.
“It doesn’t have to be just the top students,” Roback said. “I think we need to work closely with our middle schools. I think the initiative we’re working on with Inver Hills will tap into that.”