Chewonki Semester School offers two English Classes that both fulfill high school junior year curriculums – Ethics and Literature and the Land. Here is what they’ve been working on these past few weeks.
In Ethics we are just completing a segment on the morality of abortion. The paper students are writing to complete this unit allows them to choose between four different prompts, each of which asks the student to reconcile views on (either) abortion and euthanasia or abortion and the death penalty. So, for example, one prompt is: Is it possible, (with moral consistency) to be in favor of capital punishment, yet opposed to all abortions? Another prompt is: Is it possible, (with moral consistency) to be permissive about abortion (‘pro-choice’), yet opposed to any form of euthanasia or assisted suicide?
These are tricky papers to write because the ideas the students must explore and articulate are complex, and because the papers can be difficult to organize. The ideas have to be carefully laid out, and set in the appropriate context so that apples can be compared to apples, and oranges to oranges.
We may literally be on the coast of Maine, but in “Literature and the Land” we are deep in the “Big Woods” of late 19th century Mississippi, exploring the relationship between a boy, a Chickasaw elder, a legendary beast, and the great wilderness that it ran. We have been reading The Bear, tracking Faulkner’s portrayal of the complex relationship between hunters and hunted, and the ways in which our identities are shaped by place and heritage. Next up: students will try their hands at putting some of Faulkner’s innovative writing techniques into practice by creating interior monologues based on personal experiences here on Chewonki Neck.
“Ethics class at Chewonki has taught me to question my beliefs and form ideas of my own. It has trained me to think my ideas through and thoroughly create and answer unique and thought provoking questions in an intellectual environment. Each class is engaging because of its conversational and personal format.” -Sophie, Berkeley Carroll School.
And finally, in Art and the Natural World, Students are wrapping up their value drawings before moving on to individual projects. I have been so impressed by their patience in learning to use gradual, smooth shading to create amazing drawings. They started with pencil, then explored using conté crayon and charcoal on colored paper which is much more difficult. Their skills are growing by leaps and bounds!
“I have taken many different art classes at school ranging from very traditional to shockingly progressive. I had no idea of what to expect from Chewonki; would we just be painting landscapes in the natural world? I love Sue’s class because we as students choose what most of our projects entail and focus on subjects that we connect with on a personal level. Our homework is often to experiment with a new material. Sue has taught me that the process is just as important as the final product and that is one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned throughout my time here.” Nellie, The Fieldston School.