Upper School Curriculum

In the Upper School, students individualize their academic experiences through course selection. The college preparatory curriculum challenges every girl 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

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, Computer Science Principles, Digital Citizenship, and Coding. In Class 10, the elective "Chapin Girls Who Code" course introduces students to formal software development through iOS app development. Advanced students have the option to pursue independent projects of their own design.


Upper School English concentrates on reading, writing, speaking and thinking with precision, clarity and depth. The literature includes not only Western and global classics, but also contemporary works from around the world. This coursework leads to Class 12 electives ranging from Shakespeare to gender studies to in-depth exploration of major 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 an active vocabulary and the grammatical tools needed to express themselves for a variety of purposes and audiences. Finally, the Upper School English curriculum 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.

Fine and Performing Arts

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 her capacity for innovation and creativity, we seek to deepen each student's experience in the visual and performing arts.

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 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 collaboration with art, music and drama. 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.

Students also explore the history and technique of American jazz dance. More specialized electives 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.


Upper School theater and film classes explore all aspects of creating dramatic work. Equal emphasis is placed on acting and directing, design, and theater technology. Theater and film are inherently collaborative and interdisciplinary and the program capitalizes on the depth of the Upper School faculty by developing projects and courses that integrate computer science, dance, diversity, history, math, and music.

In Classes 8 and 9, drama is a part of the InterArts sequence. InterArts drama classes focus on scene study, improvisation and the elements of scenery, costume, and sound design. Higher-level courses are available to students in Class 10 and above as a part of the electives program. Advanced courses include Acting and Directing, New York in the 1970s (History and Culture), Gender Representation in American Film, and Musical Theater.

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 classical theater, musicals, devised and applied theater, and design and technical theater. Students also have the opportunity to work with outside professionals in acting, directing, and design and to attend workshops from Shakespeare to stage combat.


Skills acquired in Kindergarten through Class 7 are applied to and enhanced in the Class 8 and 9 InterArts course, FOCUS courses and performing ensembles. Arts Integrated learning, creative exploration, composition, music theory, arranging, performance skills, collaborative work, and comparative analysis of varied music styles are essential elements of the student’s musical experience.

The Upper School music program provides ample opportunities for student leadership and opportunities in performance, arranging, and composition. Performance ensembles include: Choral Club, Symphons, Alleppaca, Percussion Ensemble, Handbell Ensemble, Instrumental Chamber Ensemble and the Kilts Rock Band.

Visual Arts

The art program at Chapin is dedicated to the belief that all students have the capacity to learn the language of visual expression and, given the opportunity and means, to explore, create, and invent visual ideas. The Upper School program offers students the opportunity to involve themselves in depth with various media, concepts and processes, all focusing on skill development, visual problem solving and imaginative interpretation of ideas. Units are presented which require independent thought and creative exploration reflecting the most advanced level of the studio art experience at the school. Students develop a sense of excitement about the creative process and explore ideas while acquiring skill with media and tools.

The Inter-Arts courses in Classes 8 and 9 provide students with art-making experiences that introduce them to the more advanced conceptual and technical aspects of the elective FOCUS course program. Units may include architectural design, lost-block lino-cut printmaking, iPad painting, floral watercolors, and iPhone photography. In Classes 10 through 12, students are able to choose media specific courses. Drawing and Design, Ceramics, Photography, Printmaking, Watercolors, Painting, and Woodworking are offered, in addition to courses that incorporate computer-generated imagery. Class 12 students have the opportunity to do an individual study in art or a year-long individualized and highly focused experience such as the advanced Senior Art Portfolio and Exhibition course. 


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.

Learning Resources

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 realize their full potential and helping teachers to reach all the students in their classrooms.

The Upper School Learning Specialist works exclusively with students in Classes 8-12, providing academic support to individuals and small groups of students and addressing study skills, reading comprehension and writing. The specialist also serves as a resource for Chapin faculty in their work to provide differentiated instruction and communicates with parents about students’ progress.


Upper School students receive instruction in 21st century information skills through library research sessions taught in conjunction with research assignments, online help pages, and individual help. Students have access to Chapin's collection of over 29,000 volumes; online resources, including e-books and scholarly databases such as JSTOR, and entrance to several New York City research libraries.


The Upper School Mathematics Department strives to combine academic excellence with the development of habits of mind for lifelong learning. Through a discussion-based approach to mathematics, we help students discover concepts and experience excitement when mathematical ideas culminate in new conclusions. We encourage students to follow their instincts and speak clearly without apology. Building upon their experiences in Middle School, we encourage students to develop patience while they learn from mistakes. As students mature, they analyze their mistakes, edit their own work, self-assess, and advocate for themselves, seeking out the help they need. We foster students’ resilience through challenging activities and problems. Overall, we endeavor to promote enthusiasm for mathematics so that they may acquire a passion and interest that will carry on into their future studies.

We emphasize that mathematics is a universal language. Math crosses national, ethnic, and cultural boundaries, and is relevant to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. We make it a priority to promote girls' interests in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and science. Our school environment allows our students to thrive in a subject often dominated by male students.

Beyond the core Math curriculum sequence, elective FOCUS courses allow all students to pursue further interests in math at differing levels, from learning the important skills of personal finance to delving deeper into non-Euclidean geometry to the study of number theory. Apart from our 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, Online School for Girls, and the Museum of Finance.

We also consider how our curriculum can support other disciplines. Mathematics provides the quantitative foundation for the study of science, and we have consulted with the Science Department in order to give students the skills they need at the appropriate times. Mathematical study also helps develop students’ logical reasoning skills and the use of precise language, supporting the study of other subject areas such as computer science, history, and English.

We enjoy access to a wealth of teaching resources. A number of math software packages such as Geometer’s Sketchpad, Geogebra, graphing calculator emulators, and Desmos are used for student exploration and teacher demonstration, helping address a variety of learning styles. Physical tools such as graphing calculators, algebra manipulatives, and three-dimensional geometric models further support hands-on learning.

Physical Education

The Upper School physical education program provides opportunities for choice in many 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. Students in Classes 10 through 12 participate in physical education classes designed to shape the understanding that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and social interaction. Students can choose from a wide array of activities ranging from traditional sports and fitness to dance and yoga. They can also fulfill credits by playing on school teams. Students in Classes 8 and 9 are given choices of traditional sports and fitness classes each term. Class 8 students also participate in an indoor rowing unit held at a local rowing club. Each Upper School student receives training and certification in CPR and First Aid as part of the physical education program. In accordance with Chapin’s mission statement, the Upper School PE program supports the social, emotional and overall well-being of every student.


The Upper School science department believes that students need a solid 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 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.

World Languages

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 an increasingly global world. Communication skills in the Upper School Language classes are further developed and encouraged with the goal of promoting fluency, encouraging every student to achieve the highest proficiency possible in at least one other language, and fostering a broader cultural understanding. Class 8 students continue their study of a Modern language and complete the second year of their two-year Latin requirement. Students entering Class 9 must select a language (modern or Classics) they will pursue up to Level III. In some instances, and increasingly so, students undertake the parallel study of two languages. Greek is also offered as an elective starting in Class 10.

Students at higher levels are offered a variety of advanced college-level courses that include film, current events, and contemporary media.