When sophomores at Stone Ridge School begin their foray into John Milton’s Paradise Lost, a unique STEAM project encourages their scientific exploration and inquiry in a cross-disciplinary context — “something like Satan on the brink of the Abyss embarking on his own epic journey,” says Upper School English teacher Stephany Fontanone.
In this lesson, traditional classroom discussion is paired with collaboration with outside sources, teachers, and student-consultants from other disciplines. Known as “The Ultimate Guided Tour into Milton’s Paradise Lost,” projects have ranged from determining the acceleration of Satan’s free fall using Newton’s equation for universal gravitation, to considering the implications of dark energy and the formation of nebulae and the larger cosmic expansion.
Students can work alone or with a partner; they’re required to work with students and teachers outside of the English Department; and their respective projects then become part of a larger course offering which takes shape in an interactive website. “Having students I taught in Freshman Physics expand on the concepts to which they were introduced in such a creative and advanced way was a highlight of collaborating on this project,” says Upper School Science Chair Joanna Caudle.
“I’m impressed by the blend of deep-dive learning and innovation in this program,” says Upper School Head Meg Frazier. “Not only do our sophomore scholars get to explore a difficult text, but also confidently take on challenging science concepts. Our teachers are modeling what can happen when interest, energy, creativity, analysis, and independent problem solving all take hold.”