Notes from the High School: Week 5

Chemistry students did not blow anything up this week, but they did discover how challenging it can be to separate and identify the parts of a mixture — which maybe makes it easier to understand why getting to the periodic table was neither a simple nor a straightforward process. (And while we're at it, let’s pause for a moment of solidarity with John Newlands, who was totally right about so many things and got mocked by his short-sighted colleagues.)

Geography has been a freewheeling adventure of national parks, major crops, and bad punning this week, but students are getting comfortable with U.S. geography. You never know what idea is the one that will make a fact stick for someone!

In Transcendentalism, we tackled Emerson’s “The American Scholar,” which has been called the American intellectual declaration of independence. (By Oliver Wendell Holmes, specifically, so add the size grain of salt you prefer there!) Emerson is calling for a break with Europe’s historical approach to learning, and encouraging his listeners to get out from behind dusty books and into the world to have meaningful experiences. We had some great conversations about the implications of these ideas and how they’ve played out over the centuries in U.S. educational policy.

We’re all witches, we decided in our Salem Witch trials unit, because doing anything out of the ordinary could get you accused of witchcraft — but, of course, doing nothing out of the ordinary is also suspicious because what are you hiding? We built a Puritan world view in which the supernatural is entangled with reality, where everything from the weather to weird root vegetables could be a sign of supernatural favor or impending doom and where life is governed by restrictive prohibitions against fun of every kind. Now we’re looking at some of the big personalities of the Salem Witch trials.

In Latin, everyone’s hard at work puzzling out more complex sentence constructions. A big shoutout to one of our juniors who took the GHP exam this week — we’re so proud of you! The vocabulary and grammar get more challenging the further we go in Latin, so building a strong foundation of understanding is really important. Even if it means the occasional practice test!

Math students are working through a myriad of challenging problems to prepare for the ACT/SAT like linear systems, quadratic factoring, completing the square, graphing circles and parabolas, special right triangles, and the quadratic formula. 

In Spanish, students are working on verb tenses and conjugations and competing to see who can make Jason translate the most ridiculous sentence. And let's face it: That’s a competition everybody wins.