Humanities Program

What is the Humanities Program?

How do we know, and what do we count as "knowledge"? What makes a "good" society? What are the most important elements of a "good" life? What is the place of human beings in the natural world?

Students in the Humanities Program — a required series of interdisciplinary courses for preps and lower mids — grapple with these questions through the study of literature, art, history, philosophy, and religion.

A long-standing academic tradition at Hotchkiss, the Humanities Program helps students sharpen their skills of critical thinking, research, and creative expression. These skills will do more than just equip students to pursue their own passions in upper-level electives in the arts, English, history, and philosophy and religion; they will enable students to think more creatively about the issues we face in our world today.

Students in the Hotchkiss Humanities Program play active roles in their learning. They examine a multitude of ways to ask and answer these fundamental questions — and they come up with questions and answers of their own.

Sample Courses in the Humanities Program

Prep Humanities English

Humanities English invites students to develop their reading, writing, and speaking skills in a collaborative environment as they respond to the stories that shape contemporary and canonical literature. This course builds verbal ability through the creative process in which finished work results from a commitment to the phases of writing as an art, of rhetoric as a skill. Understanding grammatical rules and expanding vocabulary become necessary as freedom and discipline combine to transform enthusiastic practice into polished performance. The rigor of the course rests, in part, on encounters with challenging literary texts of various genres and on engagement with alternative media. Close examination and reading provide for comprehension and application of the critical questions connecting the various Humanities disciplines. Through interdisciplinary study and experience — both analytical and sensory — students learn to respond skillfully and authentically to conflicting individual and social values.

Prep Humanities Visual Art

This course is an exciting and accessible starting point for students who wish to learn the fundamental skills and expressive potential of problem-solving design, drawing from observation, color theory, collage, mixed media, and painting. This course provides students with a rigorous grounding in seeing, composition, and the expression of ideas through images. The art program believes that anyone, with proper instruction, can learn to successfully manipulate a wide range of media in the creation of meaningful visual images. Every student will be taught to understand and compose with line, value, shape, form, space, color, and light. Emphasis will be placed on how best to edit and arrange one’s image creation and subject matter. This course will combine pertinent design and fine art topics with a range of media and subject matter. Students are encouraged to be inventive and expressive with newly acquired knowledge. They will combine ideas from Humanities disciplines and art history in the making of imaginative images, offering a personal response to their learning experience. In a studio atmosphere of challenge, encouragement, and support, students will learn how to confidently create and critique artwork. Each marking period, a major assignment in art will be closely linked to those in English, philosophy and religion, and history.

Lower Mid Humanities History

The history component of lower mid Humanities stuides themes in United States history is linked to English, philosophy and religion, and the arts. We will examine the time period c. 1776 — present, beginning with the foundation of republican government in the United States and ending with civil rights in the 21st century. Students will build upon the skills developed in the prep year and focus on writing analytical essays, reading interpretive accounts of events, rooting historical arguments into the context of scholarship, and integrating statistics, charts, and non-verbal evidence in constructing historical arguments. The course will include particular emphasis on research skills and culminate with a major research project. Students will be expected and encouraged to participate fully throughout the course by careful reading, thinking, and discussion.

Lower Mid Humanities Theatre

Building on the skills established in the prep theatre course, lower mids focus on developing an individual acting process. In the first few weeks of the course students discuss and practice three traits that form the foundation of the course: discipline, awareness, and creativity. In the first semester, the focus is on individual acting. Students use a variety of exercises to explore script analysis, movement, voice, character development, and audition strategies. Assessments include sonnet recitation, mock audition, observation project, and presentations on playwrights from the Enlightenment through Realism. The culminating activity is the Arts Salon, which consists of a collection of monologues. The second semester challenges students to continue honing individual skills while also expanding to partner and scene acting. They investigate status, relationship, staging, and strategies for effective collaboration. Assessments include a duologue, a second mock audition, presentations on modern and contemporary playwrights, a journal, and a short scene as part of the final Arts Salon. As the course embraces a practical approach to help students devise personally effective acting processes, students will be required to audition for some of the HDA productions throughout the school year.