Ms. Schurdak has been working as an administrator with this age group for over 20 years and is excited to join Pingry, having been struck “by the commitment of the Middle School faculty to educating middle schoolers… They are both serious and joyful about their work.”
- Introduction to Mindfulness (#16000)
- Landscape and the Human Spirit - Honors (#16002)
- Exploring Key Questions in Philosophy (#16001)
- Freedom: Responsibilities & Limitations (#10999)
- Contemporary American Issues (#10994 for fall, #10995 for spring)
- Dance 1: Creative Dance & Movement (#10777 as Arts, #10777A as Fitness)
- Dance 2: Modern Dance (#10778 as Arts, #10778A as Fitness)
- Financial Literacy 9 (#99000)
- Financial Literacy Lecture Series (#99100)
- Public Speaking: the Art of Discourse (#99901)
- Yearbook Design & Production (#10725)
- German Intellectual History and Philosophy - Honors
Introduction to Mindfulness (#16000)
Trimester course. 1 credit. Forms IV - VI.
This course introduces students to basic mindfulness practices that can help them understand their greatest resource, which is their attention. Through the lens of attention, we can begin to see thoughts and emotions more clearly. As we develop greater awareness of our moment by moment experiences, we will grow our capacity to adapt our habits to more closely align with values that support a healthy lifestyle, like good nutrition, relaxation, sleep, and stronger social connections. In addition, the course will strengthen ways in which we can develop a stronger relationship with nature.
Landscape and the Human Spirit - Honors (#16002)
Fall semester course. 1.5 credits. Forms V-VI.
30,000 years ago, prehistoric people walked into the deepest corners of the Chauvet Cave complex in southern France to craft some of the most beautiful works of art ever made. What drew them there? What was the purpose of painting hundreds of life-like animals on the walls of this cold, dark, subterranean labyrinth? This interdisciplinary course will explore why human beings are drawn to certain landscapes, especially of the unexpected variety -- deserts, barrens, bogs, and, yes, the darkest of caves -- and how they interact with them in remarkable ways. Students will examine place-based literature, explorer-essays, visual art, architecture, history, and archeological studies in an effort to better understand why people find meaning in places that some consider wastelands. In an era of urban sprawl, eco-angst, and nature deficit disorder, this course will take students on a journey through an aspect of human experience that often lies outside the frame of traditional coursework.
Core assignments will require deep reading, student-driven discussions, oral presentations, and a major research paper. A goal of this course is that students gain an understanding of how to “read” landscapes; therefore, outdoor field work -- both on-campus and off -- is an important component. In addition to a school-day field trip, students will be required to choose from a menu of several experiential field-study opportunities, many of which may take place on Saturdays or Sundays so as to interfere as little as possible with athletics or extracurricular commitments.
Exploring Key Questions in Philosophy (#16001)
Spring semester course. 1.5 credits. Forms V-VI.
In this course, we explore philosophical questions, such as: Who am I?, What is reality?, What is happiness?, What is beauty? While each of these questions corresponds to a philosophical sub-discipline (e.g., Metaphysics, Ethics, Aesthetics), the focus is not on the history of philosophy but rather on the communal exploration of philosophical ideas and their significance for our lives. Classes are discussion-based, with student input forming the most vital feature of the course. Readings consist of a wide range of short, selective texts, drawn from various philosophical, spiritual, and literary traditions.
Freedom: Responsibilities & Limitations (#10999)
Major year course. 3 credits. Forms V-VI. Honors.
This interdisciplinary course examines the many aspects of freedom through an analysis of fine arts, literature, religion, and philosophy. Students address a wide range of social, political and ethical issues to gain a diverse perspective on freedom and its many manifestations in different cultures. The earliest and most influential principles and doctrines of freedom are evaluated in the light of our most pressing contemporary controversies, including affirmative action, reproductive rights, and freedom of speech.
Classes are discussion-oriented, and students periodically make presentations to the class. Students keep weekly journals as a written response to the course and are also responsible for a series of more formal, critical writing assignments. The broad nature of freedom, the interdisciplinary character of the curriculum, and the focus on current events ensure that student input is a fundamental component of the course.
Classroom discussions emphasize such seminal principles of Western thought as individual rights, the social contract, and majority rule. Readings include The Grand Inquisitor, The Communist Manifesto, The Sunflower, The Stranger, and Makes Me Wanna Holler. The textbooks Morality and Moral Controversies and Social and Political Philosophy provide for discussion of many ethical issues and sociopolitical relationships. In-house speakers and field trips to New York City enrich and broaden class readings and discussions.
Contemporary American Issues (#10994 for fall, #10995 for spring)
Major year course. 3 credits; 1.5 credits for fall or spring only. Forms V-VI.
This interdisciplinary course examines some of the most controversial and enduring issues in American history and culture. Students will analyze primary source documents, film, and literature to help recognize the historic roots of major issues. At the core of our studies will be four units focusing on the topics of race, gender, class, and religion. Each topic will be rooted in a historic foundation and then brought forward to the present day. The goal of each unit will be to have students wrestle with their own conceptions of these topics as they relate to their everyday world.
Classes will be discussion-oriented; students will write short reaction papers and longer research-oriented papers as well as prepare projects and presentations and take traditional tests. Course material will include interdisciplinary scholarship as well as fiction, journalism, historical narratives, photographs, and film.
Dance 1: Creative Dance & Movement (#10777 as Arts, #10777A as Fitness)
Major year course. 3 credits. Forms III-IV.
This course is open to anyone who loves to move. Whether you are a trained dancer, an athlete, or someone who locks the door and poses in front of the mirror, this course will develop the dancer in you.
Students take class in comfortable clothes with the feet bare. They learn to create and perform their own dances. They explore dance in terms of body parts and shape, energies, actions, space, and relationships. They incorporate these values into choreographed warm-ups, guided movement explorations, and group improvisations. Then, combining this work with the input and skills of class members, they create dance pieces that are shown daily, weekly, or monthly. Ideas for dances may be chosen by the teacher or students. The year culminates in a formal dance showing by student choreographers with costume, music, and movement all selected by the students.
Benefits of creative dance include increased ease of movement as new and more efficient muscle patterns are developed, improved self-image (because moving enhances and enlivens the positive feelings of the body), and relief from stress.
Students may elect this class to fulfill an Arts or a Fitness requirement for one, two, or three trimesters.
Dance 2: Modern Dance (#10778 as Arts, #10778A as Fitness)
Major year course. 3 credits. Forms IV-VI.
Prerequisite: Dance 1 or permission of the instructor.
Dance 2 explores the exciting history and innovative techniques of modern dance. Modern dance, also called barefoot dance, jazz, or lyrical dance, is an American-born, 20th-century art form that took a new and fresh approach to dance. Rebels of their time, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and others had ideas of freedom, equality, and social concerns which needed a new vocabulary of movement to be expressed.
Jazz dance, traditional dance rhythms, and ballroom dance steps round out our modern vocabulary so that students can become fluent with other forms of dance. Partnering and contact improvisations are also added to give students experience giving and taking, following and leading with weight. Relaxation techniques, yoga stretches, and constructive rest are stress relievers that dancers will also use in class from time to time.
Throughout the year, students will perform their work for the class and record their work on video. Formal showings of student-choreographed work will be the culminating project of this class.
Students may elect this class to fulfill an Arts or a Fitness requirement.
Financial Literacy 9 (#99000)
Trimester course. 1 credit. 3 class meetings per cycle. Required of all Form III students.
The goal of the program is to equip students with the tools and knowledge to foster responsible financial decision-making. It provides a thorough examination of such topics as financial planning, credit and credit scores, borrowing, time value of money, investments, insurance, taxes, and careers. The course is collaborative in nature with group projects conducted during class and the presentation of real-life situations that are discussed and debated from a financial standpoint.
Financial Literacy Lecture Series (#99100)
Required of all Form VI students.
The goal of the senior financial literacy seminar series is to graduate students who are informed about personal finance, the importance of saving, budgeting, credit, and thoughtful and wise investing. There are three mandatory seminars throughout the year, each addressing different topics. A question and answer period will be provided at each seminar to promote student understanding. The culminating seminar will be held in May to review topics already covered, and will ensure seniors are prepared for their financial journey beyond The Pingry School. Our mission is that each Pingry graduate will have accumulated knowledge to be an informed and responsible financial decision maker for their own personal financial lives and to be a contributing, financially ethical, and knowledgeable member of the global community.
Public Speaking: the Art of Discourse (#99901)
Trimester course. 1 credit. Forms III-VI.
Public speaking is the communication of information to an audience with a clear intention. Students in this course develop an understanding of how language is used to enlighten, entertain, inspire, or challenge an audience. Students will learn how to construct a speech, how to select language that will help them realize their intention, and how to use the voice and body in the presentation of their material. Students will examine the works of great presenters and their speeches as part of the course.
Yearbook Design & Production (#10725)
Year-long course. 1 credit. 4 class meetings per cycle. Forms III-VI.
This course is designed to teach the techniques of layout and editing. Along with the organization and production of the yearbook, there will be frequent writing and graphic design assignments and in-class evaluation of all work submitted. Emphasis will be on expressing ideas in print, drawings, graphics, and photographs. The assigned work will be formulated and produced on computers through mastery of scanning processes, InDesign, and PhotoShop. Students desiring to serve as editor in chief, assistant editor in chief, or editor of any section of the yearbook must take this course. This course does not satisfy the Arts graduation requirement.
Students may be asked to run a school-provided copy of Adobe Photoshop 6 on their laptops if it is appropriate to their responsibilities.
German Intellectual History and Philosophy - Honors
Major year course. 3 credits. Forms V - VI.
This course introduces students to pivotal contributions by authors from the German-speaking word to our common intellectual history. Not unlike an upper-level language course (e.g., Advanced Topics II), it is designed to give students an in-depth understanding of the history and culture of a particular country or countries. In this case, the focus is on an exploration of philosophical texts by authors from German-speaking countries, with forays into literature, psychology, art, and popular culture (e.g., German cinema). It familiarizes students with the work of thinkers who introduced radically new ideas in a number of disciplines by questioning established beliefs and practices. The course is discussion-based, treating the readings mainly as prompts for a Harkness-style form of inquiry. All texts will be read in translation, with an introduction to key concepts and passages in the original German. Readings include texts by Immanuel Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Freud, and Hanna Arendt.