Nurturing Living Connections, Early Childhood through Grade 12

Grade 11

The Eleventh Grade curriculum allows students to search out their independent paths, navigating both the uncharted inner life and the outer realm of invisible forces underlying the sense world. The Parzival Main Lesson block, the archetype of the Grail Quest, speaks with great immediacy to the eleventh grader, because it resonates with her or his own search for meaning. Students find in this mirror, the ability to articulate deeply contemporary and personal struggles in the context of the spiritual path of initiation of the knight who began as an innocent fool but won through pain and sacrifice the Grail and its healing power of love.

In a mathematical context, the mysterious dualities and paradoxes of Projective Geometry expand the powers of reason to engage with the infinite. For example, a circle is may be both an infinite number of tangential lines and an infinite number of points equidistant from a single point. One must grapple with the concept that parallel lines intersect at infinity. One conceives the point, but it has no dimension. In Chemistry, students engage with the changing models of the transformation of substance from spirit-in-matter insights of alchemy to atomic and quantum theory. In Physics, the students work with the unseen forces of electricity, which can be seen in its effects but not in its inherent nature. In a variety of academic disciplines, the student is launched to an ever-greater degree toward individual projects and research assignments, including a week-long, individual practicum.

Main Lesson Subjects Art, Handwork & Special Projects
  • Biology
  • Shakespeare
  • Astronomy
  • Medieval History
  • Literature: Parzival
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Romantic Poetry
  • Projective Geometry
  • History through Music
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Stained Glass
  • Joinery
  • Eurythmy

Curriculum Described



Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic Parzival is a literary masterpiece dating back to the Middle Ages. It recounts the journeys of Parzival, who sets out into the world on a quest: first to become a knight, and then to find the grail. This story lends itself particularly well to eleventh graders, who are ready to set forth into the world themselves. The term “grail” is derived from the Latin word “gradalis,” referring to the gradual development of the human being. The encounters and adventures of Parzival all relate to particular stages of development that are universally human. During the course, the class connects the stages of his journey to the modern human being, determining whether there are indeed valid correlations.


In this block, the 11th grade studies Hamlet and performs scenes for the high school and first grade audience. One or two movie versions of the play are seen. In class students take parts and participate in reading speeches and scenes. Written assignments include writing Shakespeare’s biography, paraphrasing some soliloquies, creating a diary entry or letter from a character in the play, writing short papers on character analyses or motivations written in class, and writing an analytical paper arguing a thesis, giving examples drawn from the text, with an introduction and conclusion. One additional required assignment is the memorization of a speech or sonnet or the more ambitious project of memorizing parts and acting out a scene in small groups. We also do some improvisation work based on scenes in Hamlet. An optional assignment is to make drawings of the Globe Theater and Shakespeare’s portrait.

The Romantics

In this course, the impulse behind the Romantic revolution in English literature and poetry, looking at the preceding Age of Reason, against which the Romantics rebelled is explored. The class concentrates on the work (and biographies) of Burns, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron. In addition to essays and analysis of poems, each student gives an oral report about another writer or artist related to the Romantic Movement. Students also enjoy the opportunity to create their own poetry, inspired by the style and themes of the poets we study.

Utopia 1984

The class reads and studies George Orwell’s novel, 1984. The aim is to understand, by way of critical analysis, the socio-political conditions that Orwell portrayed in his dystopian masterpiece. It is one of our endeavors to determine whether the warnings outlined in Orwell’s book have any validity in our present time.

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Projective Geometry

The study of projective geometry is the culmination of the high school geometry curriculum. It begins by reviewing the fundamental elements of point, line and plane and their interdependent relationships. Geometric shapes are considered when one or more of the points of a given form are moved to infinity. The principle of duality and various examples are discussed and drawn. These include classic constructions such as Pascal’s Line, Brianchon’s Point and the Theorem of Pappus and its dual. The work continues with numerous constructions which illustrate various aspects of Desargues’ Two Triangle Theorem. The culmination of the block is work with perspectivity and projectivity including the generation of both point and line based conics.

Trigonometry Honors

This session consists of trigonometric work including: angle measurement, the six basic trigonometric functions, solutions to triangles and word problems. There are approximately nine problem sets, a review set and an exam.

Honors Math Session IV

This group of advanced students covers three units during two months. The first unit includes sinusoids and trigonometric identities. This is followed by work with functions including symmetry, logarithms and concluded with an introduction to the constant, e. A third unit covers imaginary numbers.

Logic Session V

This unit is an introduction to mathematical logic. Work includes practice with basic symbols, truth tables, an introduction to circuits and logic puzzles.

Logic Session VI

This unit in logic parallels much of the work in the advanced group but at a slower pace. The work includes an introduction to symbols and terminology, truth tables, and logic puzzles.

Pre Calculus

This session consists of PSAT preparation, review, coordinate geometry work and a unit on systems of equations. Many of the students completed additional work at honors level.


This math class starts with an algebra review. The review consisted of Algebra one and algebra two. Students work through the FOIL process, all the operations on rational relationships, exponents and radicals.

Algebra Session II

The objective of this class is to review graphing of equations and to introduce the concept of functions and basic set operations and nomenclature. The material is kept at a very basic level throughout and most of the assignments are expected to be completed in class.

Practical Finance

Practical finance is taught this year to grades 11 and 12 together. The topics covered are budgets, checking accounts/debit cards, credit cards, investments, lease/buy options and insurance. This is a seminar class that meets twice per week for six weeks. The goal of the class is to help prepare the students to be financially responsible.

Mathematical Functions

This class concentrates on the concept of functions. Students learn what they are, how to determine the domain and range of a function, what functions look like graphed, how to use them, and how to combine them. The grade is based on the class work and the homework assignments.

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Embryology and Genetics

In this course, the class studies the cell, not as the unit of all life, but in the context of embryology, which is to say, the microcosmic human being. The students learn about and discuss cell division, gametogenesis, fertilization, various stages of embryonic development and differentiation, and are introduced to the science and controversy of the study of genetics. Each student completes and presents to the class an individual written research project on a different topic related to genetics and reproduction, such as cloning, twin studies, and genetically engineered organisms. In-class activities include quizzes, plasticine modeling, microscope time, and observation of salamander egg development to the tadpole stage.


In this course, the first week is spent reviewing the embryology studied in tenth grade, discussing heredity, and learning about the new science of genetics, beginning with Gregor Mendel’s mathematical models of plant trait inheritance. Students delve deeper into genetics the second week, learning about Watson and Crick’s discovery of the molecular structure of DNA and the genetic code. At the same time, the class reads from Craig Holdrege’s excellent book Genetics and the Manipulation of Life, which helped us understand the context for reductionist, scientific research shaping the way people think about themselves and the world. Finally, in the last week the focus is learning about botany through structure and classification, as well as in the field, going on wildflower identification walks with local expert, Claudia Vispo. In addition to producing a main lesson book and class notes folder, each student works on an individual research project relating to reproductive biology, which is written as a short research paper and presented orally to the class.


In the eleventh grade, students begin to think inwardly and deeply, contemplating phenomena that are not visible to the senses. This is a time when the curriculum complements this type of thinking by introducing topics that are not fully experienced by the senses, namely electricity and magnetism. The class spends the first week debunking misconceptions about “electricity” through lab experiences and discussions. The next week, the group studies Coulomb’s law and sort out what really is flowing through (and around) wires. The last week, the students present their research biography papers, which give a sense of the history of the study of electric phenomena. The block finishes considering social issues pertaining to electromagnetic phenomena.


Eleventh grade chemistry is an historical approach to an introduction to modern chemical theory. The course encompasses the development of modern chemistry, leading up to atomic theory from its origins in ancient Greece to modern times. Brief biographies of scientific pioneers help provide the context for how the study of chemistry developed, particularly through understanding the material nature of gases. Students perform labs that supported an understanding of chemical reactions and the Law of Conservation of Mass. Students are required to present a book that follows the biography of scientists from ancient times until the birth of the Bohr model. Students work with chemical nomenclature, and introduction to equations and the fundamental laws that govern reactions in chemistry.


The goal of this astronomy class is to offer the opportunity for the students to develop a deep appreciation of the beauty, mystery, and immensity of the universe we live in. In order to accomplish this, an observational approach is taken. The students learned the rhythms of the sky from day to day and from season to season. They also learned the constellations and other important landmarks of the sky. We also looked for the many connections between the cosmos and life on Earth. This is accomplished through both classroom instruction and nighttime observation.


The block begins with a review of magnetism in the context of permanent magnets and the development of the concept of fields. In the second week, fundamental topics in electrostatics are covered building up the concept of charge and ultimately charge movement. The principle of the battery as a seat of the electromotive force is also discussed. The subject of magnetism is taken up again now in the context of electrical current. Electromagnetism and its applications are discussed along with the general principles of the electric motor and generator. Throughout the block the students observe and participate in demonstrations which are followed by discussions as the general concepts in electricity and magnetism are developed in class. Finally, the students are asked to express and relate these concepts in writing.

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Social Studies

Medieval History

This course explores the social, economic, and political factors leading to the inward impulse of medieval consciousness. Beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire, our study includes the great migrations, monasticism, the Carolingian Renaissance, the rise of Islam, the Crusades, Feudalism, the Magna Charta, the Black Plague, and the rebirth of classical knowledge through trade routes. Key biographies include those of St. Augustine, Charlemagne, and Mohammad. Daily work included the reading of Dante’s Inferno. Students are responsible for main lesson books, which included essays, illuminated letters, maps and an independent research project.

Civil War to Civil Rights

Focusing on American history from 1860-1965, this mid-day class explores the Civil War and its relationship to the Civil Rights movement. Topics included the causes and effects of the Civil War, slavery and the 13th and 14th amendments, reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the 20th century fight for racial equality. Students are required to complete four written reports, which they present to the class. Topics include pivotal events and biographies of important individuals from the period studied.

History through Music

In studying history through music, the class goes as far back as possible to the so-called “primal” beginnings, after which the group slowly moves through the respective eras until reaching the 20th century. Students see how music is a fascinating reflection of the development of human consciousness. The course includes listening, playing and singing a great variety of music.

Personal Leadership

This is a six week seminar meeting twice per week. The topics focus on social issues and appropriate responses to them. The class talks about the social mirror, the paradigms we use to view reality and decision making strategies. The group looks at what habits are and the way they are formed. The goal of this class is to awaken the students to their potential to build their self image from within rather than from the social mirror.

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Fine & Practical Arts


In this block, students work for the first time in oils, using the project of a still life to learn techniques and ways of handling the medium. Using the sepia toned under-painting technique of the old masters, they first make a painted sketch, paying attention to placement, proportions and overall composition, before going on to application of color with all of the accompanying complications; lights and darks, highlights and shadows. This project calls upon serious observation as well as problem solving. Most of the students have the time to do a second project, for some this is an abstracted flower, for others a subject of their own choosing.

Stained Glassstained glass

This class explores the techniques and artistry of traditional stained glass. Students use the copper foil method to create individual panels approximately 16” wide. Concepts and techniques include: 2-dimensional design principals, color scheme selection, pattern making, cutting and shaping of glass, foiling and soldering. Precision and organization are crucial to the realization of a successful project.

Wood Working

The students continue to refine their skills with traditional woodworking joinery, all done with hand tools. They have a list of projects from which to choose. All are designed to help them learn enough joinery to build any kind of furniture. The projects includes turned items (drum sticks, bowls, plates, and goblets), model boats, a music stand, bird houses, rings and jewelry, a mission style lamp, cutting board, miniature baseball bat, and boxes.


This block consists of several approaches to the sculptural medium. First the students practice observation of the human form through spontaneous gesture drawing and clay modeling. Next they make a few studies in clay of the posed and imagined human figure. Finally they are challenged to create an entirely free form, abstract piece that incorporated the acquired principles of expressive movement, volume, balanced proportion, and dynamic design.


Eurythmy Ensemble of Music and Poetry: The rehearsal and performance of music and speech eurythmy.


The High School Chorus consists of all the High School students who meet twice each week under the direction of Larry Glatt, accompanied by Cindy Gutter.. Early in the semester the group concentrates on easy pieces: Freedom Round, Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair, and Yenamanoa. The group performs at the Thanksgiving school assembly. Later the group focuses on movements from Handel’s Messiah, which are challenging pieces.

Music sessions II & III

The High School chorus consists of all the High School students and we met twice each week under the direction of Larry Glatt, accompanied by Cindy Gutter. The class performs Dodi Li, Yenamanoa, and Halle — the latter at the Spring Assembly. At the Rose Assembly the group performs Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar, and at graduation three movements from Mozart’s Requiem.


The high school ensemble meets twice a week as an honors class. We work on several pieces, such as Mozart’s Magic Flute, the Overture and the Pastoral of Handel’s Messiah. Proficient musicianship, the ability to sight-read, and independent practice are required. Competent students have the opportunity to lead the ensemble, thereby learning skills in conducting. The first term culminates with the high school ensemble joining the Hawthorne Valley Community Orchestra to perform a school concert, Messiah by G. F. Handel.

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Foreign Language


The goal of the Spanish language program is to go beyond basic reading and conversational skills to develop a living connection to the language and to Spanish-speaking cultures. The students learn not only the grammar of the language, but also the culture, cuisine, geography, basic history, and literary highlights of Spanish-speaking countries, as well as its peoples’ struggles and their impact in other parts of the world. Emphasis is also placed on the development of foundational Spanish language skills so that students are prepared to deepen and expand their Spanish from an exchange or other immersion experience.


Using only German, the students discuss topics the class studies, such as politics, education, science, biographies, topical current events, German culture today, music, and literature. Each student is asked to keep a journal, engage in a foreign exchange correspondence and bring relevant questions to class. At the beginning of each lesson, students are required to report on a given subject. The class reviews the main elements of syntax and grammar, the tenses, relative clauses, the cases and conjugations while building up vocabulary through grammar books, stories, dialogue, poetry and songs. Students also present aspects of grammar to the rest of the class using a given text. Students work with short powerful texts, German scenes, newspaper extracts, and stimulating, relevant discussions on topics that the students can form an opinion about. The format of lessons include conversations among groups of students speaking German to each other and also through contacts with German speakers. Writing freely is encouraged. The class focuses on the beauty of the language by studying great poets. Reading and writing in German, quizzes, weekly homework assignments, taking initiative for their own learning, and active participation in class all contributes toward the student’s grade.

German Session III

In High School German the class focuses on a thorough review of grammar, conversation, expanding vocabulary, and literature. Each lesson contains recitation and dialogue. Immersing the students in the German language is a priority throughout the year. The students are given many opportunities to improve on writing skills and techniques, and gain an understanding of German literary styles. The class practices grammar by creatively preparing aspects of the lessons. Vocabulary study is a regular, weekly feature of classes. Students review the parts of speech, the verb subject agreement, consistent use of tenses, and direct and indirect object as applied in the four cases of the German language. The class is given ample practice writing in German and the year concludes with the opportunity to write a fairy tale to share with a younger grade. In this context, the plot, tension, and climax, as well as resolution and character description are discussed. The students’ assessment is based on their overall attitude in class, their ability to comprehend and speak German, their participation, completion of assignments, homework, performance during regular quizzes and during a cumulative review test.

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Physical Education

During the Fall, the 11th and 12th grades are combined for PE. Activities range from outdoor competitive games, such as Capture the Football and soccer, to indoor dodgeball, folkdance or going for a walk in the woods, depending in part on the weather.

Session II

During the Winter, the 11th and 12th grade classes are combined for PE. There is a 6-week Social Dance block, taught by Cathy Curry-Gardinier, which includes Swing, Tango, Salsa and some modern line dances. Students also participate in classes led by guest teachers on a variety of activities, including kickball, double-Dutch jumprope, and Spatial Dynamics exercises.

Session III

In the winter following the dance block, the class practices Spacial Dynamics exercises, relay races to develop strength and agility, jumping rope, kickball, and soccer.

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This class gives students an opportunity to explore different genres of songwriting in a small, supportive group. It combines some music theory, improvisation, exercises in lyric-writing, rhyming, and work in groups and individually. Examples of popular and original songs are shared and evaluated for content and style.


In the Ukulele Elective students meet three times a week for six weeks to learn and study this wonderful instrument.  The students are expected to play in class and practice at home. The students are asked to choose a song and learn to play it independently and present that song to the class at the end of the elective.


This class explores a selection of topics in physics, including conservation of momentum, centripetal acceleration, ohms law and resistance and induced current. The class includes demonstrations, lecture and problem sets. Each student is required to keep a notebook throughout the course.

Modern Poetry

The students are introduced to some of the major poets of the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on the various styles and techniques they used. The class reads (and listens to) selected poems of the respective poets, discussing their merits, qualities and innovations. Students endeavor to analyze them within the diverse cultural and sociopolitical contexts of our modern age. Most importantly, the class explores writing in the styles of the different poets; or letting themselves be creatively stimulated by the specific themes that are addressed.

Half the Sky

In this class students read Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Cheryl Wu Dunn, a book which focuses on human rights issues affecting women in the developing world. Assignments include reading, journal writing and school wide campaign to bring awareness to these issues.

Abstract Painting

In this block students work with oil paints. The class begins with an abstraction from nature, much like Georgia O’Keefe’s work. Students also work with the classical palette, compositional exercises, color meditations and variations of techniques. The class looks at a lot of work that was created over the last hundred years of abstraction. Much of what the students create would fit into the description of abstract expressionism and anthroposophical painting.

Modern Art History

This elective class explores modern art history beginning with Impressionism and continuing through subsequent art movements including Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. Class work includes discussion and hands on exploration of techniques employed by the artists studied.

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Practicum / Internships

Members of the eleventh grade class are required to participate in a practicum experience. Students are expected to spend 40 hours in a workplace situation. This may include practical work assignments or job shadowing. In addition to their work experience, students are also expected to complete a five to ten page journal detailing the specifics of their practicum. They must describe the physical characteristics and the social and collegial aspects of the work environment. They are asked to profile and interview someone and include their biography as part of their research. Daily journal entries reviewing their impressions complete the written portion of the project. When the students return to Hawthorne Valley, they each give an oral presentation on their experience. Student participation will vary based on the environment of the workplace they are visiting. Many students find a strong connection to a particular profession and plan on a future career in that field.

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Community Service

Students in grades 9 through 11 are required to do a minimum of 40 hours of community service. Typically students help out with Hawthorne Valley Association events, work for elderly and less able home owners, volunteer for non-profits, and do other non-paying activities that lend a service to those in need. Students who do not meet the 40 hour requirement have the summer to make up the hours required, bringing evidence of their work on the first day of school.

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