The Saline Board of Education approved two new courses for the 2018-19 school year.
The board voted 7-0 to approve “fitness-focused” physical education at Saline Middle School and Forensics Speech Events at Saline High School.
Assistant Superintendent for curriculum Steve Laatsch said new state standards for physical education demand a strong element of lifelong fitness knowledge and skills that can meet the needs of students who just want physical activity but who don’t necessarily want to play team sports.
At the middle school level, not all students compete in sports or participate in activities like kickball or frisbee. Some students lack the confidence to participate in physical education activities that focus on skills or game situations.
Potential class activities include yoga, weight training, relaxation techniques, pylometic training, fitness testing, bowling, tae-bo, aerobics, dance, Wii-fit, nature walks, fitness journaling, middle distance running and powerwalking. There would also be lab days for project-based learning that explores topics like nutrition.
This type of class will also benefit those students who compete in sports.
“Scott Theisen (former phys-ed teacher and SHS Athletic Director) said that so many students play sports, but once they graduate from high school and go off to college, fitness opportunities aren’t as accessible,” Laatsch said.
And as people age, fewer and fewer participate in team sports. Only five percent of adults over the age of 26 play team sports, according to documents submitted with the application for the course.
According to polling done at the middle school, about 50 percent of the students who plan to take physical education next year are interested in the new format.
The Forensic Speech course is an English course taught by Shelly Venema, who also teaches debate and public speaking. This course will support public speaking, debate and forensics speech. There will be some competitive opportunities associated with the debate and forensics part of this course. This course will be supported by the National Speech and Debate Association that provides resources for the coursework.
Venema told the board many schools of Saline’s size offer forensic speech. The course will be an attractive elective for the 50 or so members of the SHS Debate Club.
The course will be divided into two categories of speech: public address events and oral interpretation. In public address events, speakers are expected to prepare original presentations in such categories as oratory. In oral interpretation events, speakers are expected to present a single serious or humorous selection from a play written for the stage or electronic media. The course will be assessed with project based learning.
Students would choose from all types of speech – poetry, drama, debate, sales and more.
Saline High School graduate Kathryn Yousif, who competed in a national forensic speech competition last year and placed in the top 30, spoke to the board about the value of public speech. Yousif has been honing her craft since sixth grade.
“It’s helped me speak about really important issues, like human trafficking. It helped me finish in the top 30 in the nation in public speaking, which looks super good on a resume. Having these skills allows me to come up and speak in front of you,” Yousif said. “Public speaking is the number one fear in America – even before death. This skill helps people in the long run. It’s the best skill you can ever give to someone. It helps them in any setting.”