The Upper School is a three year program for students in 7th, 8th and 9th grade.
Each year is divided into three terms, or trimesters. Our math and foreign language classes are the only courses separated by grade level. All other courses serve the mix of grades 7, 8 and 9. Certain standards covered in other programs in 9th grade are covered in this program in 7th, 8th or 9th grade, as we present a cyclical program that presents material over the course of three years, the exception being math and foreign language. The content and work of more traditional middle school and high school classes in History, Science and English are covered in our program, but through a different set of integrated classes.
Most of our History and Civics content is presented and explored in our Earth and Human Studies course. As well, certain aspects are covered in our Human Development and Micro-economy courses. Students are led to develop an understanding of the forces that have affected and today affect American society and other world societies. For grade 9 students the successful completion of these courses will earn one credit in World History. At least 5 hours per week are spent by students in the study of human history: governance, economics, technologies, movement, and culture.
The science lessons and work in our program are primarily presented in two classes: Earth and Human Studies and Micro-economy, though human systems and similar material are also explored in our Human Development course. For grade 9 students the successful completion of these courses will earn one credit in Physical Science. At least 5 hours per week are spent by students in the study of key concepts in Earth Space Science, Life Science and Physical Science, the refinement of science skills, and the oral and written expression of their understanding of these ideas.
Similarly, the various aspects of a traditional English class are found in our Upper School, though they are dispersed through a variety of courses. Weekly writing and reading seminars, substantive reading and major research projects in Earth and Human Studies (and the presentation of these projects to the broad community), as well as research and proposal writing in Micro-economy (even the writing of product brochures and advertisements), all work to support the students’ need to develop writing, reading, research and expressive skills. For grade 9 students the successful completion of these seminars and courses will earn one credit in English. At least 5 hours per week are spent by students in the study of literature, the refinement of writing skills, and the oral expression of their understanding of associated ideas.
In addition to the English components integrated with Earth and Human Studies and the Micro-economy work, students pursue a study of English through these seminars.
Writing Seminar: Students meet in a weekly seminar to present and discuss their writing on a common theme or in a common form.
Reading Seminar: Students meet in weekly seminars to discuss the text the group is reading. Often there are associated written assignments. The work is done in mixed grade groups. Grade 9 students, as all students, are required to choose appropriately challenging texts.
Most of our students complete their Algebra course over their 7th and 8th grade years. Only 9th graders who have not completed this study would take Algebra. Our Algebra course, a math seminar curriculum, is based on the Phillips Exeter Academy’s Mathematics 1 course. We augment this course with hands-on projects that require practical application of concepts.
Most of our 9th grade students pursue a study of Geometry. This course is composed of four parts. The first is an in depth reading of the initial books of Euclid’s Elements. Students present these central propositions to their teacher and peers. In addition, weekly seminars are held where problems from Phillips Exeter Academy’s Mathematics 2 course are demonstrated and discussed. Problems and projects are taken, as well, from Michael Serra’s Discovering Geometry, an Inductive Approach (Key Curriculum Press). Finally, a variety of hands-on projects (packaging design, carpentry, mapping, etc) that require practical application of concepts are completed.
Earth and Human Studies
For this course of study in each of the three terms a central theme is chosen to explore in depth. This theme is considered through a wide variety of lenses: scientifically (biology, chemistry, physics, Earth sciences) historically, sociologically, culturally (literature, the arts, religion), morally/philosophically. For example, when our focus is “Food”, lessons and work are given on food webs, human digestion, human nutrition, the enteric nervous system, biological basis of salt, sugar and fat preference, taste, food labeling, food-borne illnesses and allergies, food taboos and diets, the Neolithic Revolution, hunger/starvation/famine, the science of cooking (with experiments, emphasis on the scientific method), food preferences in different cultures, the evolution of farming practices, the evolution of markets, factors affecting food prices, and GMO’s. We may hold seminars on vegetarianism. Students may work at the food bank. They may run a restaurant, developing the menu, cooking, plating and serving the food. Other themes have included Energy, Exploration and Orientation, Governance, the Biology of the Pond, the City, the Human History of our Land (from the last ice age to the present), Matter (its nature and its manipulation and use by humans), Information Technologies, and Water. Each fall term the work in this course is centered in the adjoining public lands: the Dunklee Pond tract, and Spaulding Forest.
For each term in this course students research, write, illustrate and present major independent projects upon topics related to the overarching theme.
Foreign Language (Spanish)
Students work to develop fluency in Spanish, meeting four times each week for a minimum of five hours. Classes are taught entirely in Spanish. Vocabulary and concept content is integrated with the central themes being explored in the other classes, especially in Earth and Human Studies, Micro-economy and Human Development. Students working upon non-Spanish tasks with our Spanish instructor work to converse with her in Spanish.
In this class the students develop and run a business. Under the name Sunny Orchard they market products such as cider, candies, stationery, and honey. Supporting lessons are given: scientific (how do bees make honey?), historical (how long have humans been keeping bees?), economic (what factors does one need to consider when pricing a jar of honey?), practical (how to use a hammer so as to effectively build a bee hive), organizational (division of labor; step-bystep planning) and social (negotiation; how to effectively resolve conflicts with co-workers or customers). Student work includes bookkeeping, budgeting and purchasing, design, advertising, surveys, research, the writing of proposals, interviews of experts, and documentation.
In addition to running Sunny Orchard, students volunteer in various capacities: in stewardship of the school campus and orchard, the adjacent parkland, and in southern New Hampshire. A trio of students each week plans, shops for, and prepares a meal for the classroom community.
Students meet once a week for lessons, group work, and seminars concerned with the changes that take place (physical, intellectual and emotional) over the course of a human lifespan. In a three-year cycle we study birth and childhood, adolescence, and adulthood/aging/death.
In this class students pursue the skills that will enable them to express their understanding of the world. Activities such as drawing, painting, photography, fiber arts, glass blowing and drama allow students to develop their abilities to explore and share their interior lives.
In this class students exercise, develop physical skills and play. Activities such as rock climbing, canoeing, tennis, running, hiking, bicycling, speedball and other group games, help develop agility and strength, as well as a sense of fun and confidence in the meeting of physical challenges.