Curriculum

The Summit offers a rigorous honors level curriculum in which students enjoy a cohesive, content-rich education. The course sequence and emphasis on teaching the Great Books and collaborative instruction facilitates cross-curricular study, active student engagement with peers and instructors in a clear, unitive curriculum.

 

The Liberal Arts Core

Theology

A living and integrated faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of our mission. Students at The Summit will pursue theology studies for all four years. 

 

Humanities

The Summit student will explore history and literature in a four-year sequence of courses that will ensure a rich exposure and through knowledge of the canon and history of Western Civilization.

Mathematics

The goal of the mathematics program at The Summit is to have students arrive at a place of proficiency in both the theoretical understanding and the practical application of mathematics.

Science

Nature is the fundamental object of study and students will come to an understanding of what are the principles of nature, and how scientists come to understand this truth.

 

Languages

Classical languages are a central component of the classical learning and give the student a mastery of academic vocabulary that will readily translate across multiple disciplines.

 

Electives & Senior Thesis

Students receive an introduction to a variety of electives. In their final year at The Summit, students will be responsible for a senior thesis as part of their graduation requirement.

 

 

Theology

Historically, theology is understood as the “Queen of the Sciences” meaning that all disciplines are most free to operate as themselves when they are ordered towards a cohesive unity that elevates the soul. Our approach to education seeks to unify the different disciplines so that they are each seen as different perspectives on the same reality of Creation. Students at The Summit will be required to take four years of intentional study in different areas of theology.

Old Testament & New Testament
During the freshman and sophomore years, students will focus on Scripture studies going through a complete reading of the entire Old and New Testaments.Our scripture studies aim to heed the divine command given to St. Augustine to tolle, lege, that is, “take up and read” the Word of God.

Students will learn to become familiar with the overall structure, authorship, history, authorship, and inerrancy of the scriptures.

It is important to remember at the outset that the Holy Scripture is an inexhaustible well from which the greatest saints and theologians of the Church have drawn truth and sustenance and insight for nearly 2000 years. We hear it preached to us every week, and for all Christians, it is something we will necessarily study for the rest of our lives. There is great value in reading the Scripture together and sharing our insights and questions, and with each pass, we can hope to learn more. To a great extent, the practice of reading, or Lectio Divina, will itself serve as a guide. Yet a key goal in the course of scripture study is to follow the narrative thread of Salvation History to its completion. Students will learn to see how, in the person of Jesus Christ, the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled, sin and death are defeated, and all of Creation is redeemed.

Liturgy and Sacramental
The goal of this course is to immerse students in a rich study of the Liturgy of the Church so as to come to a greater appreciation of the sacramental dimension of Christian life. Readings are centered on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and supplemented by a rich array of commentary from significant representatives of the Catholic tradition as well as the texts of the Liturgy itself.

In addition to providing a sound knowledge of liturgical and sacramental theology, the course aims to enrich the liturgical life of the students themselves, while also preparing them for college and the life beyond it through cultivation of their ability to read well, think well, write well, and speak well.

Trinitarian Theology
The course will begin with a discussion of the principles of theology. Then, with saints as our guide, students will explore the manner in which the Church has unpacked divine revelation to come to a profound understanding of the mystery of the Trinity.

Sources and texts include readings from:
The Gospel of St. John St. Athanasius
St. Gregory of Nissa
St. Gregory of Naziansus
St. Basil the Great
St. Hilary of Poitier
St. Aurelius Augustine
St. Ambrose
St. John Chrysostom
St. Jerome
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Boethius

Mission and Vocation
This class will seek to recall the learning that you have accumulated over the past three years and direct it towards the practical working out of your faith as you prepare to step into adulthood. While the class will cover a range of theological categories; bioethics, moral theology, apologetics, sacramental theology, and ecclesiology, the subject at hand is the question of Christian mission, namely the call to holiness that the Second Vatican Council teaches is universal to every vocation. Some of our reading will be a return to texts that students are already familiar with, such as Aquinas, Augustine, and GK Chesterton. Other authors will include a range from authors such as C.S. Lewis, Viktor Frankl, Cardinal Ratzinger, and Bishop Barron, among others.

In short, the objective of this course is to serve as a launchpad as students look to take up their respective vocations to meet and follow Christ.

 

Literature & History

Literature

The medium of literature is language, and so too is the medium of our literature courses; students will engage in informal class discussion and formal seminars as well as an oral examination.  Complementing the study of literature is the development of students as writers through compositions of exploration, literary analysis, and argumentation.

While remaining distinct from the discipline History, our Literature studies follow a similar trajectory in that texts build in a historical sequence. Texts are organized along a particular movement within a unitive study of Western Civilization sources but they are read not merely as historical supplements but as great literary works that are present and real.

Freshman Year
Students of The Summit Academy begin their study of the great books of the Western literary imagination in Literature I with ancient literature in translation, from Greek epics and tragedies to Virgil’s Aeneid, in conversation with minor works of literature from later eras.

Texts Include
Wordsworth, Poe, Auden: select poems
Homer: The Iliad
Homer: The Odyssey
Aristotle: Poetics
Sophocles: Oedipus the King
Virgil: The Aeneid
Charles Baudelaire: “The Swan”

Sophomore Year
Students continue their study of the great books of the Western literary imagination in Literature II with Medieval and Renaissance literature: Beowulf and Dante in translation, Chaucer in Middle English, and Shakespeare in Modern English,

Texts Include:
Tennyson: “The Lotos-Eaters”
Virgil: Aeneid
Dante: excerpts from La Vita Nuova
Dante: Inferno
Tennyson: “Ulysses”
Dante: Purgatory
Dante: Paradise
Chaucer: selections from The Canterbury Tales
Shakespeare: King Lear

Junior Year
During the junior year students explore poetic and dramatic works of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Romantic era.

Texts Include:
Edmund Spenser
Petrarch
Shakespeare: King Lear, Macbeth
Cervantes: Don Quixote (selections)
John Milton: Paradise Lost
Goethe: Faust

Senior Year
Students conclude their literature studies at The Summit with a close examination of some of the great books of the modern Western literary imagination.

Texts Include:
Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Jane Austen: Mansfield Park
Herman Melville: Bartleby, the Scrivener
Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
Poetry of T.S. Eliot
Flannery O’Connor: selections from Complete Short Stories

History

The Summit student will explore history and literature in a four-year sequence of courses that will ensure a rich exposure and thorough knowledge of the canon and history of Western Civilization.  Students will see their skills of analysis sharpened as they work through texts. At the end of the program, students should learn to think, research, and write historically. This means that they should learn to ask questions about texts, artifacts, the sequence of recorded events. In other words, students should begin to engage with the evidence that historians employ and learn to discern meaning.

Freshman Year - Origins
The goal of this course is to immerse students in the question of our historical origins. Key themes will consist of the formation of Earth and the cosmos, the origins of life and man, the rise of civilization in general, and the Hebrew, Greek, and Roman roots of Western Civilization in particular.

The class uses the A.P. survey text "The Western Heritage" by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner.
Additional readings will include:
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Selections from other Ancient Near-Eastern texts
Selections from classics of the "axial age" (Pre-Socratics and the World Religions)
Herodotus, The Histories (selections)
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (selections)
Plato, The Apology of Socrates and selections from his other dialogues
Aristotle, selections
Demosthenes, select speeches
Cicero, select speeches
Virgil, The Aeneid and selections from his other works

Sophomore Year – Medieval History and the Rise of Christendom
This course largely deals with the history that extends from the 4th century up to the 16th century. It is marked by the split of the Roman Empire into East and West and the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance and the dawning of a new age of discovery.

The class will continue to employ the A.P. survey text "The Western Heritage" by Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner.
Additional readings will include:
Plutarch’s Lives 
Lars Brownsworth Lost to the West
David Louis Wilkens The First Thousand Years
Selections from other Medieval texts including The Thalia, The Rule of St. Benedict, Magna Carta, Luther’s 95 Theses and Various Letters

Junior Year – Early Modern History
In the third year of history, our goal is to immerse students in the historical question of modernity as it begins to emerge. Key themes will be the dividing of Medieval Christendom and the refounding of Western Civilization on an entirely new (secular, scientific, and increasingly global) basis in the wake of Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Revolution.

Readings will include:
Machiavelli, The Prince
Petrarch, Canzoniere (selections)
Boccacio, The Decameron (selections)
Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (selections)
Luther, selections
Calvin, Institutes (selections)
Selections from Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Voltaire and Rousseau

Senior Year – The United States and Modernity
In the senior year, students will focus on the development of liberal democracy and the ideas from which it emerged. They will also gain exposure to the major European conflicts of the 20th century and examine the various ideologies that were at stake. While the continental West will shift from political "Absolutism" to a period of constitutionalism, we will see that the shift from absolutism in the East takes a somewhat different turn. While it is essential that we provide the appropriate context of our place in the West, the main emphasis of the class is to explore the American experiment in Liberal Democracy. For this reason, students will spend a sizable amount of the course reading the primary founding documents of the United States.

The class will use John McKay’s survey, Western Society: A Brief History and Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People as key texts.
Additional texts will include:
The Declaration of Independence
The Constitution of the United States
The Federalist Papers (selections)
Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (selections) and speeches on the           American Revolution
Mill, On Liberty
Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration
De Toqueville, Democracy in America (selections)

Mathematics

The goal of the mathematics program at The Summit is to have students arrive at a place of proficiency in both the theoretical understanding and the practical application of mathematics. Students are equipped to engage mathematics as a tool for understanding other disciplines that builds from a fundamental comprehension of the substance and structure of arithmetic and quantity.

Algebra I
Math offerings at The Summit begin with Algebra I. Algebra is, in one sense, the generalization of arithmetic, and we will start this year by building on and extending students’ knowledge of numbers and their basic operations. In another sense, algebra is a powerful tool for modeling situations and solving problems—we will explore more fully what that means as we advance on our journey. But as much as this is a class about algebra, it is also a class about critical thinking, logical reasoning, such that students will learn to communicate the results of mathematical investigations.

Euclidian Geometry
In Geometry, our immediate objective is to explore the subject matter of continuous quantity.  Euclid's proofs teach students to make and present a clear scientific argument that can demonstrate (or disprove), some of the fundamental propositions of planar geometry, culminating with the Pythagorean Theorem.

The course will begin with a discussion of where one ought to begin a scientific exploration of geometry.  Then, with Euclid as our guide, and his reasoning as our model, we will construct scientific arguments to prove or disprove some of the fundamental propositions of planar geometry, culminating with the Pythagorean Theorem. Although Logic will not be a subject of this course per se, nonetheless, in an integrated classical liberal education, every course should touch on every other course, and Logic in particular, as it is a liberal art and the method of all disciplines.  Therefore, the logical structure of Euclid’s Geometry will also be a topic of this class, to the effect that the student will see a prime example of how to put into practice the lessons learned in the Logic 1 course.

Paralleling our progress through the First Book of Euclid’s Elements the course will include working with solid (i.e., three dimensional) geometry, and algebraic applications that will help with SAT preparation. A bulk of the work with Cartesian geometry, however, will be take place in the Algebra 2 and Pre-calculus courses.

Math Lab
To ensure that students maintain a robust Algebraic core competency even while they focus on gaining access to the benefits of demonstration that are obtained in Euclidian Geometry The Summit requires all geometry students to enroll in the Algebra Lab, which is a half-credit course.

Algebra II
Upon completion of the Algebra II students should have a solid ability to compute mathematical expressions that include on or more variables. They will solve linear and quadratic equations, as well as systems of linear equations. Students will also multiply polynomials and factor quadratic polynomials. Students will also learn to work with fractions made up of polynomials and to solve fractional equations. They will also be introduced to equations involving square roots and to use radicals to solve equations. Students will learn to work the real-number line and the coordinate place. They will graph numbers and equations, both linear and quadratic. They will learn to work their way around the triangle of equation, graph and slope. Students will also learn to find solutions graphically. Students will be introduced to higher degree polynomials and rational functions. They will learn how transformations of a function alter the corresponding graph of the function. Exponential and logarithmic functions are presented at the end the second semester.

Pre-Calculus
Pre-Calculus students begin the course by returning to the study of the number line, and expand this study beyond to the complex plane. The class will cover the geometric theory upon which trigonometry is based and from that develop our only table of trigonometric values for all the trig functions, and learn to establish and use the formulae of trig identities. Special attention is given to the ratio pi (π) and deriving its decimal approximation. In doing so, students derive the familiar equations for arc lengths and sector areas of the circle, and the surfaces and volumes of spheres, cylinders, and cones. Analytic geometry is also studied, first as a basis for the algebraic development of conic sections and then as an aid in the development of complex number theory.

Students also continue to explore Math in terms of problems or questions like: what does a circle have to do with a triangle? What, if anything, is the meaning of the square root of a negative imaginary number? How do you mathematically describe and model the growth of a bacterial colony that continuously grows in proportion to its size?

Topics in advanced arithmetic will be studied, beginning with simple theorems of even, odd, composite and prime numbers, and advancing into proofs of combinations and permutations. These will continue into Pascal’s Triangle, the Fibonacci series, and the binomial expansion theorem, and culminate into some of the theorems of arithmetic that are useful for the development of the Calculus.

The course concludes with a study of the principles of the Calculus, the derivative and the integral so that students that continue in the Calculus will have a firm foundation upon which to build.

Calculus
Calculus is the mathematics of change. If you are not a mathematician or scientist, or don't intend to become one, there is no need for you to master the techniques for solving calculus problems by hand. But if you avoid acquiring some insight into the essentials of calculus… you will miss a great intellectual adventure. ~Martin Gardner

In this course, students will look at the problems that calculus was invented to solve, and our study of mathematics will encompass both the differential and integral calculus and how they relate within the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. As we progress, we will examine many of the beautiful and interesting ways that calculus is useful for describing and modeling the natural world.

The text for this course is Calculus: An Intuitive and Physical Approach by Morris Kline. Kline’s textbook largely employs a good deal of mathematical writing or discussion concerning the problem, concept or technique at hand. Class will consist of discussing high-level concepts, working through practice problems, and discovery of steps to complete problems

Science

Introduction to Physical Science
Students begin their high school studies at The Summit with the Introduction to Natural Science. The course coincides with the Origins track and establishes a foundation for further studies. While maintaining the integrity of each discipline, students get a sense of the way in which science, philosophy, and history are in dialogue with one another. In this manner, they come to understand natural science and the inquiry that it pursues as a particularly human endeavor.

Nature is the fundamental object of study and students will come to an understanding of what are the principles of nature, and how scientists come to understand this truth. Therefore, this class will become the foundation for all the other science classes that the student studies. It will also help integrate the understanding of nature into the larger pursuit of classical education -- truth, goodness, and beauty. The practical component of the course consist in learning to observe nature in the various sub-categories (astronomy, geology, biology, etc.) as well as the patterns of their motion, particularly within the study of astronomy. The second component of the course consists of studying the theories of the original natural scientists from the pre-Socratics to the Copernican Revolution.

Chemistry
Chemistry students will continue in their understanding of how scientific theory develops through the application of mathematical models to organize carefully made observations in an experimental setting, how that model is tested through additional observations, and by exposing the student to such observations.

The immediate objective is to explore the subject matter of chemistry, which is secondary matter as subject to alteration, corruption, and generation. The course will begin with a review of the general principles of natural change discovered in the Introduction to Nature course. Through demonstration and application in lectures and laboratory experiments the class progresses through medieval theories of alchemy, revisions to that theory made in the Renaissance, the Phlogiston Theory which began chemistry proper, the refutation of that theory and replacement made by Lavoissier’s theory of oxidation, and the return to the Greek theory of atoms with the refinements of Dalton. The class will demonstrate the refutation of Aristotle’s table of the elements, later replaced through the work of numerous chemists with a new table of elements, culminating in Mendelev’s Periodic Table. Students will discuss the eventual refutation of Dalton’s Atomic Theory by Lord Rutherford, and the development of quantum chemistry. Students will be guided through the methodologies for writing experimental lab reports.

Biology with Lab
The core Biology with Lab course at The Summit simultaneously offered as a college- level Biology 101 and 102 course for which students receive 8 credits through Germanna Community College.  While conditions and grade requirements may vary, this course transfers to most Virginia public and private universities. The course will also provide students with a solid foundation for further studies in life sciences in college while also grounding them in the major unifying themes of biology that will serve them well regardless of future course work.

The class will cover cell theory, Mendel's genetics, and the theory of evolution and take an inductive approach to the study of kingdoms. Students will work through cell structures and functions, photosynthesis, respiration, reproduction, protein synthesis, ecosystems, plant life, and a section on anatomy and physiology to include circulation and respiration, immune systems, digestive and reproductive systems.

Students will read an assortment of supplementary texts, including Francis Crick's papers on his discovery of the DNA Double Helix, selections from William Harvey's Motion of the Heart and Circulation of Blood and Animal Generation. Harvey's work is important in upholding the importance of observation while maintaining the appropriate distinctions in Aristotle's Nature and simultaneously rejecting the false distinctions of earlier theories (such as pre-modern embryology as one example).  Henri Fabre's work will also reinforce the value of close and careful observation in science. Students learn to make the distinction that the proper ordering principle biology studies is not life qua operation or mechanism but life qua living organism.

Physics
Students will approach physics as a body of knowledge that describes what we presently understand about the universe. Physics, broadly defined as the study of the natural world, is the most ancient and foundational of the natural sciences. The study of physics in this sense reaches back at least as far as the sixth century B.C., when Greek thinkers began to show that natural causes, rather than mythological ones, could be used to explain natural phenomena. Physics has undergone various stages of development, particularly as we reach our present development of what we know as “modern” physics, or physics seen largely through the lens of empiricism.

The class uses James Rutherford’s Project Physics text. Created in collaboration with Gerald Holton, Professor of Physics and Professor of the History of Science and Fletcher Watson, a professor of astronomy, the Harvard Project Physics is directed towards preparing secondary students for Physics studies in higher education. Developed with the objective of establishing a solid footing for students, the text places a strong emphasis placed on conceptual understanding, and the problem sets. Following the text, the course follows the “story of physics” by retracing the development of physics and exploring the questions and the problems that motivated the likes of Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein to develop and refine their understanding of natural phenomena. Along the way we will also be examining some of the philosophical assumptions and implications that have shaped our understanding of physics.

Over the span of the course, we will investigate such things as motion, forces, gravitation, energy, heat, light, magnetism, and atomic theory. We will conclude by examining recent lines of study such as relativity and quantum physics.

 

Languages

4 Year Language Requirement, (3 of which must be Latin)

Classical Languages
Classical languages (and specifically Latin) are a central component of the classical learning. Latin gives the student a mastery of academic vocabulary and builds skills and confidence that will readily translate across multiple disciplines.

Latin studies have long been a normative aspect of a quality education. One of the chief reasons contemporary students struggle in advanced high school and college subjects is the unfamiliar and complex vocabulary. Most multi-syllabic English words are derived from Latin. A mastery of Latin therefore enables students to more easily understand the more technical academic vocabulary of both the sciences and the humanities. In addition, knowledge of Latin and its grammatical structure informs students towards a more mature grasp of English grammar as well as other Latin-based languages. The highly structured nature of Latin grammar brings order into an otherwise fluid and unmethodical subject. Latin grammar is both more complex than English and less imprecise, enabling the student to learn the two fundamental thinking skills, analysis and synthesis, in a much cleaner and less frustrating way.

  • In Latin I students will receive an introduction to the basic grammar and syntax of the Latin language as the begin to work towards mastery of basic Latin vocabulary and grammar.

  • Upon completion of Latin II students will achieve mastery of intermediate Latin vocabulary and grammar.

  • Latin III will have students working through the translation of original texts, relying heavily upon selections from Wheelock's Latin Reader. Students will also spend time working through exercises of prose composition.

  • In Latin IV students will return to Virgil's Aeneid. They will spend the course working through the text in the original language with the aid of vocabulary lists, grammar notes and various commentaries.

Greek is offered as an elective and may also be selected to fulfill the fourth year language requirement. Students are enlightened by the similarities between Latin and Greek grammar, and are surprised to learn about the large number of Greek roots in both English and Latin.

  • Greek I students will learn to translate, read and write Attic Greek. The class teaches the basic morphology, lexicon, and syntax of Attic Greek with short phrases of translation.

  • In Greek II students continue to build on the foundations of the prior and delve deeper into more translation of original texts.

Modern Languages
As students matriculate into the fourth year of studies at The Summit we are currently beginning to introduce modern language into the curriculum in partnership with 3rd party resources for students that have completed the Latin requirement and Greek offerings.

As students continue to advance in their studies we plan to expand our modern language offerings.

Electives

Our program is designed to ensure that all students receive an introduction to a variety of electives. As students matriculate, they will have the opportunity to pursue specific areas for developing higher levels of mastery.

Freshman will begin with a half-credit each of Art, Drama, Logic and Speech/Debate.
In the sophomore and junior years, students will select from two of tracks courses for further advanced studies and practice.
Additionally, many students will opt to include a second language, (in addition to the Latin requirement), as an elective course of study.

Sr. Thesis

In their final year at The Summit, students will be responsible for a senior thesis as part of their graduation requirement. Upon completion, students will demonstrate an ability to research, present and defend a project. Students will work with a faculty advisor to develop their topic and then deliver a final position. The outcome will be a major paper (15-20 pages) and oral presentation that they will defend under peer and faculty examination.

The Senior Thesis, the signature effort of a student’s education at The Summit Academy, is a sustained performance in the liberal arts.  It is not a work of specialized research, but the extended pursuit of a difficult question in dialogue with a great author.  The text chosen must be either included in or closely related to the Summit curriculum.  Students are encouraged to plumb any of the liberal arts for texts that they love and that raise questions that they wish to pursue: literary and historical texts are, of course, on the table, but so are mathematical proofs, musical scores and librettos, works of theology or philosophy, seminal works of scientific thought, encyclicals, founding documents, etc.

The Thesis project culminates in a series of oral examinations in which students present an abridged version of the thesis before a panel of faculty and outside readers who then selects the student who has presented the most distinguished senior thesis with a prize.