Inaugural program to debut with A Raisin in the Sun.
This year, as part of its Summer Reading Program, Fenwick High School debuts “One Book, One Fenwick.” For the first time since formal, summer reading began at Fenwick, the Catholic high school is announcing one shared book to read among all students – as well as those within the greater Fenwick community who wish to participate. The selection, A Raisin in the Sun, actually is a play written by the late Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965).
“We tip our hats to Chicago Public Library’s ‘One Book, One Chicago’ for the inspiration,” said John Schoeph, English Department Chair and a 1995 alumnus of Fenwick. The “One Book, One Fenwick” program seeks to unite all students and members of the Fenwick community through a shared book, Schoeph and his English Dept. colleagues explained. “We envision the program offering platforms and avenues for book-related information, discussions and learning.”
While activities are taking place across disciplines in Fenwick classrooms, Fenwick’s English Dept. hopes to see parents, alumni and friends of the school get involved through a variety of offerings related to the book. “It is our hope that a common text can foster intellectual interaction and friendly discourse between and among the many groups that make up Fenwick’s vast family and network,” the committee proclaimed. A few of the experiences in the works include multiple book chats open to the wider Fenwick family, in-class discussions across the subjects, performances of passages by Theater Fundamentals students, and an all-school assembly celebrating “One Book” in late September.
Committee member and fellow English Teacher Kyle Perry, a 2001 Fenwick graduate, noted: “We look forward to the opportunity of improving students’ literacy while also building a stronger sense of community here at Fenwick.”
Inaugural title choice
Poet Langston Hughes penned what has now become a celebrated question in his 1951 poem, “Harlem:” “What happens to a dream deferred?” Among the possible answers is that it might dry up “like a raisin in the sun.” Hansberry’s 1959 play follows the Youngers, an African-American family, as they seek the American Dream in Chicago. When the Youngers inherit a $10,000 insurance check (equivalent to more than $90,000 today), they pursue wishes for entrepreneurship, education and, especially, a house of their own in Clybourne Park, a white neighborhood. Through A Raisin in the Sun’s engagement with topics and themes from across the American literary canon, including assimilation, class, race, gender, hope, pride and family relationships, the play addresses Hughes’ question: “What happens to a dream deferred?”
“We have enjoyed an incredibly successful summer reading program for years,” Schoeph continued. “Our students read and tend to enjoy the selections. We didn’t want to grow complacent with our success but sought to find a way to bolster the program, to inject it with something exciting and unifying. After exchanging several ideas, we decided on the ‘One Book, One Fenwick’ model. Witnessing the entire English Department enthusiastic about this new dimension to our summer reading program warmed my heart as chair.”
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).
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 forCybersecurity.
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.
“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.
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.
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)
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.
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.