9th Grade - Strengthening Powers of Observation


Developmental Picture of the Student

As ninth graders plunge into the changes of adolescence they also enter the realm of abstract thinking. Internal storms conflict with awakening clarity of thought, creating tension, struggle, even revolt. In a year when feelings can be all consuming, freshmen need to be gently directed towards objectivity. The question of the freshman year is “what?” as students practice accurate observation and clear recollection in various contexts. The ninth graders typically embrace high school with an enthusiasm that serves them well as they undertake new challenges.

How the Curriculum Meets the 9th Grader

Ninth grade studies embrace polarity. In physics, the topic is thermodynamics: warming meets cooling. In geography, it’s the clashing continents of plate tectonics. In literature, the defining block is comedy and tragedy, and in history it’s outright revolution—the story of the United States forming as a new nation, establishing its identity and governance.

Students are summoned to exercise powers of exact observation. In the sciences, they must accurately recall experiments and demonstrations; in the humanities they must recount clearly a sequence of events or the nature of a character without getting lost in the details. This focus on powers of observation and exact recollection strengthens the ninth graders’ core academic capacities and hones an essential life skill. It allows students to experience—in the often confusing wealth of phenomena of the world around them—the steady ballast of their own thinking.

In 9th grade curriculum, the students see their inner experiences reflected in the outside world.

Creative challenges are placed before the students in the art blocks. They work within restricted parameters, such as an exclusively black and white color palette, to learn the laws of portraiture and sketch their classmates, or to create and carve linoleum block prints. Copper work requires patience and decisiveness as each student “raises” a bowl and constructs a stand for it.

An important event in the ninth grade is the conclusion of the drama block when students present their scenes to the high school. Although this performance is purposely low key with minimal costumes and props, it is a time for the freshmen to emerge and “be seen” as a class. The all school camping trip in the fall—when seniors welcome freshmen to the high school—is another important social milestone.

In the spring freshmen take a two week trip to Community Homestead, an agricultural community in northern Wisconsin where they meet the challenge of living together and keeping house in close quarters while experiencing the rigorous rhythms of farm work.


9th graders study the dramatic events of The American Revolution and Civil Rights Movement




- Earth Science: Geology
- Physics: Thermal Physics
- Chemistry: Organic Chemistry
- Biology: Human Sense Organization
- Agriculture: Urban Agriculture and
  Sustainable Farming
- Mathematics: Probability, Permutations &
  Combinations, Track Options:Intro to Algebra,
  Algebra I, Geometry

- Comedy and Tragedy
- Revolutions
- History through Art
- English Track: 20th Century World History,
  American Civil Rights and the Harlem
  Renaissance, 20th Century Novels
  & Short Stories
- Essays, Grammar, Study Skills

- Calligraphy, Black and White Drawing
- Drama: The Monologue
- Metalwork: Copperwork and Enameling
- Clay Sculpture
- Practical Technology
- Block Printing
- All High School Chorus
- Music Elective Options: Chamber Ensemble,
  Jazz Band, Vocal Ensemble, African
  Drumming, Guitar I or Guitar II


- German & Spanish, levels 1 – 5

- Gym: physical activities and team-based
  sports promote health, movement,
 coordination, team dynamics and collaboration
  as well as social development
- Eurythmy: artistic movement in a social
  context includes complex patterns,
  coordinated group movement and
  interpretations of the roles of language
  translated into movement

All High School Camping Trip: Three
  days at the Indiana Dunes, building
  community and solidarity among students
  and faculty

- Agriculture Field Trip: Three days visiting
  local urban and rural farming initiatives and

- Community Service: Four days throughout
  the year volunteering for a variety of local
  service and non-profit organizations

- Service Learning: Two weeks at
  Community Homestead Farm, Osceola,