When you ask students about their favorite class at KO, they will often tell you about an elective they are taking. Electives are an integral component of the KO education, and they offer students an opportunity to explore areas of interest that often wouldn’t be covered in a typical class.
However, as rising Form 5 and Form 6 students plan their schedules each spring, course decisions become increasingly difficult. The floodgates of course options—both for AP classes and electives—vastly open up during one’s junior year. With the mounting pressure from parents and peers to take as many APs as possible and “catch them all,” coupled with the stressors of college planning, elective classes often fall by the wayside.
While core subjects and course rigor are essential, we believe there is a powerful value in electives, as they allow students to delve into academic passions and uncover new interests. To foster this learning, we encourage KO to emphasize the value of electives and to make these courses more accessible to students in all forms.
Each year, KO teachers are able to propose their ideas for new electives. Depending on student interest in electives offered the previous year, each department determines how many open spots there are for new electives. Once an elective is approved, teachers take the lead by developing their own, unique curriculum.
A new elective added this year by the history department was We the People. This class delves into politics and government through the lens of the U.S. Constitution. Students are able to apply what they have learned through frequent mock congressional hearings which are attended by current judges and lawyers in Connecticut, as well as various KO teachers. Additionally, We the People is part of a national program that has developed an engaging curriculum to teach elementary and secondary students about the history and fundamental concepts behind the United States constitutional democratic republic. KO students followed this national curriculum, which has garnered support from state bar associations and other foundations, thus enabling KO students to connect with a much greater community. Like many other electives at KO, We the People empowers students to relate their learning to the real world and explore niche topics.
Not only do electives offer a chance for students to dive into their interests, they can also be beneficial when considering a potential major, or even career. For example, for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year, the math department is adding an Intro to Finance elective, exposing students to budgeting, loans, taxes, and potential careers in the business and finance fields. Additionally, business leaders from the Greater Hartford community will be brought in to speak with students about their experiences. This class will provide students who are interested in business and finance to learn about future careers while building valuable financial skills.
One of the hallmark features of the KO English curriculum is the established Senior English program, in which, in lieu of a traditional year-long English class, Form 6 students instead take two English electives during the year and write a thesis. In the spring of junior year, students are able to rank senior English electives, which they are then placed into based on their rankings.
Students often look forward to senior year because instead of taking a traditional year-long course, they are able to have choice in what they learn and explore two areas that are interesting to them over the course of the year. Some of the elective options include The American Dream, The Art of Watching Film, New York Literature, The Happiness Class, and Family Drama. Clearly, the electives span a wide range of topics, allowing each student to pursue a topic they want to learn more about, especially one that often wouldn’t be covered in a typical classroom setting.
Electives like these are a key force in the KO curriculum, which aims to prepare students for life beyond the classroom. To continue supporting students’ intellectual curiosity, we encourage KO to incorporate more elective options into the curriculum that are open to underclassmen. By growing these elective opportunities, students in Forms 3 and 4 can explore their academic passions without the added stressors of junior and senior year coursework. Additionally, if students have more chances to take electives in their first two years of high school, they will enter the demanding Form 5 and 6 years with more direction and understanding of their academic passions, which will serve them well in the college process and beyond.