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info@stjeromeinstitute.org 301-887-3008
St. Jerome Institute

Curriculum

Humans have been asking hard questions since before the dawn of civilization. These are the very questions that naturally occur to students during their high school years as they join in the human quest to understand themselves and the meaning of their existence.  At St. Jerome Institute, these questions stand at the core of our curriculum. In the first year, students tackle the pervasive theme of life as a quest or journey, shared by the whole of human civilization and even the animal kingdom.  Every year thereafter, the curriculum is organized around one of these questions:  What is Nature? Who is the human being?   How should we live together?  

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Motivate and Engage

Students learn to think more deeply about these questions, to discover the sources of their own preconceived ideas, and to critically evaluate them by encountering these questions in the great tradition of human arts and letters that has shaped our civilization. Every discovery and every human achievement started with someone’s curiosity, imagination, struggle, or good fortune. From Beowulf to mapmaking, from the sculptures of Trajan’s column to the expansion of the universe, SJI’s curriculum immerses students in literature, art, history, mathematics, and natural philosophy. By studying the works of great thinkers, writers, and artists through guided seminars, hands-on activities, and adventure days in the field, we retrace the steps of discovery and put these achievements back into their context. Students begin to understand history not simply as a series of happenstance events, but as a unified story, and to find their own place within it.  

Unified and Integrated

SJI’s curriculum is a single cross-discipline tale told by many narrators. Each seminar and studio at SJI fits together within an overarching story that is rediscovered anew in each of the four years. Each year form one chapter in this story, reflecting on the whole from the point of view of its animating question:

  • Year One, Exodus and Odyssey: We begin by studying the quest, the great voyages - physical and spiritual - taken by heroes and common folk alike through history, literature, art, music, mathematics, and natural science. What did they discover about the world and themselves? Did they find a lasting home, or did they voyage further, to discover what comes next?
  • Year Two, Nature: Before the first human beings looked up at the stars and wondered where they came from, the world was already there. It was a gift just waiting for us. How do we respond to this divine gift? What is its story? What secrets does it tell us about ourselves and the One who made it?
  • Year Three, The Human Person: What is man that thou art mindful of him? What does it mean to be human? How have the answers to this question through history shaped our response to the world and those around us? This year leads students into a deeper understanding of the biological, aesthetic, and spiritual reality of human nature.
  • Year Four, Society: The final year, we examine our political and social character in the communities we create. We find ourselves at the intersection of many relationships. Family. Friendship. Nationhood. The Church. The story of human society is at the heart of the social sciences and of history's most epic tales. The tale concludes by preparing students to help write the next chapter in the story of the world.

How it all fits together

Each year, students take seminars and studios focused on the different major areas of knowledge. Every class develops the skills and knowledge within that discipline as it tells part of the story for that year. For example, the literature portion of the Seminar in the Humanities reads level-appropriate original works that discuss or exemplify the theme of the year, while the Seminar in Mathematics explores the foundational mathematics that contribute to or are derived from that theme. This balance across disciplines means that concepts are reinforced throughout the year by considering them from different angles and giving them a context that makes sense to students. As the years progress, students return again and again to the fundamental questions with greater depth and sophistication. Since students are never “finished” with a topic, they are less likely to forget important facts and ideas, and because core ideas are introduced early, they are able to apply them throughout all four years. For example, students learn about energy in their first year along with their study of algebra. They are then able to apply what they learned rigorously in second year astronomy and thermochemistry. Similarly, students develop an outline of history in the first year that becomes an anchor as they study important historical figures and events in greater detail over the following years.

SJI Contact Info

1800 Perry St. NE
Washington, DC 20018

301-887-3008
info@stjeromeinstitute.org

Mon – Fri 9:00A.M. – 5:00P.M.

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Seminars, an Approach Based in Respect

How do we capture and hold attention in a world of soundbites and text messaging? By giving students a voice. Seminars not only encourage participation, they are built on it. In the seminar classroom, teachers guide and coach students in respectful debate, clear and logical argument, persuasive rhetoric, and careful questioning. Seminars are designed around the discipline, so that a literature discussion, a lab, a lesson in mathematics, and the analysis of a work of art can be tailored to the type of material and the lesson being taught. This careful planning maximizes the benefit to students, building confidence through self-expression and peer learning, while building up skills and knowledge.

Seminar in Humanities

The centerpiece of the SJI curriculum is the Seminar in Humanities. Students take up the deepest questions of human existence through oral and written reflection on significant literary and artistic works, as well as through the study of history. Students are taught how to read carefully, how to annotate works, and how to prepare for a fruitful seminar discussion. They also work their way through a thoughtful and rigorous Writing Program to build their technical and rhetorical skills. Through daily guided discussions, they dive deeply into each work and learn how to read good literature while cultivating their own thought and imagination. The Seminar in Humanities interweaves the study of the Bible, the history of the Church, and Catholic teaching throughout the year, laying an important foundation for incorporating these topics in the other seminars and studios. While the goals and scope of the Seminar in Humanities are ambitious, students are given the coaching and time they need to master the material and excel. The Core Seminar meets every day. 

Seminar in Art History

The Seminar in Art History and Fine Art Studio work hand in hand with the Seminar in Humanities to explore the great questions animating Western and world culture. Students examine our culture’s answers to these questions through human art, both secular and sacred. They are guided in their understanding of how the art of a given culture expresses its basic understanding of reality, and how that understanding changes through history and changes the art it produces. The seminar meets in class and regularly launches out on excursions to museums and landmarks so that students can gain firsthand experience of great works of art and architecture. Since the works are selected in tandem with the Humanities topics, students continue the conversations begun in Humanities and examine in depth the art inspired by or discussed in their reading. Students then pick up their pencils and practice developing the harmony of hand and eye needed to create works of beauty. The studio artists work with students to develop their capacity to see the subjects they are working on and replicate them in subtle detail and complexity. Studio meets every other week for 3 hours, but students are encouraged to spend more time with specific projects as they progress in their skills.

Seminar in Natural Philosophy

The Seminar in Natural Philosophy develops the themes taken up in the Humanities through a rigorous and meticulous study of the natural world. Each unit begins with a motivating question or problem that prompts curiosity and invites critical thinking and careful questioning. Students discover empirical and mathematical methods through laboratory and field work focusing on direct observation, experimentation, methodological precision, and the tools of modern science. They also develop an understanding of the nature and limits of science through readings in the history and development of fundamental principles, seminar discussions, and the application of theory to labs and studies. Natural Philosophy is integrated in a special way with the Seminar in Mathematics so that students have the skills they need to solve specific problems at the right moment. Natural Philosophy covers biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy in a single blended class, so students return to the disciplines in increasing depth throughout the four years. The Seminar in Natural Philosophy meets daily.

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Seminar in Mathematics

The Seminar in Mathematics explores the theme of the Humanities Seminar in a unique way. Its attention to the beauty and structure of numerical and geometric relations, as well as its intense focus on clarity of thought and expression, aims to build both skill in analysis and rigor in thinking. Each topic in the Mathematics curriculum begins with a tangible observation of the natural world, a question arising from Natural Philosophy, or mathematical speculation itself, and uses these explorations to discover skills and techniques. Following the theme set in the Humanities, mathematics considers the fundamentals of numeracy, analysis, geometry, and logic in increasing complexity throughout its four years. By introducing difficult topics early, students grow accustomed to challenging concepts so that when they are reintroduced later they have a much better mastery. For example, in the first year (Exodus and Odyssey), students begin by discussing the concept of number, which relies on place value. This is an ideal time to introduce bases and exponents, as well as the logarithm. However, the presentation is limited to small, integer valued exponents. The foundation is laid for revisiting exponents and logs in the second year (Nature), during the study of exponential growth and decay, where fractional and negative exponents become important in the study of populations. Through exercises such as this, the seminar integrates mathematics into art, music, rhetoric, natural philosophy, and theology. The Seminar in Mathematics meets daily.

Other Weekly Classes

Refectum

The whole life and curriculum of St. Jerome Institute is oriented toward contemplation of the good, the beautiful, and the true. But in the ever-increasing flurry of mental and physical activity characteristic of young people, it is difficult to find quiet time to refresh and strengthen the mind. For this reason, significant time is reserved in the weekly schedule for deeper reflection and prayer, rest, independent study, focused discernment, and for advanced tutorials in subjects of special interest to students and faculty. Each student collaborates with a faculty mentor to organize the time set aside for Refectum in a balanced and fruitful way. The faculty mentor serves as a model and a guide as students learn to balance individual study and instruction with quiet reflection.

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Religion and Theology

It might be surprising to see no explicit religion class in the curriculum of St. Jerome Institute. This is a deliberate choice. The study of the Church, salvation history, the Bible, the Incarnation, and humanity’s response to God’s action in love is not one subject among many, but the foundation of all the seminars, studios, and supporting classes. The full scope of topics outlined in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) guidelines for high school catechesis are covered throughout the four years of the SJI curriculum, both through the texts and questions addressed in the seminars, and through the culture of the school. Over and above classroom learning, students come into relationship with Christ, the Church, and their broader community through daily lauds, weekly Masses, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and the festive culture celebrating the liturgical calendar.

By the time students reach their fourth year, they have sufficient background in history, philosophy, and literature to engage in true theological study. Fourth year students therefore add a capstone Seminar in Theology where they are formally introduced to the study of the Trinity and Christology, the plan of salvation and eschatology, theological anthropology, and ecclesiology.

Adventure Days

An important part of SJI’s curriculum includes time spent outside the classroom, exploring the arts, doing field work, visiting monuments and museums, and taking advantage of programs for high school students and the public at select institutions. These Adventure Days are more than just a chance to stand in front of an original work of art or try one’s hand in observation and data collection. They are an opportunity for students to experience and reflect on the practice of the disciplines they study. By actually doing the work they study, students come to realize how interdisciplinary these activities are, and better understand the need for a liberal arts education.

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Credit Summary

St. Jerome Institute provides high school students with highly competitive course credits across the academic spectrum. Here is an outline of the approximate course credits required for a high school diploma by the District of Columbia and the equivalent credits for SJI.* 

* A credit is 120 hours of teacher-led instruction over the course of a year. It is important to note that the requirements for a high school diploma are not simply a summary of course credits, but include additional requirements such as service hours. SJI credit hours are approximate equivalents, since SJI courses do not strictly match up with typical course listings.

Subject
  • English
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies (SJI: History)
  • World Language (SJI: Latin)
  • Art
  • Music
  • Health and P.E.
  • Electives (SJI: Refectum)
  • Religion
  • Service

TOTAL

 

DC Requirements
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 2.0 credits
  • 0.5 credits
  • 0.5 credits
  • 1.5 credits
  • 3.5 credits
  •  
  • 100 hours

24 Credits

 

SJI (approximate)
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 2.0 credits
  • 2.0 credits
  • 2.0 credits
  • 2.0 credits
  • 4.0 credits
  • 200 hours

32 Credits

Credit Summary

St. Jerome Institute provides high school students with highly competitive course credits across the academic spectrum. Here is an outline of the approximate course credits required for a high school diploma by the District of Columbia and the equivalent credits for SJI.* 

* A credit is 120 hours of teacher-led instruction over the course of a year. It is important to note that the requirements for a high school diploma are not simply a summary of course credits, but include additional requirements such as service hours. SJI credit hours are approximate equivalents, since SJI courses do not strictly match up with typical course listings.

Subject
  • English – (DC 4.0 Credits) SJI 4.0 Credits
  • Math – (DC 4.0 Credits) SJI 4.0 Credits
  • Science – (DC 4.0 Credits) SJI 4.0 Credits
  • Social Studies (SJI: History) – (DC 4.0 Credits) SJI 4.0 Credits
  • World Language (SJI: Latin) – (DC 2.0 Credits) SJI 4.0 Credits
  • Art – (DC 0.5 Credits) SJI 2.0 Credits
  • Music – (DC 0.5 Credits) SJI 2.0 Credits
  • Health and P.E. – (DC 1.5 Credits) SJI 2.0 Credits
  • Electives (SJI: Refectum) – (DC 2.0 Credits) SJI 3.5 Credits
  • Religion – (DC N/A) SJI 4.0 Credits
  • Service – (DC 100 hours) SJI 200 hours

TOTAL (DC 24 Credits) SJI 32 Credits