Reading and writing, thinking and discussing, practicing and revising, memorizing and implementing. These are all elements of our multi-disciplinary Humanities course, and each semester we use these methods to help us complete a project (called an “expedition”) that has relevance, meaning and challenges.
Rather than offer one class for literature, another for history, and another for writing, our Humanities course ties many connected subjects into one holistic learning experience. At the 6th and 7th grade levels, the subjects included in this course are as follows:
In 8th grade, the subjects remain the same, but are separated into two distinct courses, Humanities and 8th grade Writing. To help students prepare for high-school level writing we offer a high school prep 8th Grade Writing course exclusively for 8th graders. We recommend that our 8th grade students enroll in Humanities (which includes Social Studies, Literature, Art and Memorization) along with 8th Grade Writing (which includes Language Arts.)
In our Humanities (6th/7th grade and 8th grade) classes, we look at lessons, patterns and major ideas from history. The human condition offers rich opportunities for colloquia, simulation, and projects, and we build classes that dive deeply into questions and circumstances that beg to be understood.
Language arts elements are woven throughout the curriculum. Reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing are essential to understanding the humanities. Students’ ability to fluently speak, write, listen and read are honed through practice, and through projects specifically designed to draw attention to these things.
Literature is a staple that offers insight into the humanities, and also helps students refine their language arts skills. We use literature that is worth reading and re-reading; we frequently choose texts that have withstood the test of time, yet when we find excellent recent literature, that also becomes a class staple.
In each Humanities class we emphasize the education of the whole person, including the education of the senses through art and music. We utilize art as one of the great ways to develop the refinement and discernment of the senses. Memorization through song and rhymes also plays an important role throughout each term. Students become fluent in rhythm and meter, gain confidence with speaking, and become more attentive listeners. By incorporating art into learning, Williamsburg promotes well-rounded, thoughtful students.
Relevance, challenge, meaning
All of these subjects – social studies, language arts, literature, art, memorization, and writing – are woven into one cohesive expedition. Expeditions are chosen based on topics that
have relevance to youth
are rich with historical lessons
offer a unique challenge that students have a high incentive to complete
and have a meaningful end product.
The path to the end product is student-driven; students, with the assistance of a mentor, identify compelling questions, brainstorm necessary steps for completion, choose deadlines, gather materials and develop skills essential to completing the end product.
End products are chosen before the semester begins by the mentor, and are based on meeting real needs of authentic audiences. Frequently these end products offer opportunities for service learning. Through this process, students see the real-life impact of their studies. They begin to see how they are connected to family, community and national events; and they develop skills and knowledge they can build on in future classes as they become aware of their natural gifts and learning inclinations.
Macro & micro perspectives
This process is inside-out and outside-in. We look at both the internal and external driving factors behind learning and leadership. We analyze history on a macroscale (what was happening world-wide in the 19th Century?) and microscale (what did Churchill do in his youth that later augmented his leadership capacity?) We desire that students connect their personal lives to their reading and writing, and their talents and interests to the end product. The result is something truly excellent, and deeply inspirational.
How it works
Live class interaction:
Humanities/Social Studies Class – (50 min x 2 / week). Students meet twice a week with their Humanities mentor in classes with 20 – 35 students. We discuss classics that have changed the world, we share ideas and questions, and we work together towards a meaningful project that has real-life implications.Weekly project buffets are introduced, and students report on successful projects. We learn about men and women who have asked big questions and done big things; we combine our energy and insight and come to our own answers about the questions we share.
Writing Seminars (6th/7th) – 30 min weekly, every Wed or Thur immediately after Humanities class. We share our writings, inspire each other as writers, and develop a solid foundation in writing through studying grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
8th Grade Writing (8th grade only) (50 min x 2 / week). Students meet with a writing mentor who guides them through exercises and lessons to help them become fluent formulaic writers. Weekly writing assignments are supported by office hours where students can go for one-on-one writing tutoring each week.
Individual work outside of class
In addition to class time, students spend time outside of class reading and working on projects and assignments. An outline of major projects and guiding questions is below.