SOMERVILLE, NJ - This fall Immaculata High School launched its Chesterton Classical Studies Program, the latest of its signature academic curriculum, which provides a content-rich humanities-focused education to those enrolled.
Eventually, this will be a four-year curriculum, but the initial rollout started with freshmen only. Inspired by the teachings of Catholic theologian G.K. Chesterton, the program focuses on studying the humanities through the prism of the Classics, Theology and Philosophy. Immaculata is the first school in NJ to offer this program.
“Parent reaction has been very positive,” says Nancy Bonham, Classical Studies Coordinator. “They feel that when their children study the classics, Latin, and Philosophy that it builds a great foundation for critical thinking. This is reinforced by using the Socratic Method, a strong emphasis on writing, and interdisciplinary connections. In addition, the small class size and the passion of the teachers for their subject matter have also been viewed very enthusiastically by students and parents.”
As its motto, the Chesterton Academy’s model of education embraces “Cultura Vitae,” the culture of life, which combines a broad, liberal arts education with a strong emphasis on Christian values and appreciation of beauty. In the Chesterton model, students read Homer, Chaucer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, and Shakespeare, among others.
This year’s emphasis is on scriptural study of the Old Testament, classical literature, early civilization, philosophy, and Latin 1. In subsequent years the program will cover Medieval, Modern and American curriculums.
Currently, those students, who participate in this honors program, take Math, Science, Physical Education, and lunch with their peers. Their English, History, Theology and Latin classes embrace the Chesterton approach. Angel Nowak, who teaches English to this group, describes her perspective. “Through classical texts, questions of honor, virtue, love, longing, and happiness are put forward as students are challenged to enter the conversation in the search for truth. An innovative approach to writing is utilized as we integrate grammar and writing skills into the students' writing. It has been rewarding to see the students so engaged in their learning.”
Princeton University graduate Magdalena Parlin, who teaches Latin and Theology in the program, says, “Having received such a classical education at the high school level myself, I can see how this foundation in the great texts enables students to make connections in future studies that would otherwise be unavailable to them. It also provides a rigorous background that prepares them well for any subject. Most importantly, in my experience, is the formation of the person that a classical education provides.”
Janine DeAngelo-Mustillo, who teaches the History section, enjoys the small group setting and the strong emphasis on discussion, which encourages students to ask good questions and develop strong analytical skills. “I have also loved the opportunity to delve deeper into the study of the ancient world, which is truly a key building block for truly understanding history.”
Head of School Joan Silo has been thrilled with the prospects of this new program. “Our goal is to graduate students who are thinkers with faith, wisdom and virtue. We are also very excited that next year we will expand the Chesterton Classical Studies Program to two class levels. In addition, we will be introducing our first course, in conjunction with Rutgers University Health Science Career Programs for our sophomore-senior population.”
For more information contact Director of Admissions Michele Blandino at email@example.com.