As Huntington High School students go about finalizing their course selections for the 2021/22 school year, veterans of the Social Studies Department’s Psychology class are encouraging their counterparts to carefully considering enrolling in the offering, which the teenagers say is a fun learning experience.
“This elective is designed in such a way as to provide students with a broad overview of the field of psychology,” said Lauren Desiderio, a veteran Huntington social studies teacher who leads the course. “Since it is an elective, I have the freedom to alter the curriculum and incorporate student interests. This past semester I spent more time in our emotions and motivations unit and added a mini unit on stress based upon student input. Some of the other topics we go over include the nature vs. nurture debate, personality theories, learning, memory and forgetting, sensation and perception and we finish the course with psychological disorders.”
The half-year, half-credit course has proved to be an annual favorite. “Every year I have a lot of fun with this course as the students who take it are excited and eager to learn and participate,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “We discuss a number of mature topics, which is why the elective is reserved for juniors and seniors only and every year I am beyond impressed with the maturity and respectful attitudes of my students. In between the class discussions, personal journal reflections and fun interactive activities, we also explore the study of psychology through film. Film provides a powerful medium for exploring what it means to be human.”
Students say the use of those films has not only enhanced the learning process and added to the overall academic atmosphere, but been a powerful instructional tool.
“There is certainly no shortage of films that explore the scope of psychological topics,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “I carefully select films that directly connect to the content we are studying and usually there is some sort of activity, debate or project connected. A student favorite is usually the Islands of Personality Project they create after watching Disney’s Inside Out. This film, in particular, connects to our personality and memory units. Most recently, Netflix released a documentary titled The Social Dilemma, which focuses on the psychological effects of social media on teens. There are so many connections to the content we study in this film and the impact of social media that I look forward to incorporating it into our future curriculum.”
Current sophomores and juniors should speak with their guidance counselor if they are interested in enrolling in the elective.
“Overall, this is a great course to get an introductory journey to learning about human behavior and mental processes,” Mrs. Desiderio said. “I really try to encourage juniors who enjoy the course to pursue our AP Psychology elective their senior year.
Students currently taking the course encourage others to consider it in future years. “My favorite topic to learn about was memory and I enjoyed all the exercises that we did during that unit,” Adora Colay said. “I was surprised to see how good/bad my memory was compared to my classmates. I also loved the perception unit because of the activities we did with optical illusions. It was really fun to switch your perspective and see something completely different.”
Students enroll in the course for a variety of academic and personal reasons. “Psychology has been one of my favorite courses in high school,” Teddi Carnesi said. “It’s really fascinating to learn how the human mind functions and patterns of human nature. One of my favorite lessons was when we learned about how the human mind can alter certain memories, changing them from how they really happened.”
Every course participant seems to have a favorite unit. “Psychology’s worth it; you’re going to be forced to take an elective regardless,” Angel Santiago said. “Just do it. You’ll thank me later! Memory was probably my favorite to learn because it allowed me to reflect more on my limitations and maneuver around them, which helped for things like studying in particular.”
Student course endorsements are valued by those considering which classes to enroll in. “This class was definitely the most interesting and fun to learn class I’ve ever taken in high school,” Will McClellan said. “I was always wanting to learn more.”
Mrs. Desiderio strives to make the class interesting and to keep her students motivated throughout the semester.
“Psychology has got be one of my favorite classes I’ve taken during high school and being that I’m a senior I think that says a lot since I’ve already taken so many classes,” Gracia Renkewitz said. “Psych plays such a huge role in everyday life that you should have a very easy time connecting with all the topics you learn and everything - and I mean everything - you learn is just interesting even if you don’t find a way that it connects to you personally or to life in general (but it will!) This class not only opens up yours eyes to different perspectives, but you will also be able to have fun it is as well. Mrs. Desiderio is also a big part of the class because she teaches it in a way where she’s real with everything and doesn’t sugar coat, so hope you have her. Take the class.”
The course selection process has been underway for several weeks, although with hybrid schedules and many students choosing full remote learning schedules, many have still not finalized their picks.
“I enjoyed psychology because it taught me about the mind and how fragile it can be and how powerful it can be at the same time,” CJ Kiviat said.
Huntington High School has long taken pride in offering students interesting elective courses.
“Psychology is the only class where participation doesn’t feel like a chore,” Carlos Cruz-Serrano said.
The class seeks to enlighten and inform and offer students something different than other courses. Those objectives are being met, according to the students in the course.
“Generally, this psychology elective helped open my eyes to just how intricately the human mind operates within the bounds of our understanding,” Jeffrey Ochoa-Alvarez said. “While the topics that the elective deals with are complex and deeply meaningful, Mrs. Desiderio simplifies the information in a comprehensive and digestible fashion, all the while supplementing the interesting factor of the subject with fun activities that are always related to the topic being covered. Additionally, this elective does not have a demanding workload to the point where it can get exhausting or demotivating, so I can safely assume that it can definitely act as a de-stressing ending to one’s day; a midpoint break period to one’s day or even a brain stimulating beginning part to one’s day, depending on what period they have it. Mrs. Desiderio’s use of films is perfect to wrap up ideas that we learned as well, as we see them applied to real-life scenarios or even as a backbone to fictional ideas with a human element.”
The class encourages students to think and reflect. “Psychology made me learn so much about myself,” Keira Francis said. “I started prioritizing my mental and physical health.”
Many students will go on to college and enroll in psychology courses on that level. The course at Huntington High School provides a valuable introduction to the topic.
“Psychology is a great class that covers a wide variety of relevant topics,” Sam Hebert said. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning about nature vs. nurture. It’s one of my favorite electives and if you are interested at all in psychology, I heavily recommend this class.”
For some, the offered a daily reprieve. “I personally really liked psychology because it was a good break in the day,” Maddy Bavaro said. “It really made me think about processes that I usually take for granted. I enjoyed learning about the unconscious vs. conscious mind the most. It is crazy how little we know.”