• Humanities (English and History for grades 9 & 10

Humanities 9 
  • Explores the relevance of ancient texts and cultures of the Mediterranean, India, and China to emphasize connections to today’s world;
  • Allows students to apply the Humanities lens to the contemporary world through a student-centered, inquiry-driven format.
  • Connect the essential questions of Humanities 9 to Cleveland
  • Focuses on the development of essential reading, writing, presentation, collaboration, critical thinking, and research skills

Sample 9th grade Humanities Intensives:
  • Happiness Now 
  • Many Stories - Race, Gender, and Class in America 
  • Radiolab 
  • Sports and Culture 
  • Talkin’ Trash
  • We, The People (Immigration)

Humanities 10 
  • Explores the history and literature of the regions and peoples bordering the Atlantic Ocean since 1500 C.E.  
  • Addresses the following question in depth: How have people on both sides of the Atlantic interacted, and how have these interactions shaped their lives and ours?What did the peoples of Europe, Africa, and the Americas write about their worlds?What realities of the last 600 years led them to make the decisions they did?
  • Allows students to widen their Humanities lens to what is going on nationally in our own country
  • Connects the essential questions of Humanities 10 to Cleveland and beyond, including study of immigration, economics and cultural anthropology

Sample 10th grade humanities intensives:
  • Haunted Cleveland: Living with Ghosts
  • Young Rebels: Youth Identity through Storytelling and Performance
  • Latino Immigration: Cleveland and Beyond
  • Encountering “The Other”: Understanding Cultural Difference in the Modern World
  • Money Makes the World Go Round: How the Economy Shapes the Modern World

English Course offerings for Grades 11 & 12

English Honors 11 
  • Offers a rigorous course of study in American literature, from early American to twenty-first century authors, with a particular emphasis on the twentieth century
  • Delves deeply into literary texts of all genres (including novels, short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama) and thinking about a text in its historical, social, and/or structural contexts
  • Requires a love of reading literature due to the high level and fast pace of the course

AP English Literature & Composition
  • Examines literature from the 16th century to the present at the college level
  • Develops and hones skills in close reading, critical thinking and analytical writing
  • Emphasizes the careful explication and close analysis of short fiction, the novel, poetry, drama and nonfiction from a variety of time periods written by authors from a diversity of backgrounds 
  • Studies the application of rhetorical and literary devices of the English language includingbut not limited to diction, figurative language, tone, mood, syntax, structure and allusion. 

  • AP English Language & Composition

    Focuses on the critical reading of fiction and nonfiction, and the writing of substantial analytical essays in response to these texts
  • Studies a wide range of expository patterns including description, narration, argumentation, and persuasion in texts from many different time periods and cultures
  • Hones students' skills as writers through the careful study of rhetorical devices and strategies
  • Explore the expressive potential of the English language while studying such components as diction, syntax, tone, structure, and meaning

Senior Thesis
  • Develops extended writing projects that meet a 30-page requirement
  • Involves weekly small group and individual progress meetings along with frequent workshops while project is in process
  • Includes a defense of that project to a reading panel and public presentation to the school

Semester Seminars
A Century of Film
  • Establishes a critical vocabulary and apparatus to watch and evaluate films and to examine and reflect on some of the richest films of the last hundred years
  • Represents the most of the important movements, countries, and artists
  • Addresses the conventions and techniques unique to film as a narrative form: editing, camera angles and movement, transitions, length of takes and framing
  • Requires students to write critical interpretations of films as well as script, film and edit three short films

Creative Nonfiction
  • Introduces the genre of creative non-fiction, familiarizing students with “literary” essays, memoir and journalism, both classic and contemporary
  • Focuses on writers whose work argues that art need not imitate life nor vice versa; they can be one and the same
  • Explores how writers use their experiences and observations to make artful commentary on the world
  • Provides, through written assignments, an experiential basis for that same exploration
  • Requires considerable effort with regard to weekly writing assignments, workshops, and the creation of a creative nonfiction project

Finding Oneself in Ohio: Literature of the Buckeye State
  • Exposes students to prose and poetry by a diverse range of writers
  • Involves research on how place affects writing and reflection the student experience growing up

Future Now: Technology, Utopia, Dystopia
  • Examines the dynamic historical moment of the day, where intersections of exponentially changing technology have the potential to radically alter our lives in powerful, positive and terrible ways.
  • Explores competing visions of the way technology can change society for better or worse by examining non-fiction and speculative fiction
  • Involves researching current developments in AI, genetic editing, fission, biofuel, and the erasure of the man/machine barrierin order to understand the future we find ourselves in, and how best to prepare ourselves. 

Jewish-American Literature and Culture
  • Grapples with questions including: How does America provide a unique experience of living in the Jewish Diaspora?  What benefits and obstacles do American Jews face? How does American Jewry balance the American pressure to assimilate with the Jewish pressure to be different?  What, precisely, is the Jewish-American experience?
  • Examine cornerstones of the Jewish-American experience from 1880 to present; examples of areas of focus include the Holocaust in American memory and Jewish humor and pop culture
  • Immerses students in Jewish-American culture from food to film

Philosophical Classics
  • Introduces philosophers who have pondered questions like: How do I make sense of a world that seems uncertain? Is there more to life than meets the eye? What should I do with my life?
  • Encourages students to emulate these philosophers to become “lovers of wisdom”
  • Teaches students not only to evaluate a philosopher’s views, but also to examine their own through application of philosophical views, interpretation of historical texts, and personal engagement with the big questions
  • Examines works of contemporary fiction through the lens of postmodern literary theory.
  • Explores such postmodern themes/concepts as the fallibility of language (words themselves are merely symbols), metafiction (writing about writing), and the complexities of “truth” vs. “fiction” (can fiction tell the truth and are multiple truths possible?)
  • Focuses on the ways in which postmodernism (and/or poststructuralism) pushes and challenges the boundaries of traditional literary structure and why

Reading America
  • Considers what it really means to "make America great again"
  • Explores the origins, significance and evolution of America, the idea, so that we can be literate in America’s greatness, its failings, and its possibilities
  • Develops, through exposure to and discussion of American Literature, each student's sense of America - its triumphs and failings - as well as a personal vision for how we might, in the words of our Constitution, “form a more perfect union”

Russian/Soviet Literature
  • Examines, through reading Russian poetry, themes from short stories, novels, and plays,
  • Explores, by understanding their historical context, how writers have both defined and wrestled with their Russian culture

Vision and Revision
  • Exposes students to pairs of texts – a canonical or established/classic text paired with its 20th or 21st century re-envisioning of that text
  • Examinea how one author creates and represents society in literature and how another author, decades later, recreates that society or its concerns from a contemporary perspective 
  • Challenges students to understand how the multiple interpretations of literary texts are possible and how differing interpretations reflect particular cultural and historical conditions that change over time

Voices from the Fringe
  • Examines, through novels, poems, and short stories, our society and our own places within it, considering questions like:What does it mean to be simultaneously “within” and “without”? How does it feel to be on the outside looking in? How do those on the margins, those outside of the power dynamic, see the world? 
  • Addresses those outside of power while also examining our tendencies to exclude, considering questions like: Whom do we exclude? Whom do we never speak of and why? What is it that makes us so afraid?

Conformity and the Art of Rebellion
  • Explores questions including: When faced with moments that make us angry or uncomfortable, why do we sometimes conform and at other times rebel? And when we do rebel, what is the difference between a protester and a rioter, a freedom fighter or a terrorist? Can art effect true and lasting change in the world?
  • Investigates - using philosophy, religion, psychology, history, literature, and theatre - the visual arts and music as possible grounds for inquiry
  • Explores how we use the arts to rebel and how we devise the most effective ways of doing so
  • Considers the disciplines that traditional education has nearly drawn for us and how the world conforms, configures, and sometimes reconfigures itself when the old ways and the old rules simply won’t get it done

The Civil War’s Legacy of Race: Skin Color as America’s Mania
  • Explores, by reading authors of various racial backgrounds, genders, and centuries, questions including: Why is race still such a divisive issue, 150 years AFTER the Civil War?  Why does skin color matter?
  • Includes an independent project that asks students to investigate a topic that perplexes them and that will inspire class conversations that incorporate literature, film, scholarship, and media 

Do You Feel at Home?
  • Explores questions including: What constitutes a home?  Is home a place you want to be or to escape from? Is a home a tangible thing like a building or a geographic locale? Is home a state of mind? A feeling? A memory? An attitude? Is home individual or communal?  How does our experience of “home” shape who we are – particularly in the mobile 21st Century?
  • Expands our thinking about the word “home,” and all that it connotes, through our reading and analysis of both fiction and non-fiction
  • Examines the concept of home as something that may be both internal and external to us as human beings
Introduction to Poetry and Poetry Writing
  • Explores the process of reading and writing poetry
  • Studies craft elements and the choices that poets make, the importance of imagery, word choice, sound, and structure
  • Examines various poetry movements, styles, and forms (including pantoums, sestinas, and prose poems), learning from the greats and the controversial, old and new
  • Includes poetry writing exercises as we craft and work-shop our own pieces
  • Requires analytical writing about poets and poems and a final project about a particular poet/collection

Introduction to Screenwriting
  • Provides a foundation in the principles and techniques of writing for film and television
  • Focuses on story structure, character development, tone, genre, and attention to audience
  • Considers both the technical and creative aspects of the medium
  • Requires students to develop and produce finished works at a level that is both effective and reflective of individual voice

Matriarchs: The Stories of Powerful Women
  • Examines what it means to be a matriarch through reading novels, poems, short stories, and fairytales
  • Addresses what it means to be a woman, a mother, and the head of a family as well asbhow power is gained and at what cost
  • Studies powerful women  in these works who have struggled and sacrificed for their family or their community
  • Asks students to reflect on the stories were told as children about what it means to be a woman how that identity intersects with race, religion, class, and sexuality
  • Encourages students tol write their own stories about power and privilege and marginalization

Media Literacy
  • Unpacks, through critical thinking skills, the implicit messages about consumerism, gender, race and activism conveyed through television, movies, music, social media, and other pop culture
  • Studies scholarship, documentaries, blogs and more
  • Includes analysis as well as media creation
  • Provides students a chance to apply their creativity, self-expression, and activism to deepen their understanding of their media-saturated world.

Philosophy and Justice: Evaluating the Criminal Justice System
When can the government tell me not to do something? Who should be in jail and for how long? Does philosophy have anything to do with the real world?
  • Opens with an in-depth study of a Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in order to dramatize some of the issues and challenges of the law
  • Studies Mills’ On Liberty and other texts to understand the philosophical foundations of classical liberalism
  • Examines theories of punishment
  • Includes a visit the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to sit in on real legal cases and discuss justice with a sitting judge
  • In teams, students examine a problem or controversy of their choosing in our criminal justice system and propose a solution or resolution to that problem.

Story: The Art of Fiction
  • Explores the craft of writing fiction through both reading and writing short stories
  • Exposes students to a wide range of 20th century authors as well as several single author collections, including Jerry Gabriel, ZZ Packer, Dan Chaon, and  Flannery O’Connor
  • Requires students, over the course of the semester, to complete several short stories
  • Features a weekly student workshop that provides peer review for developing students work 
  • Requires an independent research project that asks students to dive deep into the work of a single contemporary author and a class reading project that will ask students to present their best story to a wider audience

Intensive Courses

From Wonderland to Hogwarts to Hawken: An Exploration of Children’s Literature and Experiential Learning
  • Considers questions including: What makes the experience of returning to Wonderland, Hogwarts and so many other literary wonderlands so special? Why does Children’s Literature endure and continue to captivate young and old readers alike?
  • Explore's Lewis Carroll’s seminal 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and J.K.  Rowling’s spellbinding 1997 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s 
  • Addresses and puta to use John Dewey’s and, by extension, James Hawken’s ideas about experiential education to uncover the unique educational opportunities afforded by children’s literature
  • Enables students to recreate the magical worlds of our protagonists and learn, just like our protagonists, by doing
  • Includes analytical writing and group presentations
  • Requires students to assume the role of teachers in partnering with elementary school children in the Cleveland area

  • Explores homelessness—the condition itself, its causes and complications, noteworthy individual and community responses—with a focus on Cleveland
  • Includes problem-based learning, research, service learning, reading, creative nonfiction writing, discussion and presentation
  • Requires students to work on-site in teams at a service agency (in or near downtown Cleveland) each afternoon throughout the three week period
  • Addresses a brief history of American journalism
  • Explores the foundational principles of the field, expose students to several important exemplars of journalism including Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
  • Guides students to create their own pieces of incisive journalism
  • Requires students to compose stories as well as make documentaries and podcasts as well as write thesis-based essays that focus on their readings and the journalistic concepts that we explore

Dogs: (Hu)man’s Best Friend
  • Explores questions like: How do dogs make life better? How can dogs be viewed as role models? How do dogs help the world work? Why have (hu)man(s) and dogs always been connected? What can we learn from (hu)man’s best friend and our relationships with them? 
  • Covers everything from the domestication of dogs, to the psychology of dogs, to dogs performing service in the world to breeding issues, to kennel adoption statistics, to some elements of veterinary science
  • Involves partnership with various local organizations
  • Discusses excerpts from books such as How Dogs Love Us, A Dog's Purpose, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Dog Songs (poems by Mary Oliver), and Inside a Dog, as well as other literary texts
  • Touches upon the presence of dogs in literature, going all the way back to The Odyssey and Greek mythology - as well as significant dogs in history such as Balto and Pavlov's dog

In the Footsteps of Seneca Falls: Political Rights and Artistic Voices
  • Considers questions like: What happened in the past two centuries to produce one of the most revolutionary changes in human history? How did women gain political power and their artistic voice in the United States?  What insights and expressions have women brought to literature? What is their legacy today? Is the job finished or is there still work to be done?
  • Explores woman’s lives in the hundred years between the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 and the Ratification of the 19th Amendment (granting woman the right to vote) in 1920
  • Focuses on the lives of four women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harriet Tubman for their political activities and Emily Dickinson and Edith Wharton for their literary works
  • Includes visits to the former homes of these women, now dedicated as museums, in upstate New York and western Massachusetts during the first week of the course
  • Examines theses women's writings and lives to gain insight into their ideas, their ideals and goals, their strategies and their compromises

The Wild
  • Brings together literature of the wilderness, leadership training, personal reflection, backcountry experience and significant non-fiction writing
  • Includes readings from a wide selection of authors who have wrestled with mankind’s relationship to the natural world, documenting students' journeys in the Allegheny National Forest and down the Allegheny River, and pursuing a nationally certified Wilderness First Responder training curriculum.
  • Provides students with the skills and training to safely explore some truly wild spaces, literary models for making meaning of that exploration, experiences of primitive camping in a challenging environment, and guidance to write about those experiences effectively
  • Includes Hard skills training including shelter and fire building, basics of climbing safety, orienteering, and Wilderness First Responder Certification through an 80 hour course taught by SOLO instructor
  • Demands significant afternoon and evening time during WFR certification and full-time investment during the trip component
  • Requires students to pass a series of skills tests on campus, the WFR written exam, the WFR practical exam, and a two-day solo experience
Advocacy: GOA Learning Studio (Global Online Academy)
  • Explores the creativity, effort, and diversity of techniques required to change people’s minds and motivate them to act
  • Culminates in a multimedia presentation delivered and recorded before a live audience
An independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school, toddler through grade 12

Lower & Middle Schools, 5000 Clubside Rd, Lyndhurst, OH 44124
Birchwood School of Hawken, 4400 West 140th Street, Cleveland, OH 44135 

Upper School, PO Box 8002 (12465 County Line Rd), Gates Mills, OH 44040
Mastery School of Hawken, 11025 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

Gries Center, 10823 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106

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