Faust Main Lesson
This course on Goethe’s Faust aims to introduce the idea of comparative literature as a discipline and to suggest what literary analysis means beyond high school. Part Two usually receives more attention, typically in conjunction with Byron’s Manfred and two related texts from previous study—The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov and Life is a Dream by Calderón. Occasional lectures on German history supplement classroom conversation that draws on close reading; students are given wide latitude to craft an essay that articulates and explores structures through which a seemingly incoherent text may cohere.
Russian Literature Main Lesson
This main lesson focuses on the development of Russian literature in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Students study the lives and works of Russian authors beginning with the father of Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin, continuing to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and comparing and contrasting authors including Turgenev, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekov.
English IV: Full Year Class
This year-long course focuses on world literature and the development of the students’ critical skills in literary topics. Beginning with American Transcendentalists, the class moves on to modern world literature, and covers existentialism, surrealism, and expressionism.
Advanced Literature Elective *
This course offers students with a keen interest in literary topics a venue for discussion, research and creative writing. Much of the work involves a coordination between reading primary texts and literary criticism so students develop their own position vis-à-vis a particular work of literature. Such works as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn are complemented with Wayne C. Booth’s The Company We Keep: an Ethics of Fiction. The autobiography might be pursued by reading excerpts from Benjamin Franklin, Vladimir Nabokov or Barak Obama; then writing one’s own life story. The concept of rhetoric might be deepened by discussing two pieces of classical philosophy, The Gorgias by Plato and Aristotle’s The Rhetoric. Narrative genre and technique might be examined in the short stories of James Joyce, The Dubliners, or his novel, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, both works revealing the literary idea of “epiphany” and the “limited point of view.”
Creative Writing Elective *
This course addresses the genres of poetry, playwriting, short story and journalism through a workshop format in which students read their work aloud and learn from one another.
Philosophy Elective *
The spiritual goal of this course is to cultivate an appreciation for the necessity of reflective activity, and its practical aim is to develop precision skills in reading and writing. Principal topics segregate roughly into three groups: psychology and epistemology; ontology and metaphysics; and ethics and aesthetics. These correspond to three fundamental questions: What is the human being? What is the world? What is the human-being-in-the-world? Readings include ancient and modern works such as Aristotle, Aquinas, and Kant, as well as less read thinkers such as Plotinus, Spinoza, Croce, and Merleau-Ponty.
* Not all electives or courses are offered every year.
Contemporary History Main Lesson
This course explores some of the difficult moral choices confronted by individuals in the 20th and 21st centuries. In the recent past, particular emphasis has been placed on the 1960s as a pivotal decade in the shaping of modern America. Topics may include Marxism, fascism, world communism, the cold war, the baby boom, the civil rights movement, Black Nationalism, the presidency, poverty and social inequality, the Vietnam War, American foreign policy, and the counter culture. Students read a variety of historical sources and view documentary film footage in class. Assessment is based on three take home essays.
United States History: Full Year Class
This 12th grade US History course follows the birth of American democracy, its definition during the American Revolution, its negotiation during the writing of the US constitution, and its redefinition through the crucible of Civil War and Reconstruction. Special emphasis is placed on themes, such as such as the evolution of race relations, the tension between individual freedom and public virtue, the countervailing forces of idealism and pragmatism in a democracy, and the constitution as a living document. Students read from a variety of sources including a textbook, and conduct an individual research project using print and electronic sources.
20th Century History Elective
The 20th Century elective is a discussion based course where students practice sharing ideas, analyzing texts, and writing papers. As course reading, students generally work their way through a series of complete monographs in 20th century history. Past topics have included Gandhi and Indian independence; communism in Eastern Europe; post-Mao and contemporary China; the Cuban Revolution; the industrialization of Japan; World War II; and war and peace in the Middle East. Each unit concludes with a major writing assessment that challenges students to synthesize ideas from class and readings.
Social History Elective
The Social History elective is a discussion based course where students practice sharing ideas, analyzing texts, taking notes, and writing papers. As course reading, students generally work their way through a series of complete social history monographs. Past topics have included the lives of slaves and free blacks; women and public virtue in the antebellum U.S.; the Western frontier; Native Americans; the Great Migration of African Americans to northern cities; and gender in peasant society. Each unit concludes with a major writing assessment that challenges students to synthesize ideas from class and readings.
Mathematics and Allied Sciences
Mathematics in Contemporary Life Main Lesson
While the subject of this main lesson changes from year to year, the focus of inquiry remains on modern mathematics and how it shapes or defines everyday life. In recent years practical economics has received special emphasis, with attention directed not only toward methods of markets and commonplaces of probabilistic inference but also toward personal bookkeeping tasks such as completing a tax form or applying for financial aid. In conjunction with daily technical practice students consider the ethics of applying technique (e.g. a standard normal curve) as they imagine the world they must shape as adults.
A History of the Atomic Theory Main Lesson
During the History of the Atomic Theory block, the seniors study the phenomena, the discoveries, and the thinking that have led to the current state of the atomic theory. From the work of John Dalton in the nineteenth century through the discoveries of Avogadro and Cannizzaro, students develop an understanding of gasses and their reactions. High voltage vacuum tubes herald the discovery of the electron, proton, and neutron, and the work of Curie and others open the way to our understanding of radioactivity. Eventually, through the experiments of Rutherford, Bohr and others, the current theory of quantum mechanics brings the atomic theory into the twentieth century.
By recreating and experiencing, as much as possible, the classic experiments leading to the development of the atomic theory, the class is able to follow the thoughts which brought chemistry and physics forward. We struggle with many theories as they were presented historically, keeping those that remained coherent through further experimentation, and discarding those proven faulty.
Calculus Elective: Full Year Class
This elective offers an introduction to conventional, single-variable calculus, serving as a basis for college work in physical and social sciences and as the culmination of the math/science program in high school. The course typically begins with a review of basic functions from algebra and trigonometry and then introduces the theory of limits, the definition of the derivative, and the basic machinery required for differentiating polynomial, trigonometric, and exponential functions. Antidifferentiation, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and integration follow, and the course aims to conclude by reconsidering elementary functions as polynomials with familiar calculus structures “built in.”
This course presents the challenges of traditional chemistry, and offers solid background for college chemistry courses. It provides seniors with a broader perspective, integrating contemporary science and the more humane approach of the science main lessons they have had throughout high school.
The first trimester focuses on an introduction to chemistry including data analysis, the properties of matter, and the configuration of the atom and its relationship to the basic sub-atomic particles. During the second trimester we progress to the periodic table and the placement of elements within the table, and study the relationships of elements in both ionic and covalent compounds and the bonds formed in each. The third trimester addresses stoichiometry and the quantitative relationships between substances in reactions, in solutions, and as gases. We finish with a study of the nucleus and radioactivity.
Human Development Elective*
This course focuses on child development from the point of view of physiological, emotional, and cognitive development. The emphasis is on understanding how various theories and perspectives, including those of Rudolf Steiner, form a picture of the growing child. Throughout the year, students visit a particular class in our early childhood on a weekly basis, building a deep connection to the young child through careful observation of developmental skills and the Waldorf curriculum. Texts have included traditional textbooks in human development which expose students to Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, BF Skinner and others, as well as works such as: A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson; the Acquisition of Language in Children 5 to 10 by Carol Chomsky; Childhood by Caroline von Heydebrand; and The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettleheim.
Light and Modern Physics Seminar
This final Physics main lesson offers students an opportunity to reflect not only upon the phenomena at hand, but also upon the nature of scientific enquiry itself. At the same time that we continue careful laboratory work, we complement our direct observations with primary texts from physicists with distinctly different intentions. Newton, Goethe, Young, and Feynman all address common phenomena of light but come to very different interpretations of the nature of light and the purpose of science. As the seniors immerse themselves in these texts, they are invited to consider what the purpose of science could be in the adult lives they are about to enter.
This main lesson is devoted to discussing the history of evolutionary theory as well as to an examination of the phylogenetic tree. Beginning with the worldview of the Greek philosophers, students learn about the development of ideas as people made observations of living organisms and existing land masses as well as amassing data from the fossil record. Students spend time making groups determined by morphology.
* Not all electives or courses are offered every year.
French Level IV
This course promotes a greater knowledge of French culture and language. It aims to further the development of students’ proficiency in speech, writing and comprehension. Students read, discuss, and analyze unabridged modern and classic French novels, French press, watch French films, and write essays based on the material. In addition to the above curriculum and depending on the students’ choice, this course can be used to prepare for the Advanced Placement French language test.
German Level IV
German IV is geared towards the needs of students to review and deepen grammar. Reading texts include newspaper articles, short stories and novels that are reviewed and discussed orally and in writing; the students also present a basis for essays. The course strives to reach greater fluency in conversation and discussion, and focuses on student’s everyday life, personal interests, and a deepening of his understanding of German culture.
Spanish Level IV
This is an advanced course in Spanish composition and conversation. The course focuses on extensive reading, the enrichment of vocabulary and idioms, and the further development of conversational skills. Students are expected to recognize and discuss the literary merits of highlighted authors and their contributions and influence on Spanish culture. A great deal of emphasis is placed on sentence structure, especially the most difficult points of grammar and usage. Students study the work of Spanish painters and watch various films related to their work and life. Oral presentations are assigned, and at least one play will be seen during the year.
Art History Main Lesson
This course for seniors covers the broad subject of Modern European art, from the mid-19th century through the first few decades of the 20th century. The course begins with Courbet and the Realist movement and ends with the Surrealists and the emergence of abstract art. The class strongly emphasizes a clear understanding of the various trends in art and their influences that occurred in Europe, most often in France, from approximately 1840 to 1930. Students trace the modern artist’s revolt against tradition and his dynamic search for new freedoms of expression in which subjective feeling is favored over objective observation. Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism, Expressionism, Matisse and the Fauves, Picasso and the development of Cubism are among the many topics that are discussed and explored during this block.
This afternoon block is designed to teach students the process of forming and cutting an image in linoleum to be inked and printed. The teacher shows slides of prints from woodcuts, Alaskan stone carved prints and linoleums. The students observe the ways to depict shading in positive and negative, using lines, cross hatching, solid shadow, and stippling. The students also think about background and perspective before preparing their own drawings. The students learn the proper use of cutting tools, ink rolling tools, and finally how to print on paper with a variety of color. The teacher requires an initial successful print in black and white before experimentation with color.
Oil Painting Elective
This year-long course in Oil Painting offered to senior students emphasizes basic studio techniques and skills while seeking to develop each student’s visual sensibility. Studies in color and composition continue throughout the year. Still-life arrangements, portraits and self-portraits, and work from photographs and reproductions are examples of the diversified subject matter introduced in the course.
Similar to the 11th grade sculpture class, students have the choice of making a sculpture out of stone or wood. They are challenged to reveal the special qualities and beauty of the material they have chosen. They advance their skills with woodworking materials in the shop, particularly gouges, during this last year of sculpture.
The Senior Play Production
The Senior Play production takes place at the end of the school year, and is a culmination of the students’ education at the Rudolf Steiner High School. The 12th grade students contribute to every element of this fully-staged production from acting, sets, costumes and publicity, to the choice of play. Students are deeply committed to the success of this project, as their play is performed for the general public as well as the school community. The students work as an ensemble to create a lasting portrait of their graduating class. Past productions have included: Inherit the Wind; Pride and Prejudice; You Can’t Take It With You; and The Wizard of Oz.
Eurythmy is a series of expressive movement exercises unique to Waldorf education. In Eurythmy classes, students learn how to bring music and poetry into physical expression, thereby gaining a better understanding of these arts. Eurythmy also teaches dexterity, grace, poise, balance, and concentration.
Participation in Chorus for one and a half periods per week is required. Students sing a wide range of music and experience a variety of genres. Self-expression becomes a window into communal music-making and into other cultures. The process of preparing music is as important as the final result; students are graded on their participation in the Thanksgiving, Holiday and Spring Assemblies, and graduation.
Guitar and Fretted Instruments Elective
The goals of this class include playing in time together, sight reading and playing by ear, building up left- and right-hand technique, and caring for the instrument. An even more important aim is to encourage both a regular habit of practice and a willingness to explore music one might not initially prefer. Though fretted instruments are the focus, other string instruments are welcome in the mix. Although the ensemble is principally instrumental, singing with accompaniment happens nearly every week.
Jazz Band Elective
The Jazz Band plays music from standard jazz charts as well as big band and swing arrangements. Students are taught basic jazz theory and improvisational skills and are encouraged to perform solos at each concert. The Jazz Band is frequently featured at school benefit functions, and also performs at assemblies, the annual Spring Concert, and graduation. The Jazz Band meets weekly.
The orchestra plays music from the standard symphonic repertoire. Works from the Baroque through our own era are featured at school assemblies, concerts and various community functions. Music performed in recent years includes Bizet’s “Carmen Suite”, excerpts from Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”, and Copland’s “Hoedown” from his ballet Rodeo. The orchestra meets weekly.
West African Drumming Ensemble, Caribbean Drumming, Brazilian Drumming
These ensembles provide students without prior training an entry point for community music-making. Percussion is taught through imitation, similar to the way young people are taught in an indigenous setting. Students are also exposed to the cultural and ethnic context of the music, and learn the reasons for and meaning of the music. Classes meet weekly and ensembles perform at concerts and assemblies.
Recorder Ensemble Elective
This beginning ensemble provides students with little or no musical training an entry point for group music making. Students learn the fundamentals of pitch, rhythm and notation and learn to play in a group. Although students begin on the soprano recorder, they are also encouraged to pick up alto and tenor recorders to learn the various qualities and challenges of each instrument. The advanced ensemble is for students with prior recorder training who wish to advance their skills.
During the late spring of senior year, students participate in a three-week internship program. For a minimum of six hours a day, students will serve as interns in a professional work environment. This is seen as the culminating experience of high school, transitioning students into the larger and more challenging environment of the professional world. Internship placements are done in conjunction with students’ interests, and sometimes lead to employment during summer months or even after college.