Grade 10

As the tenth graders’ thinking capacity deepens, tension between opposites gives way to a sense for process and transformation over time. Comparative and process thinking – i.e. how one thing relates to the other, how parts work together in the context of the whole, how forms develop, and how substance is transformed – underlie the subjects of the Tenth Grade curriculum.

Balance and harmony are made visible in the flowering of Greek culture in all the arts, from the elegant simplicity and equilibrium of forces in temple architecture to the classical grace of Greek sculpture. Greek philosophy seeks for the middle way, proportion, and the dynamic harmonies of the music of the spheres revealed in the elements and qualities of Nature.

In light of the underlying theme of balance, Chemistry studies acids and bases and salts. That such volatile and caustic concentrated opposites are transformed in uniting to neutral salt as a precipitate is a wonder. Such experiments are not only fascinating in application to modern industrial processes, but have an inner resonance as well. When Tenth Grade students in Physics study mechanics, the balance of forces makes movement transparent to reason. What confidence in the power of clear thinking arises when a bowling ball rolls down a ramp from the second story to land exactly, predictably, on a cup of water? In Technology, students design their own model bridges to achieve strength and span without excessive material costs. As the model bridges are load tested to see which designs work the best, a living experience of the balance between stress and structure arises.

Similarly, the Fine and Practical Arts as well as the eurythmy classes reverberate with experiences of balance. The harmonizing of colors in the Goethean color wheel, the delicate balancing of the proportions of the head in sculpture class, singing together in the High School Chorus, working together on the Tenth Grade surveying field trip, the rhythmic activity of weaving – all work toward the harmonizing of opposites in new balance.


The Odyssey

The Odyssey by Homer stands as a literary monument at the beginning of Western civilization. Not only is this a look at Greek heroes from the Golden Age, but also it is an introduction to Quest literature, to be taken up later in Parzival and Faust. The epic throws light on the Greek consciousness while simultaneously revealing how relevant it can still be.

We begin by looking at what it means to take a journey, examining both the inner and outer aspects. After a brief historical and geographical overview of Greece we focus on Homer and The Odyssey. The emphasis of the daily reading includes an exploration of the plot, themes, characters, structure, language and style, and the influence of Homer over the millennia. While pursuing the deeper meanings within this epic we try to determine their relevance in relation to our own age and ourselves. Written work – both academic and creative – is assigned throughout the block, balanced by some artistic component.

Poetry – Main Lesson

Against the background question of “What is poetry?” and the ongoing attempt to characterize its nature, we traverse the changing consciousness of humankind through the centuries by studying poetry. Along with this literary and historical study, the students are taught the technical aspects of meter and rhythm and are required to write poems in the styles of many of the periods covered Special attention is given throughout to developing metaphoric imagery. This block is both a survey and an opportunity for exercising the poetic ear and voice.

English II

Students explore expository writing with an emphasis on style and mechanics in a seminar style class. Grammar, voice, point of view, mood and structure are covered in exercises including observation, comparison/contrast, and argument.

During this course students explore the art of creative writing from various angles with the aim of freeing thoughts and finding our voice. Through a wide range of exercises – approached in a playful manner – we learn to observe our surroundings as well as ourselves. Waking up to the outer and inner worlds fosters clarity of thought, purposefulness, and a sense for the details of life. An integral part of this course is to work together as an ensemble – to write together and to listen to one another’s work. This encourages mutual appreciation and a true sense of achievement. Students also continue to deepen literary analysis skills, expository writing, and vocabulary building, and grammar confidence.



The block begins with the golden mean and the curve formed by its whirling squares. The conic section curves are first discovered as loci of fixed distances and drawn as curves of addition and subtraction. Then, these same curves are discovered within cuts of the cone. The introduction of the parabola is followed by a discussion of Rene Descartes and his methods. The students are then introduced to the Cartesian coordinate plane including the equations for lines, parabolas, circles and ellipses.


The session includes two units of work. The first unit is the quadratic formula to complement the main lesson work. Coordinate geometry follows the conics main lesson block and included work with plotting point and lines. Coordinate geometry work continues with lines, slopes, intercepts and parallel and perpendicular lines. The tenth grade session concludes the year with coordinate geometry review work and the beginning of the PSAT preparation that will continue in the fall.

Algebra II

The year begins with a review of averages, percentages, proportions and ratios. Work continues with a unit on formulas including algebraic manipulations of abstract variables. Students are assigned a series of problem sets. Each unit consists of an additional review, a practice test and an exam.


Trigonometry covers the basic trigonometric relationships of sine, cosine and tangent. Both theoretical and practical triangle problems are studied, with a significant portion of the class devoted to basic surveying technique. The class concludes with a week-long practicum, where the students complete a survey and create a map.



Our study of human physiology focuses on themes of human interaction with the environment, and also the relationship between form and function in the workings of the organs. We spend time drawing and learning about the heart and cardiovascular system, the lung, the kidney, and the liver and gall bladder. We also consider the reproductive system as it relates to embryology. In addition to completing essay assignments and anatomical drawings and diagrams, the students participate in hands-on lab exercises, observations, and discussions.


Grade 10 physics is the study of mechanics. Students work with forces, resultants, equilibrants, resolution of forces, and moment. The class spends a significant amount of time with the topics of balance and equilibrium. Our work continues with motion, speed, acceleration, and Newton’s three laws. Students spend time on various mathematical models, including distance, time, velocity and work, power, and energy. The block concludes with independent investigations of simple machines.


The 10th grade chemistry block focuses on the nature and relationships of salts, acids and bases. The block starts with a look into the character of substances in crystalline form. Properties of solutions and the processes of dissolving and crystallizing salts in water are explored. The phenomenon of osmosis is explored. A variety of salts are observed and tasted. This is followed by a deeper investigation into the nature of salts by the thermal decomposition of copper sulfate, calcium nitrate and other salts into their formative acid and base components. Acidic and alkaline characteristics are qualitatively explored along with an introduction to the pH scale. The class finishes with observations of some reactions between acids, bases and salts in solution and some of the phenomena associated with electrolysis.

Social Studies

History through Poetry

Against the background question of “What is poetry?” and the ongoing attempt to characterize its nature, the changing consciousness of humankind through the centuries is traversed by studying poetry from the earliest to the present time. Along with this literary and historical study, the students are taught the technical aspects of meter and rhythm and are required to write poems in the styles of many of the periods covered. These include Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, a riddle, a ballad, a Chaucerian character sketch, and a sonnet, as well as free verse and syllabic poetry. Special attention is given throughout to developing metaphoric imagery. This block is both a survey and an opportunity for exercising the poetic ear and voice.

Democracy and Government

This civics block explored the foundations and processes of United States government. Students followed the evolution of democracy from its beginnings in Ancient Greece, through The Roman Republic and The Enlightenment to the founding of the United States. Our study culminated with an in-depth look at U.S. government today. Topics included: The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, the Executive Office, the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch and the election process.

Ancient History

Humanity’s relationship to the land is emphasized as the class explores the early river valley civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, covering the time period of 10,000 BCE – 200 CE. Developments in technology, culture, religion, and government are studied through shifts in human consciousness, beginning with the hunter-gatherer and moving on to the birth of agriculture, settlement of first communities, the Sumerian city-state, and technological innovation in Egypt and China. Students examine primary source materials, including myths, laws, maps, treaties, art, and artifacts.

Fine and Practical Arts


The rehearsal process researches the art of ensemble building, character development, and performance toward the creation of a full scale production.

Painting I

In this course, students work with pastels to create pastel paintings, primarily of landscapes. Starting with the essential elements of design and then building layers of color, along the way students learn aspects of composition and color selection, color harmony, balance, mood and contrast. The students work from pictures of their selection, transposing them into pastel paintings.  There is also some opportunity to work outdoors, directly from nature.

Painting II

In this short block the students get reintroduced to color after not painting in ninth grade. The class starts with the Goethean color sequence. After a few preliminary sketches every student decides on a composition for this color sequence and paints a watercolor veil painting of carefully built up soft layers of paint to create a full spectrum painting. The second project of this block is a tissue paper collage, not unlike a veil painting but created out of tissue paper. The students choose an animal and then try with their collage to capture a color mood that represents the animal well. The initial background of this piece is abstract and eventually the animal of choice emerges as a form out of the overlapping colors of paper. Watercolor paint is used to bring the animal to completion.


In this course students make a study of the human face and head, culminating in the modeling of a full size bust in clay. Both anatomical accuracy and an aesthetic approach to the expression of character are emphasized.


With a basic introduction to rigid frame bridge design the students are given the objective of designing a bridge on paper, building the bridge using 1/8th inch balsa strip wood and carpenters glue and then load testing the bridge (resulting in destruction of the model). To achieve their objective students have to work with constraints on dimensions, construction techniques and materials.


Each tenth grader prepares a four harness loom for weaving and completed a scarf.


Speech and Music eurythmy is taught in the mid-day classes for grades 9-12, and the seniors also have an additional block of artistic eurythmy which may culminate in a performance.

Music – Chorus

All high school students sing in our mixed chorus.  Singing technique, breathing, diction, musical awareness and a refined sense of listening are the main goals..  The students take pride in fine performances.  Our big events are the Messiah concert in the winter and the closing events each year where a capella and accompanied choral music is featured. We also perform at all-school assemblies.  In addition to the difficult Messiah choruses, the students sing classic choral music, jazz, and popular selections and music from around the world.

World Languages II

A choice of Spanish or German is offered and students will continue with that language throughout high school. The goal of the language program is to go beyond basic reading and conversational skills to develop a living connection to the language of choice and related cultures. Year two of the World Languages program further develops students’ grammar, writing, speaking, and reading skills. Many students go on exchange during the course of grade 10 or grade 11.

Physical Education

Activities range from outdoor competitive games to indoor movement classes including dance and pilates.

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.