AHS students experience new immersive curriculum


Photo by Tatum Diemer

AHS students participating in the new Siddhartha curriculum, activity denying self by covering branding.

By Tatum Diemer, Aspen High School

At AHS, the curriculum for each class generally follows the same path year to year; however, a new English teacher at AHS has found a way to re-shape the class curriculum to excite students. Each year, the IB English Class has a unit covering the story of Siddhartha, following a monk’s path to self-discovery. But instead of simply reading the book, the students are now living out sections of the book for a period of time, in order to fully integrate the content of the course.

Alexis White, a new IB English teacher, is currently teaching about the story of Siddhartha, a teenager who follows several paths to find enlightenment and is having her class practice the same values as in the book.

“One of these paths is living as a Samana, this idea of self-denial, rejecting all worldly pleasures, to become as enlightened as possible,” White said. “So my students, for this section in the text, are also living as Samanas, denying self in different ways, restricting what we eat, not using obscene language, not gossiping, and trying to be as kind as possible.”

Alexis White has decided to reshape the learning methods of previous years, in order to get students more involved and excited about the content.

“I believe in an unconventional approach to education, and that extends to the way we approach content. I think it is really important, especially when you are reading a text about a culture that is not similar to your own culture, to live out the text and experience it as much as possible,” White said. “One of the things that I want to be interwoven into the course, in general, is embracing and confronting otherness. I think we have a habit of being judgemental to things that are different from us, especially things that are counterculture, so for us to experience how others adopt these values and identities is very valuable.”

Luke Hollander, a Junior at AHS, feels that this new teaching style has helped students to better understand the story of Siddhartha and creates a better connection between students and the content.

“I think that learning in different ways is really important to students because it helps us relate to the book and with what we are learning in class, in real ways. Instead of simply reading a chapter, we are able to experience an aspect of the story in real life, which has helped a lot of us to understand the depth of the book,” Hollander said. “I think it is a better way to learn, and I am excited to see how Ms. White incorporates this method of teaching in the future.”

Cerena Seeber, the head of the English Department at AHS, is excited to have Alexis White in the English Department and supports her mission of helping students learn in different ways.

“This Siddartha assignment seems to me to be part of her philosophy of helping kids engage with what they are reading as well as with the world around them, and provides students a great way to challenge themselves and grow,” Seeber said. “I think one of the benefits is that other students and adults in the building are becoming aware of the book and the curriculum, which hopefully is building excitement about the class and reading Siddhartha. There is definitely an aspect of the challenge, and students that are struggling can talk to her about what they are feeling, and they should know that she is very invested in helping them to learn and grow.”

This story was originally published on The Skier Scribbler on September 16, 2019.