Piano Lab and Advanced Placement (AP) European History are among the new courses Manchester Township High School students will have available to them during the 2012-2013 school year.
The Manchester Township Board of Education last month approved several new and revised courses at the high school that address some important needs for advanced courses and meet new state graduation requirements, said high school principal Alex George.
"This is an important four years," George said. "Students understand the importance of challenging themselves and making the most of opportunities."
For the first time, next year the school will offer four years of honors programs in math, science, English and social studies. Honors Biology was added this year and Honors Principles of Physics and Chemistry will be offered next year.
"We'll now have honors science for grades 9 through 12," George said. "Students have been asking for a continuation of the honors program."
George said the course offerings were the result of discussions with the teachers and demand by the students and they found there was a strong interest in additional music courses. Advanced Vocal and Choral Studies for grades 11 and 12 and Piano Lab will be new full-year courses.
Vocal instructor Sarah Thiffault, who will be teaching the courses, said there has been a positive response from students.
"Students will learn new skills, further their enrichment in music, and in the advanced choral studies students will have more opportunities for leadership roles," she said.
The school's tenth advanced placement course, AP European History, open to grades 11 and 12, will be geared toward students interested in going beyond existing course World Cultures and Western Civilization.
"AP European History was put forth by the teachers after discussions," George said. "We have more interest due to global expansion. We're giving students the opportunity to challenge themselves in the areas they're interested in."
The Drafting and Design as well as the Woodworking curricula are being revised to fit in with the new Visual and Performing Arts state graduation requirement. Joe Gawlik, a former engineer who changed professions a few years back to become a teacher, is the instructor for those courses.
"To fulfill some of the fine arts requirements, the students will be developing portfolios," Gawlik said. "It's a creative playground if you give kids the tools, the things they can do are just amazing."
The two revised full-year courses are Computer Aided Design Technology/AutoCAD for all grade levels and Architectural Design/AutoCAD for grades 10 through 12. New half-year courses — Introduction to the Elements of Design and Introduction to the Art of Woodworking — will be open to grades 9 through 12.
"It was important for us to revise our engineering program," Gawlik said. "A lot of students want to become engineers but don't know what an engineer does. We give them that opportunity to find out before going to college."
They've had many success stories, with students interning in engineering at nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and some going on to work there after college. Others, including some women, have become architects, a traditionally male-dominated field. But, the addition of a portfolio will be a plus, he said.
"The portfolio shows all of their work since they started in the program and that show their growth," Gawlik said. "They would have that portfolio to show an employer."
Gawlik said his classes are geared to give students a hands-on, real-world experience.
"We live in such a world where kids are addicted to technology," he said. "They didn't have erector sets like we did. We've lost so much potential because they live their lives on video games. My students built an electric cycle last year. Most had never used a wrench or changed a bike tire. It was more exciting at the end than playing a video game."
Manchester Township High School has about 1,100 students. The New Jersey Department of Education's 2010 School Report Card showed that about 40 percent of the graduating seniors were heading for college and 24 percent planned to go community college or other post-secondary schools.
"We're a comprehensive public high school and want to offer kids as many choices as possible," George said. "It's amazing what they can leave here with. They're more prepared than they've ever been."