Los Altos High launches inaugural intersession

Photos by Crystal Tai/Town Crier
Los Altos High students participate in a premed workshop during last week’s intersession, performing surgery on raw chicken.

A group of students performed surgery on poultry as part of Los Altos High School’s intersession, a series of workshops held last week.

The intersession ran Wednesday through Friday. It not only informed students of classes available at the school, but also went beyond the regular curriculum, including workshops that gave students hands-on experience in various fields – like medicine. Students in the premed workshop learned about surgery by incising and suturing a piece of raw chicken.

This marked the premiere of the intersession, the brainchild of Principal Wynne Satterwhite, who said she launched the intersession for three reasons:

• To help students make good choices about their classes by exposing them to a wide variety of subjects.

• To have students understand more about consent – with a workshop teaching students in all grades how to intervene when they see something bad going on, and with Challenge Day (a one-day-long series of interactive activities for participants to learn communication skills) for freshmen.

• To provide fun activities and let students interact with their teachers in a different manner.

One of the activities included baking chocolate chip cookies with five kinds of flour, including coconut flour, and observing their chemical reactions, led by a chemistry teacher. Another one had students design something they could print out on the school’s 3-D printers.

The intersession was community-service oriented. Satterwhite facilitated a workshop where students made blankets for soldiers. Students also packaged more than 15,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief nonprofit organization, according to Assistant Principal Suzanne Woolfolk.

“We want them to see things beyond earning grades,” Woolfolk said.

Popular pilot program

Students responded positively to the intersession but had suggestions for how to improve it.

Senior Emily MacInnis said the intersession was a good way for students to ease back into school after winter break and would help underclassmen learn about their class selections for next year, but the administration needs to make the workshops more relevant for seniors.

“I know that many senior students simply did not come to school during the week, as much of what was covered during the week was material that we have discussed all throughout our four years of high school,” she said. “When something isn’t mandatory, people just don’t come, and I think the school should do something to make intersession more appealing to alleviate this problem next year.”

MacInnis also suggested opening more sessions of popular classes, given the fact that she and several others she knows were unable to take their top elective choices.

In terms of elective workshops, junior Rushil Arora recommended a more open system, without forcing students into irrelevant workshops if they don’t get their first choice. Arora also said the college-related seminars did not leave enough time for specific questions pertaining to which classes would be good to take for a certain kind of student, but he liked the overall concept of the intersession.

“It is a good way to transition into academic instruction after winter break,” he noted.

Sophomore Alexander Eckinger said he didn’t get the session he wanted, but he found the origami workshop he ended up in with his friend quite enjoyable, and the informational sessions helpful.

“Overall, it’s been a very good help in letting me know what classes I should or should not take,” he said.

Sophomore Alex Siesel co-led some activities of the intersession and said it was “a lot of fun and a great opportunity.”

“I think that this year they did really well with the pilot of the program, and next year my only suggestion is to make it more clear to the students what we are doing, and the purpose of it,” Siesel said.

Emily MacInnis contributed to this report.

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