Pixel’s Guide to the New Courses @OHS


Tanisha Gupta

OHSers planning their courses for the following year can use the above Four Year Academic Plan spreadsheet.

It’s that time of year again! Yes, OHS students are reviewing their courses for next year as course selections are due April 15th! Many of the OHS courses currently offered have been offered ever since the school started in 2006. However, every year the OHS also adds new, interesting courses. Here is a guide with insights into this year’s new courses. 

Computer Science

Course name: Data Science

Teacher: Dr. Vicky D’Urso

Prerequisites: AP Statistics (OM060) and Honors Precalculus and Trigonometry (OM013)

Course length: Year

About the course: This course is designed for students who would like to build on the concepts they learned in AP Statistics and apply them to large datasets. Due to social media, streaming services, and many other apps and web services that collect data, we have “an explosion of sources of data with the increasing capacity of computers to generate and store information”, says Division Head of Mathematics, Dr. Brege. The most important question is how to interpret all of this data, and that is what this class aims to teach students.  In order to perform prediction or classification with data, students will employ a variety of computer algorithms and the statistical models they represent. The course will cover several statistical models including k-nearest neighbors, linear and logistic regression, principal component analysis, k means and hierarchical clustering, trees, random forests, and support vector machines. Students will have the opportunity to learn experimental design, model validation, optimization, and comparison. Other topics that will be taught are Bayesian statistics, resampling methods, and quantile regression. Through this class, students will be able to analyze natural and social science data sets and research questions “relevant to their own lives” through the use of statistical software. 


Course name: Topics in Computer Science: Computer Systems

Teacher: Dr. Paramsothy Thananjeyan

Prerequisites: Data Structures and Algorithms (OCS025)

Course length: Year

About the course: Computer Systems is a course to introduce computer architecture and low-level programming. Students will explore the hardware of the modern computer and its key components. These topics include the CPR, cache structure, memory, storage, and process scheduling, and memory management. Through the course, students will begin to understand how high-level programs are run on the CPU and their low-level representations. They will understand the binary system, its limitations, and the resulting errors in arithmetic computations. The course will teach low-level programming using C and x86-64 assembly languages. The course is intended to round out the experience of incoming 9th graders taking the Programming in C++: Techniques and Algorithms course. It is targeted towards students who already have a very good grasp of high-level programming so that they understand the full extent of how their programs run inside the computer. 



Course name: Advanced Topics in Philosophy I: Philosophy of “Play”

Teacher: Dr. Micah Tillman

Prerequisites: Completion of or enrollment in Democracy, Freedom, and the Rule of Law (ODFRL)

Course length: Semester

About the course: According to Dr. Tillman, this course intends to help students answer the questions “What makes living good?” and “What is it in life that matters?”. “Philosophy of Play,” will be trying to figure out whether play fits the bill — whether it is worthy of being considered the thing that gives everything else meaning. But to figure that out, we’ll have to figure out what “play” is. The course is targeted towards students who feel pressure to justify their love of music, or theater, or games because they are technically “play”. But Dr. Tillman also hopes that “it will be helpful to students who find their deepest joy in things (like math) that other people call “work”. The course will cover a fun philosophy book on what games are and why they matter. Students will discover what music is and why it matters. And finally, students will look into theater and musical theater to see people playing instruments and characters through one activity. By the end of the course, Dr. Tillman aims to “have found a definition of play that covers games, music and acting” and to have convinced students that play is “intrinsically valuable”. He looks forward to fun, engaging conversations with students and coming up with interesting and joyful assignments. 


Course name: Advanced Topics in Philosophy I: Authenticity & The Good Life

Teacher: Dr. Joseph Rees

Prerequisites: Completion of or enrollment in Democracy, Freedom, and the Rule of Law (ODFRL)

Course length: Semester

About the course: This course is targeted towards students who want to discuss “the meaning of life”. According to Dr. Rees, students will address interesting concepts such as “How should I live my life?” and “What kind of life should I live?” The course discusses the views of the good life discussed through the lens of many authors including Aristotle, St. Augustine, Kant, Rousseau, Albert Borgmann, Cheshire Calhoun, Satre, and Charles Guignon. Students will trace the historical emergence of the popular belief that a good life is one lived authentically, beginning with thinkers focused on the good life, reviewing Rousseau’s views for authenticity and alternate views of authenticity as well. About the course, Dr. Rees says, “Our discussions will keep an eye on the practical implications for students’ lives. We’ll read a lot of Rousseau, some existentialism, at least one podcast episode, and probably a comic book and a movie. I’ve taught versions of this class before and it’s always a blast!”



Course name: Advanced Topics in Literature I: Leo Tolstoy and Anna Karenina

Teacher: Dr. Anne Hruska

Prerequisites: Successful completion of AP English Language and Composition (OE020) at Stanford OHS, concurrent enrollment in AP English Literature (OE021), or placement assessment

Course length: Semester

About the course: This course will focus on “Anna Karenina,” Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 novel, although students will also read other shorter works by Tolstoy as well. The course will delve into the close reading and analysis of “Anna Karenina,” a book described as simultaneously “beautiful” and “heartbreaking” by instructor Dr. Hruska. Dr. Hruska intends to teach students the way of thinking that might be required of them while doing research projects in college. Students will learn “the skills of identifying and researching a specific question related to the novel, and developing one’s own thinking in response to the ideas of other literary scholars,” says Dr. Hruska. This class is offered both for half credit and full credit if a student chooses to do the writing option. Students taking the class for full credit will write a paper involving close-reading and work on a larger project involving secondary sources. This course is intended for students who already have a very strong background in textual analysis and close reading and would like to take their skills to the college level. 


Course name: Advanced Topics in Literature II: The Harlem Renaissance

Teacher: Dr. Mackenzie Russell

Prerequisites: Successful completion of AP English Language and Composition (OE020) at Stanford OHS, concurrent enrollment in AP English Literature (OE021), or placement assessment

Course length: Semester

About the course: The Great Migration was a mass movement of African Americans to the Northern States during the early 20th century in order to escape the social limitations of the Jim Crow South. These people predominantly settled in Harlem, New York. By the 1910s, this neighborhood would become the center of Black American culture and the heart of the artistic and intellectual movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. The class will focus on the influence of the Harlem Renaissance through an analysis of its literary outputs and its role in the evolution of Black literature and American literature. Some of the authors of these creative decades include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, W.E.B. DuBois, Nella Larsen, and Jean Toomer. Through the works from these authors, the course will look at relationships between literature and identity, the questions of self-representation ever-present in Black literature, the themes of language, regionalism, and dialect. The course will also look into the role of drama, music, and visual art in liberation movements and their connection to the literature of the Harlem Renaissance. The course is also offered as a full-credit writing option. 



Course name: Latin Prose And Poetry: Non-Writing Option

Teacher: N/A

Prerequisites: Latin – Advanced/Latin 3 (OLA13) or equivalent as determined by placement assessment

Course length: Semester

About the course: This course isn’t completely new, and instead is simply a half-credit option of the most advanced Latin course: Latin Prose and Poetry. The goal of the course is to allow students to continue their advanced studies of Latin without the stress of a full credit class. This means the class will include minor assignments such as quizzes, but not include larger assignments like papers. The topics covered will be entirely the same as the topics covered in the Writing Option.



Course name: Single-Variable Calculus

Teacher: Ms. Robyn Fielder will be leading the development of the course.  

Prerequisites: Honors Precalculus with Trigonometry (OM013)

Course length: Year

About the course: Single-Variable Calculus focuses on differential and integral fundamentals with a single variable. These concepts include limits, continuity, rates of change, differentiation, integration, introductory differential equations, infinite sequences and series, convergence and divergence of series, power series, and Taylor series and polynomials and their applications. The course will cover the historical development of calculus and situates calculus in the “broader narrative” of mathematical exploration as well. Students who want to take calculus but not the AP exam would be interested in this course. The concepts and tools used for teaching the subject are fairly different from those in the AP Classes. For example, graphing calculators are required on the AP exam; however, much more powerful tools are available on the internet free of cost. Though not an AP course, this course will be academically rigorous. The entire Math Division along with the Stanford University Math Department has collaborated to create the course and its curriculum, which is slightly different from that of the AP classes!


New Wellness Homerooms

In conversation with Dr. Steele, she outlined various forms Wellness homerooms may take.

Course name: Yoga

Teacher: Ms. Varveris

Course length: Year

About the Course:

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, meditation, and relaxation. In the Yoga homeroom, students will learn different yoga sequences, set weekly intentions, practice gratitude, and learn to connect breath to movement to promote mind-body alignment and relaxation. Through this practice, students will build strength, increase flexibility and learn to find clarity and peace of mind. 


Course name: Cultivating Self-Compassion

Teacher: Dr. Fathi

Course length: Year

About the Course:

Dr. Fathi plans to lead creative based activities to encourage students to reflect and draw on their own compassion. Our meditative practices include contemplation, sitting and walking meditation, reading poems, gratitude journaling, and thinking like a plant.


Course name: Project Wayfinder

Teacher: Mr. Satanapong

Course length: Year

About the Course:

In this wellness homeroom, students will be guided by OHS Counselor Mr. Satanapong through experiential activities that promote self-discovery and connection. Similar to a popular OHS course called “Design Your Life” based out of Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, Project Wayfinder utilizes individual and group activities to help students identify what matters to them, and how they can make choices and decisions that are congruent with their own values—forging a path of meaning and purpose as they move through their high school journeys.


Course name: Mindfulness & Well-being Homeroom

Teacher: Dr. Nuckols

Course length: Year

About the Course:

The Mindfulness & Well-being homeroom generally includes a short mindfulness practice along with some community circle time. In the community circle, students have a chance to speak about how they are doing and also to share strategies and approaches they use to support their own wellness. In the realm of mindfulness practice, Dr. Nuckols and his students have worked with traditional mindfulness exercises and also explored activities intended to help with handling stress, managing time, getting enough sleep and exercise, and other wellness goals.



Course name: Neuroscience

Teacher: Dr. Kristina Vetter

Prerequisites: AP Biology (OB010)

Course length: Year

About the course: Students looking to learn neuroscience in high school often never get the chance because it’s considered a college-level topic. The newest science course Neuroscience gives students that chance! The fall semester will include examination of cellular neuroanatomy, ion channels, neurons, and synapses. Students will also investigate networks of neurons, sensory and motor systems, and the comparative anatomy of the nervous systems and brain structure and function. Dr. Vetter says she will “introduce concepts during the first discussion of each class, and have the second meeting be a deep dive into case studies, in-class activities, and, working through details and applications of the concepts.” During the Spring semester, students will delve deeper to look at learning, memory, language, emotions, and mood. The course will follow brain development from birth to adolescence in order to be pertinent to students’ lives. The course will also address losses of brain function, brain gender, and disease. The course will focus on labs and may require some fairly expensive lab equipment. Students will also be expected to read books with a clinical application, such as Jill Bolte Taylor’s “My Stroke of Insight,” which is about her recovery from a stroke, and the Oliver Sacks book, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat,” which is about what Dr. Sacks and his patients learned from each other. The course’s final project will be to research a neurological disease and relate the disease to the topics covered in the class such as ion channels and neurons. 


As you can see, from Single Variable Calculus to Neuroscience, the new courses at OHS this year really run the gambit. Good luck to everyone choosing from these inspiring courses next year!!!!