Elective courses evolve with the times


The days of zig-zag stitching in the classroom are long gone.

Home economics classes in Federal Way and nationwide have moved over to make room for more practical family and consumer sciences classes.

At Todd Beamer High School, students choose from electives including interior design, nutrition and wellness, child development, “high school to life” and family health.

They are more likely to learn how to avoid credit card debt than how to poach an egg.

In Leslie Deakins’s high school to life class at Todd Beamer, students learn how to become better citizens. Each semester, students are required to consider a social issue that is important to them and complete a research paper on that issue. Then they must set out to do something about it.

Students are free to choose their own topics and work individually or in groups. Last semester, students completed projects addressing issues such as obesity, teen pregnancy, education and poverty.

Todd Beamer seniors Corey Obungen, Charles Chan and Rob Thomas chose to focus on health and fitness for their project. Two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese, the students noted.

“We wanted to do a project that really emphasized the importance of staying healthy,” Obungen said. “You develop habits and it’s good to start early. If you don’t take care of it now, it’s going to be worse later.”

Obungen and his group organized an academy-wide

Movin’ Challenge for students and teachers. They solicited donations and received 155 pedometers for the project from the Dairy Council of Washington. Participants were encouraged to log as many steps as they could in one week. The class with the most steps won nutritious goody bags. The individuals with the most steps earned smoothies.

After one week, the students logged a collective 5,214,723 steps, equaling the distance from Federal Way to Chicago.

“It’s a good feeling to help people and it also looks good for colleges,” said Chan, one of the group members who coordinated the Movin’ Challenge.

One of the students in Deakins’s class last semester received a college scholarship based on his work tutoring kids for the project.

All participating students learn communication skills, leadership skills and various other skills that will improve their employability, Deakins said. They become better citizens, learn to network, learn to encourage others to become involved, learn documentation skills and how to solicit donations.

And they learned that they can make a difference, said Haley Gerking, who worked with a partner to host an assembly on teen pregnancy awareness at Todd Beamer and to gather donations for the Pregnancy Aid nonprofit.

“Just two people getting people rallied together for a cause can really help a lot,” Gerking said.

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

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