Endless Electives

Public Speaking

The idea of taking a public speaking class can seem terrifying to someone who is not yet comfortable with giving speeches and talking in front of groups of people.

The class is taught by Mrs. Longerbeam, and covers a multitude of speaking skills.

“In public speaking,” said Mrs. Longerbeam, “we learn all types of communications skills that can be applied to real life situations and you need public speaking skills communication skills for the rest of your life. And you need to know how to talk amongst a team and come up with ideas together, and you may have a job that requires you to speak publicly.”

Mrs. Longerbeam knows public speaking can make students nervous, so she tries to make the class as comfortable as possible.

“I try to make the class fun and, and it’s not nerve wracking, and I try to involve people in fun games.”

Devin Caines, a senior, took the semester class last year because he was “really shy and [had] wanted to practice talking in front of people.” He also said that he “learned more in that class than in any other class. Everyone [should take the class], it helps you gain confidence and you’ll have to learn it at some point in your life.”


The 2014-2015 school year is the first time Woodgrove has offered Astronomy as an elective. Taught by Mr. McMillen, the course includes lessons on the planets, stars, and the universe. Students are engaged in the class with activities such as using star finders, building and using an astronomical telescope, and locating the solar system in the Milky Way galaxy.

Senior Helen Westerman is currently enrolled in this class.

“We get to do a bunch of experiments in the class. We did one where I stood in a plastic bag and sucked all the air out of it to demonstrate pressure per square inch, and it was intense. Anyone would love this class; it’s hands on and fun,” said Westerman.

Senior Alex Earley took Astronomy because his friends were taking the course, and he was semi-interested in the course.

“The planetarium is my favorite part of the class because you get to learn about the stars and where the constellations are and it leads to a better understanding of the universe and our place in it,” said senior Alex Earley.

Creative Writing

Creative Writing is a semester-long course taught by Mrs. Pyle that includes various elements of writing including poetry, short stories, personal narratives, humorous essays, as well as other forms of writing.

A love for writing is the main reason majority of students take the course.

“I took this class because I love to write, and I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to learn more about what I love to do,” said sophomore Emily Rehak.

A unique part of the class is that every couple weeks, there is a read-around, where the students all form a circle and read their most recent piece of writing, and all the other students write positive comments on sticky-notes to give to the reader afterwards. This was a favorite aspect amongst a lot of creative writing students.

There was only one block of creative writing this year due to a low number of students signing up, so the class was a small and close-knit group.

“I’ve bonded with some amazing people through this class,” Rehak said and that creative writing is perfect for “anyone who wants to make some awesome friends that eventually feel like family.”

Outdoor Education

This year is the second year that Woodgrove has offered the physical education elective Outdoor Education. Taught by Mr. Sharples, the course is one semester long and focuses on getting students outside and enjoying nature.

“I want to provide outdoor activities for all students in hopes to introduce some new challenges that will allow them to appreciate outdoors for a lifetime,” said Mr. Sharples on the class.

Since this class is outdoor oriented, Sharples takes students on field trips to work on skills such as hiking, canoeing, fishing, biking, and basic survival. Some of the field trips this class has taken include hiking Harpers Ferry to the Maryland Heights Overlook followed by Kayaking on the Shenandoah, hiking Sky Meadows and fishing at Turner Pond, and hiking Old Rag.

Betsy Beasley is a Woodgrove senior who took the class last school year.

“I loved the whole experience, we never had homework and we took lots of field trips. My favorite trip was when we hiked near Harper’s Ferry and then went kayaking,” said Beasley.

Senior Christie Crandall took the class last year and loved the variety of activities it offered.

“The most beneficial thing for me would have to be learning fire building and outdoor cooking. I’ve practiced those skills since. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or not, you should take this class because it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy outdoor activities,” said Crandall

Latin American and African Studies

African Studies and Latin American studies are two other electives that are often overlooked. Taught by Mrs. Spicer, these two courses appear to be like standard history courses, however, those who take it say it is much different than classes they’ve taken before.

Junior David Willburn currently takes African Studies and loves it, and is planning to take Latin American Studies next year.

“I took the class because I enjoy history in general so I thought it would be a fun class to take. However, we do more than study history; we do cultural days where people get to bring in food and play music from the culture we studied,” said Willburn.

Another benefit of the class is guaranteed college credit without taking an AP test.

When asked about the class, Mrs. Spicer said, “These are dual enrollments with NOVA, so students will earn college credit and high school credit at the same time. There is no national exam at the end and that takes away a lot of the pressure students experience in AP courses. Additionally, the credits are guaranteed with passing the course. Most schools have been awarding credit for both these courses.”

Senior and history enthusiast Ammon Frederick-Harteis currently takes Latin American Studies with Mrs. Spicer.

“Latin America is a region of the world that doesn’t get a lot of focus, so I thought this class would supplement my education. I’m a big fan of Mrs. Spicer, too. [She] gave a great lecture on the Columbian Exchange, which I absolutely loved.”


Aerospace is the study of aviation and spaceflight, and is taught by Mrs. Bingaman and has been offered at Woodgrove since 2011, and will have a follow-up course, Aerospace II, offered next year.

According to Mrs. Bingaman, Aerospace is a “course that will integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and will study the history, present, and future of flight.”

“Aerospace is the only class that links all the parts of STEM together. I make them think in a different way because we bring science and math into this class, and we apply it instead of memorizing it, so you have to bring it together,” said Bingaman.

Application of knowledge is key in Aerospace, so Mrs. Bingaman teaches the class with a hands-on approach and lots of hands-on work because “when you see math and science applied, it answers the question of ‘why do we have to learn this?’”

An example of the hands-on work that is assigned is that the students had to construct a flyable glider, and had to consider certain aspects while building it to ensure it would fly.

Junior Marshall Wood said, “My favorite part of the class was constructing a glider because I’m interested in aviation so it was fun creating something that we will get to fly.”

Lots of different kinds of people take Aerospace, and it leads to interesting interactions and friendships in the class.

“This class allows us to make new friends with people I would not usually make friends with,” said senior Kevin Hernandez.

Teacher Cadet

Teacher Cadet is a course offered to Woodgrove seniors interested in education. Dr. Curtis has been teaching this class for the last two years, and has 21 students enrolled this year.

“This class is for anybody interested in learning about how people learn. It is class about learning,” said Curtis on the course.

Erin Taylor, senior at Woodgrove, is one of Dr. Curtis’s current students. Taylor will be doing field experience as a sixth grade English teacher at Harmony Middle School.

A requirement in the class is that the student has field experience in a real classroom as the teacher. Students can be placed in elementary, middle and high schools and are addressed and treated as a teacher consistently in that classroom for six weeks.

On her experience in the class so far, Taylor said “It’s changed my perspective on a lot of things, in a good way. I realize now how much goes into teaching besides standing in front of a class and talking. It’s a lot, but it really only makes me want to do it more.”

Senior Maddie Bramhall took the class to find out more about careers in education and learn what it takes to become a teacher.

“Dr. Curtis gives us lots of responsibility, especially with the field experience. I think the most beneficial part of the class will be the field training, where I’ll get to teach second grade,” said Bramhall on the field experience that is required of every teacher cadet.

World Religions

World Religions is a little-known course at Woodgrove taught by Mr. Bullion, where students learn about many different religions throughout the globe, as well as how they relate to global cultures.

“In World Religions the focus is to study the five major world religions, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Hinduism. Within each religion, we are highlighting leaders, customs, traditions, and any special or unique holidays,” says Mr. Bullion.

However, the class does not only focus on what has happened in the past, but relates the religions to ongoing events around the world.

“Because of current conflicts in the world, we also discuss how and if any of these religions tie into the current conflicts. The class mainly consists of discussions, web projects and some films that relate to a particular religion.”

Junior Morgan Norwood was put in the class due to scheduling problems, however, he ended up really enjoying it.

“My favorite part about the class was learning about the different religions and cultures around the world,” said Norwood.

Junior JP Tracy also enjoyed the class and said, “It was a fun class because we got to explore different religions and we also had a lot of independent study time to learn about other religions on our own.”