The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

New Academic Classes for 2024-2025

The school introduced eight new updated courses and electives for the 2024-2025 school year. Here is a look at four of them.

Introduction to Computer Science
By Annabelle Cheung

A new elective called Introduction to Computer Science will be available for the 2024-2025 school year and will be taught by Upper School Math Teacher Juan Lopez and Upper School Math Teacher Kanwaljit Kochar. The course is tailored for beginners, so no prerequisites are required.

Lopez said the course begins by introducing fundamental computer science concepts, using learning strategies designed for beginners.

“The course intends to utilize interactive learning tools and platforms to make abstract concepts more tangible,” Lopez said. “Students will receive instant feedback on most projects, and visual programming environments can prove especially effective for beginners.”

The course uses active learning techniques such as coding labs, peer reviews and interactive quizzes, according to Lopez. Lopez said the course will offer additional resources to cater to students’ interests.

“A great goal for the course is to increase the number of optional resources and stretch challenges for students who wish to explore topics in greater depth, catering to their specific interests and learning speeds,” Lopez said.

Ava Hanasab ’26 said she is interested in the new class as it provides an opportunity for beginners to try out programming.

“Computer science is present throughout everyday life and it’s used in almost every industry, so I think it’s important to understand it,” Hanasab said. “It would be a great asset and an opportunity to possibly grow my interest.”

Brandon Hui ’26 said the class seems interesting because of the problems and challenges it presents.

“I think [Introduction to Computer Science] is a good class for high schoolers because it could help us gain critical thinking skills and would boost problem solving abilities,” Hui said. “It is worth considering for people interested in computers and learning to code.”

Beyond Code: AI, Ethics, and Society

By Jack Ryan
The new Directed Study Beyond Code: AI, Ethics, and Society will be available to students during the 2024-2025 school year. Students will learn about the relationship between technology, morals and society in the world of artificial intelligence (AI). Director of Institutional Research Michael Barker will supervise the course with Director of Teaching and Learning Daniel Gutierrez. The second-semester course is open to all grades at the Upper School. There are no class prerequisites as previous experience in coding is not required.

Barker said he wants to take a hands-off approach to the course and center material around student-led discussions.

“I hope to set up learning opportunities like discussion-based or interest-based gatherings where people can come and talk about a particular thing or explore it on their own without having to do any homework related to it,” Barker said. “I would hope that anybody that signs up for a course like this would have the freedom to explore AI through a lens that’s particular to them.”

Gutierrez said students will be able to interact with speakers from a variety of professions about AI in their respective fields.

“We hope to have a diverse roster of speakers who can talk to students about how generative AI is affecting different industries, such as advertising, financial services, education and medicine,” Gutierrez said.

Milo Messinger ’25 said he is interested to see whether the course can change how the school views student interaction with AI.

“Harvard-Westlake and the entirety of academia’s response to AI has been very immediate, and in my opinion, not very well thought out,” Messinger said. “I feel like people in academia have been seeing AI in the wrong way, as something students [use to] cheat rather than [as] an additional tool to help students thrive. It’ll be intriguing to see how this directed study could influence that sort of thought within the confines of Harvard-Westlake.”

Memory, Self and Society

By Everett Lakey

Memory, Self and Society will be a new course available to students in the 2024-2025 school year. It will be taught by English teacher John Garrison and will explore the role of memory from a cultural, psychological and literary perspective through a variety of media.

Garrison said that the course will offer an opportunity for introspection and to write in a similar style to college essays.

“We come to understand that our memories are what make us who we are,” Garrison said. “The course will have a tactical aspect. For the first part of the course, we’re going to be writing a lot about our own memories and about [things that] have inspired us. [Students] will be able to work with fellow students and work with me to craft really refined memory pieces that can be the building blocks of winning college essays.”

Nikki Dadlani ’25 said she was compelled to sign up for the course because she enjoyed having Garrison as an English teacher this year, and because the class will be an opportunity for introspection.

“The reason I chose to take [Garrison’s] class is that I think he’s an awesome teacher, and I’d like to have him again my senior year,” Dadlani said. “I’m on a self-improvement journey right now, and I think that this class will help guide me on that and help me become a better person through personal statements and self-reflection. Also, it will be cool to learn about memory and how to enhance my memory.”

Chris Marin ’25 said he is considering taking the class because of its emphasis on reflective and contemplative writing.

“I think being able to write about yourself is just such an important skill,” Marin said. “You have to be able to look deep within yourself, and find your flaws and your strengths. It will be really fun to be able to do that in class and to have that space in a school environment. I feel like he wants us to enjoy the class and find something out about ourselves.”

Japanese Language and Culture

By Erin Ryu

Directed Study: Japanese Language and Culture is a new class that will be offered to students next year. Students in the class will be able to explore Japanese architecture, history, literature, art and pop culture. The curriculum is open to all upper school students and will meet twice a cycle.

The course will be taught by Middle School World Languages Teacher Shuang Yang.  Yang said the course will expose students to various parts of Japanese culture, including tea ceremonies, festivals, cuisine, guest speakers and multiple field trips to museums and Japanese gardens.

Yang said she was inspired to create the class by students’ interest in Japanese culture.

“The biggest motivation for me to propose this course is students’ [requests],” Yang said. “I decided to teach this course because I think [it] will increase the representation of Asian culture and language.”

Yang said the class will introduce students to the Japanese language and encourage them to reflect on their own lives as they study how the influence Japanese culture has around the world has evolved.

“Students will learn the basics of the Japanese language and obtain the tools to be able to continue to improve their language skills on their own,” Yang said. “They will examine Japanese culture through the lens of their culture, compare and discover the [cultural exchange] between the United States and Japan as well as changes in [Japan] over time.”

Ellie Liou ’26, who is interested in taking the course, said it is important to emphasize the various cultural identities present at the school.

“I love that Harvard-Westlake is introducing Asian languages, and I know many friends who are excited to take the [course],” Liou said. “[The school’s] support of Asian languages and culture programs allows for a greater understanding of Asian culture and can provide opportunities [in] understanding the Asian American identity.”

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