Before school campuses were closed on March 16th, SJI faculty and staff were busy preparing to make the transition to online instruction. We had many concerns; getting devices to students in need, getting all of our students acquainted with technology that previously had no place in our curriculum, but most importantly, what would our classes, which relied on class discussion and seminar or participation and group activities look like in the confines of the virtual classroom? How can we honor our curriculum which prizes student discovery and in-depth inquiry, in a medium designed for presenting information?
SJI rolled out the first phase of online learning on March 18th, with a schedule of assignments and tutoring sessions with teachers. When it became evident that the shutdown was not going to be over in two weeks, we moved on with our preparations for online classes and assessments, which launched April 1st.
One of the top priorities of developing our online platform was to continue to come together as a faith community. Our first online interaction as an entire school was to come together to pray the Divine Office, as we do every day on campus. We used Google Meet to present the readings and songs that were formerly in our binders and came together in prayer for our school and the world. Here you can experience our new way of praying Lauds over Google Meet.
Transitioning our seminar-based Humanities class to the remote classroom required careful planning. Understanding how to best facilitate classroom discussions through Google Meet meant modifying the rhythm of our in-person seminars. Our conversations have focused on developing meaningful interpretations of the beautiful texts that we are lucky enough to read together in evidence-based seminars. While we have all missed the experience of our in-person seminars, our remote seminars have been focused and joyful. Since the campus shutdown in mid-March, we have read The Song of Roland, Acts of the Apostles, The Phaedo and excerpts from Moby Dick. We are finishing the year reading Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground.
Amidst the many difficulties of switching to an online curriculum, a particular challenge for the Seminar in Mathematics was how to efficiently and effectively show graphing and computation to the students. Thanks to the purchase of a document camera, the students have been able to follow along with Mrs. Aujero and take notes as they normally would.
Mrs. Aujero has harnessed the help of a number of online technologies to support the mathematics curriculum. Students have used programs such as Geogebra to make graphs and Khan Academy for skills practice. They have also been able to study parabolas using Desmos, which allows them to both watch a teacher demonstration and explore on their own. Recently, students were able to learn about transformations using both a Desmos workspace and a good, old-fashioned whiteboard.
Throughout the time online, students have been encouraged to leave the screen and work by hand, so homework and assessments have often been submitted via image or PDF.
Finally, class has been sprinkled with small opportunities to better appreciate the beauty of mathematics and its use all around us. Students completed drawings curved in appearance, but created entirely of straight lines. They noticed that more lines made a smoother curve and were able to connect it to their drawings of n-gon’s from Unit 3. Together, they are keeping alive the math curriculum of SJI.
Throughout the past few weeks, the students have been learning with great online resources, such as Khan Academy and the Google Arts and Culture website. With such resources, we have examined a work art together supported by high detail zoom-ins and also some art historian commentaries on pieces of art.
In Art History, the students have continued work in their The Story of Art textbook, studying Raphael’s School of Athens, and the Last Supper by Tintoretto. They have compared Tintoretto and Titian’s work, and this week sat in meditation with some Caravaggio.
In Studio Art, the students continue working on rendering pieces of art, and are continuing to go through Charles Bargue’s drawing method. They are drawing feet, focusing primarily on lines, angles, and drawing with value.
The transition to online learning posed quite a challenge for our year 1 music curriculum, which focuses on making music together. Syncing our singing across and online platform was not possible, so we turned to focusing on music history and ear training, which the students can practice at home with assignment given through tonesavvy.com.
Students learned about the history of chant written exclusively to be sung at the Hagia Sophia, especially a fifteenth-century transcript Cherubic Hymn for the Hagia Sophia sung by Capella Romana. Stanford researchers recreated the acoustics of the space through recordings taken in the Hagia Sophia and producing a program that took input from the singers’ microphones and emulated the echos through speakers placed throughout the concert hall.
They have looked at the manuscript of one of the oldest recorded pieces of polyphony, Sumer Is Icumen In, and have practiced the melody and pronunciation of the Middle English in anticipation of when we can finally come together to sing the twelfth-century round.
In our online Latin classes, students have deepened their exploration of Latin grammar, and have continued to hone their skills of translation and composition. Students have recently considered numerous selections from Latin fables, and select passages from Scripture.
To conclude their first year of Latin studies at St. Jerome Institute, and in the spirit of the curricular theme of adventure and odyssey, students will have the opportunity to encounter selections from the Medieval accounts of the Life and Voyages of St. Brendan the Navigator.
During our remote instruction phase, students in the Natural Philosophy Seminar were able to continue their inquiry into the natural world, studying attributes of pressure, as well as the philosophical and mathematical underpinnings of kinematics. Though off-campus, students undertook a number of at-home laboratory experiments, and likewise analyzed data gathered in remote demonstrations. Students then undertook a treatment of force concepts, as a fitting end to this year.
Every applicant to the St. Jerome Institute has a distinct educational background, personality, and family situation. We are attentive to these differences, and take the time to address specific questions or concerns that arise during the application process. Our headmaster personally meets with each prospective student. Over 90% of our students receive financial aid, and most have not previously attended a classical liberal arts program.