The 10s study of the medieval world focuses on Western Europe and the Middle East, and the development of writing and literacy for the 10s Sign-Making Job. We investigate the Middle Ages through a study of social structure, government, economics, religion, art, architecture, and stories. This is approached in four ways: through history, literature from and about the period, group and independent research, and trips.
In the fall, the program is structured around the three estates of medieval Europe: the castle, the church, and the village. The 10s spend the winter exploring the fundamental social changes wrought by the emergence of towns and the rise of the merchant class. Through trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Morgan Library, and other sites, we study the physical and social roles of medieval castles, monasteries, cathedrals and manors. At various points in the year, when students are excited about their work and have conducted significant research in a given area, we create our own versions of medieval experiences. These may be in the form of a model village or castle, a medieval feast, a play or a fair. Costumes, props, plot, music and movement are integrated into the work.
In the spring, we turn our attention to the Middle East, focusing specifically on the vibrant culture and history of Baghdad. As a group we explore a wide array of topics, ranging from desert geography to mosque architecture, from technological innovations to poetry and scholarship. To augment our discussions about Islam, we visit the Islamic Cultural Center and, at the end of the year, students complete a writing project. This study provides the Group with opportunities to compare and contrast the diversity of the medieval era, and to explore in depth the repercussions of cultural exchange.
Over the course of the year, students learn the steps necessary to conduct a search for historical information and present it in written form. These steps include: asking questions, generating key word lists, finding resources, reading for information, taking notes, organizing notes, paraphrasing and quoting from sources, writing drafts, revising, editing, and compiling a bibliography.
Students write three research-based pieces in the 10s. In the fall, each child investigates a topic of interest related to medieval village life and writes a short research paper. In the winter, students choose a historical figure to study and, after extensive research, write an “autobiography” from the figure’s perspective. At the end of the year, students compose a journal from the point-of-view of a medieval traveler in Baghdad, incorporating elements from the entire unit of study. Research is also presented in both whole-group and individual role-plays and hands-on building projects.
Literature is shared in whole-group and small-group settings. Students participate in discussions, role-plays, written responses, art projects and group activities. Through these various media we explore basic literary elements—such as plot structure, character development, and symbolism—as well as the ways in which the novels we read deepen our understanding of the medieval world in particular, and the human experience in general. Selections include retellings of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, The Story of King Arthur, and Tales from the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, as well as The Midwife’s Apprentice, Crispin, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver and Shadow Spinner.
The 10s Job is closely linked to the social studies program, as students model the stages of medieval apprenticeship in pursuit of becoming a master sign-maker. We begin our work by studying the origins of writing in Mesopotamia. We explore the social factors that contributed to this most-essential innovation, as well as the particulars of its development—namely, the evolution of concrete representations into abstract symbols and then, ultimately, into phonetic systems. In conjunction with this study, the 10s, as apprentice sign-makers, create symbolic picture signs for every room in the School. The 10s then advance to the journeyman stage of their training, learning calligraphy in order to produce beautiful manuscript signs for each office and Group.
Finally, before graduating as master craftsmen, each 10 completes his or her masterpiece—an illuminated initial. In order to do this, the 10s learn how to make parchment from animal hide, grind inks from stones, herbs, and bugs, and work with 22K gold and silver leaf.
The language arts program includes specific instruction in writing, grammar and spelling. The writing program consists of practice in various expository forms, as well as a number of creative writing projects. Students use class novels to identify essential elements of specific genres, such as short stories and legends, and then write their own pieces incorporating these elements. Close attention is paid to the concepts of story arc, conflict and the growth of the main character. Essential aspects of the writing process are also highlighted, including planning, revising and editing. Grammar and spelling lessons are taught in whole-group settings, as well as in response to individuals’ needs.
While sharpening basic computational skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, the Xs also explore other mathematical areas. These topics include place value through the millions, rounding and estimating as a tool for problem solving, fractions (basic introductory concepts, equivalence, reducing, proper/improper, factoring, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, expressing as decimals), decimals (rounding, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), measurement, geometry (area and perimeter, angles, similarity, symmetry, congruence, graphing), and probability and statistics (data gathering and interpretation, mean/median/mode, reliability/impossibility/certainty, random sampling). Across the content areas, problem-solving techniques are studied and discussed. As in other areas of the program, students work individually and in small groups.
10s have homework every weeknight, except during vacations. Most assignments are due the next day and each should take approximately 45 to 60 minutes to complete. There will be a mixture of social studies, literature, language arts (writing and grammar), and math every week. In addition, students will occasionally have homework in science.