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Early Winter Main Lessons

Throughout January and February, students and faculty will focus on the following Main Lessons:

Grade 9: History Through Art (Ms. Delaney) and Revolutions (Mr. Nicholl)

Grade 10: Embryology and Cell Biology (Mr. Booth) and Dramatic Production (Mr. O'Donnell)

Grade 11: Chemistry: Nature of Matter (Mr. Oliver) and Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment (Ms. Delaney)

Grade 12: Physics: Optics (Ms. Swanson) and Senior Internships (Ms. Elliott)


Grade 9:

History Through Art (Ms. Delaney): Throughout our time on earth, human beings have expressed themselves through various forms of art. During this block we explore the foundation and development of Western art from earliest times through the 17th century, concentrating on the space arts of painting, sculpture and architecture. Our classes are a combination of presentations, discussions, the viewing of slides and prints, drawing and recitation. For their books, students write essays on material presented in class and copy works of art from the periods studied. There are two tests, one covering the first two weeks of material and the second covering the last two weeks. The block sometimes culminates with a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts.


Revolutions (Mr. Nicholl): “Revolutions” are seen as periods of violent and chaotic change, wherein powerful forces both create and destroy. But are there underlying patterns and rhythms to those terrifying, tumultuous events? The class explores historical revolutions in the political, economic, and cultural realms, studying the people who fought for change and those who resisted it. We attempt to answer the fundamental historical question: how does “change” happen?


Grade 10:

Embryology and Cell Biology (Mr. Booth): In this course, we begin with a consideration of the basic organization of the cell — its structure and the function of subcellular components. We discuss the different processes of cell division involved in the formation of gametes and the growth of organisms, and how these division processes relate to the transmission of genetic material. We then turn to developmental biology, asking the fundamental question: how do complex organisms develop from a single fertilized egg? We end with a discussion of recent technological developments and their medical and societal implications.


Dramatic Production (Mr. O'Donnell): The class reads, studies, and performs a full-length dramatic work. Throughout the block, the students practice training and character development exercises to help their performance, memorize their lines, take direction, and rehearse their parts. Students keep a journal with near-daily entries and self-assessments. In addition, students work on technical aspects of the production, serving on one of the following crews: properties, costumes, set/scenery, and advertising. The culmination of the block is a sharing of our work with the school community.


Grade 11:

Chemistry: Nature of Matter (Mr. Oliver): We take up the question, “What is the nature of matter?” – a question which has occupied humans for millennia. The periodic table is, in many ways, an icon of the twentieth century. We learn the history of the table, how it is arranged, and how to use it as a tool. In addition, we focus on the real experience of a number of different elements, since the table does not convey many of the qualities of the elements. Hydrogen is much more than an atomic number, weight, and density. Work continues on chemical equations.


Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment (Ms. Delaney): The Renaissance, with its rebirth of classical culture and development of humanism, is the starting point for this block. We trace the underlying transition in thinking that led to the birth of our modern empirical consciousness through the emerging individualism of this period and its impact on the religious reforms and counter-reforms as well as the advances in science that are hallmarks of this era. Finally, we contemplate the use of reason in the Enlightenment thinkers such as Descartes and Kant and the political works of Locke, Franklin, Paine, Jefferson and Adams. In the last week of the block we have a festival celebration of the arts in the fashion of the Renaissance. In addition to class participation and critical readings in the text, Sources of the Western Tradition, vol. I, students do individual research for essays for their main lesson books and an art project. They also write two essays for their books based on their understanding of material from class, the Introduction to the block and the Conclusion to the block.


Grade 12:

Physics: Optics (Ms. Swanson): The sense of sight is an enormous part of our experience almost every waking moment. In this course, students have a number of visual experiences designed to challenge their everyday intuitions of what it means to see and deepen their understanding of sight and light. Student learn both how artists create visual experience and how scientists probe its mysteries. Beginning with the phenomenon of illumination and color, we then study the physiology of seeing and physics of light.


Senior Internships (Ms. Elliott): Senior Internships intend to give students a firsthand look at the world of work and to explore or expand upon a field of interest. During the first two weeks the students are out of all classes, working at an establishment or business and also keeping a journal of their experiences. Then, there is a third week back at school, with the morning Main Lesson period devoted to writing a Senior Internship Journal/Main Lesson Book and preparing individual Senior Internship presentations. Students are required to take significant initiative in determining a field of interest and possible internship sites, formally contacting the establishments, deciding on a definitive site, following up in various regards (e.g. sending thank you letters), working out any related issues/obstacles (e.g. transportation to and from the site), and so forth.