Pivot provides teachers with the freedom and resources to design their own courses. And we’re excited to announce that Pivot is opening three new teacher-created elective courses this year!

Voices of America

This fall, Pivot San Diego Educational Coordinator Chelsea Van der Heide will launch “Voices of America,” a high school-level course that will focus on the identities and histories of underrepresented groups in the United States. 

Van der Heide’s course aims to move beyond traditional lessons in world history, U.S. history and government to explore the identities and histories of Black, indiginous, LGBTQ, Latino, Asian and other marginalized ethnic and cultural groups in America. In this course, Van der Heide plans to facilitate learning and discovery about these groups through showcasing their lived experiences. 

Through mediums like writing, photo, video and audio, students will begin to familiarize themselves with groups they didn’t know much about before. Van der Heide, a social studies and history teacher, says her lessons will have a positive outlook that inspires hope for change and encourages broad acceptance for others. 

“This course is one of the many ways Pivot is promoting awareness, equitable access and a mindful curriculum,” said Van der Heide, noting that her class focuses on Pivot’s core values through a diversity, equality and inclusion lens. “I hope this course creates a space where students feel a sense of belonging and that their voices are heard.”

Van Der Heide’s lessons will strive to give students a toolkit to have conversations about race, ethnicity, and identity – topics that she said play a role in a child’s life but that teachers are often scared to talk about at school.

“If I’m not having these conversations with my students, I’m losing an opportunity to inform them and to help them navigate those conversations with their classmates and the world around them,” she said. “Giving students space to discuss and learn for themselves and have conversations with their classmates and with me is really important. Having those conversations creates a shared opportunity to learn together, create equitable spaces and hear other people’s stories.” 

The course will be held in Pivot San Diego’s Resource Center, though all lessons can be done virtually. Van Der Heide has made all lesson plans accessible so that teachers can include them as part of other courses or introduce them to Pivot sites up and down the state.

Exploring the World through Art

Alex Ritz, an educational coordinator at Pivot San Diego, will launch “Exploring the World through Art” this fall. The history and social studies teacher developed the course with the help of his wife, Katie, who is a credentialed art teacher and artist.

“We’re melding social studies and art into one course to look at different cultures, societies, and civilizations to understand how they represent themselves through art,” said Ritz, noting that a Pivot San Diego survey identified art as the most requested new course among students. “It’s not only an art history course, but we’re also giving students the opportunity to try these different artistic styles and techniques through a variety of projects.” 

Students in this course will learn about India through elephant paintings, America through graffiti art, and compare the Ancient Egyptians and Romans through their figure drawings. Students will also study Japan through dotted fruit paintings and monochromatic painting, and use a sumi brush and india ink to create art in those styles.

Ritz, who started an art club last year, hopes that his course will help Pivot students look at the world through a “wider lens.” 

“There are so many different cultures in the world. When you look at it at first, it’s very foreign, but then when you really dive in, you can see we’re all part of the human race here, and we all have a lot of different ways to express ourselves,” he said. “When you look at it in that wider lens, it’s all human expression.”

Ritz has built in the time to ensure students don’t feel rushed while they’re creating art with their hands during the in-person classes at the Pivot San Diego Resource Center. Students in middle and high school will meet for sixteen “Exploring the World through Art” classes over eight weeks during the second quarter of the first semester (in October and November 2022).

First and foremost, Ritz said, students should expect to have fun in the course as they learn about different cultures.

“The class will also help to unlock students’ creative and artistic elements that they may not have explored in other courses,” he said, noting that he’s designed the course so that other Pivot teachers can easily deploy his lessons at another Pivot campus.

Student Government

Calling all leaders! Mackenzie Jessip, an educational coordinator at Pivot Riverside, will be launching student government at Pivot Riverside in the new school year. Students in student government, also known as Associated Student Body, or ASB, will plan activities, field trips, and community service opportunities for their classmates and create occasions for students to meet each other.

“We want students to be the drivers of what their extracurriculars are,” Jessip said. “When students want to do something fun, when they want that traditional high school experience of, ‘hey, I went to prom.’ We want it to be your prom. We want them to choose what they want to do.”

Among the activities ASB students may choose to organize are dances, spirit weeks, cultural events, contests, service projects, and creating a yearbook. Students in the course will also learn about different leadership techniques through TED Talks, journal reflections, and other fun on-site activities.

Jessip hopes the course, which will meet in-person once a week, will expand to all Pivot campuses. Students earn two-and-a-half credits per semester and the course is available to students in grades seven through twelve. While elected office will not be available to seventh and eighth grade students, who will take the course pass-fail, high school students – who will receive a letter grade – will be able to run for office. 

Pivot is thrilled to have expanded the curriculum available to students this school year. We can’t wait to share stories about class activities and student success in the new curriculum and classes.