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The Aquilian

Capture, create and contemplate: The electives shaping our school’s future

Photography student, Kyle McHugh ’24 takes pictures; other art students works are plastered in the background. Photo: Preston Thomas ’24

Do you ever find yourself talking about how much you hate school or how bored you are during classes? Students who say they dislike school often find themselves bored in class and unable to focus. A key part of education is being fully immersed in your field of study and a way to manage your engagement is by taking interesting classes. Many students want to have fun during school, and if you fall into this category of student, there are some electives that you may find fun and interactive.

Gonzaga offers a variety of electives that cater to different interests, from art and history to photography and political science. For the creative minds, AP Photography/AP Studio Art and 2D Design, led by Mrs. Shelly Farace, fine arts department chair, is more than just a class—it’s a journey into creativity.

“This elective is guided by each student. It’s very self-directed, and our class time is used to get feedback, so students are taking photos all around the area or on their personal travels.  There’s a much wider spectrum of work that you get to see come in from every student,” Mrs. Farace said.

Since Gonzaga lies in the beautiful and historic city of Washington, D.C., the class is able to take advantage of its surroundings and travel within the city to explore a wide range of subjects.

“One of the things we introduce is film photography. In the first semester, we partner with PhotoWork’s dark room and have a day to use their film cameras. This year, we went to Georgetown [to take photos]. Everybody got a film camera to use, and the next week, we went to their darkroom facilities and everyone learned how to print the photos,” Mrs. Farace said. 

Will Spooner ‘24, a student in the class, believes that the class also allows him to learn about the world around him through the class’s creative manner.

“AP photo is one of my favorite classes because of how fun the class is. We do a mix of creative and interesting portfolios that make us think and find new ways of viewing our community,” Spooner said. 

If you’re more of a history buff, you might be interested in Mr. Stephen Pope’s Colonialism and Cold War in Africa course. This elective allows students to learn about a part of African history that is often ignored in school curriculums and provides a new viewpoint.

“I think you get to learn history that is otherwise often not studied or taught in schools. So we will look at issues in the Cold War that might seem somewhat familiar to you…and as a result, you get to understand Africa, but also our own country better. It also helps you understand why a lot of these African countries are in the position they are today,” Mr. Pope explained. 

This class also helps students further develop their critical thinking skills by playing games that put them in tense situations.

“In the middle of the semester, we do a role-playing game in which each student is a different African liberation figure during 1958 in Ghana on the eve of independence, so each student is somebody fighting for independence in different ways, and we debate whether Africa should do so violently or peacefully. I think by playing one of these figures it becomes more practical and real, and you understand what people were thinking. I think any kind of hands-on learning like that is most memorable,” Mr. Pope said.

Maybe you’re a student who likes both art and history, so why not combine them and take Dr. Chris Schaefer’s AP Art History course? The class studies artwork from all around the globe including, but not limited to Rome, Greece, India, China, Japan, Nigeria, and Egypt. Students will learn the history of the artworks of these cultures and learn how their influences are all around us today. 

“This is a course that will emphasize looking at great art and architecture of which we have a lot right here in Washington, DC. The architecture in Washington is incredible, we have great exemplars in the Capitol building, and the National Gallery of Art, which is a replica more or less of the Roman Pantheon. This course makes you much more aware of the incredible art around us all the time that often blends into the background,” Dr. Schaefer said.“It will teach you a lot about architecture and art and how to look at a work of art. You’ll know how to think about it, understand it and understand the thinking behind different movements of art that as you go through your life as an adult on into adulthood at young adulthood and beyond, you’ll appreciate it a lot more,” he finished.

Gonzaga’s plethora of fun electives offers more than just a break from the routine, they invite students to dive deep into their passions and expand their horizons. Whether you’re capturing the city on a film camera, debating the politics of African independence or analyzing the strokes of a Renaissance masterpiece, these classes create an engaging educational experience. Students should explore these opportunities, find joy in learning and take the reins of their intellectual journey. After all, the most memorable lessons often happen when we step outside the traditional classroom and into the world of interactive, real-life applications. So why not take a chance on an elective that might just redefine the way you think about school?

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