FAC adds Gastronomy, Social Psych courses

By Claire Goldsmith

Molecular gastronomy and social psychology will be offered as Directed Studies classes next year.

Chemistry teacher Krista McClain will teach Molecular Gastronomy: the Science of Cooking to seniors, and school counselor Luba Bek will teach a Directed Study in Social Psychology.

Directed studies classes allow students interested in a specific subject to study in a small group with a teacher two to three days a week. Former directed studies include Japanese Cinema and Ancient Greek.

The idea began when students from McClain’s 2010-2011 AP Chemistry class wanted to explore molecular gastronomy but could not add a full class to their schedules. Though unable to create the course for this year, McClain submitted a proposal to the Faculty Academic Committee for a directed study in molecular gastronomy for next school year.

FAC, comprised of department heads, recommends curricular policies that affect academic life to the administration.

Teachers submit proposals to the committee for approval.

“Molecular gastronomy is cooking and chemistry, basically,” McClain said. “It’s the science behind cooking.”

While researching for the FAC proposal, she perused books and examined the way television shows like “Chopped” and “Top Chef” use scientific concepts to prepare dishes.

The class will meet twice a week, once for a lab or demonstration and once for a lecture on the science behind the experiments, McClain said. Planned labs include working with sugars, flours and various binding agents.

“We’ll do things with caramelization, working with sauces, gels and foams and making those little sphere balls,” McClain said.

Enrollment for the class was higher than anticipated, she said.

Social psychology will be a second semester course taught by school counselor Luba Bek for students who have already taken Psychology.

Students have asked Bek for another psychology class or an extension of the regular class for years, she said, but she was unable to provide one until now. Bek chose to teach social psychology partially because it is the final and smallest of the 12 areas of focus in her regular class.

“It’s quite interesting, and there are a lot of opportunities for studies and research,” Bek said.

The class will focus on basic topics and skills needed to conduct testing and analysis. During the second quarter, students will design and perform their own experiments on group dynamics, social relations and more, according to the course statement.

Bek limited the course to 10 students, but she hopes to expand it if it is successful.

“I’ve actually never heard of a course structured like this,” Bek said. “I know there is not a course in high school, so I’m creating it from scratch.”