Upper School Curriculum 2019-20

  • History
  • Math
  • English
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Language
  • Arts
  • Non-Core

History

The upper school history curriculum begins in ninth grade, focusing on global history and geography from the development of the first civilizations to the global convergence in the 13th - 15th centuries. In tenth grade, students examine the formation of the modern world through the lenses of history, politics, the environment, and geography. With this solid background in world history, eleventh grade students are ready to focus on the major forces that have shaped the United States such as political liberalism, nationalism, industrialization, and imperialism. In twelfth grade, students will choose from a series of electives during the first semester based on both teacher expertise and student interest. 
 
While the senior level electives will cover a variety of topics, all of the senior courses are designed to have students apply their historical thinking skills to the modern, global world. The underlying goal of the curriculum is to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of how forces influence the course of global human history, from antiquity to today. Students learn through projects as well as texts (primary and secondary sources), debate, research analysis, document analysis, written analysis, and discussion. By asking students to apply their knowledge of the past to the challenges of the future in an increasingly “globalized” world, students develop a critical global perspective as well as an understanding of the responsibilities they have as individuals and citizens in a democratic society. 

History Course Offerings

World History I: Power & Geopolitics
The ninth grade history course examines geopolitics and belief systems from a thematic perspective. Students will analyze the political structures, social dynamics, gender roles, economic interactions, and philosophical ideas that have shaped various civilizations from Africa to Eurasia to the Americas. Beyond merely looking at points of similarity and difference between civilizations, the course aims to explore the impact of the interactions between people and ideas that have occurred over the past two thousand years in the hope of gaining an understanding of the modern, interconnected world. Geographic skills include mapping skills, the interaction between people and their environment and the political and economic systems they develop. 

World History II: Conflict & Resolution
This course will investigate World History through the lenses of political systems and conflict resolution. The first semester focuses on world political systems. Students will investigate the origins and evolution of sovereign and international political structures. The second semester focuses on the causes of global conflicts and how political systems respond to them. Students will engage in discussions about types of governance, international organizations, war, genocide, and migration. Each term, the analysis of primary print, visual and auditory sources, as well as interactive simulations, are used to reinforce students' understanding of the major themes of the course. 

US History
This course covers the history of the United States from the Colonial Era to the present. It is a general survey of the themes, people, stories, and factors that have shaped the American country. The course moves through the different eras of American history focusing on comparisons, changes, and connections. The history of the United States will be conveyed in this course through primary source documents, texts, music, art, films, photographs, and retellings in an attempt to provide multiple sources and a broader understanding of the American Experiment.  

AP US History
Advanced Placement United States History is a college-level course for students seeking to immerse themselves in the study of the American experience. This fast-paced course uses discussions of readings, essay writing, and collaborative and investigative methods to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful on the AP exam. Students refine their analytical abilities and critical thinking skills and gain sophisticated understanding of historical and geographical context, make multicultural comparisons, and interpret changing historical frameworks. 

Human Geography
This Human Geography course will explore a range of interdisciplinary topics including geography, culture, politics, agriculture and urbanization. Students will engage in the analysis of problems of economic development and cultural change, impacts of population growth, why location matters for agriculture and urban land development, struggles of minority populations, and the impacts of climate change and the environment on how humans shape the landscapes on Earth. The course will use research, writing, discussion, and problem solving to engage students in the material throughout the semester.

Vietnam: A Cultural & Political Legacy
The Vietnam War is still considered one of the most divisive wars in U.S. History.  It was a war that expanded beyond Southeast Asia and into American politics, cities, universities, and social movements- shaping the psyche of an entire generation. This class will evaluate the history of the Vietnam war and its many theaters as well as examine how one conflict could have such lasting impacts on American society, politics, and culture. Students’ readings will draw primarily from films, music, literature, journalism, historical writing, and political discourse. The goal of this course is to engage in divergent historical interpretations and to develop various perspectives about America's role in Vietnam and its legacy.          

Applied Ethics
What is truth? Is there such a thing as right and wrong? What is your duty to others? This course is designed to introduce students to the concepts of ethics and how these ideas are applied in today’s modern society. Through a study of world religions, both Abrahamic and otherwise, as well as various philosophical schools of thought ranging from Socrates to David Foster Wallace, the course will investigate many of the ideas and belief systems that have helped formulate the modern conception of ethics. Students will learn a practical approach to apply ethics to everyday life through a combination of Harkness discussions, primary and secondary source readings, films, and literature.

Mathematics

The upper school mathematics curriculum prepares students for the challenges of collegiate level work through the mastery of fundamental concepts and skills. Careful consideration is taken to place students in appropriate courses. Progress with geometric, algebraic, and trigonometric skills without the aid of technology is emphasized. Additionally, students learn to harness technology to perform investigations and to solve complex application problems. Advanced Placement courses in calculus and statistics are available for qualified students. 

Mathematics Course Offerings

Algebra I 
Algebra I builds upon the concepts mastered in Pre-Algebra. Students explore increasingly complex linear functions, including the graphs and applications of these functions, and learn to solve multi-step equations. Solving for two variables is introduced through systems of linear equations, and students develop a deeper understanding of exponents. The year culminates with students exploring nonlinear functions, such as exponential and quadratic relations, as a foundation for their studies in Algebra II.

Geometry 
Geometry introduces and explores logical and spatial reasoning through the use of both inductive and deductive reasoning. Two-column proofs are introduced and applied to proving lines parallel and triangles congruent. Algebra is a necessary prerequisite for this course, as students must have knowledge of linear graphing and frequently use geometric principles to create and solve algebraic equations. Additional topics covered in this course include: the Pythagorean Theorem, similar triangles, relationships in triangles, properties of quadrilaterals, area of polygons and circles, trigonometric ratios, and surface area and volume of geometric solids. Connections are made between the concepts and their applications in the real world. 

Algebra II 
Algebra II is an in-depth study of linear, quadratic, polynomial, exponential, and logarithmic functions. Students learn to distinguish the characteristics of equations and graphs of each of these functions, and then apply them in a variety of situations, often through the use of a graphing calculator. Through both independent and group problem-solving, students strengthen their skills, both with and without the use of a calculator, that will be the foundation for future math courses in high school and college. 

Algebra II/Trigonometry 
This rigorous, fast-paced class essentially combines two courses, Algebra II and an introduction to Trigonometry. Through the fall and winter, the course will focus on an in-depth study of linear, quadratic, polynomial, exponential and logarithmic functions. Students learn to distinguish the characteristics of equations for different types of functions and then apply them in a variety of situations. During the spring, students use right triangle trigonometry, the law of sines, and the law of cosines to solve triangles and in application problems. Periodic functions are used to discover the graphs of the trigonometric functions and their inverses. Both no calculator and calculator active approaches to problem solving are emphasized throughout the course.

Trigonometry and Introduction to Pre-Calculus 
Trigonometry and Introduction to Pre-Calculus begins with a review of linear, quadratic, and polynomial functions. Students then cover introductory pre-calculus concepts including logarithmic and exponential functions, conic sections, and basic rational functions. In the second semester, students begin their study of trigonometry by reviewing right triangle trigonometry. Oblique triangles are solved using the law of sines and the law of cosines. The unit circle is used to introduce radian measure and the periodic nature of trigonometric graphs. Students solve trigonometric equations with various domain restrictions. Real world application problems are solved by making use of sinusoidal wave modelling. Both no calculator and calculator active approaches to problem solving are emphasized throughout the course.

Advanced Pre-Calculus
Advanced Pre-Calculus is a fast paced course that begins by focusing on transformations of graphs, function composition, inverse functions, and an in-depth study of both rational functions and conic sections. Students extend their knowledge of trigonometry using an analytic approach to prove complex trigonometric identities. Vectors are introduced and applied to navigation using trigonometry. Students will also explore vector operations, polar coordinate representations, parametric equations, sequences and series, and combinations and permutations. The year culminates with a study of limits and derivatives in preparation for their first year in calculus. The use of a graphing calculator is emphasized throughout the course.

Calculus 
Calculus is a course designed to explore topics in differential and integral calculus. Though students will study many of the same topics as the AP Calculus AB course, the pace of this course is less intense in order to allow time for review and depth in mastery. Limits are used to develop the derivative concept and rules are established for finding derivatives of several classes of functions. Applications in differential calculus are studied including graphing, related rates, and optimization investigations. The fundamental theorem of calculus is applied to develop the integral concept and integration is used in solving area, volume, and accumulated change problems. The use of a graphing calculator is emphasized throughout the course.

AP Calculus AB 
Calculus AB is an advanced placement course with an equal focus on differential and integral calculus. The concept of the derivative is defined, and rules are established for finding the derivatives of elementary functions. Derivatives are used to graph functions, and applications are made to optimization, related rates of change, and the motion of an object along a line. The definite integral is defined and evaluated using the fundamental theorem of calculus. Applications of definite integrals include finding the area under a curve, volumes of solids of revolution, the distance traveled by an object moving along a line, and accumulated change. Students conclude the year by taking the Advanced Placement test which may qualify them for college credit. 

AP Calculus BC 
Calculus BC is an Advanced Placement course that builds upon the foundation established in Calculus AB. Differential and integral calculus concepts are reviewed, and applications are explored at a more rigorous level than in Calculus AB. Numerous new integration techniques are introduced. Solutions to differential equations are approximated using Euler’s Method. The calculus of parametric equations is applied to motion in two dimensions. Students calculate the area between curves using integration in polar coordinates. They apply a variety of methods to determine the convergence or divergence of an infinite series. Students then create and analyze power series, in the form of Taylor and Maclaurin series, to represent transcendental functions. Students conclude the year by taking the Advanced Placement test, which may qualify them for college credit.

Statistics (with AP option) 
Statistics and AP Statistics cover the fundamentals of statistical analysis and their applications to real world data. The year begins with a focus on core concepts, such as graphing, summarizing data, and working with statistical models. Throughout the second half of the year, these topics will be revisited in different contexts to practice producing and evaluating data. Students will use technology (graphing calculators and spreadsheet generators) to aid in and strengthen their statistical analysis. Students choosing to enroll in the AP option will be held to higher standards of depth and mastery through differentiated quizzes, tests, and projects, and will also be required to take the AP Statistics exam in May.

English

The English curriculum follows a developmental progression of increasing sophistication in grammar, vocabulary, discussion skills, writing, and reading. Emphasis is also placed on the study of Shakespeare, which occurs in grades 9-11. The upper school English department utilizes Harkness Tables, wooden oval tables that allow discussion to be the primary method of learning. In each grade, texts are pulled from the American, British, and World canon to provide a wide range of diversity and are organized by theme. AP English Literature is offered to 11th grade students with solid skills in critical reading and writing. In 12th grade, students are provided with an opportunity to choose their English class from three offerings that vary each year based on teacher and student interest. Senior English will be only a one semester course, as the student will pursue research writing, reading, and reflection in their second semester senior project.

English Course Offerings

English 9: Coming of Age
This is a required yearlong course for all freshmen, which focuses on the study of texts both modern and classic that center around the theme of growing up. Skills are based in analysis, discussion, paper-writing, and creative projects. The content of the class allows students to find similarities with characters regardless of differences in time, culture, and language. We focus on establishing the foundation necessary for upper-level skill progression in English. Students begin this journey with the study of various genres including novels, short stories, and poetry, as well as a performance-based unit on Shakespeare that culminates in our annual Shakespeare Festival. A heavy emphasis on grammar and structured writing skills pervades all that we do in 9th grade so that students are practicing skills that will aid them through the rest of their academic careers. The Harkness Table provides students with opportunities to hone listening and speaking skills, and to allow them the cultivation of their own voices and opinions in discussion. 

English 10: Identity 
This is a required yearlong course for all sophomores. The tenth grade year in English focuses on the study of texts both modern and classic that highlight the development of one’s awareness of the individual and society. Skills are based in analysis, discussion, paper-writing, and creative projects. The content of the class allows students to find similarities with characters regardless of differences in time, culture, and language. Students learn and use grammar skills and a sophisticated vocabulary in order to speak and write articulately, as well as to prepare for standardized tests. The course also contains a Shakespeare component culminating in a Festival performance. Students leave this course with the ability to participate effectively in discussion, critically examine texts, write interesting and analytical papers, and use correct mechanics to communicate.

English 11: Journeys 
This course is one of two offered to juniors, and it will focus more heavily on the use of American Literature to cultivate connections to our history curriculum and between students and their personal journeys to self-discovery. To that end, we focus on analysis of novels, poems, short stories, and personal narratives, as well as the formal study of a Shakespeare play. Student-led discussion constitutes the primary method of learning in order to carry on the Harkness tradition of strong speaking and listening skills. Students hone their skills in writing personal narratives, compare and contrast essays, and literary analyses with the goal of practicing different organizational techniques and effective communication. Vocabulary and grammar are regular components of the daily work in this class. 

English 11: AP English Literature 
This is an optional, yearlong course open to 11th grade students who have achieved a high level of success and sophistication in their English skills. Prerequisites must be met for admission into this course. Attendance in this class guarantees a student’s commitment to taking the AP English Literature exam in May. This class will provide a typical VMS experience in English with seminar discussions and in-depth conversations about literature, but will also focus on AP specific skills like multiple choice tests and essay responses. The AP English Literature course title also demands a close attention to grammar, vocabulary, rhetoric, writing skills, and a focus on non-fiction texts, in addition to the typical study of literature found in VMS English classes. 

12th Grade Senior Seminar: In Love and War
From “make love, not war” to War & Peace, these two concepts seem inextricably linked and an inevitable component of being human. We fight for all sorts of reasons: religion, money, power, freedom, etc., but in the end what we find is that what remains is love. These texts, many with accompanying movies, provide us with insights into the people who struggle through the pain of war and then need to figure out how to live and love in what is often a completely different world. This course will be a study in love, family relations, the natural world, the human mind's ability to see good in a world that sometimes seems like it is falling into despair. War leaves behind death, but also hope and a new vision. These texts and movies allow us to explore all these possibilities as we travel with these characters through hell and often out the other side. Possible texts include: The Things They Carried (summer reading); Atonement; Ceremony; The English Patient; The Kite Runner; Cold Mountain.

12th Grade Senior Seminar: Fiction to Film
This class will explore the ways in which the important components of texts are translated onto the silver screen. You will attempt to answer many of the following questions: What elements of fiction translate well to the big screen? What parts of stories end up getting dropped during production? What truths does literature on screen capture? How can directors manipulate our emotions through flat images and sound? We’ll study widely from different genres, examining how books are adapted to movies. Students will read extensively and critically view films. The class will culminate in a final project where students will have the opportunity to create their own film adaptations, write a screenplay, or critically review an adaptation that we did not discuss in class. Possible text/movie pairings include: Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now; Mrs. Dalloway/The Hours; The Orchid Thief/Adaptation; As I Lay Dying/James Franco’s As I Lay Dying; True Grit/The Coen Brothers' True Grit; Memento Mori/Memento, and Fight Club (Fincher’s Fight Club).

12th Grade Senior Seminar: Voices Around the World 
Africa, Asia, South America, The Caribbean. Get ready for a trip around the world! Exotic places and stories will span the human experience in ways that are often overlooked in our overwhelmingly white, male Western canon. This course will target authors, topics, geography, culture, and history that will allow us to evaluate a variety of perspectives, some of which may be quite different from one's personal philosophy, but that will reflect our collective experiences and a shared understanding of what it means to be human. Possible texts include: A River Sutra, Gita Mehta; Balzac & The Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie; Like Water For Chocolate, Laura Esquivel. 

Science

Science courses in upper school offer students a survey of the core sciences through lab-based instruction. In all classes, students design unique and genuine experiments. Ninth grade students are taught many practical skills and concepts using the physical sciences to prepare them well for higher-level thinking and communicating effectively as a future scientist in advanced courses. Starting in tenth grade, students can select a traditional route or an accelerated route. Depending on the route taken, students have numerous choices during junior and senior year designed to support any college aspiration. AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics C, AP Chemistry, Applied Science-Engineering, and Anatomy and Physiology are offered to students who have met the prerequisites. Students are expected to take four years of science in their time at VMS.

Science Course Offerings

Foundations in Chemistry and Physics 
In this course, students will practice thinking scientifically by studying and experimenting with the physical world. Topics in both chemistry and physics will be covered in both classroom and lab settings to introduce students to the upper school course offerings. Interactive labs and demonstrations will be used to strengthen important science skills like collecting measurements and making sense of data. This course will prepare students to think critically about the physical world and give them direction in the science course offerings available to upper school students. 

Biology 
This laboratory science course takes a molecular approach to the study of life while also integrating the driving force of evolution in shaping life’s metabolism. Students will learn how life works at the molecular level through numerous lab investigations and will improve their communication skills through well-supported lab analysis and write-ups. Essential biological processes will be examined closely including: a survey of biochemical structure and function, cells and membrane transport, cellular respiration, protein synthesis, cellular division, neuroscience, microbes and disease, evolution and natural selection, and molecular genetics. Students will be well prepared for the AP Biology course after completing this class and will be ready for coursework in the biological sciences in college.

Accelerated Biology and Chemistry 
Chemistry
This course is designed to give students a rich understanding of how and why matter interacts on earth in an accelerated semester of instruction. Students develop a strong foundation in the language of chemistry and learn how to apply this foundation to increasingly complex reactions. Many lab investigations will be conducted to bring concepts to life as students learn how to report data properly in support of conclusions. Areas of study include: bonding, formulas, qualitative reactions, stoichiometry, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation-reduction reactions.

Biology
This laboratory science course takes a molecular approach to the study of life while also integrating the driving force of evolution in shaping life’s metabolism. Students will learn how life works at the molecular level through numerous lab investigations and will improve their communication skills through well-supported lab analysis and write-ups. Essential metabolic processes will be examined closely including: a survey of biochemical structure and function; cells and membrane transport; cellular respiration; protein synthesis; cellular division; and molecular genetics. Students will be well prepared for AP Biology after completing this class and will be ready for coursework in the biological sciences in college.

Advanced Chemistry 
This course is designed to give students a rich understanding of how and why matter interacts on Earth. Students develop a strong foundation in the language of chemistry and learn how to apply this foundation to increasingly complex reactions. Many lab investigations will be conducted to bring concepts to life as students learn how to report data properly in support of conclusions. Areas of study include: bonding, formulas, qualitative reactions, stoichiometry, solutions, equilibrium, thermodynamics, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation-reduction reactions.

Anatomy and Physiology
This course will explore the structure and function of the bodies we live in.  We will use the broad topics of what bodies do to tackle the various systems of anatomy, including bones and muscles, circulatory system, digestive tract, and the nervous system. Case studies will be used frequently to connect learning with human health stories.  Students can expect lab and group-based work (including dissections), written analyses, and rigorous content.

AP Environmental Science 
The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one semester, introductory college course in environmental science. This course is a rigorous science course that stresses scientific principles and analysis and will include a laboratory component as well as issues-based projects. The content of the course follows the AP curriculum and will give students a deeper understanding of current environmental issues and a framework to understand human impacts and future solutions.

AP Physics-C 
This course will be an in-depth, calculus-based look into the theories of Newtonian Mechanics. It is designed for first year physics students and is equivalent to an introductory college physics course in mechanics. In order to address each concept thoroughly and to cater to varied learning styles, the course is taught through classroom discussion, hands-on experiments, problem-solving in small groups, demonstrations, and investigations into real world applications. Calculus AB is considered a corequisite course, meaning it may be taken concurrently. The syllabus of this course will follow the format laid out by the College Board in order to prepare students to take the AP Physics C Mechanics Exam in May. By the end of this course, students will not only know the fundamental laws of physics, they will also be familiar with the origin of these laws and learn to apply them to situations in the world around them.

AP Biology 
This course is a college-level biology course aimed at providing an in-depth look at the structures and processes governing life on Earth. Biochemistry, heredity, natural selection and ecology are the focus areas of this class. Lab skills are honed through inquiry-based experiments and an examination of feline anatomy during a dissection project to conclude the course. Students prepare for and take the AP Biology exam in the spring. By the end of this class, students will have developed an enduring understanding of the essential interactions that shape life on Earth from the molecular to the ecosystem level.

Engineering and Technology
In this hands-on, interactive course, students use tools and technology to solve real-world problems. They will be introduced to the engineering-design process, and apply those steps to a diverse range of problems. Students will engage in project-based learning using 21st century skills and 21st century technology as they learn to lead, follow instructions, cooperate with others, and work effectively in a team to accomplish authentic design and engineering tasks. They will be challenged to think like designers using teamwork to research, brainstorm, plan, create and adapt ideas and products. 

AP Chemistry 
The AP Chemistry course provides students with a foundation to support future advanced coursework in chemistry. Students develop critical thinking and reasoning skills through class work and extensive lab work. Understanding of chemistry and science practices/literacy will be developed as students explore topics such as: atomic structure, intermolecular forces and bonding, chemical reactions, kinetics, thermodynamics, and equilibrium. By the end of this course, students will have acquired the skills and knowledge to be successful to succeed on the AP exam and in future college level coursework. 

Technology

Technology classes are designed to offer students experience in different realms of the digital domain. Through computer science classes, students will learn different coding languages and will be exposed to many different applications and techniques. “Maker” classes expose students to design thinking, where, through a series of attempts and subsequent refinements, their ideas will take concrete form. 

Design a Sustainable Planet
Are you bothered by climate change and environmental degradation? Wildfires in Australia, polar bears drowning, oceans and marine life choked with plastics?  What if you could take action on these issues, making an impact both locally and globally, affecting positive change in society?  In this class you will learn to utilize the design thinking process to solve seemingly impossible environmental issues.  We will learn about the systems that cause environmental damage and develop creative, sustainable solutions to change these systems.  This is not a theoretical class.  You will learn how to take direct action to implement your solutions.

iPhone App Programming
This semester long course aims to introduce students to the exciting world of programming mobile apps for the iPhone and iPad. The goal of the class will be for every student to release their own app to the App store by the end of the semester; however, for students new to programming (or those that simply do not wish to release an app), there will be alternative projects. All work will be done using the Swift programming language within Apple’s xCode development environment coupled with challenges and tutorials using Apple’s Swift Playground. 

Programming Games with Unity
This is a semester long introduction to developing immersive, 3D video games using the Unity 3D development environment and the C# programming language. Students will learn what makes some of their favorite games likeable, feasible and compelling. Students with an interest in programming, digital arts (for example, 3D modeling, animation, digital audio) and those interested in crafting engaging video game ideas are encouraged to enroll. The course will culminate with each student developing their own game with the option of releasing their game to the Steam (or similar) gaming platform.

Engineering and Technology
In this hands-on, interactive course, students use tools and technology to solve real-world problems. They will be introduced to the engineering-design process, and apply those steps to a diverse range of problems. Students will engage in project-based learning using 21st century skills and 21st century technology as they learn to lead, follow instructions, cooperate with others, and work effectively in a team to accomplish authentic design and engineering tasks. They will be challenged to think like designers using teamwork to research, brainstorm, plan, create and adapt ideas and products.

World Languages

One of the overarching goals of the World Languages Department is for students to cultivate an intrinsic interest in a critical world language that they will carry with them long after they complete their studies at VMS. To accomplish this goal, the department strives to develop high levels of language proficiency alongside an increasingly profound understanding of the cultures in which the languages are utilized. A high degree of emphasis is placed on providing students with scaffolded opportunities for successfully communicating in the target language. The faculty consistently seeks to connect the language to important issues of culture, as well as foster an environment in which students come to understand the value and relevance of Spanish and/or Chinese to their own lives and future goals. 
 
Falling under the larger goal of helping students develop a sense of global identity, the department adheres to various pragmatic and pedagogical goals that guide the daily rhythm of the language classroom. The four critical language skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening all represent important components of our classrooms and are implemented across the curriculum in developmentally appropriate ways. All four components are covered through a classroom focus on successful communication, an understanding of the importance of the gradual acquisition of grammar, and a continuous increase of the depth and breadth of vocabulary knowledge. Additionally, the department creates opportunities to gain both linguistic and cultural experience firsthand through enrichment and travel abroad opportunities. 

World Languages Course Offerings

Mandarin I 
Mandarin I introduces students to the basics of the language and provides opportunities to learn about the overarching culture of the Chinese people. Students will develop basic communication skills and gain practice recognizing and producing the tones, which are an integral component of the language. Upon completion of this course, students are expected to be able to communicate about the following: numbers, basic greetings, family, nationalities, dates and times, basic foods, interests and hobbies, friends and activities, and making plans for daily events. The course situates all of these topics within potential real life situations, which prepares the students for future encounters with native speakers. Additionally, the course utilizes film, music, and other forms of authentic media to expose students to various elements of Chinese culture.

Mandarin II
Mandarin II is an advanced-beginner level course designed for upper school students who have previously studied Chinese for one academic year. The overarching goal of the course is for students to build upon the foundational language skills covered in their first year of study, and to develop an increased proficiency level that allows them to engage with more complex language across the four language domains, i.e. listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Upon completion of this course, students are expected to be able to communicate about the following: daily activities, school life, shopping, private and public transportation, weather, dining out, and travel. As students become increasingly familiar with the language, they will encounter opportunities to learn about more complex cultural elements of the global community of Chinese speakers.

Mandarin III 
Mandarin III is an intermediate level course designed for students who have previously studied Chinese for two academic years. In this course, students will have the opportunity to use the strong linguistic foundation established in previous classes to communicate in more creative and meaningful ways about increasingly complex topics. Upon completion of this course, students are expected to be able to communicate about the following topics: planning social events, personal relationships, health, housing, the role of sports in a culture, travel, and issues of globalization. The introduction of additional abstract vocabulary, as well as more complicated grammar, will also challenge students to use their Chinese language skills to express more nuanced opinions and discuss complex social issues.

Mandarin IV
Mandarin IV builds upon the intermediate level content covered in Mandarin III and is designed for students who have completed three academic years of Chinese at the upper school level. This class will provide opportunities for students to continue developing their ability to discuss everyday topics; however, the focus will shift to enhancing the level of detail and precision with which the students can communicate. Additionally, students in Mandarin IV will develop increased proficiency in navigating complex and abstract topics, gain a deeper understanding of the differences in the language utilized in various forms of media and explore more complicated issues of Chinese culture and history. 

Mandarin V 
Mandarin V is the highest level Chinese course available at VMS and provides students the opportunity to further develop their language skills at the intermediate and advanced low level. Students will gain substantial practice with and exposure to more complex grammar patterns that are necessary to communicate at a higher proficiency level. Opportunities will be provided to significantly amplify the breadth and scope of the vocabulary students feel comfortable using in both written and spoken contexts. The final year of Mandarin will also help students envision what their plans are for language study after graduation and provide insight into skills that need to be further strengthened prior to moving on to further language studies at the university level.  

Spanish I 
Spanish I is the introductory Spanish language course for the upper school. It is primarily designed for students who have either limited or no previous experience studying Spanish and would like to begin learning the foundations of the language. The course will cover essential vocabulary, grammatical patterns and cultural topics that will prepare the student to communicate in basic day-to-day situations in Spanish speaking countries. 

Spanish II
Spanish II will provide an introduction to and review of the basic concepts and vocabulary of the Spanish language. The students will practice and perfect their use of “agreement” in all of their communication in the target language. To learn a foreign language, one must take a risk and take ownership of his or her own learning. Class participation is an essential and integral component of daily class activities. Students will learn through grammar exercises, games, videos, daily conversations, and popular music. 

Spanish III
In Spanish III, there is a focus on expression. By the end of this year, students will have learned how to express ideas in the past, present and future tenses, in both written and spoken Spanish. The instructor speaks mostly in the target language, and students should also communicate in Spanish at all times. The use of authentic materials (newspapers, Spanish-language television, popular music, etc.) helps the students immerse themselves in the culture without leaving the classroom. 

Spanish IV 
In Spanish IV, students continue to be immersed in the target language. A comprehensive review of previously learned grammatical tenses is followed by an introduction to some of the more advanced tenses such as the perfect tenses, future, conditional, command forms, and subjunctive moods. Students are expected to incorporate more advanced vocabulary and grammar into their written and verbal expression. 

Cultural Spanish 
After a review of grammar and vocabulary, this course focuses on understanding culture through classic literature, music, movies, and current events. The class will use the Spanish language to explore the “conflicts” of human nature, political strife, and life along the border. We will view the films “Missing”, “A Better Life”, “El Norte”, and “Tortilla Soup”. The following novels, short stories and poems will provide the students with an opportunity to practice their speaking, reading, writing and oral skills in the target language: El Mancebo, Una Carta a Dios, Nada Menos Que Todo Un Hombre, Un Senor Viejo Con Unas Alas Enormes, and Yo Soy Joaquin

AP Spanish Language and Culture 
rThe AP Spanish Language and Culture class is a rigorous course taught exclusively in Spanish that requires students to improve their proficiency across the three modes of communication: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. The course focuses on the integration of authentic cultural resources including online print, audio, and audiovisual resources, as well as traditional print resources that include literature, essays, magazines, and newspaper articles, with the goal of providing a rich, diverse learning experience. Students are expected to communicate using advanced vocabulary and linguistic structures as they build proficiency in all modes of communication and prepare for the content and format of the AP Exam in May.

Arts Overview

Students may choose from a range of Visual and Performing Arts classes. These courses range from one semester to a full year in length and students are required to complete one semester of coursework each academic year. Students in 9th grade are required to take two semesters of Fine Arts. This requirement is designed to nurture the students’ creative thinking in order to complement their academic coursework. 

Performing Arts

At the upper school level, the performing arts program is designed to allow students with interests in music or drama to further develop their skills through both exploratory and performance-based courses. Upper school music performance will include Instrumental Ensemble and Theatre, which will meet four times per rotation and explore music in a variety of styles. This year there will also be a Music History Class offered (1st semester), along with Music Theory 101 (2nd semester).  All students entering Freshman or Sophomore 2020 are required to  complete one semester of Performing Arts during their time at VMS.  
 
The goal of the theatre performance programs is to educate and expose the student to a broad range of theatrical styles by presenting diverse performances and productions for cultural enhancement. The theatre department also strives to prepare students for post high school study in theatre performing arts.

Performing Arts Major Course Offerings

AP Music Theory 
AP Music Theory is offered to a junior or senior student who has taken at least two years of either Band, Music Theory 10, or Theatre, and who is in good standing with the Performing Arts Department. This course will meet seven times each rotation for two semesters. The AP Theory course supports mastery of the rudiments and vocabulary of music including aural skills and composition. Topics will include but are not limited to: pitch and rhythmic notation; meter; scales; intervals; triads and seventh chord; cadences; non-harmonic tones; melody; texture; voice leading; modulations; small forms; and score analysis. Building on this foundation, the course will progress to include more complex and creative tasks such as: melodic and harmonic dictation, composition, implying appropriate harmony, realization of the Roman numeral progression, and analysis of melody and harmony. The curriculum will be based on the AP Music College Board standards and will focus predominantly on repertoire from the Western canon, but will also include jazz compositions, 20th century works, and world music. 

History of Music
This course will explore the history of rock & roll, beginning with popular music that originated in the United States in the 1940s and ending with indie rock of the 2010s. Students will examine the origins and evolution of rock & roll, influential rock musicians, and the social and political events that shaped popular music throughout the latter half of the 20th century. This course is open to all upper school students. No music performance experience required.

Musical Theory Songwriting
This course will introduce students to music theory and provide them with the ability to read and write music, analyze and listen to melodies, and compose original songs. It will cover topics including: pitches, rhythm, intervals, clefs, phrases, and basic harmony. Additionally, students will learn basic piano, ukulele, and guitar skills. Successful completion of this course will satisfy entry into AP Music Theory. There is not a performance required for this course.

Standard Theatre Performance
This major level course explores basic acting skills through the production of a standard play. Students learn the rehearsal process and the performance/staging process of the selected production piece. An audition is required as part of the course, and will constitute a major part of the grade. No other students are present during the audition. The three final performances in November are a requirement for all students who take the course. There will be small group after school rehearsals as needed, whereby the rehearsals will be planned around other school activities to give all students an opportunity to participate. There will be full cast rehearsals on selected Sundays. The student must be available the Sunday through Saturday of the production week. All students will need to sign a contract confirming their commitment to the Theatre Program; class time is rehearsal time and may not be missed except for events previously posted on the VMS Master Calendar.

Musical Theatre Performance
This course is intended for students who have outside dance instruction and are interested in This major level course explores basic musical theatre acting skills through the production of a musical. The students learn the rehearsal process and the performance/staging process of the selected production piece.  Prior singing and dancing experience is not necessary, but will be required in the course to some extent. An audition is required as part of the course, and will constitute a major part of the grade. No other students are present during the audition. Students can choose to audition for non-singing or non-dancing roles. The three final musical performances in April are a requirement for all students who take the course. There will be small group after school rehearsals as needed and these rehearsals will be planned around other school activities to give all students an opportunity to participate. There will be full cast rehearsals on selected Sundays, and may require before and after school rehearsals.  The student must be available the Sunday through Saturday of the production week. All students will need to sign a contract confirming their commitment to the Theatre Program; class time is rehearsal time and may not be missed except for events previously posted on the VMS Master Calendar.

Instrumental Ensemble
This class is designed for students who would like to explore and expand their musical knowledge through playing an instrument. Through this major level course, students will build instrumental technique and sight reading skills and will delve into aural training along with composition and theory curriculum to develop their ability to play independently and with others. Music for this class during 1st semester is student-driven and may include pieces from jazz, popular, and classical literature. Second semester the Ensemble will accompany the Upper School Spring Musical. 

Theatre Dance
This course is intended for students who have outside dance instruction and are interested in learning how to choreograph for theatre. This is not a technique class, and an audition will be required to join the class. Students in this class will transition into the Musical Theatre Major track during the spring semester and dance lead for the spring show.  Students will also be asked to choreograph select songs for both the MS and US musicals.  This class will also choreograph any needed dance numbers for the fall play, if necessary. Please note: a small amount of singing and acting will be required in the musical. There will be small group after school rehearsals as needed,

Visual Arts

In upper school, students can take a variety of visual art courses designed to enhance their skills and hone their talents. In the areas of drawing, painting, three-dimensional design/ceramics, photography, and computer art, students take a sequence of classes of increasing skill level to meet the art requirements. Upper school electives combine studio work with theory, aesthetics, criticism, and understanding of the arts. Introductory level courses cover critical skills and concepts such as composition, color fundamentals, and understanding of materials and techniques involved in the specific medium that is being practiced. As students progress to higher level classes, they use these skills and develop more complex techniques, leading to individual and unique styles of artwork. For upper school students who seek more intensive studies, AP Studio Art, Senior Portfolio, and Senior Projects in the arts are possible. 

Visual Arts Major Course Offerings

Foundation Studio 
This course provides ninth grade students with a foundation in studio art. Students are introduced to theories of contemporary art while experimenting with a variety of materials. Throughout the semester, the class will explore numerous mediums including, but not limited to, drawing, painting, sculpture, assemblage, block printing, collage, and digital art. Students will explore their individual creativity as well as how to create collaboratively with other student artists. Students will be asked to empathize with others, push themselves outside their comfort zones and grow from the unexpected. Critiques are a vital component of the course. By balancing the study of art history, studio practice, and art criticism, students develop various approaches to art-making and gain insight into the art world.

Photography
The Photography Major will focus on both technical and aesthetic aspects of digital photography. Students will become proficient at shooting with DSLR cameras and editing photographs with the Adobe Creative Suite. Assignments will prompt students to explore various types of photography including portraiture, landscape, action, and fine art photography. Students will consider light, composition, and subject matter, and will develop their artistic eye through the process of selecting images, editing, and thoughtful critique of both their own work and their peers'. This course will also look at the history of photography and consider the work of contemporary artists, as well. Students will produce a printed portfolio of their best work, considering not just the merits of each image, but also its relationship to others and the portfolio as a whole.

Painting
This course will explore various painting techniques and build upon prior color theory knowledge. Students will learn about different artists by practicing their techniques and style. That practice of seeing will help inform students’ unique expression and subject interest. Students will not only explore different types of paint, they will also explore various surfaces on which to paint. We'll take our new skills and put them to the test outside or 'en plein air.' 

Ceramics 1 & 2
Ceramics is a clay building class that explores both hand building methods as well as wheel throwing techniques. The emphasis of this course focuses on understanding and applying the aesthetics, processes, forms, and functions of ceramics. Students will build on their prior knowledge of clay to construct not only functional pieces but also purely artistic expressions as well. All projects will include exposure to various tools, techniques and vocabulary. Ceramics 1 and 2 are taught together.

Digital Art
In this course, students will explore both video and sound as new forms of art and storytelling. Projects will take the form of casual vlog style videos and podcasting, as well as high art sound installations and short films. Students will learn how to use Final Cut Pro and be challenged to contemplate the relationships between sound and image and their place in an ever evolving digital world. 


AP Studio Art 
AP Studio Art is designed for the highly motivated art student who would like the practical experience of producing quality artwork at a college level. Students will investigate the required portfolio areas of concentration and quality as defined by the College Board. Individuals enrolled in this class are expected to develop mastery in concept, composition, technical skill, and visual communication through committed growth and risk taking. A personal portfolio will be developed and submitted for evaluation the first week of May 2021. Research of art history and artists, as well as contemporary artists and art movements is expected. A sketchbook is to be maintained throughout the summer and school year that is composed of visual ideas/word webs, notes, doodles, plans, quick drawings, short assignments and experimentations of different techniques. Reflection and critiques are a vital part of the ongoing artistic process. 2-D, 3-D, and Drawing AP Portfolio categories are offered. Class will have open studio time during the late start mornings as well as other scheduled times throughout the rotation. 

Senior Portfolio
Senior Portfolio is a major level course directed toward students who wish to continue to develop a professional quality portfolio or their own personal collection of work. This class is being offered to highly motivated students who, after completing AP Studio Art, wish to continue their artistic studies at a vigorous pace. This major track class is one semester in length, although students may enroll in both semesters. Students create a personal body of work while exploring modern and contemporary art theory and philosophy. Students may work in any medium for their coursework. By balancing the study of art history, studio practice, and art criticism, students develop various approaches to art-making and gain greater insight into the art world and their own personal exploration of art approaches. If unhappy with the AP Studio score received their junior year from the College Board, students may also use this class as an opportunity to create a stronger portfolio for submission in the spring. This class meets at the same time as AP Studio Art meets.
 

Non-Core Classes


Personal Growth Classes

Each year of upper school, 9th - 12th grade students are assigned supplemental courses that round out their education. The courses are provided to students to enhance their personal growth and to educate students on everyday topics and ready them for the bigger world. These courses meet one period per rotation and are required. Ninth grade students will take two courses: Relationships and Sex Education, and a Digital Ethics and Citizenship class. Tenth grade students will enroll in a semester of Personal Inventory and Interpretation, and a semester of Life Skills and Financial Literacy. Eleventh grade students will enroll in one semester of Mindfulness, inclusive of rest, recuperation, relaxation, restoration, resilience and relationships. Twelfth grade students will take a year-long senior seminar course where they will explore topics that ready them for college. 
 

Intraterm – week-long program

Intraterm is a week-long program led by faculty and staff during which all 9th - 12th grade students choose a course of study designed to enrich the traditional curriculum and the student’s intellectual curiosity. Course titles from previous years include: California College Road Trip; Avalanche Level one Course; Costa Rica Spanish Language Immersion, Water, Wilderness and Conservation; Psychology and Film; Science Research in Baja Mexico. 
 

Senior Project – second semester of senior year

All seniors will participate in a one semester capstone project during second semester of their senior year. Senior Projects are now a graduation requirement. Senior Project is an experience in true project based learning, and is a seminar style class where seniors will work with small cohorts to ideate, create, research, exhibit, write, and present. 

For second semester, seniors will continue their yearlong studies in mathematics, science and world language (or AP Music Theory). They will replace their history and English class with their project time. 

Students will be encouraged to follow their interests and passions by studying a topic of choice. Shadow days, expert interviews, and internships will play a role in the projects. Real-life, authentic learning opportunities will be integrated into all projects.