Arts & Humanities at SVGS


The  class began the year building up their focus, concentration, and imagination. Then they selected new monologues and started to investigate different ways of using their bodies and voices to convey character and tell a story. They have explored a variety of class exercises including visualization, movement work, creative writing, and text analysis. They have also worked with partners to critique each other’s work and offer constructive feedback. They will synthesize all these skills in their upcoming monologue performances.


Our actors have been using Michael Shurtleff’s Audition as a guide (a common college text often referred to as the “bible” for working actors) to delve more deeply into character creation and scene/monologue analysis. They have practiced using the Audition Guideposts in class study scenes and are now applying them to longer undirected scene performances. They have explored techniques and theories of such acting practitioners as Viola Spolin and Constantin Stanislavski, as well as the Greek acting style in conjunction with our reading of Oedipus Rex.


This is an introductory course in communication studies and public speaking.  It balances an exploration of the traditional areas of communication studies on the one hand, with developing skills in public speaking and presentation on the other. In the first semester this included learning about representative models and modalities of communication, brain-to-brain communication, communicative expressions of identity and community, language, and systems of nonverbal communication. We will conclude the first semester with an examination of long-held beliefs about gender-related communication and how they are changing and evolving with Generation Z.  On the skills side, we have done two speeches that are part of every Intro course – how to introduce a featured speaker to a group, and how to tell a story effectively. We are currently completing an in-depth unit on presenting with PowerPoint.  We will conclude the semester by beginning work on a school-wide colloquium next semester designed to foster civil discourse among the students about a topical issue to be chosen by them based upon extensive interviews with their peers, carried out in connection and coordination with the Sociology class that they are taking alongside this course. We will also undoubtedly be taking advantage of the unfolding opportunity to observe and reflect upon the political communication during our presidential election.


This course is a survey of the evolution and intersections of Western history, philosophy, art, architecture, and music from ancient times to the present day. During the first semester we began with the early precursors of western civilization – the Sumerians and the Egyptians among others, and then moved forward through the Greeks, Romans, and the Byzantines.  We considered the roles of the great men and women of each period who helped shaped the foundations of Western culture through their accomplishments.  We looked at the profound contributions of the Judeo-Christian heritage.  Moving then through the Medieval era, we are concluding the first semester with a lay-over in the Italian and Northern Renaissance. Along the way we have looked in some depth at the notable art, architecture and music of each era, learning how they evolved and reflected their times. In philosophy, we began with a deep-dive into aesthetics; then continued with early ideas of happiness and the good life; and concluded the semester considering and debating the ideas of representative religious and political philosophers.  Students worked on creative projects such as mask-making and art-photography that tied in with each unit and gave us the opportunity to express in a hands-on, personal way the aesthetic principles we were investigating.


The juniors began the year with a bit of absurdism (The Bald Soprano) before moving on to the Ancient Greeks and Antigone. We began exploring Shakespeare by examining his theatrical environment and how his texts may have evolved. We read and discussed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the students had the opportunity to create Shakespearean cue scripts and stage a scene from the play. Now we’re delving in to the dark and bloody tragedy, Macbeth.


JJuniors have just completed their first theorist cycle:  essays on education theory and their own education theory essay.  Students spent time collaboratively processing the theories of Tzu, Dewey, Montessori, and Kozol, then students assembled their own approach to effective education based on what they felt were essential components.  Using the writing process, students were able to provide peer feedback, revise and reconsider, then conference with Ms. Jeffrey with an eye to improving essays in both content and format.  Now the class is looking at language theory and considering the complexities of acquisition, code switching, and identity.  Preparation for language essays has begun as students choose to support theorists such as Langer, Baldwin, Chomsky, and McWhorter.


Seniors examined the predicament/opportunity of Edna Pontellier in Chopin’s novel The Awakening, and explored, individually, whether her choice at the end of the novel reveals an embrace of freedom or hopelessness.  Essays required students to argue for one interpretation or the other and to supply feedback from literary critics to support that stand.  Exam preparation required students to create a digital portfolio using Google sites and to build their site around individually-created semester impressions that link the semester’s three works together.  Artifacts included in this portfolio (media files, online articles, TED talks, etc.) reveal the students’ understanding of themes  found in the works but also present in our world today.  Included with digital content is the student essay that serves as a creative and intellectual tour through the portfolio.

Seniors have recently wrapped up their study of the great epic Beowulf.  After analyzing self-selected passages for their test, students crafted essay topics that allowed them to apply Anglo-Saxon cultural concerns to contemporary society.  Topics ranged from the problematic question of soldiers who desert (a hot topic of discussion during our reading) to the appeal of the military as a source of propaganda.  Currently, students are wrapping up Shelley’s Frankenstein and will compose their “big idea” list soon as a source for the test.  Next on the literary horizon is Chopin’s The Awakening—a deep consideration of one woman’s resistance to Victorian constraints.


Students work to understand about human nature – how people’s brain works and how that supports their mind.  This course introduces students to the scientific study of how we feel and act and to the fundamental knowledge of major concepts, theory, history, current trends in understanding human behavior and mental processes.  Students learn about the methods psychologists use to find the answers to questions about brain function and its relationship to behavior, perception, motivation, cognition, learning, personality, social and mental health.

Topics covered the first nine weeks include, history of psychology, biology of behavior, consciousness and the two-track mind, sensation and perception, learning, memory, creativity, thinking, language,and intelligence.

Psychology and sociology students also attended a professional conference ” ENVISION: Creating Paths of Resiliency for Under-served Domestic Violence Survivors” hosted  by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services on Oct. 11.  Students attended sessions about the Virginia Victims fund which assists victims of violent crimes, working with native American communities, and domestic violence in Muslim families.  Students learned more about providing trauma- informed and culturally responsive health and human services in communities.  We are grateful to Tricia Everetts, Training and Grant Program Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services-Victims Services for allowing students to attend this conference free.


During our first class meeting, we learned about perspectives and what it means to adopt a sociological imagination. As part of this process, everyone made a set of “lenses” to represent the way in which we each see the world. Part of this process was recognizing and understanding that we cannot control the life we’re born into (represented by the style of glasses or sun glass they were given) and that we have limited resources available to us to craft our “perspective” (represented by the tools available to adorn their glasses). However, even within these limitations, creativity and expression flowed as each student crafted a unique set of lenses to represent their view of the world.

 We continue to use this analogy throughout the course as we: learn about different theoretical perspectives (or “lenses”) we can adopt in sociology; recognize the perspectives that shape our own thoughts and actions; and gain a deeper understanding of both the similar and different perspectives of others.

A major highlight of this experience was our recent field trip to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. During the trip, we toured the facility, held a discussion and Q&A with the staff, and learned about the number and variety of people served by the food bank each year. This meaningful experience created crucial links between course topics and the lived experience of members within our own community. Culture, media, deviance, bureaucracies, group dynamics, race, class, and gender are just a few of the other topics we have explored so far. As the semester rolls on we will continue to “try on” different perspectives and to open up new ways of seeing the social world.




This semester students have  worked on:

  • a reverse charcoal still-life, (image attached)
  • visiting local galleries where still life work is on display and report back;
  • a project on self portraiture that includes several steps;
  • researching a famous artist from a provided section;
  • making a transcription of a self portrait of chosen artist in appropriate medium;
  • creating a self portrait in medium of choice from direct observation that includes environmental subject matter that reflects their interests/ concerns/ interests.



The seniors are working through the history of Western dramatic literature. They began the year with Ancient Greece and Oedipus Rex. Then they examined some samples of medieval mystery and morality plays before moving on to the English Renaissance. They recently finished Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and are now in the midst of what is possibly the world’s most famous play, Hamlet. Creative explorations of our texts include word clouds, image work, character resumes, and writing in role. The students also chose a Shakespeare play to read and analyze on their own as the first step in a larger creative project.