George School Introduces Four New Religion Courses as Students Return from Summer Service Trips
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
When classes begin on Monday, September 1, 2008, George School will begin its 115th year of operation with four new course offerings in its religion curriculum: Essentials of a Friends Community, Faith Traditions, Spiritual Practices, and Holistic Health. George School’s religion curriculum also includes three other established courses (The Biblical Experience, Quaker Faith and Practice, and Health Topics) and a longstanding service program.
The expansion of the religion curriculum is one result of George School’s recent, five-year curriculum review process. Religion Department Head Maria Crosman said, “We agreed that it was important to increase course content about major world religions and to provide new students with a more extensive introduction to core Quaker principles such as integrity, simplicity, equality, and service. I am particularly excited about Essentials of a Friends Community, a new required course for freshmen and new sophomores. It uses a combination of classroom activities and experiential learning to educate students about living responsibly in a Quaker community. The course includes a valuable introduction to the school’s service program.”
As part of George School’s service program, each student is required to perform an on-campus service job (known as a “co-op” assignment) for 60 to 90 minutes per week each year. Maria, who played a key role in this program during her more than thirty years at George School, explains, “The co-op program was established in 1942. It offers an important opportunity for students to strengthen their work ethic and demonstrate responsibility. In keeping with the Quaker principle of equality, it also helps students to appreciate the value of all types of work.” Co-op assignments can involve work such as tidying a classroom or helping out in the George School Children’s Center. All students begin co-op by working in the dining room. During some class sessions of Essentials of a Friends Community, teachers will work side by side with their students in the dining room. “This component of the course demonstrates that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the school community,” Maria said.
George School’s service program also requires each student to take part in one significant service project of at least sixty-five hours during the junior or senior year. Students can choose to devise an independent project, to engage in local service with an organization such as Woods Services in Langhorne, Pennsylvania—a longtime partner of George School’s service program—or to take part in a school-organized service trip. All service projects must involve face-to-face interaction with members of an underserved community. When classes begin for the 2008-09 year, students who participated in George School service projects in Arizona, coastal Louisiana, and Washington DC this past summer will return to the classroom for the first time since their trips. Descriptions of the trips follow:
Arizona: Students worked as teachers’ aides in the Kayenta Primary School, helping at-risk elementary age children. Homestays with local families provided the opportunity for students to experience the daily life and culture on a Navajo Reservation.
Coastal Louisiana: Students worked with the Beacon of Hope organization, reinforcing its efforts to clean up New Orleans neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Students stayed at St. Augustine’s Church, which offers volunteer housing.
Washington DC: Students volunteered at Martha’s Table, DC Central Kitchen, and other area soup kitchens. They spent their time preparing and serving meals for DC’s significant homeless and underserved populations as well as performing basic maintenance tasks, using the Washington Youth Hostel as home base.