Grade 11

The Eleventh Grade curriculum allows students to search out their independent paths. The Parzival Main Lesson block, the archetype of the Grail Quest, speaks with great immediacy to the eleventh grader; students find 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 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 history of 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.



Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic Parzival is a literary masterpiece dating back to the Middle Ages. 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 a work by Shakespeare and often performs scenes. In class students take parts and participate in reading speeches and scenes. Written assignments may 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.

The Romantics

This course examines the impulse behind the Romantic revolution in literature and poetry, looking at the preceding Age of Reason against which the Romantics rebelled. Students also enjoy the opportunity to create their own poetry, inspired by the style and themes of the poets we study.

English III

The students read and study a variety of literary works including utopian and dystopian fiction such as 1984 by George Orwell. They continue to reinforce their expository and creative writing skills and work with skills necessary for SAT or ACT testing such as vocabulary building and grammar skills.


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.

Math III

Students are placed in groups according to their current ability in mathematics.  The groups cover logic, trigonometry, work with constants and imaginary numbers. They review algebra at the beginning of the session as appropriate to their level of knowledge and move on to pre-calculus including PSAT preparation coordinate geometry, and systems of equations. Functions are also covered.

Practical Finance 

Practical finance is offered as an enrichment class. 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.


Embryology and Genetics

In this course, the class studies the cell, not as the unit of all life, but in the context of embryology. 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 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.


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 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. 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.

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 Carta, the Black Plague, and the rebirth of classical knowledge through trade routes

Civil War to Civil Rights

Focusing on American history from 1860-1965, this block 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.

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.

Fine and 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.

Stained 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 include 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. Some classes build a group project. These included a boat, a kayak, and shop work benches.


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.

Book Binding

This arts block focuses on the craft of traditional bookbinding. Students create examples from the history of bookmaking including simple single signature folios, fold books, and Ethiopian Coptic books. The final project consists of a traditional hardcover case-bound book, which the students may use as a sketchbook during their senior trip to Italy. Successful projects require careful planning, precision and good design skills.


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.


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 Level III

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

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

Enrichment Classes

Enrichment electives vary annually. Below are some sample class descriptions.


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.

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.

Philosophy of Religion

Explorations of classic philosophical texts and methodologies in the context of religious thought provide the basis for this class.

Practicum / Interships

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.

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.