Subjects

The curriculum exceeds University of California admission requirements. Incoming students take placement tests to determine the appropriate mathematics track, College Prep or Honors, and a world languages course in Mandarin or Spanish. All students take four years of art and music, and students with previous musical training may audition for the orchestra or jazz band. Honors classes are offered in mathematics (Honors Geometry, Honors Algebra II, Honors Precalculus, Advanced Placement Calculus AB), and the sciences (Honors Modern Physics, Honors Biology). Additional electives are offered in the Humanities, Science, and Art. 

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Humanities

Courses help students become citizens of the world and masters of themselves. The curriculum emphasizes reading comprehension, creative and informative writing, oral presentation, and research, all of which combine in the art of thinking. Teachers use traditional forms of literature from around the world - novels, poetry, drama, criticism, editorials, and essays - as original source material so students understand the gifts of language and its relationship to what it means to be a human being. Like mathematics, humanities are Main Lessons blocks and year-long track classes.

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 5 years

Grammar and Writing Workshop, 9th Grade. Focus on mastering English grammar and usage. Consciousness of structure of the language improves reading comprehension and clarity in speaking and writing. Students practice writing substantive, clearly articulated paragraphs.

Comedy and Tragedy, 9th Grade. A cultural overview of theater and dramatic literature in three distinct time periods: Greco-Roman, Medieval/Renaissance, and Modern. Three plays are examined: Oedipus the King by Sophocles, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, and A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.

Explorations in Early Literature, 10th Grade. Exploration of Western Civilization, from its roots in Ancient India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt through its flourishing in Ancient Greece and the rise of the Judeo-Christian culture. A look at the origins of the English language and its early literature through the Middle Ages. Students read and analyze texts and explore their literary, cultural, historical, and philosophical significance. Development of the literary essay, with special attention to skills of comparison and contrast. Readings include The Ramayana, Gilgamesh, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, selections from The Tanakh (Old Testament), the Odyssey, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Canterbury Tales.

Poetics, 10th Grade. An exploration of poetry as an art form and as a means of communication. Students look at changing styles of poetry through the ages, become familiar with the elements of poetry and work with various poetic forms: haiku, sonnet, terza rima, sestina, and villanelle. Students learn to recognize poetic language - diction, imagery, theme, voice, tone - and understand poetic tools - metaphor, simile, personification, synecdoche, metonymy, symbol, onomatopoeia. Students read and write poems and create a poetry anthology on a chosen theme, which complements their own poetic creations.

Shakespeare, 11th Grade. An in-depth study of Shakespeare's most celebrated play: Hamlet. Students engage in both critical analysis and theatrical endeavors as a way to explore the themes of the play. Daily speech work, scene study, creative writing, and a mock trial are examples of the creative approach to the play. Additional texts include "Shakespeare on Toast," by Ben Crystal and "Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies," by Mary Z. Maher.

Medieval Studies, 11th Grade. Study of medieval epic Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a classic about finding one's destiny. Exploration of the themes of love, awakening, beauty, relationships, destiny, and compassion. Exploration of Dante Alighieri's Inferno, the first part of his trilogy, the Divine Comedy. Exploration of underpinnings of Western thought as expressed in the Middle Ages. Oral reading emphasized.

Senior Essay. A writer's workshop. Discussion of the works of selected contemporary essayists. Focus on the essay as a literary form and on producing a portfolio of work, with concentration on the personal essay. Exploration of the five stages of writing: brainstorming an idea, outlining and draft, preparation, revising (sometimes with peer review), and polished final draft.

Russian Literature, 12th Grade. Study of masterpieces of 19th- and 20th-Century Russian Literature, such as those created by Lermontov, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Zamyatin, and Bulgakov. Consideration of author biographies, political and historical events, and philosophical debates that helped shape Russian self-identity and artistic expression.

Modern World Literature, 12th Grade. This exploratory course can take a variety of forms, ranging from a broad survey of the early 20th-Century movement in the arts known as Modernism to an intensive study of a single masterpiece of contemporary world literature. Novels by the likes of Maxine Hong Kingston, Milan Kundera, Arundhati Roy, or David Mitchell, along with poetry by Czeslaw Milosz, Wislawa Szymborzka, or Octavio Paz provide the focus. Throughout the quarter, the seniors hone their skills in close reading and literary analysis, with the goal of preparing themselves to be insightful and thoughtful participants in college seminars. They also continue to develop their writing skills, aiming to become composers of highly articulate, eloquent scholarly essays.

American Transcendentalism, 12th Grade. Study of philosophical and literary movement of American Transcendentalism. Examination of works by Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson. Close reading and class discussion serve as source material for student writing and artistic work.

Faust, 12th Grade. Exploration of Goethe’s magnum opus, Faust, in English translation. Culmination of high school academic careers and example of future undergraduate humanities coursework. Discussions of origins of text and echoes in Western culture.

Literature and Film Elective, 12th Grade. Students explore the differences between a story told by an author through the written word and the visual experience of a film as the "director's medium." Weekly readings and discussion of the novel, short story, or play that provided the basis for the film. Students learn film vocabulary, study theme, character development, and genre, consider various production elements and more. Examples include The Lord of the Flies, Where the Red Fern Grows, Of Mice and Men, The Color Purple, The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Homesman.

Mathematics

The mathematics curriculum is uniquely tracked: students take a year-long class (either Honors or College Prep) plus a Main Lesson block for a more immersive mathematical experience. Honors Mathematics is based on an integrated problem-centered curriculum developed by Phillips Exeter Academy. Students receive a carefully developed series of math problems in lieu of a textbook or set of lectures, then present their well-reasoned solutions for discussion among the class.

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 4 years

Main Lesson Blocks

Permutations and Combinations. Students explore the many faces of chance: fate, destiny, randomness, and risk. They are introduced to the fundamentals of probability theory: definitions, the Law of Large Numbers, expected value, and applications. Students work with frequency distributions and box-plots, and utilize different measures of central tendency: the mean, median, and mode.

Computer Science. Block begins and ends with the question of whether computers are, or could be, intelligent. Students look at the hardware that drives modern devices and explore how signals are sent, represented, and understood. They build logic circuits in two ways: using electro-mechanical switches, culminating in a one-bit adder, and using integrated circuits, culminating in full adders which, linked together, produce a device capable of adding larger numbers. These switching circuits allow students to understand how numbers can be represented with only ons and offs, which we interpret as 1s and 0s. This opens up the theme of number bases generally. Students master representing numbers in various bases, converting between bases, and adding, subtracting, and multiplying numbers within bases. They also research and present one number system found in traditional cultures. Finally, we explore the evolution of programming languages through machine, assembly, and higher-level languages. The students gain experience writing programs in one higher-level language, Python, culminating in a programming project, which can be done either individually or in a group.  

Projective Geometry. Block formalizes one of the central principles of perspective art: parallel lines meet at infinity. This block includes elements at infinity, the principle of duality, perspectivities and projectivities, projective generation of point and line conics, cross‐ratio and invariance, and, more specifically, study of the theorems of Desargues, Pascal, Brianchon, and Pappus.

Calculus/Chaos Theory. Block introduces the historical and mathematical development of calculus and includes elementary aspects of both differential and integral calculus.

College Prep Track Courses


Algebra I. Linear equations and inequalities of two variables; systems of linear equations; exponents and polynomials; factoring polynomials; rational expressions; roots and radicals; and quadratic equations and functions.

Geometry. Plane and solid Euclidian geometry from both inductive and deductive approach. Geometrical problem solving: classical theorems on lines, angles, polygons, and circles are proved.

Algebra II. Concepts and techniques of advanced algebra: linear equations; graphing and functions; polynomial and rational equations; exponents, radicals; complex numbers; conic sections.

Honors Track Courses

Honors Geometry. This accelerated course is more proof-based than standard geometry. Students investigate lines, polygons, and vectors, in both two and three dimensions. Right-triangle trigonometry is introduced, as are circles and parabolas, the latter viewed from a focus-directrix definition. Linear motion is explored, leading to the use of parameters to describe that motion and to an ongoing investigation of optimal paths of travel. A dynamic vision of geometry is further encouraged by viewing similarity and congruence through transformations.

Honors Algebra II. Concepts and techniques of advanced algebra are covered with an emphasis on problem solving and mathematical modeling. Topics include: matrices and determinants; complex numbers; the investigation of functions (linear, quadratic, and polynomial); transformations of functions; polynomials and rational functions and their graphs; real zeros of polynomials; complex zeros and the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra; exponential and logarithmic functions; and sequences and series.

Honors Precalculus. Investigations encompass circular motions and the functions that describe it; vectors; dot products; matrices; and geometry on the surface of the Earth. Geometry in two and three dimensions is integrated across topics and includes coordinate and transformational approaches. Counting and data analysis are included through the curriculum. Practical and analytic trigonometry is later applied to the polar coordinate system, complex numbers, and vectors. Students study matrices, inverse functions, and sequences and series. This course prepares students for the SAT Subject Test in Mathematics - Level II.

AP Calculus. Investigations covers basic topics of differential and integral calculus, including functions, limits, and the derivative and applications of differentiation; curve sketching; the integral; and applications such as rectilinear motion and volumes. This course prepares students to sit for the AP exam.

Sciences

In a typical classroom, a teacher introduces a theory and a formula, then students test the concept with experiments. In our labs, students explore science like scientists, deriving concepts, formula, and scientific laws by observing the phenomena. The methodology trains students to observe carefully and question critically.

The science program is unique in another fundamental way: students have concentrated blocks of each discipline each year, building a foundation in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. Seniors may also elect to take year-long courses in Honors Biology and Honors Modern Physics.

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 4-5 years

Chemistry

Organic Chemistry, 9th Grade. Students become familiar with the various chemical substances by relating chemistry to what actually takes place inside their body. They investigate three food groups (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and how the body processes them through digestion. Students discover how the human being, animals, and plants are all part of the cycle of photosynthesis and respiration. The process of fermentation is studied by brewing beer.

Inorganic Chemistry, 10th Grade. Investigations begin with the transformations of copper between metal, salt or oxide. Students devise their own analytical process to identify some metallic ions in an unknown solution. The difference between a metal and its metallic ion is strongly emphasized. Students observe reactions between metals and different ions, make a hypothesis, and are asked to devise and perform experiments that will allow them to check the validity of the hypothesis. From there they arrange metals in a reactivity list. Hydrogen is then added to the reactivity list. Students create a zinc etching and make a print, creating their own pigments for use as tempera paint, and study alternative photographic processes.

Periodic Table, 11th Grade. Students gain familiarity with the most common elements and create their own periodic table using cards, in the way Mendeleev. Students experiment with one element and create a web-page showing its “personality.” Students are asked: how do we know that atoms exist, and how do we know that the formula for water is H2O? They are exposed to the struggle of early chemists, from Alchemists to Proust, Dalton to Gay Lussac and Mendeleev, to name a few. Explorations include the atomic number, moles, amounts of substance, and chemical formulae. They further explore the modern atomic model, recognize the power of Mendeleev's periodic table, and understand how well the atomic model and the table fit together. They learn the logic behind the formation of simple ions and molecules (ionic, simple, double and triple covalent bonds).

Practical Chemistry, 11th Grade. This conceptual course gives students familiarity, through experiments, of the most common elements, enabling them to create their own periodic table, using cards, in the way of Mendeleev. Students experiment with an element and create a web-page showing its “personality.” Students read original papers leading to the atomic theory and create a timeline of the major discoveries. There is a strong emphasis on noticing that all these discoveries were based on accurate observations of the phenomena from that time period, and as new observations are made, some theories need to be modified.

Inorganic Chemistry, 12th Grade. Study in this block prepares students for an independent project during which they will perform the extraction of the essential oil of their choice, the synthesis of one of its components (preferably an ester), and the comparison of the oil and their synthetic ester by thin layer chromatography. Students document their project on a web-page, and perform the following labs: esterification of linalool and acetic acid to prepare linalyl acetate; extraction and purification of the ester and calculation of the yield; discovery of the two stereoisomers of limonene and of the asymmetric carbon; synthesis of aspirin from salicylic acid and acetic anhydride; and applying a thin layer chromatography of store-bought aspirin, lab-made aspirin and salicylic acid. Polymers are introduced through the synthesis of nylon.

Physics

Thermodynamics, 9th Grade. High School Physics begins with exploration of how a toaster works. Further studies of the effects of heating and cooling continues on solids, liquids, and gases, and on the working of various kinds of thermostats and thermometers. Macroscopic meaning of temperature is investigated and related to the sensations of warmth and cold. The concept of absolute temperature is introduced and the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales are related to each other and to the Kelvin scale. The concept of specific heat is derived from experimentation and used to compare and contrast the ideas of heat and temperature. Demonstrations help to differentiate the processes of heating and cooling from the concept of temperature, and open the door for future investigations on the nature of heat.

Mechanics, 10th Grade. Physics continues with an Introduction to kinematics. Properties of the pendulum are explored to introduce processes of scientific investigation, including collection and analysis of data. It follows a study of uniform rectilinear motion, leading to the concepts of speed and trajectory. Free fall becomes the focal point of our research, and Galileo Galilei the leading figure of the block. Students perform the inclined plane experiment, and with the help of further demonstrations, are guided to the concept of acceleration and the discovery of the geometrical nature of projectile motion. Lab reports and hands-on projects are utilized.

Electricity and Magnetism, 11th Grade. This block begins with the study of electrostatic phenomena and magnetic phenomena. The two-charge model is introduced to provide an explanation for the phenomena observed, and it is later contrasted with an approach based only on the concepts of electric and magnetic fields. The electroscope, the Van de Graaff, the Wimshurst machine, and the Leyden jar are explored. The transition to electromagnetism follows historical development, from the invention of the battery by Volta to the discoveries of Oersted, Faraday, and Ampere. The creation of magnetic fields by an electric current, the force between electric currents, the production of electric current by changing magnetic fields, and other related phenomena are observed first and later discussed in detail. Students build an AC generator and electric motor, or pursue an independent project approved by the teacher.

Practical Physics, 11th Grade. Offered as an alternative to Electricity and Magnetism; investigation of practical applications. Explore electric and magnetic phenomena. Topics include the Van de Graaff generator, the Wimshurst machine, the capacitor, the battery, the electromagnet, the electric motor, and the AC generator. Students build all the projects mentioned above except for the Van de Graaff generator. Students orally present the physics behind each project.

Optics, 12th Grade. This block approaches the science of the visual world. Light cannot be seen directly, it is only through the interaction with matter that we perceive its existence. Students explore phenomena of reflection, refraction, and colors. The study of images generated by mirrors (flat, convex and concave) and lenses (biconcave and biconvex) is done first only through observable quantities (parallax and perspective), and later through the ray-tracing model. Appearance of colors when looking at the world through a prism is observed and discussed.

Honors Modern Physics, 12th Grade. This year-long elective provides a solid conceptual introduction to the physics of the 20th century. Replacement of the Newtonian mechanical view of the universe with the relativistic, quantum mechanical new physics is explored with particular emphasis on the conceptual and historical development of the new ideas. The emphasis is on understanding of physics as a human endeavor, nature of the scientific process, and historical development of physics ideas. Hands on investigations, experiments, and demonstrations play a central role, along with algebra-based quantitative problem solving. Some areas of Newtonian dynamics are reviewed in greater detail in order to prepare a stronger foundation for the understanding of modern physics. This course adopts the textbook “Understanding Physics” by David Cassidy, Gerald Holton, and James Rutherford (2002 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.) written for undergraduate non-science majors or AP high school students.

Biology

Anatomy and Physiology, 9th Grade. Study of skeletal, circulatory, nervous, and sensory systems. Contrasts and comparisons between systems in humans and those of other organisms. Emphasis on building student skills of: 1) observation, 2) verbal, written, and pictorial description, and 3) the correct use of scientific terminology in class discussions and written work. Lab experiments geared toward the observation, description, measurement, recording, and interpretation of various physiological responses under different conditions. Lab reports contain statistics and interpret data. Sources of error in experiments and experimental design discussed and are required components of the lab reports.

Embryology and Heredity, 10th Grade. Exploration is of physiology and the development of a human being from the production cycles of egg and sperm cells through birth. Comparisons with embryonic development of other organisms are made. Students observe the development of fish eggs. Expectant mothers and midwives visit to share experiences in the processes of pregnancy and birth. An overview of the history of genetics and the laws of mitosis, meiosis, and heredity are studied. Discussion includes current issues in biology today, such as stem cell research, cloning, and genetic engineering.

Botany and Cell Biology, 11th Grade. The study of cells and single-celled organisms is the focus. Students learn the functions of major cellular organelles and processes of protein synthesis within the cell. Differences between plant and animal cells are emphasized. Plants studied in the context of the five Kingdoms of life, and basic taxonomic rules and nomenclature are introduced. Emphasis is focused on anatomy and physiology of flowering plants and several important Families. Observation are made of growing plants and plant structures in their natural habitat, as specimens in the lab, and under the microscope. Skills of analytical observation, precise description of plant life processes, and the correct use of terminology is developed.

Zoology and Evolution, 12th Grade. Exploration of animals within the context of five Kingdoms of life. Exploration of three-Domain system of classifying organisms and the molecular evidence used to support this taxonomy. Major Phyla of animals studied with special attention paid to modes of reproduction, life cycles, and the characteristics of the nervous and circulatory systems in each group. Life and thought of Darwin and development of theories such as Neo-Darwinism, endosymbiosis, complexity theory, wholism, and ideas that incorporate the spiritual dimension.

Honors Biology, 12th Grade. This year-long elective is open to seniors who have successfully completed Algebra 2 and who have earned a B grade or better in the biology blocks. Topics range from molecules of life to the functioning of ecosystems. Labs from AP curriculum include work such as the quantitative analysis of enzyme activity, osmotic water potential of cells, and measurements of cellular respiration under different conditions. Study of functioning of DNA as well as bacteriology, immunity, nutrition science, and ecosystem dynamics. Students present results of experiments, read professional scientific papers for discussion, and write detailed lab reports.

Earth Sciences and Astronomy

Geology, 9th Grade. Introduces motions, cycles, and processes of the solid earth. Students observe and describe characteristics of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and study how the traits of each rock tell the story of its origin. Study of regional geological phenomena to understand sedimentary processes and local manifestations of plate tectonics, and how the dynamics of the earth generate different landforms and rock cycles. Exploration of transition of thought from catastrophism to uniformitarianism and the evolution of our modern scientific understanding of geology. Early scientific theories as developed by Steno, Hutton, Lyell, and Whewell. Historical evidence that led to the theory of continental drift, as first proposed by Alfred Wegener to modern theory of plate tectonics.

Meteorology, 10th Grade. Exploration of how the energy of the sun and the rotation of the earth act upon the fluids of the earth - the air and waters - to produce weather and climate. Through direct field observation, lab exercises, and demonstrations, students explore how energy radiated from the sun acts upon the land and water of the earth to cause the redistribution of energy into and throughout our atmosphere by radiation, convection, and conduction. Driving forces of climate and weather studied on local, regional, and global scales, with special attention to the development of high and low pressure systems, Hadley cell circulation, the Coriolis effect, and the jet stream. Effects of human activity on global climate change are explored.

Astronomy, 11th Grade. Study of celestial phenomena as observed from the Earth. Students familiarize themselves with the night sky, the constellations, and their motion. In-depth study of the rhythms of the sun, moon and close relations. Different kinds of times discussed and related to the ordinary Standard Time. Motion of the planets through the sky explored, creating base to understand real value of the Copernican revolution. Kepler’s description of the planetary motion is discussed whenever an Earth-based phenomena points to it. Students learn how to shift continuously from a geocentric observation to its heliocentric explanation and vice versa.

Environmental Science, 12th Grade. Exploration of environmental issues that will confront students through their lives. Develop working knowledge of ecology, ecosystems, and population dynamics, including the concept of limiting factors that impact both the natural world and human environments. Use of current events to explore environmental conditions and challenges; probe of philosophical beliefs that drive environmental concerns. Ecosystem studies include biogeochemical cycles, energy flow through food webs, and anthropogenic disruption of natural systems. Historical accounts of environmental problems are used to place current problems in context.

History - Cultural Studies

Students explore how civilizations were shaped through literature, history, geography, and culture. Courses are taught by Humanities Department faculty in block and track courses. The curriculum spans Idealism and Humanity, a Grade 9 exploration of the relationship between the individual and society, to senior year Modern World History. 

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 4 years 

Cultural Studies: Pacific Rim, 9th Grade. Broad exploration of Pacific Rim experience. Geography, history, beliefs, cultures of countries such as China, Japan, and the islands of Hawaii. What are the particular qualities of the Pacific Ocean? What individual and common narratives (mythical and actual) has it spawned over time? What happened when East met West? Map-work, comparative readings and field studies, students seek to discover horizons of the Pacific Rim.

Revolutions, 9th Grade. A study of the dynamics of social change. French Revolution as model; exploration of aspirations for equality and liberation held by young revolutionaries, journalists, politicians, and philosophers. Consideration of how events in France and Haiti informed beginnings of the modern era and precipitated trend towards globalization.

Art History, 9th Grade. A broad survey course of Western art, beginning with early humans through Baroque era. Progression of human evolution through art. 

Idealism and Humanity, 9th Grade. Student teams collaborate to create their own society, accounting for economic, social, and political influences. 

The Classical World, 10th Grade. An interdisciplinary experience of Ancient and Classical Greece, from the time of Homer to Alexander the Great. Thematically, a movement from Mystery (pre-Homer) to Mythology (Homer and Hesiod), to History (Herodotus and Thucydides), and finally to Philosophy (Plato and Aristotle).

US Government, 10th Grade. Exploration of the philosophical and cultural roots, structure and purpose of government, and how the processes of politics and government work. In-depth reading of US Constitution.

Cultural Studies: Africa, 10th Grade. Culture, history, and literature of Africa. Focus on Algeria and Egypt in North Africa; Nigeria, Angola, the Congo, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia in sub-Saharan Africa. 

US History and Debate, 11th Grade. Geography and early migration routes; Pre-Columbian European visitors and explorers; establishment of colonies; French and Indian Wars; American Revolution. Part II: Westward expansion; economic and social reforms; slavery and origins of Civil War through Reconstruction; Gilded Age; immigration; late 19th/early 20th Century imperialism. Skills in historical analysis and interpretation, research, oral expression and debate on chosen historical issue. Political history balanced with people's history, including narratives of Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, women, and immigrants.

History of Music, 11th Grade. An exploration of the nature and formative quality of sound, sources and elements of music, and examples of world music and ancient musical theory. Development of consciousness explored from Medieval sacred chant/monody, to Renaissance forms of polyphony, to Baroque counterpoint complexity, to Classical balance and harmony, to Romantic individual/national expression, to 20th Century experimentation, ending with questions about the contemporary moment.

Cultural Studies: Latin America, 11th Grade. An overview of Latin American culture, including history, demographics, culture. History of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and Europeans expansion. Examination of resulting structures of power, class and race, 19th and 20th Century revolutions, the birth of independent nations, the rise of capitalism, and the impact of military dictatorships. Exploration of diverse group of political figures, writers, artists, and activists.

History of Architecture, 12th Grade. A broad survey course, beginning with stone monuments of Neolithic Europe and ending with some great buildings of 20th Century architecture. Examination of how human beings create edifices to express their civic, spiritual, and personal aspirations and how various aspects architecture reflect specific human impulses at certain times. Creation of an Architect's Journal of coursework.

Modern World History, 12th Grade.

Cultural Studies: Arab World Middle East. Exploration of the history, culture, politics, economics, and art of the Arab World and the Middle East. Culture, history, politics, economics, and art. Comparison of spiritual traditions. Case studies include Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Economics, 12th Grade. Survey from 19th Century beginning with Napoleon to the development of economic thinking of Adam Smith, to modern economics. Topics include imperialism, periods through the two World Wars, and their impacts on the global economy. Exploration of current events; geophysical maps; modern economic history of a foreign nation. Readings from Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Heilbroner's The World Philosophers, and other selections.

World Languages - Spanish

Students choose either Mandarin or Spanish as a course of study through high school. Three years of language study is required; a fourth year is optional. Spanish class level is determined by placement test. 

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 3 - 4 years 

Spanish I. Course introduces present tense (regular verbs, ser vs. estar, saber vs. conocer, tener idioms, gustar and related verbs), stem-changing verbs, irregular verbs, the present progressive, and the immediate future. Introduction of the imperative, the preterite, and the imperfect tense. Vocabulary lends itself to high-frequency situations including but not limited to greetings and introductions, expressing preferences, school life, pastimes and hobbies, planning, and travel. Short stories and dialogues are incorporated to develop literacy skills. Daily oral and auditory practices involve poetry recitations, dialogues, and narrative staging. 

Spanish II. Course covers the present tense (regular and irregular verbs), stem-changing verbs, reflexive verbs, the present progressive, the imperative, the preterite, the imperfect, the future, the conditional, and introductions of the perfect tenses (present and past). Vocabulary lends itself to high-frequency situations, including but not limited to leisure activities with family and friends, home life and chores, celebrations and festivals, getting around town, travel, hygiene and physical fitness, and clothing and fashion. Daily oral and auditory practices include poetry recitations, dialogue, and narrative staging.

Spanish III. Vocabulary lends itself to high-frequency situations, including but not limited to making plans, telling a story, counseling a friend, expressing opinions, making future predictions, hypothesizing, and debating. Key grammar concepts include the preterite and imperfect tenses, the present perfect, the future, the conditional used with and without subjunctive, subjunctive vs. indicative moods, the imperfect subjunctive, object pronouns, and commands with combined object pronouns. Legends, myths, and classics of literature are introduced to further develop fluency in reading and writing. Students read and discuss news articles and current event in Spanish. Daily oral and auditory practices involve poetry recitations, dialogue, and narrative staging.

Spanish IV. Review of preterite and imperfect tenses, present perfect, future, conditional used with and without subjunctive, subjunctive vs. indicative moods, the imperfect subjunctive, object pronouns, and commands with combined object pronouns. Students read and discuss current events selected from the dual-language newspaper El Tecolote from San Francisco’s Mission District. Students read short biographies and stories such as A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Students discuss immigration reform and explore the lives of migrant farm workers. Discussion of documentaries such as Who is Dayani Cristal? and The Harvest. Students explore first-hand accounts of Latino immigrants in the United States, including the memoir Cajas de Cartón: Relatos de La Vida Peregrina de un Niño Campesino by Mexican-American writer Francisco Jimenez.

World Languages - Mandarin

Students choose either Mandarin or Spanish as a course of study through high school. Mandarin students begin at the entry-level. Mandarin is Modern Standard Chinese based on Beijing pronunciation. The written portion of the Mandarin course relies on the Pīnyīn romanization system, phonetic spelling with tone markers; Chinese logographs and their creation and evolution; and stroke order as well as structure and calligraphic techniques.

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 3 - 4 years 

Mandarin I. Introductory course. Students learn pronunciation and four tones through the Chinese Pinyin Romanization system. Students develop basic communication skills. High frequency vocabulary is prioritized throughout the year, as instruction in tense is not applicable to Mandarin. Students learn stroke orders, the structures and evolution of Chinese characters in both traditional and simplified scripts, and simple and compound sentence structures necessary to developing basic literacy skills. Chinese poetry, calligraphy, history, and culture are introduced as they relate to each lesson or unit of study.

Mandarin II. Students achieve practical command of the language applicable in various situations, including conversational dialogues about school life or weather, shopping for clothes or other things, and ordering food and drinks in a restaurant setting. Students read short stories and answer related questions and compose creative short paragraphs or reflections based on class readings, discussions, or written prompts. Daily oral and auditory practices include but are not limited to poetry recitations, dialogues, and narrative staging.

Mandarin III. Students learn more complex sentence structures and idiomatic expressions for sustaining longer conversations. Students read stories and news articles to broaden understanding of contemporary Chinese culture and society. Students hone written Mandarin by learning to paraphrase and summarize short texts and by developing their Chinese typing skills. Daily oral and auditory practices include but are not limited to poetry recitations, dialogues, and narrative staging.

Mandarin IV. Students master numerous complicated communicative tasks and social situations in Mandarin. Students initiate and sustain in-depth conversations and read longer texts. Literacy skills become highly developed through reading Chinese fables, myths, and modern literature, as well as writing short research papers. Formal and informal assessments include but are not limited to poetry recitation and analysis, vocabulary exams, creative writing assignments, and presentations and projects.

Music

Students experience the joy of musical expression and learn about the training, dedication, and discipline inherent in the study of music as an art. There are classes for all levels, from beginners to students with years of musical training, and a variety of performing ensembles. The school attracts professional musicians who are dedicated instructors. 

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 3 - 4 years 

Exploring Music. New to music instruction? Course provides a hands-on experience with song, drums, percussion, xylophones, and more. 

Concert Choir. Open to students of all musical backgrounds. Repertoire includes a cappella and accompanied works written between the sixteenth through twentieth century and beyond. The use of sight-singing is extensive, as is the focus on vocal production and breath control.

World Music. Students explore musical forms from around the world, from Afro-Cuban rhumba to Romanian folk songs and Indian classical music. Ethnomusicological analysis is used to understand the technical aspects of many diverse styles of music. The spirit of creativity and the feeling of music are central to the discussions.

Orchestra. Students audition for entry into this ensemble, and all students are highly encouraged to study their instruments with a professional private instructor. Class time is primarily spent preparing for each semester’s major concert. Repertoire spans the Baroque, Classical, and modern era.

Drumming. Student experience a range of music arriving from the African Diaspora. Students gain an understanding of the historical and social significance of the music, as well as the principles of drumming required to perform such material: communication, leadership, call and response, the rhythmic pulse, and more. 

Jazz Ensemble. Student musicians gain experience with improvisation techniques and learn to perform in the appropriate style using a standard fake book, improvising solos, and accompaniments without previous arrangements. Basic jazz chord and scale theory are taught as part of the course. All students are welcome to join, provided they have a fundamental proficiency on their instruments.

Guitar. Beginning and Intermediate. Beginning Guitar is offered to students with no previous guitar experience. Intermediate Guitar students must have the ability to read treble clef. Topics include music theory, sight reading, learning left and right hand technique, understanding different musical styles, playing music by ear, and mastering scales, chords, and songwriting.

San Francisco Youth Eurythmy Troupe. The renowned troupe works toward the production of an annual public program, performed locally and internationally. Each program includes a wide variety of pieces. Students are taught advanced eurythmy elements such as expression, soul gestures, tones, and intervals as well as techniques of stage preparation and performance.

Art - Visual and Performing

While creative expression is valued in all courses, art classes allows students to delve into the arts as subjects in their own right. Students value the balance that art and theater classes bring to their academic curriculum. They explore many disciplines, develop a strong aesthetic sense, learn to work with their hands. and perform on a stage. 

Approximate yearly equivalent for our graduates: 3 - 4 years 

Theater Arts, 9th Grade. Focus on Commedia dell’ Arte, a style introduced to students during their study of Comedy and Tragedy in humanities. Through the use of masks, students are challenged to embody the physical and vocal characteristics of their character while retaining a sense of safety and anonymity.

Basketry, 9th Grade. Weaving techniques introduced and student complete small twined baskets. Process, precision, and artistry emphasized. Sculptural exploration begins with a twisted branch; students imagined a vessel within it. Historical and cultural richness of basketry around the world is covered, and the class culminates in the works of inspiring contemporary artists.

Black and White Drawing, 9th Grade. Students work with light and dark, building three dimensional forms on a two dimensional plane, and creating strong compositions that balance light and shadow. Students explore a variety of media, including charcoal, graphite, and pen and ink. Techniques used include stippling, chiaroscuro, blind contour, and gesture drawing.

Theater Arts, 10th Grade. Introduces students to scene work and monologues. Students learn the basics of how to build a character, practice stage movement and speech, and offer constructive criticism to their fellow classmates. The teacher selects material that supports the development of each individual student.

Copper Arts, 10th Grade. Process of manipulating and embellishing sheets of copper to create useful and beautiful objects. Students learn how to use torch for annealing, cut with a jeweler’s saw, drill, pierce, adorn with stamping tools and hammer texture, as well as form skills such as sinking and raising.

Techniques in Drawing, 10th Grade. Follows Black and White drawing course. Students expands on foundation of working with light and shadow to include color, composition, and experimental drawing techniques.

Pottery, 10th Grade. Students build clay vessels using the coiling method, a pottery and sculpture technique used worldwide. Students learn to shape and design pottery through scraping, sanding, and carving before they are fired burnished by stone or fired.

Sculpture, 10th Grade. Focus on hand's skeletal and musculature system, relative proportions, subcutaneous bone landmarks, and idiosyncrasies. Students render a realistic and well-proportioned hand. They sculpt a hand in clay over a wire armature, while experimenting with a variety of sculpting tools. Students choose a hand gesture true to their hearts and develop an individual style.

Weaving, 10th Grade. Students design and weave chenille scarves or pillows on four-harness floor looms. Students learns to weave a colorfully patterned band on a tablet weaving or inkle loom, designed as belts, guitar straps, camera straps, or other functional items.

Bookbinding, 11th Grade. Students introduced to materials, tools, and techniques of bookbinding. Various types of book structures are created - sewn pamphlets, hinged albums, accordion books, and, finally, a formally bound book.

Watercolor Veil Painting, 11th Grade. Students explore this wet on dry method of watercolor. Veil painting focuses on transformative aspects of color into form, emerging from the interplay of layers of warm and cool colors. 

Art Electives - 11th and 12th Grades

Acting Elective. Class culminates in a community performance. The elective gives students who love theater the chance to continue to grow as actors and to go more deeply into the work.

Black and White Photography. Students use either a manually adjustable 35mm or Holga 120 camera. Basic concepts include f-stop, shutter speed, film speed, depth of field, exposure, and lighting. Genres of narrative, portrait, landscape, and botany introduced. Students develop personal vision through shooting assignments and to learn basic printing techniques in a darkroom.

Digital Photography. Students review basic photographic concepts and plan series of narrative and landscape projects. Students explore color theory by studying contemporary work and learn basic digital procedures for importing images, adjusting resolution, manipulating images, and printing using MacBooks.™ 

Sewing and Design. Students design garment based on commercial pattern and make alterations to pattern to reflect their designs. Students sew garments using various sewing techniques.

Printmaking. Students create relief prints from carving linoleum blocks onto soft oriental paper. Reduction printing in two or three colors allows for texturing and shading of image.

Advanced Metal Arts. Students manipulate and embellishing sheets of copper, brass, and/or nickel to create useful and beautiful objects. Students use torch for annealing and soldering, cut with a jeweler’s saw, drill, pierce, adorn with stamping tools and hammer texture, as well as form with stakes and hammers.

Oil Painting. Emphasis on classic ideas of value, color, and composition. Main body of students' work consists of representational studies from direct observation, students also to express unique point of view and for personal styles to evolve. 

Sculpture. Students learn how to sculpt an accurate, proportionate and realistic human head and shoulders in clay. Student sculpt a skull, learning names and shape of the head bones, including the most important bone landmarks, using real skull as a model. Students add respective muscles then features of the face, learning the relative proportions of the face and head, use of an armature, experiment with a variety of sculpting tools, and modeling techniques.

Outdoor Education

The program is integrated into the curriculum in innovative and exceptional ways. Students take advantage of the region's rich biodiversity, natural wonders, and human resources for student learning and growth. They challenge themselves on inspiring wilderness trips and work with their hands in gardening and habitat restoration. 

Wilderness Trips 

Sierra Nevada Field Study, 9th Grade. Theme: Ice and Stone. A week in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on a winter adventure. As a part of the Idealism and Humanities Main Lesson Block, the students work on class projects as they live and work together, and explore the meaning of community. They also explore the area on foot, snowshoe, and cross country skis to learn about the regional geology, ecology, and the local Miwok Indian culture. The students are immersed through role-play in the infamous debate over the creation of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and the dynamics of natural resource management (not to mention time spent constructing snowmen and sipping hot cocoa by the fire).

SF Bay Area Field Study, 10th Grade. Theme: Wind and Water. Two nights camping in beautiful China Camp State Park and a two-night sea kayak expedition to Angel Island. During the trips, the students visit the Bay Model, enjoy an interactive wind power lesson at the Treasure Island Sailing Center, explore Angel Island (including a visit to the immigration museum), and try their hand at sea kayaking and sailing. This experience, coupled with the 10th grade Meteorology Main Lesson Block, helps students deepen their relationship with the wonderful Bay Area home which we call home.

Mount Lassen Field Study, 11th Grade. Theme: Fire and Light. This trip traditionally begins the eleventh grade year as the students come together to reflect on the transition into their role as upperclassmen. They spend time exploring the history and transformative power of the area’s volcanoes and wildfires, as well as beginning their Astronomy Main Lesson Block with eyes gaze upwards at the mesmerizing Lassen night sky.

Senior Quest. A powerful, optional trip which includes a 3-day wilderness solo designed for personal exploration and reflection. New insights and connections with the natural world make Senior Quest a life-changing experience. Trips typically take place in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Final Adventure, 12th Grade. Theme: Rivers and Roads. The Senior Trip provides an opportunity for the class to share one last common experience. It is designed to provide opportunities for group bonding, reflection, and physical challenge as they look forward to life after high school. The trip provides this opportunity by immersing the students in nature, providing common group challenge, and providing opportunity for play and reflection.

Trips vary from class to class. Upcoming plans call for an eight-day exploration of areas in Northern California which are thought of in many circles to be places of particular power and mystery. The adventure begins in the Mt. Shasta area with guided exploration of the area’s many beautiful and mystical features. Students participate in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony with Sparrowhawk, a local Native American. The trip culminates with a 4-day wilderness style raft trip down the Wild and Scenic Lower Klamath River. The river provides a perfect setting for the students to reflect on their years together and on the many divergent paths that their own rivers will soon be taking them.

Urban Gardening/Habitat Restoration, 9th/10th Grades. Students learn how to identify, plant, and care for native plant species. They continue an on-going restoration of the natural area and spring adjacent to the campus.

Physical Education. Students may elect to take innovative outdoor education offerings within the physical education department. Courses include backpacking, beginner rock climbing, disc golf, and birdwatching - all held during the school day in local natural areas.

Physical Education

The Physical Education program has three distinct areas: 

  • Sports: volleyball, basketball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, fencing, tennis
  • Movement studies: dance and yoga
  • Outdoor education electives: backpacking, birding, wilderness survival skills

In 9th and 10th grades, classes emphasize skill development and agility in a cooperative atmosphere. Eleventh and twelfth graders choose among physical education electives: skill-based sports classes or outdoor education. Through the years, students develop an appreciation for movement and an affinity for a particular activity that can be independently sustained.

In 11th and 12th graders, students may select from outdoor physical education courses:  

  • Backpacking I & II: Plan for and execute a 3-day wilderness backpacking trip.
  • Birding: Connect with local wildlife in a fun and experiential way.
  • Wilderness Survival Skills: Learn skills such as shelter building, fire making, rescue, and orienteering.
  • Rock Climbing: Practice basic climbing techniques in partnership with a local rock climbing gym.

Health and Wellness

9th Grade. Topics include sex education, drugs and alcohol, social media, relationships, mental health, and stress management. The class discusses emotional intelligence, moral integrity, and how to choose a healthy lifestyle. The format is conversational and the atmosphere open and respectful.

10th Grade. The block covers nutritional information, and the students discuss diet and healthy lifestyle choices. Topics also include social media, consent, and drug/alcohol use.

11th Grade. The block focuses on a combination of emotional intelligence, communication skills, personal values, identity, mindfulness, healthy relationships, and sexual health. 

12th Grade. Seniors have the opportunity to become Peer Counselors with approval of the High School Mentor. Peer Counselors help ninth graders make a healthy transition to high school. The Peer Counselor groups meets at least monthly to develop listening skills and discuss issues that arise.