Looking Into A Few Of Next Year’s New Classes


In addition to the previous course catalog, students could choose from 10 new classes for their 2021-2022 schedule. Staff image: Madison Liu.

Madison Liu

For the 2021-22 school year, Menlo is offering multiple new classes in several departments. Some of the new classes include history elective “The Pursuit of Happiness,” English elective “East Asian Pop Culture: Anime, Kung Fu, & K-Pop” and the computer science elective “App Design & Development.” Here is a sneak peek at what students can expect next year.

“The Pursuit of Happiness” is a class that will focus on both the psychology and historical teachings of happiness, according to the class’s teacher, history teacher Peter Brown. Brown drew his inspiration from several sources, one being Yale’s immensely popular course, “The Science of Well Being”. Brown was also motivated by the unhappiness he sometimes sees in the Menlo community. “I think there is a lot of unhappiness out there, and one of the most frequent words I hear is stress,” Brown said. “There’s a need among students for an understanding of happiness.”

While students will focus on Asian philosophies such as Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism that teach happiness, “The Pursuit of Happiness” will also feature some unconventional curriculum. “We’re actually going to begin with some of the teachings and positive psychology that students are going to practice themselves,” Brown said. Students will experiment with various techniques to promote mindfulness and will also take a test that measures happiness at the beginning and end of the semester to see their progress.

Brown emphasizes that the class will aim not only to teach but also to change students’ habits. “We’re focusing on history, religion and philosophy as a way of instilling habits. The most important part of the class is the reflective part,” Brown said.

“East Asian Pop Culture: Anime, Kung Fu, & K-Pop” is a senior history English elective that will be taught by English teacher Oscar King. The class will focus on the relationship between different Asian media to learn more about Asian culture while students practice writing skills.

Rather than studying traditional textual sources, the class will look at different creative media. “Instead of having literature or text like a normal English class, we [will] have different texts in the forms of albums, music videos and films,” King said. 

The class will also concentrate on self-reflection and student’s own opinions on the content. “We will work on dwelling with our own reactions to the [media], and it will be a lot of introspection and reflection that we then tie with other documents,” King said. “We will also consider how [those] things connect to larger issues of race, representation and access.”

The computer science department’s newest class is “App Design & Development,” taught by computer science teacher Douglas Kiang. Students will get hands-on experience learning how to build real and innovative apps. “The class is designed to take a design thinking, product-based approach to create real apps,” Kiang said. 

Students will spend the beginning of the year learning Swift, an app coding language. Then, they will transition to actually building apps and even complete a final independent project. “At the end of the year, students will be able to take on an independent project of their own and come up with a unique idea they will be able to code,” Kiang said.

“App Design & Development” supports the computer science department’s overarching goals, according to Kiang. “We want to help students create positive change in their community and in their world,” he said.  “Our goal is not to prepare [students] to take the highest level AP class, but we really want to give students the abilities to create and build things that will solve real problems for real people.”

Additional new classes include creative arts elective “Beginning Piano Lab: The Gourmet Ear”; “Production: Page to Spieker Stage,” a class about performance production in the Spieker Center; “The Art of the Fight,” a stage combat class; “Intro to Digital Animation,” English elective “Delight: Celebrating the Small Wonders of Life”; “Poetry Writing Workshop”; “Medicine and Narrative, a senior English elective studying the intersection of medicine and humanities”; and “California Dreamin’: The History of Immigration in California (1840-present).”