College-style class at Eagle Valley High
Eagle Valley, CO Colorado
GYPSUM – Before Paige Genelin heads to college next year, she’s getting a taste of college lectures.
The 17-year-old took notes inside Eagle Valley High School’s auditorium Wednesday morning, a coffee cup perched on her chair’s fold-out desk.
In a regular high school class, she would be among 20 or 30 students. Here, Genelin is one of 120 seniors enrolled in American government. Teacher Ashley Weaver delivered a lecture on political campaigns, showing video clips on a large projector screen and wearing a microphone headset to amplify her voice.
The college-style class is new to Eagle Valley High School this school year. Facility upgrades have made it possible. After a $25 million remodel at the school, the auditorium now doubles as a lecture hall.
Presented with three different styles of government classes for this trimester – including a traditional government class and an advanced, or AP, course in a regular classroom – a majority of the school’s 170 seniors picked the college-style class.
“I really wanted to see what it was like, having the whole, huge classroom,” Genelin said.
Weaver, a 28-year-old social studies teacher, has taken on preparing the school’s first college-style class. For high school graduates, college lectures can be a “shock to the system,” but Weaver hopes her class will ease that transition.
“Our kids go from our small community, our relatively small school, with relatively small classes and all of the sudden they’re in these huge lecture auditoriums with 200, 300 students at CU, CSU,” she said.
“We’re trying to expose them to it now, and hopefully that will prepare them to be more successful.”
To design the class, Weaver studied real college syllabi. Her American government course includes three lectures per week, plus one discussion class and optional online discussions. Although the class offers the college experience, it does not come with college credit.
Technology plays a major role in Weaver’s lessons. She hooks her laptop to a projector screen so she can show video clips and Web sites. With a wireless mouse, she can stroll the aisles as she talks.
Lecture courses come with more freedom – and more responsibility, as senior Christina Smith has discovered.
“I haven’t liked all the reading that I had to keep track of myself, just having to do it every night. It’s my responsibility to keep up with it,” the 16-year-old said. ” But I really like being able to sleep in some days – we only have this (first period) class three times per week.”
Weaver’s class mimics the course load at colleges. Instead of a steady stream of graded assignments, college professors typically give students a midterm and final exam. Weaver’s class is a tad more lenient, with four tests and a final.
Also like college classes, students are responsible for being on time and paying attention.
“In my (traditional) classroom, I’m really strict on text messaging, and taking phones away when that happens,” Weaver said. “I told the kids in this class ‘I can’t control 120 students’ text messaging so you have to make the decision: Are you going to be plugged in socially and texting with your friends?’ Or are you going to be plugged in academically to what the teacher has to say?'”
The college-style class could become a fixture at Eagle Valley high. Weaver said she plans to offer it again next school year.
However, it is unlikely lecture halls will usurp traditional classrooms anytime soon.
“I don’t think that all classes in any way would end up like this because we recognize there’s value in having students in a small classroom setting,” Weaver said. “But in isolated instances, it’s nice to give them this opportunity.”
At the new Battle Mountain High School in Edwards, a lecture room has been used primarily for parent meetings, clubs and activities, Principal Phil Qualman said.
“It’s a big venue and most of our classes are small enough that it doesn’t make sense to go into a big room like that,” he said. “It might be something we consider in the future if we have guest speakers or have to combine classes.”
Staff writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.