Stepping Into the World
Something magical happens when people turn eighteen. Parents and teachers may hardly recognize these newly-minted adults when thinking back to what these same students were like at fourteen. Seniors strive to envision their own emerging places in the world, grappling with questions of identity and purpose. They have a new consciousness of themselves and of others. They connect with world events in a way they could not when they were younger. A new synthetic thinking develops. Seniors imagine themselves as active participants in the world, and think deeply about how this might look. The central question of the year is Who…? Who am I? Who do I want to become?
Our innovative twelfth grade program takes place within a carefully constructed year-long series of intensive multidisciplinary immersive three and four week long block classes. In twelfth grade, the students continue to forge their own path to graduation with the core block classes augmented by classes in disciplines of interest to the individual students. The skill-building track classes in disciplines of their choosing continue and students also select from a range of afternoon electives or independent classes.
The twelfth grade curriculum and experiences lead the students into the world with new insight. Equipped with a new capacity for synthesis and analytical thinking the seniors continue in our signature three and four week-long intensive block format classes delving over the year into such topics as economics, evolution and biochemistry. The year begins with trips to the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire to study marine biology. Students peer into tide pools and mud flats to investigate sea plants and animals, and enjoy campfire discussions about the world and their future. In the Faust block, students encounter questions of good and evil and the meaning of a good life. In their three week intensive study of The Transcendentalists, Emerson’s suggestion that “man is a stream whose source is hidden,” calls on students to explore the complexity of their own humanity.
In the visual physics block, students explore the nature of perception by studying the interaction between light and their environment. They examine the properties of light phenomena as they experiment with various types of lenses and the resulting visual images. They develop an understanding of the way visual images diverge from their expected form as conditions change, and they are asked to synthesize disparate facts, theories and points of view as they question the true nature of light. In the biochemistry intensive, students contemplate how an organism is a reflection of its environment, and examine how substances are brought into living beings and transformed to serve metabolic processes such as respiration and digestion.
Senior Projects are a high point of the year. At the end of the junior year, students choose a topic for independent study. As seniors, they complete a comprehensive project that includes research, practical, written, artistic and oral components, and which they offer in public presentations. One by one, each senior stands before the assembled community and presents his or her topic in a lecture format and takes questions from teachers and fellow students. It is often a poignant rite of passage, when students become teachers for the whole community as they share a topic about which they are passionate and of which they have acquired expert knowledge over the course of many months. Students present their artistic or practical projects at a festive evening attended by the whole community, fielding questions from parents and alumni as they demonstrate their work.
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.