Students at Laguna Beach High and Thurston Middle schools will have a few more classes to choose from when they set their schedules for the 2014-15 year.
The Laguna Beach Unified School District board Tuesday unanimously approved four new classes, three at the high school and one at Thurston.
Trustees approved a second STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) class at Thurston that builds on the first one. STEAM-2 is a yearlong elective course for eighth-graders that will tap into robotics, computer programming, architecture and game design with hands-on projects.
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Kelly Skon teaches the STEAM-1 elective class for seventh- and eighth-graders, which elicited rave reviews from students and parents in its inaugural year.
"One of the biggest things parents ask for [is] more hands-on, project-based learning," trustee Betsy Jenkins said.
Students in STEAM-1 designed and built remote-control robots with flexible steel wires, batteries and plastic tires, and competed against other groups to see which team could corral the most plastic cups.
STEAM-2 is designed to prepare students for college and careers in math and science.
The course allows students who may not be great test takers to display knowledge of a topic, Skon said during Tuesday's meeting.
Board President Jan Vickers complimented Skon on her initiative and dedication.
"You've taken this pilot year and done amazing things," Vickers said.
The course will cost $20,000 in start-up materials and equipment and will require $10,000 in subsequent years to replace supplies, according to a district staff report.
Laguna Beach High freshmen and sophomores will also have the option of a STEAM-type course, called STEM careers, which will build on the Thurston offerings, though students will not be required to complete the middle school curriculum in order to take the high school class.
Students will work in groups during four-week sessions on a particular topic, such as biotechnology, forensics, sports or veterinary medicine, the district staff report said.
They will also have two writing assignments for each unit and will hone problem-solving, innovation and communication skills, science department chairwoman and instructor Carrie Denton said.
Writing assignments align with the new Common Core State Standards, Denton said. The revamped state tests, which will officially roll out in the 2014-15 school year, emphasize critical thinking with arguments based on nonfiction, evidence-based texts.
The total start-up cost for the STEM elective is $80,157, which covers lab materials, curriculum delivered on a cloud-based server, teacher training and supplies, the staff report said.
Trustees also approved an environmental science course at Laguna Beach High beginning next year.
The course, geared toward freshmen who are also enrolled in algebra 1, will focus on principles from biology, chemistry, geology and meteorology and teach students how governmental policies affect these areas.
Sophomores may also take the course, which replaces the current earth science class.
Students will work together to complete hands-on projects and learn how algebra can help them interpret scientific concepts and data.
Denton submitted the course to University of California officials for approval as one of the 15 college-prep classes high school students are required to complete for admission, according to the UC website.
This course will cost the district $32,000 for textbooks and lab equipment, according to the staff report.
Beach volleyball will also be offered for Laguna Beach High boys in the fall.
Laguna girls already field a team, and other schools such as Edison, Huntington Beach, San Clemente and Marina also provide opportunities to play.
Women's beach volleyball is a fast-growing sport, increasing from 16 college teams in 2012 to 41 in its third season, the district staff report said. College scholarships are available.
The new course doesn't cost the district any additional money since it is included in the high school's budget.