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Ossining Student Tries New Online BOCES Class

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – When Ossining High School exchange student Jonas Kraft saw that there was a class on environmental sustainability being offered in a course guide, he decided to sign up—the fact it's an online course didn't deter him from his choice.

"I don't think we have online classes in Germany,” said Kraft. “I think it's an interesting experience. “Environmental activism is something I was interested in in Germany. It's really important to think about how we can move citizens to do things to protect the environment, like recycle things or try to use less energy."

Ossining village Mayor William Hanauer’s family is currently hosting Kraft during his stay as a high school junior. Kraft is one of 60 high school students from eight school districts in Westchester who has signed up for new online courses offered by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES.

There are four online courses being offered: one on architecture, one on sustainability in the community, one on environmental physics, and one on solving problems of the 21st century.

"Online courses are an emerging requirement," said Marla Gardner, director of curriculum and instructional services at BOCES. "The majority of colleges are requiring kids to have taken at least one online course by the time the go to college, and when they get to college, they're going to have to take online classes."

Instead of simply taking a pre-packaged online course "off the shelf," and using it as is, BOCES administrators decided to develop their own online courses using a "blended model" where students spend much of their course time online, but also have the opportunity to physically meet classmates and go on field trips.

"We wanted it to be innovative, not just any old online community," Gardner said.

On Thursday, students in the four “Online Courses for the 21st Century" courses met face to face with each other and their teachers at the BOCES campus in Yorktown Heights.

Students spent time learning about technology that will be used in the courses, discussing course-relevant issues and participating in team-building activities geared to help classmates get to know one another.

"I think it's an intriguing way to expand the curriculum menu for high school kids," said Nick Cucchiarella, the teacher for the new online architecture class. "I've used video instruction previously. I think managing online discussions will be interesting."

As with all the online classes, Cucchiarella's students will "meet" online both at fixed times, and asynchronously at random times, depending on the student. They will see each other again in December to make final project presentations and also during a field trip to New York City. On the field trip, they will meet with architects and engineers, as well as observe structural steel installation, for the Tower 2 of the World Trade Center.

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