With the switch from a semester schedule to trimesters, Sunnyside High School students have more opportunities available to them. Those opportunities include the addition of science electives not previously taught.
Last year, science teacher Joyce Stark began providing a forensics class, which has proved to be the start of something the students appreciate.
"The class has grown in popularity and this year there are five forensic classes available to students," said Stark.
The class is also useful to students, giving them the opportunity to learn skills that may be useful in the future. Students wanting to explore law enforcement or forensic science occupations are provided a head start.
This year, said Stark, her class began with a unit in forensic epidemiology. She said teaching the unit is useful to her students because they learn how the law applies to the study of disease.
"It's a hot topic because of the threat of bioterrorism," said Stark.
Last year, her students were provided the opportunity to interact with the Sunnyside Police Explorers and Officer Sam Ramos. Ramos set up a crime scene for students to analyze and Eric Desmarais, valedictorian for the class of 2010, brought the explorers in to help teach fingerprint analysis.
Stark said students taking advantage of the course are provided videos and other media, donated by Stark's sister-in-law, to help them study forensics. She invites individuals in the field of forensic science to provide presentations.
This year, she plans to invite a forensic dentist and Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds to give presentations. She also wants Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins to provide students insight into his work.
The class, said Stark, is modeled after the state of Michigan's forensic program.
Stark is not the only teacher at SHS providing the class. Teri Alvarez-Ziegler and intervention educators Gina Hopkins, Carl Walther and David Guevara are also giving students the opportunity to take the course.
Two other elective science classes are also being offered to students interested in furthering their knowledge of the biological world. A plant sciences class is being taught by Wayne Cone, Patricia Dzeima and Stark.
The purpose of the course, said Stark, is to provide students an in-depth study of genetics, botony, biology and plant physiology.
Each trimester the students in the science elective courses earn half a science credit. Stark said the curriculum for the course is designed by the teachers, utilizing textbooks originally purchased for the honors biology course.
Those textbooks, however, were not being used because "...there wasn't enough time in the year to use those books in addition to the textbooks that are currently studied in honors biology."
Stark said biology classes touch on plant sciences and zoology, but there isn't an in-depth study of either subject.
For that reason, students interested in furthering their knowledge are also offered the zoology class taught by Jessica Darbyson.
"The same rationale is used in offering the class...10th grade biology is not as extensive and detailed regarding animal classifications, species, etc.," said Stark.
Darbyson has had an extensive background in zoology and utilizes textbooks for zoology originally purchased for honors biology. She also has her own curriculum used before she arrived at SHS.
"We had to use our resources for the classes," said Stark, stating the tight budget did not allow the teachers to purchase curriculum specific to the subjects being taught. The honors biology books, she said, were available and are proving to be useful in offering the students expanded knowledge in the science field.
The trimester schedule opened up opportunities for students, but teachers also benefitted from the change. Stark said the science department has always wanted to have opportunities to expose students to a broader study of the subject, opening up their minds to scientific careers.