Lucky 7: New Courses Coming for Fenwick’s 92nd Academic Year

Four advanced computer science classes, one advanced theatre class, Mandarin and yoga headline exciting curriculum additions for Friar students and teachers!

By Mark Vruno

The Fenwick administration and faculty are excited to offer several new courses to students this coming school year. A series of four Advanced Computer Topics (ACT) classes as well as a new World Language course (Mandarin), an Advanced Theatre class and a new Physical-education class (yoga).

Dave Kleinhans

In discussing the new Advanced Computer courses, “Close to 30% of Fenwick’s graduates pursue a degree in STEM [science, technology, engineering or mathematics],” reports Computer Science & Physics Dept. Co-chair Dave Kleinhans. “Our investment in courses and physical spaces must match this interest.” The school’s new Computer Science Engineering & 3D Printing Lab, which debuted in the fall of 2019, will support four new advanced Computer Science (CS) classes: Data Structures & Algorithms, Introduction to Robotics, 3D Printing and IT Fundamentals for Cybersecurity.

The four, half-credit “ACT” classes are designed for students interested in diving deeper into the so-called computer sciences. They will have the opportunity to explore specific topics beyond the College Board’s AP Curriculum in an online format during scheduled CS class time. Each course has a programming or computer-aided design (CAD) requirement and is taught via an online, education-software platform.

Don Nelson joined Fenwick’s faculty in the 2019-20 school year.

“These topics represent areas that provide valuable preparation to students interested in pursuing technical disciplines — and those that are hot in today’s computing market,” adds CS/Physics Teacher Don Nelson. He should know. Mr. Nelson spent 30 years as a business person/nuclear engineer before embarking on a second career in education. (Prior to coming to Fenwick in 2019, Nelson taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology and DePaul Prep, formerly Gordon Tech.)

“Each of the classes offers students with experience and advanced knowledge of CS through two primary activities,” Nelson explains:

  • The online format is offered through Coursera and more than 100 partner universities (e.g., University of Illinois, Northwestern) and private corporations (e.g., IBM).
  • A capstone project complements the online format with a hands-on application of the concepts presented.

Upon successful completion, the student will receive a digital certificate and hands-on experience valued by universities and prospective employers. “With Don and our five other engineers serving as teachers here, combined with our recent physical space and course investments,” Mr. Kleinhans continues, “Fenwick is uniquely positioned in the high-school arena to serve students interested in STEM.” (See sidebar for additional course details.)


“If you want to talk to someone, speak in your language. But if you want to connect with someone, speak in theirs.”

– Nelson Mandela


Mandarin I (1.0 credit)

“The sixth language offered by Fenwick will be Mandarin [Chinese],” reports Principal Peter Groom. It is the language of government and education of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan (with the notable exceptions of Hong Kong and Macau, where a local dialect of Chinese called Cantonese is more often used.) Mandarin is one of five major regional languages of China.

At admissions-sponsored events over the past two years or so, “we have heard repeatedly from families that this is an area we needed to seriously consider,” Mr. Groom continues. “We have a current freshman student with some background in Mandarin.” He adds that the language fits within the wheelhouse of faculty member Shana Wang, who offered to teach it as a pilot program this school year.

Shana Wang

Last year, incoming Friar prospect Dylan Zorovich ’23 “was looking for a language but could not find it at Fenwick,” recounts Ms. Wang, who describes the free-thinking freshman from Elmhurst, IL, as both “diligent and delightful.” In true Dominican fashion, mentor and student set out on a journey this past August. “Our quest? To find a common language,” says Wang, who has taught in China.

Principal Peter Groom

The full-fledged course next school year seeks to provide a lively and challenging introduction to the basics of reading, writing, speaking and listening in Mandarin. Students will aim to identify at least 300 Chinese characters by the end of the year and write at least 150 Chinese characters using the correct stroke order. These characters are used to construct simple sentences while employing the proper grammatical conventions. In addition to learning Chinese characters, students will partake in continuous speaking and listening practice. They will watch videos, listen to dialogues and make presentations about important historical figures and events in China, Taiwan and Singapore. There will also be a focus on various Chinese cultures and their specific contributions to the global society.

Theatre II  (0.5 credit)

Caleb Faille

This course is geared toward musical theatre, performance and design, building on the student experiences learned in Theatre I (which is a prerequisite). Students will engage in activities including music and text analysis, staging, scene analysis, choreography, theatre tech, lighting design, stage management and production. The course will culminate with a musical revue including solo and group numbers. The skills learned will not only enhance students’ musical theatre experience but also expose them to careers off the stage. 

“Theatre I is for students with no theatre background,” Mr. Groom notes. “This second-level addition will attract those who do have some background in theatre.” Therefore, previous experience is required, as is approval from Theatre Teacher Mr. Caleb Faille, whose responsibilities within Fenwick’s Expressive Arts Dept. gradually have been increasing. “Mr. Faille now is in charge of our spring musicals,” Groom reports. An additional benefit is that Blackfriars Guild members can study their craft during the school day, he adds.


“Yoga is like music; the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

 – B.K.S. Iyengar


Yoga (0.5 credit)

Also coming to the Fenwick curriculum in 2020-21 is a yoga course, “which can fulfill the P.E. [physical education] requirement, for sophomores,” Groom says. Expressive Arts Chairperson Rizelle Capito will teach the course. She has conducted yoga instruction for Fenwick faculty as well as for the varsity football team.

Rizelle Capito

Ms. Capito says, “Studies and research have shown that yoga and mindfulness exercises not only promote physical health, but also mental health. Our students are under a lot of pressure and stress and we need to provide them with healthy ways of dealing with their stress. The class will include the physical practice of yoga to build physical strength and flexibility, meditation and mindfulness exercises. The hope is that the students will take these tools and incorporate them into their daily lives as a means of staying both physically and mentally healthy.”

Sophomores have the option to choose a regular PE class or yoga as their physical-education credit. (Placement is not guaranteed and is dependent on period availability and scheduling.) The course is designed to introduce students, safely and accessibly, to the basic postures, breathing techniques, and relaxation methods of yoga.  Areas of focus will be on low-impact activities to improve overall flexibility, strength, core and cardiovascular endurance.

Find complete course descriptions in Fenwick’s 2020-21 Course Selection Guide.


ACT Course Details

More info on Fenwick’s new Advanced Computer Topics (ACT) courses:

Data Structures & Algorithms (0.5 credit) is a one-semester course designed for highly motivated students interested in pursuing studies in computer science or engineering post-high school. The course covers three modules:

  1. Object-Oriented Data Structures in C++ (students learn how to write a program in the C++ language, including how to set up a development environment);
  2. Ordered Data Structures (learn new data structures for efficiently storing and retrieving data that is structured in an ordered sequence); and
  3. Unordered Data Structures (covers the data structures and algorithms needed to implement hash tables, disjoint sets and graph).

This class will give a strong start to any student wishing to pursue Computer Science, Computer Engineering or any other STEM area as her or his major in college. The advanced topics covered form the foundation of any CS career and education. As an example, high-tech companies typically focus more of their questions on the prospective employee’s working knowledge in this area than any others. The capstone project emulates real-world case studies that require the application of these concepts to provide a workable solution. Coursera partner is the University of Illinois. Prerequisite: Successful completion of AP Computer Science A with an AP score of a 4 or a 5. 

Introduction to Robotics (0.5 credit) introduces students to the concepts of robot flight and movement, how robots perceive their environment and how they adjust movements to avoid obstacles, navigate difficult terrains and accomplish complex tasks such as construction and disaster recovery. Students will be exposed to real-world examples of how robots have been applied in disaster situations, how they have made advances in human health care and what their future capabilities will be. The course builds toward a capstone in which they will learn how to program a robot to perform a variety of movements, such as flying and grasping objects.

Matt Schejbal ’20 (Berwyn) was active in Fenwick’s Robotics Club and is headed to Oklahoma State University.

This class is recommended for students involved in pursuing a career in STEM-related areas. Robotics is pervasive in many areas of society today (medical procedures, automated flight (drones), construction, factories, military, farming, space exploration, etc.). Coursera partner is the University of Pennsylvania. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Intro to Computer Science or AP Computer Science A. 

IT Fundamentals for Cybersecurity (0.5 credit) is for any student interested in fighting cyber-crime. The ubiquity of computing devices in our society present an ever-changing landscape of security challenges. This means that careers in cybersecurity offer several advantages:

  1. Jobs are in strong demand: there is almost 0% unemployment for cybersecurity professionals;
  2. Almost unlimited growth potential in career and learning opportunities;
  3. Plenty of variety in disciplines and technologies; and
  4. It never grows old: Cybersecurity has been evolving quickly and this trend is expected to continue, enabling students to learn new technologies and skills.

This course will teach students about cybersecurity principles and concepts and introduce them to the “tools of the trade” in emulating and preventing cyber-attacks. Students will become familiar with several key areas of cybersecurity (cryptography, ethical hacking, system hardening). Throughout this course, they will learn concepts around cybersecurity tools and processes, system administration, operating system and database vulnerabilities, types of cyber-attacks and basics of networking. They also will gain knowledge around important topics such as cryptography and digital forensics.

Course instructors are architects, Security Operation Center (SOC) analysts and distinguished engineers who work with cybersecurity in their day-to-day lives. They share their skills, which are used to secure client security systems. Coursera partner is the IBM. The capstone project involves working through several offensive and defensive ethical hacking scenarios using virtual computers in a closed system. The completion of this specialization also makes students eligible to earn the IT Fundamentals for Cybersecurity IBM digital badge. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Intro to Computer Science or AP Computer Science A. 

One of Fenwick’s 3D printers in action.

3D Printing (0.5 credit) is for students who are interested in engineering, architecture or software development. 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is used in everything from dentistry, medicine and construction to art and computer graphics. This course explores the 3D printing ecosystem and demonstrates how 3D printers are made and how they work in the private sector. Students will create digital designs. The capstone project will require the students to apply the concepts they’ve learned to design, develop and print an advanced 3D object.

This course will consist of four modules:

  1. 3D Printing Revolution (examining the 3D printing ecosystem);
  2. 3D Printing Software (creating digital designs that can be turned into physical objects);
  3. 3D Printing Hardware (demonstrating how 3D printers are made and how they work); and
  4. 3D Applications (exploring how 3D printing is being applied across a number of domains, including design, manufacturing, and retailing).

The course is hands-on in nature and will provide step-by-step instructions to guide students through two popular 3D modeling programs: Tinkercad and Fusion 360. Learners who complete this course will be able to use 3D software to design a variety of objects for personal and professional use. In addition, learners who enroll in the course certificate will receive extended free access to Fusion 360 (provided by Autodesk). Coursera partner is the University of Illinois. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Computer Aided Design or approval of Physics/CS department chair. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *