Over the last four years, one of the more striking developments in the curriculum at Gregory the Great Academy has been the introduction of the great Guilds Program. On Thursday afternoons students and staff alike retire from the normal routine of academic study in order to pursue the development of artistic and craft oriented skills.
Teachers and staff members have been developing their own unique guilds according to their individual interests, hobbies, and talents. One staff member has equipped his classroom with the tools and materials of the traditional leather working trade. His students fashion books, wallets, belts and the like with elaborate designs and the insignia of boyhood pursuits. The school’s cook, who is also an accomplished painter, instructs his guild members in the principles of drawing and illustration through a disciplined series of exercises. Andrew Smith, the Academy’s artist in residence, alternates between a sculpture guild which focuses on clay modeling techniques and a printmaking guild. Another teacher is sharing his interest in the art of pysanka (the Ukrainian folk tradition of decorating eggs with elaborate, colorful designs) with a small group of students, while, at the same time, dorm father John Prezzia shares his expertise in the fundamentals of wrestling. The bush-craft guild, lead by another dorm father, David McMyne, teaches leadership and wilderness survival skills within the context of the great outdoors.
Students cycle through this broad array of guilds over the course of the academic year, spending six to eight weeks with each discipline, and, over the course of their time at the Academy, have the opportunity to explore at least a few guilds more than once.
Beyond being good in and of itself, the guild program gets at the core of the educational model that characterizes Gregory the Great Academy. That is, that students will come to know the good, the true, and the beautiful through exposure to teachers who are in love with their own disciplines and are committed to forming bonds of friendship with their students.