In eleventh grade, with a growing capacity for self-reflection and self-knowledge, the search for identity continues with a new focus on existential questions. The theme of the junior year is the quest and the inner journey. Students learn to live with open–ended questions and begin the long path towards answers that may not be what they expect. This is a time of strong idealism. Juniors feel the call to find their own paths in life, and some may wish to make serious changes. They need opportunities to take responsibility for and to accomplish real work.
Our innovative eleventh grade program takes place within a carefully constructed year-long series of intensive multidisciplinary immersive three and four week block classes. By eleventh grade, the students have begun to forge their own path to graduation so the core block classes are augmented by skill-building, individual interest and independent electives in disciplines chosen by each individual eleventh grade student.
The eleventh-grade curriculum invites students to investigate using conceptual reasoning, entering areas of study not fully accessible to the senses. Instead, the sphere of learning is enlarged to encompass realms reached primarily through the imagination. These subjects pose a central question intended to strengthen the powers of independent analysis and abstract thought: the question of “why.” Why are things this way? Why did the events of history take this course? Deep questions of destiny, purpose in life and social responsibility find their way into the classroom discourse.
In eleventh grade students continue their year in our signature three and four week-long intensive block format classes, such as the Medieval and Renaissance History block, when students are asked to imagine what would have happened if the Black Plague had not occurred, and to make parallels between the invention of the printing press and the rise of the internet. In the Electricity and Magnetism intensive, they study these invisible phenomena through experimentation. In the Botany block, they make careful observations of plants, their structures and functions, to develop a deep understanding of how plants function in the world. In the Atomic Theory block, students delve into questions concerning the nature of the physical world and the substance of which we are made. A major question is how we can reconcile the physical world with modern scientific atomic theory. In literature, this search for the self is lived through the Parzival block. Our juniors spend four weeks together immersed in a multi-disciplinary artistic and academic experience of this legend of the grail quest. Parzival provides an encounter with the archetypal themes of leave-taking, failure, shame, friendship, love, and ultimately, finding one’s balance and place in the world. Story-telling, poetry, visual art and film comprise the artistic framework for this block, while the close reading of Von Eshenbach’s novel and analytical writing provide a rigorous academic experience. Through this block and its inevitable resonance with eleventh-grade inner soul experience, students take another step in their own heroic adventures.
And in addition to the innovative core programming, the students’ experience is augmented by our signature programs which take place in the studios and on stage, as well as in the forests and fields, as they learn how to be at home in the wilds of nature, and design, tend to and harvest in our functional garden, learning how to become land stewards for the 21st century.