Gender studies, ‘coaching’ among new classes planned at high school

What do robots and coaches have in common? They’re both going to be taught at Ridgefield High School during the 2019-20 school year.

The Board of Education approved five new classes at RHS — Gender Studies, Fundamental Skills and Principles of Coaching, Robotics II, History through Film, and Multivariable Calculus.

The gender studies proposal drew the most discussion from the board.

“Do you think a majority of students are going to want to do this?” asked board member Tracey O’Connor.

She indicated she was concerned that classes should serve all students, “not just a minority.”

But RHS Principal Dr. Stacey  Gross said the class is “very topical”

“I think it serves all students because this is the world we live in,” she said.

O’Connor abstained from voting on the new courses.

Gross said the gender studies course will be restricted to high school juniors and seniors, and will touch on topics, like gender identity and power dynamics, and issues facing greater gender equality.

The course will also have students learn about how activists tackle gender inequality, and have students talk about whether or not those plans work.

The course came about after “two students came to me and asked me how they would get more LGBTQ issues in the curriculum,” Gross said, using an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.

It will be structured similarly to other social studies classes at the high school. Students will be responsible for a final research project that includes social engagement.

The reading list includes titles like “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” by Peggy Orenstein, and “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls,” by Rachel Simmons.

Gross acknowledged that the course is related to current events both locally and nationally — including the push for gender-neutral bathrooms, the national “Me Too” movement, and an active Gay Straight Alliance club at RHS.


Principles of Coaching will give students a chance to explore sports coaching.

High school students will get to teach and coach middle school students, after students learn “skill development, practice and game planning, safety and liability, and coaching styles/philosophies,” Gross told The Press.

Students can also earn their certifications in first aid and CPR through the course.

Joe Arcieri, a senior member of the high school physical education department, said the course came about because the department noticed a large number of high school students volunteer as coaches for youth sports and clubs in town.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to enhance that experience for both our high school students, as well as the young athletes they were coaching,” said Arcieri.

In many cases, volunteer youth coaches go in without any experience, he added.

He hopes the course will inspire students to pursue coaching as a career.

“It is a path that many students may not think about unless they actually get some experience, and see how rewarding it can be,” he said.

Robotics, film, calculus

Robotics II is a continuation course open to all grades.

Student work is lab-based, and will culminate in a final project that they present to the school community.

“Students will have the opportunity to design, build, program robots, for a variety of teacher issued challenges and student designed projects,” said Gross.

They’ll learn to program robots to work without human input and “design and implement more complex human-machine interaction,” she said.

History through Film is a social studies course that will have students screen films and TV shows to try to understand the past.

“The course will give students a glimpse into the social, political, and cultural view of the historical event and the time period in which the film was created,” said Gross.

They will also have access to other documents from the time the film was made to help put it in context.

“Each unit will begin with students viewing the film and/or TV show,” which they will use to try to answer some of the fundamental questions asked by the course, Gross explained.

Lastly, the school will offer Multivariable Calculus as a standalone course at the high school.

The course is an advanced form of mathematics that is more commonly taught in college.

It’s a field of study that’s important for students interested in careers in engineering, economics, or digital animation.

“We have provided independent studies and registration in college multivariable courses previously,” said Gross.