Upper School Curriculum
In the Upper School, students individualize their academic experiences through course selection. The college preparatory curriculum challenges every student and fosters curiosity, creativity and independent thinking. Upper School courses ask students to think analytically and to respond to concepts both critically and creatively. Small classes ensure that each student participates actively in class. Learning to write and speak effectively are goals emphasized across the curriculum.
- Computer Science
- Fine and Performing Arts
- Learning Resources
- Physical Education
- World Languages
The Upper School Computer Science department aims to give students the skills to navigate a world connected through technology. Recognizing that computers will be a critical aspect of any path our students will take in the future, the Computer Science curriculum emphasizes flexible and critical thinking.
Students in Classes 8 and 9 take a sequence of mini-courses that touch on foundational topics. These courses include Design Thinking, Cybersecurity, Computer Science Principles, Digital Citizenship, and Coding. Starting in Class 10, students can further explore Computer Science through FOCUS courses. These elective courses cover iOS app development, data science using Python, makerspace fabrication and advanced programming with Java.
Upper School English concentrates on reading, writing, speaking and thinking with precision, clarity and depth. The literature includes not only global classics, but also contemporary works from around the world. This coursework is designed to meet the developmental needs of the students and culminate in intensive interdisciplinary studies in Class 11, with The American Experience, and in Class 12 electives that include in-depth explorations of Shakespeare, Medieval literature, gender studies, intersections of race, contemporary American poetry, science fiction, statelessness and global religious texts.
Students engage in activities and projects facilitating critical and creative thinking in response to the text, the self and the world at large. Because writing is a process, brainstorming, outlining, free-writing, drafting and revising are central to our teaching. By the end of their Chapin careers, students are able to write effectively in multiple genres, including analytic, personal, and persuasive essays. In addition, students are given opportunities to write creative fiction and nonfiction. Students also acquire the grammatical and rhetorical tools needed to express themselves for a variety of purposes and audiences. The Upper School English department believes that the study of literature should foster not only critical thinking and creativity but also a profound sense of empathy and an awareness of the need for social justice.
Recognizing that the arts help us to appreciate and express both the individuality and shared threads of the human experience, we believe that cultivating artistic expression is a central tenet in our quest for our students to construct and demonstrate understanding. As we work with each student to build their capacity for innovation and creativity, we seek to deepen each student's experience in the visual and performing arts. Students in Classes 8 and 9 engage in the InterArts sequence, which consists of both discipline-specific skill building and interdisciplinary work, with a focus on composition. Students in Classes 10-12 have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of Arts FOCUS courses so that they can further explore areas of personal interest and broaden their individual artistry.
Our strategic initiatives demand that we examine how the arts can more powerfully interact with other subjects of study. To support this important work, each division has a dedicated Arts Integration Specialist who, in collaboration with grade-level teachers, creates an arts curriculum that focuses on literacy in the visual arts, dance, drama and music, as well as cultivates a synergy between the arts and other subject fields, all to serve the important purpose of "education in the arts and education through the arts."
The Upper School Dance curriculum offers specialized courses building on the strong foundation established through the Lower and Middle School curricula. Students often engage in interdisciplinary work and collaborative work in Upper School dance classes. These collaborative projects require students to extensively brainstorm, find common ground with one another, and synthesize ideas to solve problems. Creative risk taking is strongly encouraged as is the notion that there are many different ways to solve the same problem. The InterArts Dance curriculum in Classes 8 and 9 puts a heavy emphasis on choreography and composition.
Students in Class 9 also explore the history and technique of American jazz dance. More specialized electives available to students in Classes 10-12 allow for a deeper investigation of dance in its many forms including ballet, modern, jazz, yoga, musical theater, Pilates, improvisation, dance composition, and dance on film. Many of our students also participate in the Upper School Dance Club, which requires a strong student commitment to crafting composition, casting and directing rehearsals, and honing performance skills.
The Music program in the Upper School aims to encourage creative decision-making, individualized and self-directed learning, courageous and meaningful self-expression, and an approach to music that is not only skillful but also deeply intellectual. Students begin their musical education in the Upper School with Interarts Music, a course that is shaped by the passions and curiosity of the particular students in the room. From Class 10 onward, students can engage in a selection of rigorous FOCUS courses tailored to different levels of experience, including Intro to Piano, Music Theory, Advanced Theory and Composition, Songwriting and Performance Studio. Outside of class, students can participate in a number of ensembles that perform at the Winter and Spring concerts and other school events, and which present opportunities for student leadership in the upper grades. These ensembles include Choral Club, Instrumental Chamber Ensemble, The Kilts rock band, and two a cappella groups, Symphons (for Classes 8 and 9) and Alleppaca (for Classes 10-12).
The Upper School Drama curriculum provides opportunities for students to explore all aspects of theatrical production, including performance, technical theater, directing, and playwriting. Since theater is inherently collaborative and interdisciplinary, the program aims to foster a sense of artistic community, create opportunities for students to take creative risks, and develop projects that integrate subjects such as history, science, music, dance and activism.
In Classes 8 and 9, drama is a part of the InterArts sequence. InterArts Drama classes focus on ensemble-building, improvisation, and the elements of scenic and costume design. Higher-level courses are available to students in Class 10 and above as a part of the FOCUS electives program. Specialized courses include Acting & Directing, Performance Studio, Verbatim Performance, and Technical Theater & Design.
Classes and productions give students the opportunity to work intensively with text and expose actors to a wide range of directing styles and techniques. The faculty have experience and expertise in a broad range of theatrical styles and disciplines, including classical theater, musicals, devised and applied theatre, and design and technical theatre. Students also have the opportunity to work with outside professionals in acting, directing, and design and to attend workshops from Shakespeare to stage combat.
The Upper School Visual Arts curriculum provides opportunities for students to explore a range of art materials and processes, engage with the work of contemporary artists and designers, develop an understanding of the creative process, and bring to life their own unique artistic visions.
The InterArts sequence, for Classes 8 and 9, focuses on material exploration and concept development. More specialized elective courses are open to students in Classes 10–12 and currently include: Drawing, Painting, 2-D Art & Design, 3-D Art & Design, Photography, and Studio Art (developing ideas across a range of art media). The full-year Advanced Art Studio course is available to students in Class 11 and 12 who are committed to deepening their artistic practice.
In the Upper School, students build on their geography and critical-thinking skills from the Middle School. They continue to examine causal relationships and historical perspective through a variety of primary and secondary source material and they hone their abilities to construct and defend an argument.
Students are required to take four years of history in the Upper School. In Class 8, they begin a three-year sequence in world history. In The American Experience course, Class 11 students engage in an advanced interdisciplinary exploration of what it means to be an American. Seniors have two full-year options: Senior History Seminar, an advanced level course that examines contemporary issues and puts them in historical context, and Senior Art History Seminar. Several different FOCUS (For Ongoing Creativity, Understanding and Scholarship) classes – on frequently changing topics that range from the ancient to the contemporary – are open to Classes 10, 11 and 12.
The Learning Resources Department is committed to helping create an environment that respects and serves different learning styles. The members of the department work closely with both students and teachers; helping students to realize their full potential and helping teachers to understand how to reach the entire student body.
The Upper School Learning Specialists work exclusively with students in Classes 8-12, providing academic support to individuals and small groups of students, addressing executive functioning skills, reading comprehension, writing and math. The Specialists serve as a resource for Chapin faculty in their work to provide differentiated instruction and partner with families to communicate about student progress and provide resources for outside of school.
Starting in Class 8, students grow their research and information literacy skills directly within the context of their academic courses. Through a scaffolded and interdisciplinary curriculum based on the Association for College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy, Upper School students engage in research projects that ask them to not only find and evaluate information, but also consider how they are active participants in the information landscape.
Through project-specific research sessions, students learn about all aspects of research, from the mechanics (note taking, organization, citation, and source type identification) to process (topic development, source evaluation, research question, thesis). Chapin’s library and information literacy curriculum purposefully shifts the emphasis away from merely finding sources – something our students as digital natives grasp fairly quickly – to figuring out how and why to use the information they have found, both as scholars and responsible citizens.
Supporting students through all of this is the Library itself, where they can get one-on-one help from a librarian, access our collection of over 50,000 physical volumes spread across two floors, find more than 300,000 scholarly eBooks, and search in over 50 academic databases.
In addition to their curricular pursuits, the Library also actively supports students’ recreational reading by maintaining a collection of contemporary and classic fiction and popular nonfiction.
Guided by the School’s mission, Chapin’s Mathematics Department cultivates a learning environment that enables all students to embrace the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. All Chapin students are mathematicians in the making, and it is our responsibility to guide them through rigorous exploration and engagement with essential mathematical concepts and processes; support them as they hone their computational skills; and foster in them the productive disposition that allows them to face challenges with tenacity and an inclination to choose resilience over resignation.
Chapin’s young mathematicians work collaboratively to discover the beauty, interdisciplinarity and myriad applications of mathematics; construct their understanding of rich concepts and complex algorithms; explain their thinking through daily discourse and writing; engage in frequent, purposeful practice needed to achieve fluency; and cultivate the skills of critical thinking and problem solving as they embrace challenges relevant to the world around them.
Our mathematics faculty dedicates itself to classroom teaching that meets the highest standards of academic excellence. We pledge to enhance our curriculum and pedagogy to reflect research and best practices, placing students at the center of their own learning. Student-driven inquiry, we believe, sets the stage for enduring understanding. Likewise, a commitment on the part of students and educators alike to a growth mindset ensures that for all students understanding of and appreciation for key mathematical ideas is possible.
Chapin’s mathematics professionals work as a team to develop and refine a multi-layered pedagogy with an appropriate balance of access and challenge; competition and collaboration; inquiry and instruction; skills and conceptual understanding. Together, we are propelled by a shared commitment to sending curious, dedicated, skilled, innovative, and courageous young mathematicians into a field that would benefit deeply from their contributions.
Apart from our core curriculum, there are further opportunities to engage in mathematics with our Math Club and participation in math contests. Additional coursework is available through Interschool courses and One Schoolhouse offerings.
The Upper School physical education program provides opportunities for choice in many lifetime sport and fitness activities. It is the goal of the program to prepare our students for sports and fitness participation beyond Chapin, in order to practice a physically active lifestyle and to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness. The classes are designed to shape the understanding that physical activity provides opportunities for increased health, wellness, happiness, challenge, self-expression and social interaction. In accordance with Chapin’s mission statement, the Upper School P.E. program supports the social, emotional and overall well-being of every student.
Students can choose from a wide array of activities ranging from traditional sports and fitness to dance and yoga. In addition, each Upper School student receives training and certification in CPR and First Aid as part of the physical education program.
Students in Classes 8 and 9 will be trained in all aspects of physical fitness using our new Fitness Studio and indoor track, and will be taught the myriad benefits of physical activity and fitness. They will also be introduced to a variety of sport, fitness, and wellness activities, and engage in Green vs. Gold competitions to build team-spirit, teach teamwork and provide leadership opportunities.
Students in Classes 10-12 may fulfill all of their P.E. credits during a term by playing on Chapin sports teams or participating in a sport or dance activity outside of school that is the equivalent, in terms of time commitment and skill level, to being on a Chapin varsity sports team. Students must be granted permission by Chapin to receive outside P.E. credits on a term-by-term basis.
The Upper School science department believes that students need a strong foundation in science to engage with a fast changing, technological world where many important challenges have a global scope with deep scientific connections. We aim to foster students' ability to gather and analyze evidence based data, and to think critically and openly about complex questions and their impact on the world.
Traditional introductory courses in Classes 8 through 10 provide our students with core knowledge and skills, which they later apply in advanced courses in biology, chemistry, engineering, molecular genetics and physics to gain a broader and more sophisticated understanding of science. Our elective FOCUS (For Ongoing Creativity, Understanding and Scholarship) courses and Laboratory Research courses offer students the opportunity to explore the breadth and depth of the reach of science.
The ultimate goal of the science department is to prepare students to pursue a broad-based education in science and, by doing so, to promote and nurture a culture of science – of observing, asking questions and pushing the boundaries of independent thinking.
The World Languages department believes that Chapin students must walk across the stage at Commencement equipped with the linguistic and cultural literacy necessary to function in a world where interconnectedness is the norm. Communication skills in the Upper School language classes are further developed and students are encouraged to use the language in and out of the classroom with the goal of promoting the highest level of proficiency possible in at least one language other than English, and fostering a broader cultural understanding of communities beyond one's own.
Class 8 students continue their study of a modern language (Mandarin Chinese, French, and Spanish) and complete the second year of their two-year Latin requirement. Students entering Class 9 must select a language (modern or Latin) they will pursue up to Level III. In some instances, and increasingly so, students undertake the parallel study of two languages. Ancient Greek is also offered as a FOCUS course (elective) starting in Class 10.
Students at higher levels are offered a variety of advanced college-level courses that include a theme-based curriculum on literature, art, film, history & current events, and contemporary media.