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Course Planning

A George school education is designed to open doors and keep them open as long as possible. Out academic program lets you chart your own path—one that is as challenging as it is customized to you. Learn more about the academic program and planning process as well as to see stories of real students with varied interests (and varied pathways to suit) in our Course Planning Guide.

Course Catalog

To find a course, please use the filter below.

Religions Courses

There are five primary purposes of religious studies at George School:

  1. To nurture students’ spiritual development
  2. To expose students to the essentials of Quaker faith, practice, and community, and to give them an appreciation of the ways in which these are embedded in the culture and everyday life of George School
  3. To enhance students’ knowledge about the worlds’ great religious traditions
  4. To teach and practice social-emotional, academic, contemplative, and global citizenship skills
  5. To provide a space of sanctuary in the midst of the stresses of adolescence
These goals are based on the Quaker beliefs that there is that of God in every person, and that we have something to learn from everyone.

In ninth grade, students take Essentials of a Friends Community and Faith Traditions (an introduction to world religions). In tenth grade, students study Spiritual Practices and Holistic Health, which includes sexuality and drug and alcohol education. In either eleventh or twelfth grade, students take IB Theory of Knowledge, IB World Religions, or three terms of religions electives such as Cosmology, Quakerism, Peace Studies, The Abrahamic Faiths, Wisdom Traditions of Asia, Theory of Knowledge, Sustainability and Spirituality, Feminist Spirituality, Deepening Spiritual Practices, or Religions of the African Diaspora.

Global Spiritualities

This required ninth grade course begins with an introduction to life at George School and to the application of Quaker practices as a framework for living. Through a combination of classroom activities and experiential learning, students learn about living responsibly in a Quaker community. Students are then introduced to the study of religions, and to the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Topics include the history and beliefs of each tradition, worship and ritual, festivals, sacred scriptures, and rites of passage. Students use factual information to engage in personal reflection on ethical and religious questions. The course develops the skills of synthesizing information and concepts, comparing different worldviews, independently following a term-length syllabus, working collaboratively, writing reflectively and critically, and applying information within different contexts. The course employs a variety of pedagogical methods including class discussion, lecture, informational and instructional videos, and documentary films. Homework includes reading, factual and reflective writing, in-class presentations, and small-group research projects.

Open to: Freshmen

Holistic Health

This required sophomore course allows students to explore dimensions of health and wellness that are developmentally appropriate for 16-year-olds, as an area of knowledge as well as a set of practical life skills. Topics include psychological health, spiritual wholeness, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, social media, and human sexuality. Students use factual information to engage in ethical decision making with an emphasis on personal responsibility. The course develops the skills of synthesizing information and concepts, working collaboratively, discussing abstract and controversial topics, writing reflectively and critically, and applying information within different contexts. The course employs a variety of teaching methods including lectures, multimedia presentations, role-plays, and a great deal of class discussion. Assignments include reading, journal writing, in-class presentations, and small-group research projects. Woven throughout the course are opportunities for students to explore specific spiritual and wellness practices, and to cultivate positive habits of mind and of heart.

Open to: Sophomores

World Religions

This term course will explore some of the most impactful religious traditions of our world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The historical origins, central teachings, devotional practices, and contemporary challenges within each religion will be considered in relation to common themes of human experience: the divine or sacred; suffering; ethics; love and compassion; wisdom and justice; death and beyond. The goals of the course are: to facilitate understanding of the essential claims of these influential religions; to identify similarities and differences of thought and practice among the traditions; and to help students articulate their own religious and spiritual attitudes and orientations. Some key questions that we are likely to engage include: What is meant by “religion” and how is it different from “culture” and “spirituality?” Why is it important to study religions, especially including ones we don’t follow? How have the religions we study in this course shaped how people think and behave, individually and collectively?

This course satisfies the world religions graduation requirement.

The Meaning of Myth

This course explores the universality and evolution of myths throughout human history. Students investigate the reappearance of common motifs that portray eternal truths about mankind with particular focus on the mythologies of indigenous peoples. We explore such topics as the hero’s adventure, creation stories, God vs. Nature, initiation rituals, transcendence of death, the center of the world (axis mundis), and association with the infinite. Additionally, we examine the ways myths continue to influence popular culture such as Star Wars or the Harry Potter series.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

African-American Religious Traditions

This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the diversity in African American religious traditions. From so-called slave religion to the prosperity gospel, students will be exposed to the evolution of Black people’s faith in the United States by learning about key persons, significant movements and influential institutions. Primarily guided by historical and sociological inquiry, students will engage primary and contemporary sources to uncover insight about African American culture with an eye toward the horizon in Black spirituality.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Forgiveness, Justice & Reconciliation

This course explores the nature of justice and forgiveness as a means of reconciliation, both in human relations as well as spiritual grounding. Students will frame these issues by looking at three distinct examples: the European Holocaust, the United States criminal justice system, and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Students will examine the attitudes toward justice and forgiveness as ordained by various faith traditions along with secular notions of restorative versus criminal justice.

Cosmology

Marcus Aurelius observed that "He who does not know what the world is does not know where he is, and he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is." In recent history, our understanding of cosmology has been dominated by stunning scientific discoveries focusing on the role of physical laws in governing the evolution of the universe. But what does this new story of the universe mean? Cultural observers note that as a species we are experiencing a cosmological crisis, no longer clear about our place and role in the universe, and as a result are facing some of the greatest ethical challenges in our history.

This one-term religion course examines several cosmological models and their ethical implications, including both the biblical model and the emerging universe story, which reflects on the wisdom of science. Other cosmological models, such as Hindu, Aristotelian/Ptolemaic, and Aboriginal/Indigenous may be examined as time allows.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Peace Studies

This term course is an introduction to active nonviolence and nonviolent conflict resolution. We begin by studying the emergence of nonviolence in Western thought by reading Thoreau, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We use the Global Nonviolent Action Database as a tool for identifying and exploring successful campaigns around the world. We consider the groundbreaking work of Erica Chenoweth, who is widely recognized for having “proved Gandhi right.” We examine several contemporary issues including the influence of feminism, the death penalty, the Danish and South African resistance movements, and, finally, resistance to mass incarceration and the successful activism of the Earth Quaker Action Team.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Becoming an Adult: Perspectives on Happiness

This course allows juniors and seniors to delve deeply into the dimensions of health most affecting them at this stage in their lives, with an emphasis on decision making. Topics to be examined include joy, emotions, stress, chemical substances, social media, self-care, relationships, and human sexuality. This is a discussion-based course with an emphasis on ethical decision making and personal responsibility.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Feminist Spirituality

This one-term course explores topics in theology and spirituality through a feminist lens. Students consider texts from several religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Quakerism, Islam, Hindu and Wiccan/Goddess. The goal of this course is to support and nurture students’ spiritual curiosity and development, by grounding it in some of the perspectives that have re-interpreted patriarchal language and imagery about the nature of the divine, and the metaphysical powers of the universe. Students consider questions and insights that arise for them in relation to the reading, discussions, and their journaling and in connection with topics they are exploring in other courses, and in their lives outside of the classroom. Questions to be explored include: What is “feminism”? Who/what is “God?” What have been some of the different manifestations of the divine, and how does gender identity connect with them? Where are women in religious histories and stories? What are some of the gender-prescribed roles in various religions? What happened to the ancient goddesses and goddess religions?

Open to: Juniors and seniors

IB SL World Religions

In International Baccalaureate (IB) World Religions, students study a number of living world religions in an inquiring, open-minded, and empathetic way. The scope of the course is both broad and intensive, beginning with a survey of five world religions (including but not limited to: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The class will then move into a focused study of two in particular (to be selected from among those previously mentioned), at the discretion of the teacher.  World religions are studied in such a way that students will acquire a sense of what it is like to belong to a particular religion and how that influences the way in which the followers of that religion understand and act in the world, and relate and respond to others. The experiential dimension to learning is of great importance in a course like this and so field trips and visits from outside speakers are included.  Students will be prepared for an internal oral assessment and for the IB World Religions SL exam.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Prerequisite: Final grades of B+ in at least two courses in English, history, language, math, or science in the year preceding that in which IB World Religions is to be taken or enrollment in the full IB Diploma Program.

Theory of Knowledge

This one-term philosophy course encourages critical thinking about knowledge itself. Students ask and answer questions like these: What counts as knowledge? How is knowledge created? What are its limits? In other words, the focus is on how we know, rather than on what we know. The goals for students in this course are: 1) to gain an understanding of what it means to know something as a scientist, an artist, a mathematician, a philosopher, etc.; 2) to appreciate how the forms of knowledge relate to one another; and 3) to practice thinking and writing critically.

Students in the IB diploma program must take the yearlong IB Theory of Knowledge course, not this course.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

IB Theory of Knowledge

This is a synthesis course that examines some of the ways in which we acquire knowledge and understand the world around us. Students explore perception, reason, and language as basic means through which we understand our experience. The course also examines different areas of knowledge, such as mathematics, science, history, morality, politics, aesthetics, and religion.

The course structure frequently employs the Socratic method to challenge students to analyze philosophical issues and to reflect on their own intellectual experiences. Students read a rich variety of texts and essays that raise religious, moral, aesthetic, and ethical questions and write reflective journal entries often in response to the reading. Each student in the course must prepare an oral presentation and submit a 1,200- to 1,600-word essay on one of ten theory of knowledge questions prescribed by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

This yearlong course is required of all IB diploma candidates.

Prerequisite: Final grades of B+ in at least two courses in English, history, language, math, or science in the year preceding that in which IB ToK is to be taken or enrollment in the full IB Diploma Program. Open to: Juniors and seniors

Service Learning Projects

Through extending themselves to others, students develop a sense of commitment; learn the potential rewards and frustrations involved in service; learn how specific agencies, cultures, and institutions operate; develop an appreciation for complex social support networks; and gain insight into their own values and life goals. Sixty-five hours of service are required of all George School students during junior or senior year. Service learning projects vary from intense, two-week experiences in a school-sponsored, domestic or international service project, to once-a-week experiences that extend throughout the school year, to preapproved independent projects. Service learning projects may be completed during the school year or over the summer. Each project must take the form of direct interaction with people who are disempowered because of social, racial, economic, or health factors. School-sponsored trips can accommodate limited numbers and require an application and screening process. Students are expected to submit proposals for most service projects well in advance of the project date. Each student is required to write a reflective journal that documents personal growth and understanding of the service experience. Some service learning projects have supplementary reading to orient students to the population being served.