Changing the normal course: Alternative Learning

Maxim Kawashima

Straying from the considered “norm” of attending high school for all four years, some students join an alternative learning method. Whether out of intuitive interest or constructive change, each person has different motivations.

Alternative learning means the learning process is structured to assist students on a more personal level than a traditional high school can provide according to The Tamalpais Union High School District offers three alternative programs that are available for students to join.

The three programs are Tamiscal High School, Team and Pathways. Although Team is only open to juniors and Pathways to seniors, Tamiscal has options for grades 9-12 and also provides the other two programs with classrooms.

Examining the surrounding area, Jenkins and Ward assess the conditions
Examining the surrounding area, Jenkins and Ward assess the conditions

Senior Ryan Nevitt attended Redwood for his freshman and sophomore years, but has since transferred to Tamiscal for his junior and now senior year. He personally felt that he needed more help than what could be offered at Redwood.

“[Tamiscal] was just a lot more one on one for me. The teachers at Redwood weren’t as available as I needed them to [be] in order to be successful,” Nevitt said.

The Tamiscal High School was established as an independent study for students who look for smaller class sizes or those who have other time consuming activities outside of school. To account for other time-intensive tasks that students have, they typically take four classes and receive about five hours worth of work per week. Nevitt finds the shortened schedule effective for getting straight to the heart of material.

“The main upside, I think, is how little time is wasted on meaningless things. Teachers don’t really have any time to waste. They give you exactly what you need and it’s one on one,” Nevitt said.

Tamiscal only offers one AP class, which is AP Language and Composition. According the Nevitt, he finds this relaxing compared to Redwood’s vast amount of AP classes.

“There wasn’t nearly as much pressure to take these APs. Colleges understand that Tamiscal doesn’t really offer any APs, so I wasn’t necessarily forced to do anything like that,” Nevitt said.

Similarly looking for a different teaching style than offered at Redwood, senior Griffin Ward decided to spend his junior year with the Team program.

“I went to [Team] because I was looking for something different and I had heard a lot of good things about it. Like the alternative learning program, you learn a lot more life lessons and you get a lot more out of it with a group,” Ward said.

Traversing down the mountainside, the Team program descends to the campsite
Traversing down the mountainside, the Team program descends to the campsite

The Team program is unique, basing its classes within Tamiscal while also taking trips to various national parks across California, where the students learn various wilderness survival techniques. Senior Connor Jenkins, who joined Team his junior year, states that the backpacking trips were the most intriguing part of the program and left him with an accomplished feeling for the experiences he had gained.

“You definitely learn a lot about yourself, just being in [these] conditions with other kids. Then you think about your friends doing homework while you’re out there having to worry about doing simpler things,” Jenkins said.

The Pathways program is for seniors who want to have more control over the classes they take so that it may in turn help them with their transition into college.

Senior Jacob Berston, though he loved Redwood, took an interest in the Pathways program after the director, Alyssa Callahan, spoke in his history class junior year.

Berston personally takes two classes at College of Marin where students may take a maximum of three. He also meets at Tamiscal three times a week in which two times are for English and government so that students can finish their high school credentials for a GED.

On top of that, the program helps students obtain an internship in a field they may want to major in.

“It’s kind of good because it’s almost like I’m in the first year of college right now and I’m seeing what I’m interested in. This gives me a chance where I can figure out what I’m interested in, so when I apply to college then I don’t have to be undeclared,” Berston said.