Senior Lyceum Lectures“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay “Self-Reliance,” and that maxim is one that guides our explorations in the American Transcendentalists Main Lesson block in 12th grade. Yes, we read, study, discuss, and question the authors’ thoughts and how they apply to us today, but we spend as much or more of our course time coming to terms with our own thoughts. From the opening day of the block, every student observes at least a half hour a day of simply “being” in nature. Each keeps a journal, in the tradition of Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, recording sights, sounds, impressions, and thoughts that flash across their mind. Within a short time, they are prepared to cull from those thoughts to build three pieces of writing required in the block: a personal essay in the style of Thoreau’s Walden, a lecture in the style of Emerson’s Lyceum talks, and an original “Song of Myself” in the style of Walt Whitman. Each writing assignment is a journey into the student’s own musings that arise in those daily moments of contemplation in nature.

The Lyceum Lecture evening has become a tradition at Hartsbrook to honor the students’ work of coming to personal insight and expression. Each year, the 12th grade delivers their original lectures, essays, and “Songs” to an audience of family, faculty, alumni, and friends, and their offerings are met with pride and appreciation. Here are some typical comments:

The Transcendentalists block strikes me as a formative of right-of-passage for 12th-graders at Hartsbrook. They are asked to connect with an intellectual movement of another era, with nature, and with themselves in new and profound ways in current time, and to present their discoveries and inspirational thoughts, in the style of the transcendentalists, to the high school “public.” The challenges implicit in this autumnal task are substantial, requiring students to create and refine their own Walden Chapter, Lyceum Lecture, and Song-of-Myself. As a parent, each year I feel wowed, even moved to tears, as I watch and listen to members of the senior class articulate the experiences and thoughts they gained during the block in surprising and impressive presentations. Cherrie Latuner guides her class masterfully through this maturing process and crowing academic and artistic achievement!  ~12th Grade Parent

Thank you for a lovely evening of Lyceum lectures. I am filled with awe and admiration for these young men and women.  They shed a light of love, good will, and compassion that will carry us into the future. You are deeply appreciated (along with your colleagues) for imparting wisdom, kindness, genuine love and superb writing skills. Our family is thankful to be part of such an amazing community. ~ 11th Grade Parent

During the Transcendentalists block, I learned just how important it is to get to know yourself. Through my daily journaling activities…I discovered that the more you learn to love and respect your being, the more capacity you have to serve others. I was better able to appreciate the importance of incorporating nature into my routine and found that we’re really not as separate from the natural world as we think. The culmination of the block in the Lyceum Lecture evening was a definite moment of pride for me, not just in presenting my accomplishments…but also in seeing the work of my peers and recognizing how privileged I am to be in their company on a daily basis. ~12th Grade Student