Headmaster Letter

Dear Griffin Families,


This quarter we hosted our annual high school info night, and as always, the stars of the night were the many high school students who shared highlights from their Northern Oaks High School experience. Freshmen Ben Cathey, Caroline Ainsworth, and Cameron Collins; sophomores Cambria Danet, Jeanette Guidry, and Alyssa Wagner; juniors Grace Gardner and Jordan Hackleman; and seniors Aidan Alonso and Phoebe Warren impressed the audience with their poise, sincerity and joy. Whether it was speaking about school dances, curricular parties, class trips, athletics and clubs, or humane letters seminars, language studies, laboratory sciences, calculus, and the fine arts, each student gave witness to what classical education stands for: human flourishing. Our students displayed a genuine love for noble things and lasting things, and each in his or her way displayed a heart for truth, goodness, and beauty. It is humbling for me to witness so many young people compelled to seek out the heroism required to go out into the culture and live nobly for things beyond themselves.


Finally, each student spoke with esteem and love for their teachers. This is fitting because if classical education stands for human flourishing, it must also stand for the central role of the teacher in this type of education. Through anecdotes, our students captured the awe, wonder, and dramatic performance that our teachers bring into the classroom, along with the love that our teachers have for them. We have a vibrant and beautiful community founded on lasting and noble things. What a privilege it is to be a part of it!


I would like to give you a small taste of some of the things that your children have experienced here at Northern Oaks this semester:


Curriculum

·       Our 7th graders have begun their study of Medieval history this semester, starting with the Visigoths crossing the Danube. In Latin students have been practicing recognizing and reproducing the relative pronouns qui, quae, quod and practicing through excerpts from original Latin texts. In literature and composition students have read Tales of the Greek Heroes, The Silver Chair, and The Miracle Worker, and just recently began reading Shane and exploring the themes of duty, honor, and friendship while practicing the art of writing a three-paragraph essay. In PE students are practicing improving their personal records in running the mile, mobility exercises, and learning the basic rules and movements of volleyball; in music, they are studying vocal anatomy, practicing performance pieces, and beginning the fundamentals of music theory. In pre-algebra students used the area formulas to solve for the area of triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles and learned to calculate the surface area of prisms, cylinders, and spheres. In Life Science students continue to study phylum cordada, starting with amphibians, and reptiles, and are getting ready to study mammals, which will end with the study of human anatomy (seventh grade should expect some non-rational animal visitors).


·       Our 8th graders have studied the Era of Good Feelings and Andrew Jackson’s presidency in U.S. History and have reflected on the different ways in which a sense of nationalism in our early republic developed. In Earth Science students have studied the atom, starting with its characteristics, properties, and parts. Further, our 8th graders are either in Studio Art learning fundamental techniques by imitating masterworks, or are in PE competing in volleyball and learning athletic movements through well-designed drills. In Latin students have studied excerpts of Latin texts to practice with infinitives and indirect statements and translating Latin into English. In Literature and Composition, students have read Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Out of the Silent Planet, Animal Farm, and recently completed The Chosen, a beautiful book about two boys who develop an unlikely friendship during the turbulent years of World War II. Students engaged with ideas about friendship, the relation between religion, faith, culture, and civic responsibility, and the fragility of human beings in the face of good and evil, and reflected on the theme of fatherhood and sonship. Finally, in Algebra 1 students have studied the order of real numbers and solving inequalities


·       Our freshmen have studied genetics and can demonstrate how transcription and translation of DNA work by creating a DNA code to transcribe and can demonstrate their knowledge of protein synthesis by “designing” a bee from a code of DNA! They continue to read and translate beautiful classical Latin texts or are learning the fundamental structures of the Spanish language to begin reading classical Spanish texts next year. In Euclidean Geometry, freshmen have completed Book 3, where they continued to explore the nature of a proof by studying the properties of the circle. In Humane Letters our Freshmen have read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Founding Documents and the Federalist Papers, Democracy in America, and recently completed My Antonia (ask your scholar to explain the Latin epithet, Optima dies...prima fugit). This year students are either in PE or Music Choir, where they are preparing pieces for our annual Spring Music Concert.


·       Our sophomores recently completed their introductory study of stoichiometry in Chemistry and will begin applying its rules to gases after reviewing the gas law relationships and kinetic molecular theory. In Music Choir they are completing music theory and are practicing pieces that will be performed at the Spring Concert. In Economics students are led away from the common misconception that the course is about money, the stock market, and business strategy by encountering and working out for themselves the true definition of economics: “the study of how humans choose to allocate scarce resources.” Students have been led through a variety of activities where they had to make decisions to allocate scarce resources and have also completed many primary readings and seminars that have familiarized them with key terms such as scarcity, incentives, and opportunity cost. In Humane Letters students just completed Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities (an experience made rich by their previous readings of Henry V, Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Pride and Prejudice, and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality). This is a beautiful tale of love that strengthens others, of hearts softened to serve one another no matter the cost, and ultimately a tale about a redemptive sacrifice. In Latin and Spanish, students continue to read and translate beautiful original texts, and in Algebra 2 our students studied the beautiful world of parabolas and ellipses.


·       Finally, our Upperclassmen are in the middle of a very exciting spring semester. Spring semester of the Senior year is full of excitement as college and vocation decisions are made and graduation is anticipated. Seniors are also busy with their Senior Thesis project (senior thesis panels begin after Spring Break!), the senior trip to Washington D.C., Prom, and graduation traditions. Thus far our Seniors have engaged in Socratic seminars over The Aeneid, the Gospels and The Acts of the Apostles, Augustine’s Confessions, Aquinas’ Treatise on Law, Dante’s Inferno, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, and Macbeth and King Lear. They just recently began reading the capstone novel to every Great Hearts scholar’s education, The Brothers Karamazov (which all the faculty is reading this year, so seniors should expect several guest visitors!). In Physics 2 seniors have studied circuits, magnetostatics, electromagnetic induction, light, and optics quantum mechanics, and in Calculus 2 they are learning linear and quadratic functions, absolute value, inverse variations, and exponential functions. Finally, seniors are beholding multi-figurative paintings with different masterworks and are preparing to begin on the Senior Art Project tradition, while reading and translating classical texts in Spanish and Greek. Meanwhile, our Juniors are learning the fundamentals of drama by preparing for a production of Julius Caesar; they are exploring the law of gravitation, momentum, force, and impulse in Physics 1; they are learning the squeeze theorem, extreme value, and Fermat’s theorem in Calculus 1; they are reading and translating original works in Greek and Spanish, and are engaging in Socratic seminars about the highest human things by having completed Plato’s Republic! This year Juniors have read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Book of Job, Plato’s Five Dialogues, and will be reading Greek Tragedies after The Republic


Community

The Student Leadership Society has been very active this year. The Spirit Committee led a fantastic pep rally early this semester to honor our winter athletes, and the event ended with a basketball competition between student-athletes and faculty. The Juniors helped plan the second annual Father and Daughter Dance, and proceeds from the event went toward next year’s Senior trip to Washington D.C. Last weekend the Mentorship Committee and Dance Committees coordinated to plan and host the Middle School Sock Hop Dance, and our Service Committee organized a campus clean up (picking up over 75 pounds of trash!) and several drives to benefit our greater community. Applications for these committees will reopen to students after Spring Break, so please keep an eye out for further communication.



Finally, our Spring Sports are in full swing (Track and Field, Softball, Baseball, and Soccer) and a group of our students will be traveling with Cor Expeditions and Mr. Murphy to backpack and rock climb in Moab, Utah.


Also, please keep an eye out for communication on this year’s Symposium, which will be on April 8 and centered on the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse! Students will reflect on the question, “what is man’s place in the cosmos?” in relation to the beautiful event that they will witness firsthand. The day will be filled with science lessons, seminars on literary and poetry readings, observation tool workshops, and other stations to help students engage with this special event.


Lastly, congratulations to our Varsity Basketball team who for the first time in GHNO history made it to the 3A UIL playoffs. After a very exciting game that went into double overtime sadly, they lost, but what a game and what a season!


Here is to a great second semester in 2024! I am filled with love and gratitude as I reflect upon this beautiful community we have been gifted with.


Upwards and onwards!


With devotion,

Robert Funes | Headmaster Upper School

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