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What made America, America? - CK High students will find out in new American Studies class to be offered.

JD Sweet, a U.S. history teacher at Central Kitsap High School, talks to his students.  - file photo
JD Sweet, a U.S. history teacher at Central Kitsap High School, talks to his students.
— image credit: file photo

Some of their students were 5 years old at the time and may not remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or have a clear understanding of what it meant. But other than not having memories of historical events because of their age, Central Kitsap High School teachers JD Sweet and Elizabeth Blandin feel that many of their students have a disconnect from "what made America, America." And they want to change that.

"They are into their own world but they don't know where their world came from," Sweet said.

Sweet and Blandin will teach an American Studies class next school year beginning in September. As a U.S. history teacher, Sweet will instruct the history side of the course and Blandin will teach the literary end of the curriculum as an American literature teacher. There will be two sections of the American Studies class therefore allowing one section of students to be in Sweet's class followed back-to-back with instruction from Blandin. For some activities such as inviting guest speakers, the two teachers will combine their classes and instruct together for a longer period of time. Central Kitsap High School offered an American Studies class about 10 years ago but it stopped being offered once the teachers that taught it left and more Advanced Placement classes began being offered, Blandin said.

The American Studies class will fulfill U.S. history and American literature credits just as if students were to take the two classes separately.

"They will still get the history and literature but we want to go way beyond that," Sweet said.

The teachers plan to include the history of music, sports, movies and television shows into the curriculum because they all add up to American culture, Sweet said.

And, it's not that the teenagers are unaware of certain people or movements but they may not clearly know how everything ties together.

"They know who Bob Dylan is, but they don't know the connection to the protests and Vietnam War," Blandin said.

Aside from placing pieces of American culture and history together that may be new to students, Blandin and Sweet hope the students will foster relationships with those of other generations through the class — especially with their parents. They plan to gather a panel of parents and grandparents that can speak about their own experiences including being drafted to connect to what the students learn in the classroom.

"All of their parents sat in my classroom and also skipped class. They don't think that. We want to give them the understanding that the human experience cuts across lives," Sweet said.

The role of parents in the American Studies class will hopefully be more than making sure their kids are getting their work done. The teachers want their class to open a discussion between students and their parents or other adults.

"We want the parents to be involved beyond checking their grades," Blandin added.

Although the teachers have a break with summer vacation, Sweet and Blandin are looking forward to the new class that will be offered at the high school and how the students will react to it.

"We hope the students will embrace it and it will teach them to have that curiosity," Sweet said.

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