Written by Logan Cummings and Daniel Radka|
Photographs by Daniel Radka and Logan Cummings|
Toward the end of every school year, English teacher Julie Frydenborg assigns her Honors Freshman class a month-long project: The Dante Project. Her students have to read Dante’s Inferno and then rewrite the story and make a creative accompaniment to bring the piece to life with their own touch. It counts as their final exam.
Dante’s Inferno is a part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, describing Dante’s journey through Hell. He divides Hell into nine circles, each related to a general type of sin. He meets various groups of sinners in Hell for sins that relate to seven deadly sins. Dante’s journey through Hell was very controversial. For example, he included many popes and clergy members, as Dante had a grudge against the corrupt Medieval Catholic Church.
Many of Ms. Frydenborg’s students also included controversial people in their project. For example, Sophomore Alex Rauccio took the opportunity to put his father in Hell for “treachery against kinsmen.”
Throughout the month, the students have to work on the project. They read the book bit by bit and analyze the parts they read during class. The work for the project is hefty, but with good time-management, it can be completed, and a good grade can be achieved.
Various freshmen and sophomore students were asked about the Dante project experience. The project got a high rating from most, 4.5 stars out of 5 being the most common. However, the students surveyed had some complaints about the assignment.
Freshman Emma Blair described the project as “torture.” Sophomore Simon Hua described it as “an ordeal.” Freshman Maggie Guba said, “the first few cantos it was fine. Then the last two weeks [were] horrendous.” Sophomore Kitty Shortt stated, “It was an extremely stressful experience.” Freshman Gavin Carlisle commented, “It was not difficult. it was just sort of time-consuming.”
On the contrary, many students credited the assignment as having positive attributes. Freshman Taylor Wyatt said it was “stressful but it was kind of fun.” Sophomore Sydney Church claimed, “It was pretty stressful, but it was worth it in the end.” Freshman Chayse Lofgren said, “It was a fun project. I recommend it.” Freshman Sarah Auletta described the project as being “fine if you manage your time well… I finished five days before it was due, and I had absolutely no stress.”
The biggest lesson this project teaches is time management. Ms. Frydenborg said that the project is great for the kids who manage their time well and listen to instructions. She also said that it becomes overly stressful for the kids who procrastinate, but it becomes a huge lesson for them.
The project may take a lot out of the students who have to complete it, but it also is a burden for Ms. Frydenborg. Though she has to grade many long narratives and their creative accompaniments, she said, “As a teacher, if I don’t have time to assess the work, then I don’t have business assigning it. It’s not fair to the students.”
After the year with her current freshman students, Ms. Frydenborg commented, “It was a blast working on it with my current freshman class again, and I look forward to them coming back again and helping next year’s group.”