Course Catalog


Visual Arts | Music | Theater

Visual Arts

Beginning Sewing (Fall)

This is a great class for students interested in learning how to make things with fabric and fiber. We will begin with several projects in hand sewing and craft construction. Students will choose and design projects of their own interest in order to develop their skills. We will move onto machine sewing; learning the basics of the equipment and exploring a variety of projects from clothing to crafts. Beginner and seasoned veteran alike will have plenty of opportunities to advance. If you like working with your hands, enjoy making things and like the opportunity to express your creative ideas in 3d form, then this is a great class for you. No experience is necessary.

Ceramics (Year)

Students work with clay and glazes in both functional and sculptural projects. They acquire the basic skills required to throw simple forms on the potter’s wheel and work with slabs and coils to construct hand-built forms. Many specific projects are assigned, but time will always be available for students to work on projects of their own design. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors.

Design Studio: Fashion, Architecture, 3-D (Spring)

Design Studio will offer the opportunity to explore a wide variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art-making materials and processes. We will brainstorm, draw, paint, prototype, design, and build a number of individual projects. We will learn major design concepts and engineering principles and apply them to your own unique art projects. We will also have the opportunity to focus on an area of particular interest such as architecture, fashion design, graphic design, and more!

Drawing (Fall)

Students will explore a wide variety of drawing materials and processes. We will challenge a number of preconceptions and expectations of what a drawing can be. You will explore mark-making in 2-D, 3-D and Mixed Media. So you may begin your semester as someone experienced creating pencil drawings on paper, but then you may start using ball point pen on wood, acrylic paint on a discarded coffeetable, stringing wire across a public space to divide it up, or making a self-portrait with a sewing machine.

Genres (Year; Honors)

This Honors art course is designed for Juniors and Seniors who are advanced media production students. Participants will learn about various documentary and narrative film genres and will produce short, scripted films based on content developed in their English classes. Prerequisite: Media Arts, Creative Writing, Theater, Acting, or Consent of Instructor.

Honors Portfolio (Seniors: Fall, Juniors: Spring; Honors)

Honors Portfolio is a studio-intensive course where advanced students in fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture), design (fashion, industrial, and product design) and digital arts (photography, graphic arts, and multimedia/video art) can develop portfolios for college admission. Student artists are given creative prompts to work through based on trends in contemporary and historical artistic practice. Students develop a Concentration; consisting of a series of pieces linked by materials, process, and/or thematic concept. In addition, artists collaborate and critique one another’s work and meet one on one with teachers for instruction in technique. This is a demanding course requiring a dedication to individual studio practice, in-depth inquiry, and a commitment to outside of assigned class meeting times.Prerequisite: 2D or 3D arts class.

Illustration (Spring):

Interested in graphic design, drawing and digital art? This course may be for you!  You will learn the fundamentals of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign to create art that combines hand-drawn and photographed elements with digital processes. 

Media Arts (Year)

Students will learn the fundamentals of video production including lighting, cinematography, sound recording, and editing. Although intended for the novice filmmaker, experienced students are welcome, and projects will be adapted to challenge their individual skill levels. Class time will be primarily devoted to projects that may include video poetry, music videos, public service announcements, short features, and documentary projects. Our emphasis will be on developing projects from concept (preproduction) through construction (production and postproduction) to culmination (screening).

Photography: People (Fall)

This offering may be taken in sequence with Photo: Places in the spring or independently. Students in this class will learn foundational skills in photography including how to operate a DSLR, supplemental lighting tools, and editing software to produce amazing images every time. Projects will range from portraiture to fashion to photojournalism. We’ll work in the studio and on the streets of Portland to build a portfolio of our best work.

Photography: Places (Spring)

This semester offering may be taken on its own or in sequence with the fall course Photo: People. Students will learn foundational skills in photography including how to operate a DSLR, supplemental lighting tools, and editing software to produce amazing images every time. Projects will have students shooting still life, architecture, street art, landscape and action. We’ll work in the studio and on the streets of Portland to build a portfolio of our best work.

Street Art & Activism (Fall or Spring)

We will make original artwork while exploring the rich history of Street Art: where, when, and how it started, and how it has evolved to its acceptance into the mainstream art culture today. We will consider how art can provoke conversation, serve to inspire an exchange of ideas, as well as a call to action. The goal will be to produce art that communicates personally meaningful themes, ideas, and messages. We will draw with Sharpie markers, screen print t-shirts, block print posters, yarn-bomb, design stickers, collage imagery, and paint/ print with stencils.

Woodworking (Year)

Students will work on a variety of assigned and independent projects, using both hand and power tools. Examples of projects include bowls, plates, and lamps (lathe work), tables and chairs, jewelry, mask, tools, and sculpture. Some of the techniques we explore include lamination, steam bending, jig design and construction, and mechanical drawing. Interest, imagination, and perseverance are the essential ingredients needed for this course.


Chamber Music (Fall)

Students in chamber music will be able to take part in an instrumental setting, participating in various combinations of chamber ensembles. (For example, string quartet, piano quintet, saxophone choir, etc.) Repertoire will be chosen based on the combination of groups that can be made. Students will have input about repertoire and will be able to design a concert based on their interests. The class will prepare for performances that will take place on and off campus.

Jazz Band (Year)

Intermediate and advanced instrumental students have the opportunity to study and perform jazz. Typical instrumentation includes trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, electric or string bass, guitar, piano, and drums. Auditions take place in June.

Morning Choir (7:25 to 7:55 a.m., Tue through Fri; Year)

Students in choir will participate in a performing (vocal) ensemble. In class, students will learn and study a variety of pieces of choral literature ranging in style from the common practice era (1600-1900) to today. Through the study of such a broad range of repertoire, students will become versatile performers who will be able to exhibit proper technique as is customary of a particular style or era. While the class takes place before the start of the school, singing is a great way to start the day!

Music Commentary: Social Justice (Spring)

Throughout history, music and art were used as a means of making a statement or commentating on a political matter. This class will explore the music side. From Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” to Beyonce’s “Formation,” students will explore what the composer / singer / songwriter’s intent and purpose for creating a piece of music in response to various political climates.

The Remix (Spring)

Inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and Jimmy Fallon, students in this class will remix pop songs using only toys. No “real instruments” allowed except the human voice. Students will learn the basics of song structure, some music theory, and the ability to analyze music in order to maintain the integrity of a song. No experience in music is necessary.

Rock Band (Year)

A companion to the Upper School Jazz Band, this course invites guitarists, horn, keyboard, and percussionists to ROCK. Auditions take place in June.

Song Writing / Music Composition (Fall):

In this class, students will learn the fundamentals of songwriting or depending upon their level, continue working on their craft. Some students in the class will have prior experience writing songs while others are beginners. Elements of song writing to explore will include: form, lyric writing, forming melodies, chord progressions, and other basic components of music theory/musicality. Students who choose to write instrumental music will use Finale to notate their compositions. Basic knowledge of instrument ranges, instrumental timbre, theory, and fundamentals which come out of the common practice era (1650-1900) will be explored. Ideally, students will be able to compose music in both media and for specific projects such as film.


CG Players Troupe (After School; Fall, Winter, Spring)

Based on a small-troupe model, this class will focus on the production of one of the year’s mainstage after-school offerings. Class will meet after school, and students who are enrolled (on an audition-only basis) will be guaranteed participation in that trimester’s play. Students can choose to focus on acting, directing, or dramaturgy, but will be involved in all aspects of rehearsal for the show. Auditions take place prior to the start of the trimester.

CG Theater Tech (Year)

This class will support all of the events happening in the Cabell and Black Box theaters throughout the entire school year by building sets and preparing all of the technical needs for each production. Students will have the opportunity to learn by doing in the areas of lighting, sound, costumes, props and sets. Interested students can participate in design for any of the Cabell Center productions that take place throughout the year. These students will support the technical needs for assemblies and special events in both theaters. This class will help to manage the theater and take care of its every need. No experience is necessary. Students will learn by doing. No matter your level of experience, there is room for you to advance and develop your expertise. If you enjoy working with your hands, problem solving and becoming part of a team, then this is the class for you.

Improvisational Theater (Spring)

Students have the opportunity to explore the world of improvisational and non-traditional theater through ensemble-based work, theater games and improvisation, devising, and student created work. Open to both beginners and experienced performers.

Musical Theater Workshop: Dance Intensive (Fall)

This semester will focus on dance for musical theater and developing material with a heavy dance focus. We will have a strong tap focus, in addition to jazz and other styles for musical theater. Dance skill development will take priority, along with exploring dance history in musical theater and choreography for musical theater.

Stage Carpentry (Spring)

This class provides students with an opportunity to build the basics of theater scenery. We will practice basic construction techniques building flats, platforms, stage blocks & stair units. We will also do some basic theater painting techniques including marble, stone, and brick. Students who like a hands-on class and enjoy supporting our theater will love this class!

Theater Tech: Lighting (Spring)

This class will focus on both design and technical skills involved in working as a lighting designer for theater, film and dance. Students will learn about the equipment, explore the various control consoles, learn how to set up and program intelligent lighting fixtures and create a variety of designs for photography, film and theater. Interested students may design the lighting of our musical production or the student One-Acts as part of their class work.

Theater Tech: Makeup Design (Fall)

This class will focus on theatrical makeup design. We will create a variety of designs over the semester including fantasy, old-age, animal, and classic beauty designs from the 1920s through modern day. If there is interest we can expand the class to include mask making and hair/wig design. This is a great class for you if you enjoy exploring with color, form and reinvention. Interested students will have the opportunity to design makeup and hair for the US Musical Production or the US One Act Plays.

Theater Tech: Sound (Fall)

This class will focus on both design and technical skills needed for a sound designer. We will cover reinforcement systems as well as design for theatrical and music venues. We will learn about the equipment involved, programming with various sound consoles and will use a variety of computer software programs for creating audio designs. Students will expand their skills with each new project. No experience is necessary. Students will have the opportunity to design for the US Drama production.

Independent Studies

Independent study in the arts is for students to extend their learning beyond the two-year arts requirement of the Upper School. It is not possible to substitute a non-Catlin Gabel arts course for something already offered in the curriculum to meet academic requirements. For example, it is not possible to take a beginning acting course at the NW Children’s Theater for academic credit at Catlin Gabel. It is the school’s belief that engagement in two years of on-campus arts experiences furthers our mission to educate the "whole student" and enables students to build a well-rounded understanding of themselves as artists, learners, and community members.

The arts department offers two types of independent study. The first is a school-faculty facilitated study where the student pursues learning in an arts discipline that goes beyond current course offerings. Past examples have included honors visual arts students who wish to add portfolio-relevant ceramics to their portfolio and thus pursue study with the ceramics instructor, or a filmmaking student who wishes to produce a documentary on a topic of their choosing in partnership with a Catlin Gabel media instructor. For the majority of these students, their commitment to deepening their knowledge in an arts area and/or exploring new terrain requires the student to write a prospectus, research an area of study, and maintain an ongoing commitment to studio practice or rehearsal in collaboration with Catlin Gabel faculty. These students are thus awarded a full academic credit. The second opportunity is a faculty-supervised pursuit of advanced study in the arts outside of Catlin Gabel. Typically students engaged in advanced instrumental study seek this option. Occasionally a student may pursue something outside the academic curriculum along the lines of darkroom photography. These students generally practice their art form with an organization outside of school, and the level of their in-school engagement is limited to a periodic check-in with a supervising faculty and two community performances / exhibitions per calendar year. For these students, they may earn .5 credit per academic year. Any student engaged in an independent study is required to maintain a weekly blog, documenting their work in process in order to remain metacritical about their artistic growth and to maintain transparency with supervising faculty. Finally, individual teachers have the right to decline to supervise an independent study if a student’s proposal does not fall within one of the two paradigms above and/or if supervision / instruction of the independent study takes the instructor appreciably beyond their teaching load.

Computer Science


Computer Science I: Programming (Year)

This class focuses on designing and writing computer programs. No prior experience with computer programming is assumed. Students are taught to analyze a problem, describe a solution, and implement their solution in a computer-programming language. Currently, the class uses the Python programming language. Students use functions and classes to organize their programs.  Programming projects include graphics (2D and 3D) in addition to data processing. Throughout the course, the emphasis is on the careful, elegant design of a computer program. Before taking the course, students are expected to be comfortable using a computer and to be familiar with variables from algebra. This course is open to all Upper School Students.

Honors Computer Science II: Data Structures (Year; Honors)

The advanced course is similar in content to a first-year college-level computer science course. The focus is on data structures and algorithms: how to organize and manipulate information using a computer. Students implement and analyze alternative methods for structuring data, including arrays, linked lists, and binary trees. A variety of alternative algorithms for searching and sorting data are covered, including binary search, hash tables, mergesort, and quicksort. Students are taught standard notation for categorizing the expected efficiency of an algorithm. Object-oriented programming is stressed, and students are responsible for writing programs with multiple well-designed classes. The programming language Java is taught and used for all assignments. Students have the option of taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science Exam in May. Prerequisite: Introduction to Computer Science or Consent of Instructor.

Honors Computer Science III: Advanced Topics (Year; Honors)

The Advanced Topics course exposes students to several of the subfields of computer science that a student would encounter as a college major in the field. Assignments are more open-ended and require a greater degree of initiative from the students. The topics covered vary somewhat from year to year, in response to student and teacher interest. Examples of typical topics include digital-logic circuits (including basic logic gates, designing combinatorial and sequential circuits, and basic computer architecture), three-dimensional computer graphics (including mathematical fundamentals, transformations, perspective, and rendering techniques), networking (TCP/IP concepts and socket programming), and artificial intelligence (philosophy, logic, search, heuristics, and neural networks). Student projects include designing and building a simple programmable computer on breadboards and implementing a 3D renderer without using a 3D library. Prerequisite: Advanced Computer Science or Consent of Instructor.

Honors Computer Science Independent Research (Year; Honors)

In this independent study, students develop year-long projects focusing on topics of interest. Prerequisite: Consent of Instructor.

Computer Science Teaching Assistant

Teaching assistants are vital contributors to our classes. TAs attend class each day, help students with practice problems and resolve homework difficulties, answer questions, and grade homework. In addition, they run review and extra-help sessions. As the year progresses, TAs plan and teach full lessons. Prerequisite: CS I and Consent of Instructor.



Required Courses | Open Electives | Senior Electives

Required Courses

Freshman English

Freshman English focuses on writing as a process and on reading culturally diverse works that center on the journey as a defining experience in the creation of personal identity. Students concentrate on the process of developing their essays through such stages as pre-writing, outlining, first and second drafts, peer reviews, and metacritical essays. Students experiment with the workshop method for some essays, and most writing culminates in a one on one paper conference with the instructor. Students are introduced to elements of style while also learning how to structure arguable persuasive essays, compelling narratives, and imaginative poems. They acquire the fundamental patterns of critical thinking and the vocabulary necessary for written and spoken analysis of literary texts. Other skills important to a student’s Upper School career, such as class participation, note-taking, recitations, and presentations, reinforce the school values of collaboration and community. The literature of the course includes Homer’s The Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Lan Samantha Chang’s Hunger, as well as selected poems and short stories reflecting diverse voices and points of view.

Sophomore English

English 10 asks two essential questions. How do people write to effect change? How does the act of writing foster growth in the writer? Each of our core texts and each of our assignments helps students to develop their critical thinking, reading, writing, and presentational skills in order to empower them as change-makers. Our reading list focuses on the dialog between the English canon and the modern and contemporary texts that have responded to the canon. Put in terms of Salman Rushdie’s famous article, we examine how and why the “Empire Writes Back with a Vengeance.” Key texts for English 10 include The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, A Collection of Essays by George Orwell, Shakespeare’s Othello, Toni Morrison’s Desdemona, The Making of a Poem (edited by Eavan Boland and Mark Strand), and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Students develop their writing skills through formal correspondence, through creative and persuasive narratives, through close textual analyses, and through writing and reciting poetry. As presenters, students teach each other about important terms and concepts related to literary study and to the study of culture and identity. Students write about and then teach each other about poetry, and then each student takes a turn working with a partner to teach the class about a section from the Adichie reading. Working in groups, sophomores create and perform an original dramatic scene or adaptation of a Shakespearean scene through the Othello Response Project. Finally, through the year-long Agents of Change project, students reflect on and become advocates about social issues that matter to them.  Each sophomore develops a portfolio of persuasive writing that furthers their goals in confronting their chosen issue and that chronicles their personal growth through advocacy. As a culminating project, each student creates a short film, either a public service announcement or a call to action, which invites future students to join them in their beneficial cause.

Junior English

Junior English offers an opportunity to study some of the key texts of American literature from the colonial to the contemporary period, with a special focus on the periods of the American Renaissance, the late nineteenth century, and Modernism, and a consistent interrogation of the ways in which categories of gender, race, and social class have inflected the question of what it means to be an American. Readings include selections from Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Charles Chesnutt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Allen Ginsberg, Alice Walker, Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Sherman Alexie. The course continues development of students’ analytical abilities by drawing on and extending the interpretive skills developed in English 9 and 10, and also seeks to increase students’ reading speed in anticipation of the demands of college humanities courses. Writing assignments continue the development of narrative and analytical skills, and include a personal narrative designed to serve as a first draft for the college application essay. Over the course of the year, students continue to develop their presentational abilities; by the end of the year, they are responsible for planning and teaching the majority of class sessions.

Open Electives

Creative Writing (Year)

The creative-writing elective is open to students in the Upper School who want to develop their individual voices and hone their skills as writers of poetry and prose by participating as members of a writers’ workshop. We will craft a mix of genre explorations that will allow us to read and experiment in lyric poetry, short prose fiction, and the brief personal essay. Reading is light, and each student is responsible for submitting either one draft or one revision each week for collection in two term-long portfolios. During each convivial workshop, students discuss examples from the world’s great writers and study the work of members of the class. This class will meet two times per week for the entire year; upon completion, students will receive a half-credit. Note: This elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's English requirements.

The Divided States of America (Palma Seminar; Year; Honors):

As the 2016 election laid bare, ours is a divided nation, with many kinds of rifts cutting through the fabric of the country. Our state, as well, is marked by a notable split between Portland / Salem and Oregon’s more rural counties. Why do these divisions exist and can they be repaired? This year-long course is organized into two linked semesters. In the first semester, we examine contemporary regional tensions in America, paying particular attention to urban / rural (likely including Oregon and Appalachia) and urban / suburban (Chicago) rifts. In the second semester, we zoom out to a broader consideration of the increasingly contentious nature of “truth” in 21st century America and the roots and implications of this phenomenon. This interdisciplinary course will draw upon sociology, economics, environmental policy, history, memoir, psychology, and literary fiction, and will count for one half-History and one half-English credit. This course is open to all Upper School students. Students will receive a half-credit in Social Studies and a half-credit in English for the year. The English credit may count toward a spring-semester Senior English elective.

Middle School Teaching Assistants (Fall and / or Spring)

Assist our eighth grade English teacher Holly Walsh in the classroom. Build your communication, facilitation, presentation, and mentoring skills for your future career. Those interested in this exciting opportunity will set up an interview with Holly during which she will explain her expectations and the rubric for assessment. Decisions will be made before Memorial Day. This offering is open to Juniors and Seniors and may be requested for the Year or Semester. This course does not meet our English requirements.

Senior Electives

Seniors must successfully complete one English class during each semester. Students often lead the seminar-style senior electives. Fall courses include research papers; in the spring courses, public collaborative projects are required. (Note: Offerings in senior English are slightly different each year, with new course listings released each May. The following courses are those offered in 2017-18.)

Fall Semester

From Romance to Novel 

We examine the development of the novel and narrative styles from the medieval "roman," or romance to famous modern novels. The initial part of the course tracks elements integral to the medieval romance, such as betrayal, separation, conflict, and gender roles. We explore how these themes are elaborated on and questioned in novels from the modern period, which focus on love against the backdrop of war. Readings may include Dickens' The Tale of Two Cities, Woodrell’s Woe to Live On, Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, West's Return of the Soldier, Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Orringer's The Invisible Bridge, and/or Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven.

Women, Literature, and the Dynamics of Domesticity

We will explore women’s writing from the nineteenth century to the present, looking at the ways in which domesticity shapes the literature.  We will look at how the cult of domesticity oppresses and empowers women of the nineteenth century; how modernity and the twentieth century brought both liberation and new constraints; and how the literature reveals ambivalence toward motherhood, as an institution and an experience. We will also look at the myriad ways in which the ideal of “true womanhood” has shifted. Summer reading will be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  The course will also include works by Virginia Woolf, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, Jamaica Kinkaid, Sandra Cisneros, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Lorrie Morrie, Susan Minot, and others.

The Southwest

The Southwest, no mere tourist destination, has been formed through a rich and turbulent history. As we will see, “the Southwest” has not always been “south” or “west” to its occupants. It contains some of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest living cities, including Taos Pueblo and Acama. It has been the site of longstanding civilization, agriculture, artistry, and cultural conflict and fusion. Native American peoples, Spanish explorers, Mexican settlers, and many waves of later immigrants have encountered each other here. As such, we have inherited one of our most vibrant artistic and literary traditions from the Southwest. This course will explore Southwestern literature and culture, drawing readings from the works of Leslie Marmon Silko, Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Cormac McCarthy, and others. Selected films, music, and sociological / historical readings will contextualize and enrich our study.

American Culture of the 1960s 

A survey of the culture of one of the most turbulent eras of American history. Beginning with an examination of the Cold War culture of the 1950’s, and the various responses to it (The Beat Movement, Elvis Presley), we’ll go on to consider some of the major political and cultural movements of the time.  We’ll study political speeches and manifestoes from John F. Kennedy, George Wallace, Martin Luther King, Students for a Democratic Society, Malcolm X, the Yippies, and the Weather Underground.  We’ll examine such flashpoints of the decade as the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left, the Vietnam War, and the rise of “Second Wave” Feminism.  We’ll view the films Rebel Without a Cause, Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider, analyze the music of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and James Brown, and read literary work by figures such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Wolfe, and Joan Didion. Our emphasis falls not only on what the 1960's were, but how their meaning and significance remain a site of contemporary struggle.   

Writing “Wrong” 

As author Judith Ortiz Cofer says, “Writing is a tool and a weapon.”  Indeed, powerful writing has the potential to oppress and to liberate, to wound and to heal, to dismantle and to create.  In this course, we will study authors who wield words to resist social categorization and whose lives and characters inhabit what Gloria Anzaldúa refers to as the “borderlands,” or the spaces between the strict boundaries created and maintained by those in power.  As we explore these transgressive authors, characters, and texts, we will consider how our stories intersect with and diverge from theirs and experiment with genre-blending in our own writing.  One of the course requirements will include attending community events outside of school that celebrate living, breathing literature (e.g. poetry slams, open mic nights, plays, etc.)  To give you an idea of what we might read, take a look at the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, Zora Neale Hurston, Arundhati Roy, Claudia Rankine, Junot Díaz, Maggie Nelson, Zadie Smith, Anna Deavere Smith, Jeff Chang, or Ruth Ozeki.


Spring Semester

The Art and Architecture of Short Fiction

In this course, we will explore the craft of fiction writing through the study of modern and contemporary short fiction, a variety of writing assignments (both creative and analytical), discussions, and workshops.  The course will encourage you to develop the necessary discipline and understanding of craft for writing short fiction, to cultivate your voice as a writer, and to broaden your understanding of short fiction at the elemental level. We will read works by Amy Bloom, Richard Ford, Sandra Cisneros, George Saunders, Alice Walker, Denis Johnson, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lorrie Moore, Amy Hempel, Bharati Mukherjee, ZZ Packer, Richard Bausch, Julie Orringer, Tim O’Brien and more!

Monstrous Transformations

In this class, we will explore what it means to be human, and what it means to be “civilized.” Human identity depends on boundaries created by factors as diverse as culture, religion, science, race, gender, sexuality, and class, and we will examine how these boundaries are imagined, maintained, crossed, and transgressed in the transformations dramatized in the following texts: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (8 CE), Marie de France’s “Bisclavret” (1170?), Charles Chesnutt, Selected Stories (1899), Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915), Satyajit Ray’s “Khagama” (1987), Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In.

Reading and Writing Memoir 

As you think about leaving home and childhood’s end, you may find yourself reflecting on your life to date. The liminal state of the spring-term senior presents a ripe opportunity for memoir. In this course, we will explore the range of genres, styles, and techniques evinced in the work of great memoirists. We will focus in particular on memoirs that address the exigencies of difference, drawing from the work of Maxine Hong Kingston, John Haney, Alison Bechdel, Julia Alvarez, Jimmy Santiago Baca, James Baldwin, Jon Krakauer, Zora Neale Hurston, and others. While reading prose memoir, poetic memoir, food memoir, and memoir-comic, we will produce our own autobiographical compositions through a term-long writing process. Shorter-term analytical assessments, a creative imitation, and presentation projects will help us engage with and learn from the best in the field. As part of our culminating experience, we will share selections from our stories with the broader Catlin Gabel community.

Class, Gender and Race in American Film

Film was arguably the most important and influential cultural form of the twentieth century, and its status as a mass medium has rendered it a key site for the reflection and interrogation of American social and political issues. This course takes an introductory look at shifting attitudes toward, and the subtle interactions between, race, class and gender in America, as reflected in the culture’s movies. We’ll learn the basic concepts of academic film analysis and then use those tools to unpack the complex and often contradictory attitudes toward difference in films from the silent era to the present day. We’ll also read some sociological material and film criticism to enhance our understanding of the issues we discuss. While the syllabus is still taking shape, films may include Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation and Broken Blossoms, La Cava’s My Man Godfrey, Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels, Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce, Ford’s The Searchers, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Savoca’s Dogfight, and Scott’s Blade Runner

Speculative Fiction as Social Commentary

Threats of nuclear war abound.  Superbugs proliferate.  Famine skyrockets.  Neo-fascism reigns.  Real life, or science fiction?  In a world that appears to teeter on the brink of collapse at any moment, science fiction and fantasy books can serve as both windows and mirrors, giving us the chance to peer into a different society in order to better see (and change) our own.  Despite the widespread belief that science fiction and fantasy books are not of literary merit, a closer look reveals that speculative fiction often engages with pressing social issues and stirring philosophical questions just as more traditional literature does.  In this course, we will examine the ways in which speculative fiction critiques our current world and offers alternative, sometimes seemingly impossible, visions of social transformation.  As we analyze genre conventions and narrative techniques, we will also experiment with writing our own speculative fiction.  To offer you a glimpse of what we might read together, check out the work of Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Sherman Alexie, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Haruki Murakami.


Social Studies

Required Courses | Electives | Online Electives

Required Courses

Human Crossroads: Confronting Global Challenges through Time, Identity, and Place (Year)

Human Crossroads asks students to respond to some of the world's greatest challenges using an interdisciplinary approach that draws from the intersection of geography, history, anthropology, and sociology. The curriculum is composed of units dedicated to central thematic questions ranging from the meaning of human identity to the value of borders, the possibility of religious pluralism, and vexing problems of global inequities. Each unit starts by asking, "what is where, why there, why care?" using maps. Course material and projects include current events, academic texts, online resources, and data visualizations. Students learn to read actively, analyze maps, interpret data, write thesis-driven essays, and synthesize information, with according skill-based assessments. This class is not only intended to develop academic skills, but to foster curiosity, self-reflection, global citizenship, and a renewed commitment to the pursuit of truth, love, and justice in the world.

The Modern World (Year)

First, the good news: many people alive today are better off than all other humans who have preceded them. That may not surprise you. But, the bad news will: many others alive today are actually worse off than their predecessors. That includes medieval serfs, African tribesmen, and even prehistoric cavemen! How can this be? The modern world, loosely defined as the last two centuries of human life, has witnessed some of the most dramatic transformations in our history. Yet, those transformations have often functioned as a double-edged sword, bringing great reward to some and devastation to others. Why did these changes occur in the first place? Why did certain countries and people benefit while others suffered? And what does this say about the world we live in now, and where we're headed in the future? This course endeavors to answer those questions through a wide-ranging study of the last 200+ years, from the Industrial Revolution through to the present.

United States History (Year)

While chronological, this course focuses on several themes that have reverberated throughout the American experience. The central theme is the epochal tug-of-war between Jefferson’s credo of equality and its paradoxical partners: conquest, slavery, and racism amidst a diversity of historic proportions; gender discrimination; and the class inequalities generated within a dynamic economy. Accordingly, we will pay significant attention to the history of movements that challenge the dominant meaning of equality, such as labor unions, suffragists, and the multitude of civil rights movements across time. The nation’s history is also traced through the tensions between a deep-rooted fear of centralized power and the drive for an efficient and powerful federal government. Lastly, significant time is given to U.S. involvement in global affairs, with a particular stress on presidential decision-making, and its impact both abroad and at home. While classic political issues are at the core of the course, there are times—such as the era between Reconstruction and World War I—when the magnitude of cultural and economic changes are at the heart of an era. We will use a very wide range of primary and college-level secondary sources.


Consitutional Law (Spring; Honors)  

With the exception of religious texts, the United States Constitution is the single most important document ever written by man. Move out of the way, Magna Carta and Treaty of Versailles! Constitutional Law will comprehensively work through each part of the U.S. Constitution. In addition to studying how the document officially formed the government, students will contemplate the status of the document. Is it alive or was it dead on arrival? Why does the Court have the final say? Students will be asked to assume the role of the Court or attorney in experiential mock hearings; The Court, comprised of nine justices, will later issue formal opinions after participating in oral arguments. Student composition of weekly briefs on classic and modern landmark cases will prepare them for courtroom exercises.This course is open to Juniors and Seniors. Seniors will have priority in scheduling.

The Divided States of America (Palma Seminar; Year; Honors):

As the 2016 election laid bare, ours is a divided nation, with many kinds of rifts cutting through the fabric of the country. Our state, as well, is marked by a notable split between Portland / Salem and Oregon’s more rural counties. Why do these divisions exist and can they be repaired? This year-long course is organized into two linked semesters. In the first semester, we examine contemporary regional tensions in America, paying particular attention to urban / rural (likely including Oregon and Appalachia) and urban / suburban (Chicago) rifts. In the second semester, we zoom out to a broader consideration of the increasingly contentious nature of “truth” in 21st century America and the roots and implications of this phenomenon. This interdisciplinary course will draw upon sociology, economics, environmental policy, history, memoir, psychology, and literary fiction, and will count for one half-History and one half-English credit. This course is open to all Upper School students. Students will receive a half-credit in Social Studies and a half-credit in English for the year. The English credit may count toward a spring-semester Senior English elective.

Economics (Fall; Honors)

What are the smartest economic choices to make for your financial future? How can we create and measure
economic growth? What is the value of a dollar? What is the value of an ocean? What does economic justice look like? Why did the housing market collapse in 2007, and what is the best way to respond to this problem? To what extent can economic models help us predict the future? This course introduces students to the economic tools and reasoning required to address these—and many other—sophisticated questions, and to help inform student choices as consumers, workers, and citizens. In addition, this course is focused on redefining and framing economic ideas, issues and models for a new generation – Generation Z – a generation that will inherit and create a new economic world. Both national and international contexts will be engaged through economic models, books and journalism to examine economic issues now and in the future. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors. Seniors will have priority in scheduling.

Globalization: Debates & Controversies (Fall; Honors)

Catlin’s course on Globalization is truly globalized. Students in this elective will have the opportunity to discuss and debate the issues that define their generation—technological change, climate change, mass migration and political instability—with students in other nations. Such interaction is key because controversies, such as how to care for the warming, polluted, over-fished oceans, cannot be solved locally. The key to finding solutions begins with study and dialogue.

First, we will learn about the processes of outsourcing and offshoring, thinking about how they affect lives everywhere. Does allowing goods and services to flow globally create more opportunity for all? Or is it a new form of colonialism forcing poorer nations to fall back on exporting their natural resources and brightest citizens?

We will address issue of climate change at length, a vexing global issue that demonstrates the intimate interplay between nations, peoples, institutions, and cultures. But rather than simply decrying the situation, we will sustain our focus, looking at solutions. What are Catlin Gabel, Portland, the State of Oregon, the USA, and the “global community” doing to stem climate change, what’s working and how can we push policy in the right direction? Students will meet with local leaders and discuss the best way forward with students abroad as well. What are other countries doing? How do peers overseas feel about this issue?

Most people agree that the free flow of ideas is a positive thing about our era. Most are happy that goods move around the world more easily, enriching our lives and our diets. But what of the movement of people? Is it a basic human right to move across national borders in pursuit of physical safety? What about economic opportunity? In Europe and the Middle East, this is a very real and powerful question. Over 1,000,000 migrants arrived in Europe in 2015 and thousands died trying. Must wealthy nations accept these refugees? Should people in countries like Germany, Hungary, or Sweden simply accept that their nations are going to have to fundamentally change as they absorb hundreds of thousands of new citizens?

Other topics of study will include the global spread of American culture. How do people abroad feel about the fact that their government-run television networks show The Simpsons and Madam Secretary every day? Does an open Internet mean more American dominance and is this a bad thing, especially in non-democratic nations?

Work in this semester-long elective will be group-based and experiential. We will focus on “learning by doing,” understanding the debates around global issues by taking part in them. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors. Seniors will have priority in scheduling.

Leading Community Conversations for Justice (Year)

In this course, students from Catlin Gabel School and De La Salle North Catholic High School will come together to lead positive change in our communities. Students will develop research, planning, and project management skills as we create events that engage our communities in social and environmental issues selected by the students. We may explore content related to environmental justice, racial prejudice, gentrification, climate change, homelessness, affordable housing, mass incarceration, educational equity, and political representation.

Students will examine their own worldview, positionality, and leadership style, in order to determine how each informs collaboration, discourse, and problem solving in a community of diverse leaders. This is a student-led course, created with the goal of providing authentic opportunities to have students lead community conversations about the most pressing justice-related issues, while building a stronger relationship between our schools.

You will be expected to miss one lunch period a cycle to attend class together at The CENTER where we will learn, teach and lead together, while building authentic relationships across school borders. This course is open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.

Life Worth Living (Year)

What does it mean for a life to be “lived well?” What shape would a “life worth living” take? Institutions of education were founded on principles of preparing young people for life, yet in a culture built around success, achievement, and consumption, it is easy to lose track of these ideals. This course, adapted from a Yale University seminar in collaboration with the Yale faculty, will allow us to consider how we can reconcile working toward ambitious goals and living a meaningful life. We will explore the above questions by reading fundamental religious, historical, economic, science, and philosophical texts, and examine the place of money, power, and sex in a good life. The course will also feature visits from Portland-area religious, social, and political leaders whose lives are shaped by the traditions in question.

As we read great works and meet these individuals we’ll ask: What does it mean for a person to lead his or her life well? What reasons and/or motivations do different thinkers offer for a vision of a life worth living? How do our peers, the Catlin Gabel environment, and society as a whole define what it means to live a meaningful life? How can each of us lead a meaningful life in high school, college, and beyond?

This is a full-year seminar course that will meet twice per cycle. The class will be pass-fail and worth a half credit in Social Studies; preparation and participation in group discussions and completion of three major assessments will be required. The class is open to all Seniors and will be co-taught by Aline and Tim, who will work closely with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.

Modern Middle East (Spring; Honors)

Where did ISIS come from? What tools do experts use to predict the fate of Syria? What hopes are there for improving Palestinian-Israeli relations? How is the world’s greatest refugee crisis (from Syria) transforming neighboring states? What the heck is going on with the price of gasoline? What happened to the bright lights of the Arab Spring, and how will the struggle for supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran play out, particularly in the shadow of U.S. efforts to challenge Iran’s nuclear policy? These and other questions will be engaged in this course, which starts in the late 19th century, with the spread of Western imperialism in the region, examines the rise of secular nationalism in the age of decolonization, and lands squarely in today’s cauldron of religious ferment, ethnic conflict, and revolutionary hopes for a better tomorrow. Student research and oral presentations will be the major form of assessment in the class, which will adapt to the events as they are unfolding. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors. Seniors will have priority in scheduling.

#Resist (Fall; Honors): In an era of political turmoil, what is the best way to mount an effective resistance campaign and advocate for change? This class will study political resistance from the perspective of the resistors. We will begin with a review of social contractual theory to root ourselves in core understandings of the relationship between citizen and government in modern political thinking. Next, we will move into the theories and tactics of nonviolent resistance – sources might range from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” to Gandhi’s “satyagraha” to MLK’s “Letter from A Birmingham Jail” to Gene Sharp’s Politics of Nonviolent Action (the guidebook read by the organizers of the Arab Spring). How have these leaders envisioned the obligations between state and citizen? Why have these movements worked or, maybe more interestingly, has nonviolent resistance really worked like we learned at a younger age? Where do modern movements like Black Lives Matter fit into these models? We will then move towards understanding more direct actions that range from sabotage to outright violence. Sources in this half of the course might cover Nelson Mandela’s 1960 testimony from his treason trial, attacks by the Irish Republican Army, actions of the online group Anonymous, justifications of actions from the earth and animal rights movements in America, and the recent Oregon Malheur Refuge Occupation. When the state determines legitimate forms of protest, will those in power ever allow protest that truly creates change? Is the temporary harm of violent action ultimately needed to bring about change? What have been both the justifications for and consequences of violent protest in recent years? The course will ask students to read and write critically and will also be experiential (though entirely legal!) as students plan out their own political acts of resistance. Students will emerge from this class with a deeper understanding of the relationship between citizen and state and the options available to engaged citizens who wish to create change. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors. Seniors will have priority in scheduling.

Transitional Justice (Spring; Honors)

How can a country, scarred by genocide, ever recover and regain a sense of normalcy? How can two rival factions, each guilty of committing horrible atrocities against the other, ever learn to live together in peace again? How can victims of torture rebuild their internal worlds while their external circumstances remain equally fractured? This course studies the field of transitional justice, through which countries and the international community endeavor to move from chaos to stability, to punish the guilty, to document the historical truth, and to help the victims heal. Subjects include the Holocaust
and the experience of surviving German Jews after the war, apartheid-era South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Argentine military dictatorship and the struggle to find children kidnapped from the government’s victims. People interested in law, history, international relations, human rights, and current events will be interested in this class. This course is open to Juniors and Seniors. Seniors will have priority in scheduling.



Algebra and Geometry | Intermediate Electives | Advanced Electives | Teaching Assistants

Algebra and Geometry

Foundations for Algebra / Geometry / Algebra II (Year)

The Catlin Gabel Upper School Math Department believes in the integrity and value of the US Math Program and that all students can successfully learn the mathematics involved in our graduation requirement. At the same time, we believe each student is the unit of consideration and recognize that a small minority of students may require an alternative environment or approach to meet their learning needs. Therefore, we have created an alternative pathway for such students. Using a hybrid of teacher support and an intelligent tutoring system, students will move through the curriculum following an individualized plan. Students will meet one-on-one with the instructor to set personal goals and orally report on recent learning. While timeline and approach may differ from a traditional classroom environment, the topics are aligned to the traditional courses (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II). Placement is made by the math department after conversations with teachers, advisors, parents and students that meet qualifications.

Algebra Ib (Year)

Algebra Ib provides the opportunity for students to finish mastering fundamental algebraic topics and techniques including evaluation and simplification of algebraic expressions, solving and graphing linear equations, linear systems, operations with polynomials, radical and rational expressions, and factoring. New topics examined in Algebra 1b include exponential equations and functions, graphing and solving quadratic and rational equations, and an introduction to data analysis and descriptive statistics. Throughout the course, students will have opportunities to develop their problem-solving strategies and number sense by using multiple methods to understand abstract concepts, mathematically interpreting problems and selecting appropriate functions, and using graphical, numeric, and algebraic representations. Graphing technology (e.g., graphing calculators and Desmos) is also introduced to aid in problem solving. Prerequisite: Algebra Ia, the equivalent, or placement.

Geometry (Year)

Geometry focuses on concepts of Euclidean Geometry with opportunities for students to apply and practice their Algebra 1 skills. Geometric topics examined include parallel and perpendicular lines, transformations, triangle congruence and similarity, quadrilaterals, right triangle trigonometry, circles, and area and volume. The dynamic geometry software GeoGebra is used to develop students’ inductive and deductive reasoning, to explore fundamental geometric and algebraic relationships, and to aid in geometric problem-solving. In addition, students will be expected to develop patience and resilience as they solve more lengthy Application Tasks and communicate their results through formal write-ups and oral presentations. This course will have an Advanced option that will cover all of the above topics, but with greater emphasis on problem solving, deductive proofs, and independence. Section teachers will determine which students have the option of receiving credit for Advanced Geometry. However, all students are welcome to challenge themselves at any time with the advanced problems. Prerequisite: Algebra 1, Algebra Ib, Foundations for Algebra, the equivalent, or placement.

Algebra II (Year)

In Algebra II, students apply new elementary functions and algebraic techniques to model and solve problems that extend their work in Algebra and Geometry. Topics examined include transforming and modeling with linear functions, complex numbers, applications using polynomial, radical, exponential, and logarithmic functions, an introduction to rational functions, basic circular trigonometry and the sine and cosine functions, and an introduction to probability and data analysis. In addition, students continue to refine their problem-solving abilities by engaging with Application Tasks that require independently making mathematical conjectures about patterns and relationships using technology (e.g., graphing calculators, Desmos, and GeoGebra). They are expected to communicate their results through persuasive oral presentations and formal reports that integrate written prose, presentation of collected data using tables and graphical representations, and mathematical justification. Prerequisite: Geometry, the equivalent, or placement.

Advanced Algebra II (Year; Honors)

Advanced Algebra II will cover all of the topics of Algebra II at a greater level of depth (but not speed) and emphasis on problem solving, deductive proofs, and independence. Additional topics may be presented as time allows. Prerequisite: Adv Geometry, the equivalent, Geometry with teacher recommendation, or placement; consent of the department.

Intermediate Electives

The prerequisite for all intermediate electives is completion of Algebra II and Geometry or the equivalent.

Statistics with Python (Fall or Year)

We are collecting more data now than ever before. The smartest and most forward thinking companies are positioning themselves to take advantage of the mountains of data they are collecting. However, the value of big data isn’t the data itself, it’s the story the data tells. In this course we will dive deep into the world of big data and data visualization. We will write Python programs that open, wrangle (organize), and then visualize our findings using the Bokeh library.  Imagine beginning with a dataset with thousands of confusing rows, then ending with a beautifully customized display that allows a reader to see trends in a single interactive HTML plot. However, we don’t stop there. We need to analyze the data as well. We will use the Python statistics package Numpy and SciPy and learn about statistical ideas like normal distribution and the central limit theorem, as well as inference methods such as confidence intervals, one and two-sample t-tests and proportions tests. Join us in the journey of learning statistics with Python. This course may be taken fall semester only for 0.5 credits. However, the spring semester may only be taken upon completion of fall semester. Prerequisite: Algebra II or the equivalent.

Advanced Electives

Precalculus (Year)

Precalculus begins with a short review of the concepts of functions and their properties and is followed by a thorough study of circular and triangular trigonometry. Students study conic sections, logarithmic and exponential functions, the graphs of rational functions, the Binomial Theorem, arithmetic and geometric sequences and series, polar coordinates, 2-D vectors, polynomial graphs and functions, and parametric equations. Students will also have the opportunity to put together and use all of the graphical representations, technology, and resources that have learned in their core math classes. Prerequisite: Year 2, Algebra II, the equivalent, or placement.

Advanced Precalculus (Year; Honors)

Advanced Precalculus will cover all of the topics of Precalculus at a greater level of depth (but not speed). In addition, Advanced Precalculus includes 3-D vectors, DeMoivre’s Theorem, and mathematical induction. Prerequisite: Advanced Year 2, Advanced Algebra II, the equivalent, or Year 2 / Algebra II with teacher recommendation; consent of the teacher and the department chair.

Honors Statistics (Year; Honors)

Honors Statistics is a reading-intensive Honors seminar in applied statistics. We begin by examining the topics of central tendency and variation, data displays, and probability. This leads to the study of inferential statistical topics that include the concepts of statistical models and use of samples, variation, statistical measures, sampling distributions, probability theory, tests of significance, one-way and factorial analysis of variance and covariance and elementary experimental design, multiple linear regression and correlational design, and chi-square. Students will be expected to critically analyze quantitative research, evaluate the evidence on which generalizations are made, and write quantitative methods papers by analyzing a professional data set on a topic of their choosing. In addition, students will learn to code using the industry standard statistical package SAS and emphasis is placed on using SAS to perform statistical analysis of multivariate and longitudinal data. In the past, additional topics including continuous random variables, moment-generating functions, the gamma distribution, multivariate analysis of variance, and hierarchical linear modeling have been introduced as time permits to accommodate student interests. Note: To capitalize on opportunities to meaningfully engage in research, during some years Honors Statistics is conducted as a research practicum where students take on the role of student-researchers and learn the above topics by immersing and participating in all aspects of a professional research study that culminates in professional conference presentations and co-authoring papers on the research in the spring. Experiential learning opportunities are a critical part of learning in this type of professional design practice setting and students enrolling during these years should be prepared for occasional obligations and travel during and outside of school hours. Prerequisite: Precalculus, Advanced Precalculus, or the equivalent, consent of the teacher and the department chair. Strong reading and writing skills.

Calculus (Year)

Calculus will introduce students to the basics of differential and integral calculus. Concepts of the derivative as a slope and the integral as area will be explored using real-world examples as well as from a numerical, algebraic, visual, and verbal perspective. Activities using technology (e.g., GeoGebra, Desmos, Graphing calculators, etc.) will be utilized to help students understand concepts. Introductory rules for finding derivatives and integrals will be mastered and applied. Prerequisite: Precalculus, the equivalent, or placement.

Honors Calculus I (Year; Honors)

Honors Calculus I includes the study of limits, continuity, derivatives, integrals and their applications, slope fields, and differential equations. Concepts are approached through a four-step process: Graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally. Graphical analysis plays a major part in the development of many concepts. Students are prepared to take the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam in May. Prerequisite: Advanced Precalculus, the equivalent, Precalculus with teacher recommendation, or placement; consent of the teacher and the department chair.

Honors Calculus II (Year; Honors)

Honors Calculus II is recommended for students with strong backgrounds in the problem-solving aspects of one-variable calculus and emphasizes the theoretical aspects of one-variable analysis. Students gain comfort in proving the key theorems and results from first year calculus, especially rigorous definitions of the various limiting processes, and understand the importance of seemingly inconsequential theorems and properties of the real numbers. In addition, students make connections between calculus and other disciplines through modeling with differential equations. Topics examined include limits and continuous mappings, the interval theorems, Darboux integrability, first order differential equations, improper integrals and the Cauchy Principal Value, techniques of integration, sequences and series, Taylor polynomials, and parametric curves and polar coordinates. Students are prepared to take the Advanced Placement Calculus BC exam in May. In the past, additional topics such as the topology and construction of the real line, multivariable methods, and metric spaces have been introduced as time permits to accommodate student interests. Prerequisite: Honors Calculus I, the equivalent, Calculus with teacher recommendation; consent of the teacher and the department chair.

Advanced Mathematics Seminar (Year; Honors)

Advanced Mathematics Seminar is an advanced course for motivated and curious mathematicians. In the first part of the course, students rotate through seminars (usually 3-4) facilitated by one or more members of the department. Seminars introduce students to new areas of mathematics and integrate previously-studied material in new and deeper ways. The choice of topics will be determined by the department in collaboration with the students taking the course, therefore, the course may be repeated multiple years. Topics in the past have included differential equations, complex numbers, differential calculus, number theory, graph theory, and probability distributions. While faculty will take responsibility for the overall framework, direction, and academic requirements of the seminars, they will be facilitated as an inquiry in which students are held accountable for a strong and rich intellectual dialogue. This may involve, but is not limited to, doing creative work in deriving mathematical results, reading advanced mathematics texts and follow presentations oriented around theorems and proofs, and creatively presenting their results. In the second part of the course (2 months), students extend their learning from the seminars by working on a capstone project that they will present in April or May. Prerequisite: A commitment and the independence necessary to pursue difficult mathematical ideas is a necessary quality for engaging in this seminar. Honors Calculus I, Honors Calculus II, the equivalent, or Calculus with teacher recommendation, consent of the teacher and the department chair.


Teaching Assistants

Math Teaching Assistants

Teaching assistants are vital contributors to our algebra and geometry classes. TAs attend class each day, help students with practice problems and resolve homework difficulties, answer questions, and grade daily homework. In addition, they run review and extra-help sessions. As the year progresses, TAs plan and teach full lessons to the class. Upon completion of the year, students will receive one math credit. Prerequisite: Invitation of the department.

Modern Languages

Chinese | French | Spanish | Online


Chinese I

Chinese I is designed to introduce Mandarin Chinese to students who have no or very little background in the language. It is a basic introduction to Chinese language and culture. Students start to learn Chinese phonetic system (pin yin) and Chinese characters. It introduces basic vocabulary and basic linguistic skills including introduction, greetings, directions, who and how questions, time, locations, dates and numbers, what questions, and expressions.

Chinese II

Chinese II continues to develop the language skills learned in Chinese I. Students should be able to explain cause and effect, compare and contrast ideas and objects, and participate in simple discussions on a wide variety of topics including personal care and entertainment, clothes shopping, sports and recreation, and telephone queries.

Chinese III

Chinese III begins with a review of grammatical concepts and usage learned in Chinese II. The class will continue to learn grammar that will enable them to express their opinions, intentions, desires, and personal interests. They will learn about gifts and holidays, weather, travel, dining and meals. Chinese will be the official language of the classroom.

Chinese IV

Chinese IV reviews the grammatical concepts and structures learned in Chinese III and use those concepts as the building blocks for new and more complex constructions. Students continue to study characters and to develop more sophisticated reading and writing skills. Students read short stories and articles in Chinese adapted from authentic materials. Students practice conversational skills in a broad range of topics.

Chinese V (Honors)

In Chinese V, students learn more grammar and concepts that enable them to communicate accurately in various social and cultural contexts. New Chinese characters and vocabulary are continually introduced to increase skills to read authentic materials. Students also focus on reading short stories and paragraphs from novels and start to build translation skills. We will focus on increasing conversational skills, building vocabulary that is not covered in the textbook, and developing skills of exchanging one’s opinion and critical thoughts. Current issues from the newspaper and TV news are frequently discussed. Video or culturally authentic materials and literature will be employed as they tie in with the theme of each chapter. The proficiency goal is intermediate-mid to high.

Chinese VI (Honors)

This honor-level course polishes students’ speaking, reading, and writing skills as they explore Chinese literature, philosophy, and current events. Authentic Chinese materials are used: novels, magazine articles, television programs, and full-length movies. As students engage in literary discussion, debate, or simple daily conversation, and as they write creative and expository papers, they are encouraged to put aside their own cultural vision of life in order to interpret what they see or read from another culture’s set of values. They review and deepen their understanding of Chinese grammar to develop greater sophistication in oral and written expression.



French I: Communication and Comprehension

This course is designed for new students of French and for those with previous experience who are not sufficiently prepared for French II. Students acquire basic vocabulary and grammatical structures, including present, past, and future tenses. It gives students the ability to function adequately in French as they use oral and written expression, listening, reading, and interactive intensive speaking skills. The course is generally conducted in French, but grammar is often explained in English. Cultural awareness is introduced through different media: tapes, videos, slides, French website resources, short readings, periodicals, and native guest speakers. Students explore Paris and its neighborhoods, architecture, and historical sites. Classes are student oriented. Students are often engaged in small group activities, short-guided conversations, and games.

French II: Interpersonal Communication

Building on the previous level, French II involves continued work on acquiring structures and vocabulary, as well as developing greater competence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Two objectives are kept in mind: a massive review and the development of basic vocabulary and grammar structures that will allow students to recount their lives in writing (through the creation of a book) and in speaking. During the second half of the year, students develop their reading skills and become fluent in reading and discussing “Le petit Nicolas.” They also explore the Francophone world through short films. In the process, students increase their cultural knowledge, through the lens of social justice, incorporating the concepts of global citizenship, conflict resolution, diversity, human rights, interdependence, sustainable development, values and perceptions, as these are an integral part of language learning and successful communication. In order to build the students’ skills, as well as intercultural awareness, they are often involved in-group activities. Students are strongly encouraged to use the target language in the classroom, as the course is mostly conducted in French. Writing competencies are expected to be at the paragraph level. Communication occurs in the present, past and future.

French III: Interpretive Communication

Communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, communities…. It is with this philosophy in mind that this course is taught. Oral and written communication is at the heart of this course, whether the communication in French is face-to-face, digital and visual, in writing or across centuries through the reading of literature (17th, 18th and 19th century) with Molière, Jean de la Fontaine and Voltaire. The objectives and content of French III aims to further develop the four communicative skills while introducing students to the concept of “La Francophonie” as represented in historical and contemporary literature and films. Active team based learning strategies involving research, reflection, and discussion emphasize that students are responsible for their own learning. Audio CDs, DVD, podcasts and online activities further encourage and promote independent support and autonomy. In the process, students increase their cultural knowledge, through the lens of social justice, incorporating the concepts of global citizenship, conflict resolution, diversity, human rights, interdependence, sustainable development, values and perceptions, as these are an integral part of language learning and successful communication. Writing follows all French formats, with focus on knowing how, when, and why to say and write what to whom. Students continue the study of grammar (review and new rules) and vocabulary (extensive new sophisticated vocabulary) with complex grammatical structures and all of the major verb tenses and moods, including the conditional and the subjunctive.

French IV: Literature & Art

Designed to build the comprehension and verbal expression of the students while developing critical thinking skills, this informative course develops elements of the present French civilization, such as geography, history, economy, current events and international relations. Students review and study major grammatical structures, read extensively, and develop increasing accuracy in written and oral expression through discussion of authentic literary texts and essay writing. The course is a unique approach to literature, encouraging students to read and create more complex French language. Excerpts are selected to facilitate reading activities and to break down the fear and mistrust that many students have of authors and their works. Students are encouraged to put aside their own cultural vision of life and interpret what they see or read through another culture’s set of values. The study of French films, online French media, and poems complement the core program. Reading French literature paves the way to French art with the impressionists. Students compare major artists, discuss the techniques and subjects of this movement, take virtual visits to museums, and view videos. A final experiential project for individual students or mini-groups will be to develop a mini-gallery exhibit about one artist of their choice and narrate this project in French for various classes. 

French V / VI: Global Perspectives and Culture (Honors)

Questioning the world! is a current and worldwide outlook that develops information skills with reasoned inquiry and affective qualities applicable when analyzing personal, professional and societal issues. Structured to encourage increasingly complex thinking, independent learning, and collaboration skills, this course develops key critical skills through relevant global and cultural themes. Engaging opportunities for experiential learning, community involvement activities and discussion points will encourage students to think innovatively and independently. Their research skills and communication abilities will be strengthened through individual and group research, information reports, reflections, discussions, factual evidence and validation. The students will develop and demonstrate knowledge of cultures and worldviews, as well as identify social, economic, political, and environmental interrelationships between cultures and worldviews. They will use multiple lenses such as race and ethnicity, gender, social class, science and technology, regional culture, history and religion to understand one’s culture and articulate how the social construction of culture and worldviews shapes contemporary social and political issues. The course incorporates opportunities for students to critically read and analyze authentic text-based materials such as novels, classical literature, science articles, poems, lyrics, and blogs.



Spanish I: Foundations

In level one the oral, writing, reading, and cultural aspects of beginning Spanish are fundamental. Students are encouraged to engage in spontaneous and practical conversation using the present and near future tenses. At the same time, they learn to write simple, grammatically accurate phrases in an environment stressing cooperation, creativity, and familiarity with the culture. Students hear and employ a gradually increasing amount of Spanish in class. We incorporate the textbook Vistas I, as well as tapes, videos, games, and slides, and guest speakers are incorporated into the main curriculum.

Spanish II: Communication A

This course is designed to refine further students’ listening, speaking, writing, and study skills in a communicative classroom. Students will master and expand upon foundational skills by focusing on more detailed accuracy in their language acquisition, as well as decreasing their dependence on English thought and speech patterns. Increased emphasis will be placed on oral production and the ability to communicate in real-world situations on a vast range of topics. Class will be held primarily in Spanish.

Spanish III: Communication B

This course builds upon knowledge gained in Spanish I and Spanish II and emphasizes developing confidence in speaking through intensive conversation practice. Students will use Spanish as the principal means of communication during class. In addition to oral conversations, dialogues and oral presentations, students will be asked to write short compositions and present research on a variety of cultural topics. Students will be expected to expand their vocabulary range to include more sophisticated terms, use advanced idiomatic expressions, and manipulate multiple verb tenses including the pluperfect and the subjunctive mood. A variety of methodologies will be used, including the use of technology and multimedia, as well as incorporating authentic materials.

Spanish IV: Composition & Conversation

This course reviews complex grammatical structures and verb tenses, the acquisition of specialized vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and the development of a sound oral and written proficiency. Many kinds of texts will be studied and analyzed from newspaper articles to commercials, literature, and film. Students will engage in class discussions and debates—always in the target language—and will frequently write analytical responses and research papers about the topics and texts presented in class. Descriptive, persuasive, expository, and narrative text will frequently be part of homework, and a peer review system will be in place to ensure a high quality production of texts in the target language. Classes are held fully in Spanish.

Honors Spanish Seminar B: Film & Literature (Honors)

This course focuses on a selection of contemporary Hispanic literature (short stories, poems, novels, plays) and movies that relate to the readings thematically. During the second semester, students will write an original Spanish play and eventually produce it on stage. Students are expected to participate in discussion and write comparative and analytical essays on the works studied. In addition, students will engage in a variety of speaking activities (oral presentations, debates), teach at least one class, learn a considerable amount of new vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and discuss contemporary issues as they occur in the Hispanic world.


Physical Education & Health

Health | Physical Education | Interscholastic Sports | Seasonal Calendar


Health 9 (Fall or Spring)

Health 9 is required semester-long course for freshmen that meets on alternating days with Foundations, Study Group, and Lifetime Fitness.

We will center our learning around three human body systems: the digestive system, the reproductive system, and the nervous system. We will study digestive system anatomy and physiology as a springboard for discussing nutrition. Using this knowledge, we will approach nutrition from a biochemical standpoint by discussing how the body processes the different types of macromolecules in the foods we eat. Next, we will root our knowledge about the reproductive system in anatomy and physiology. The course will provide comprehensive coverage of contraceptive methods and “safer sex” methods. We will learn about the health impacts of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and how to prevent contracting or spreading STIs. We will also spend some time exploring identity – such as the differences among sex, gender, gender expression, and sexuality – and stressing the importance of consent. Lastly, we will discuss the effects that drugs (including alcohol) can have on the nervous system. Students will learn the basics of neuroscience and will discuss the impacts that various drugs can have on the body, with special emphasis placed on how certain drugs can affect the developing brain.

Health 10: Social Influences of Behavior (Year)

Health 10 is required for all sophomores. This course meets during the short class meetings of the Sophomore Health / PE block for the year. Students learn that mental and physical health are essential to their future happiness, are not automatic, and must be actively maintained. Information about substance abuse issues, dealing with emotions, stress management skills, and communication with family and friends is introduced.

Lifetime Fitness (Year)

All freshmen take Lifetime Fitness. This course provides an introduction to the components of physical fitness, including cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and agility. Each student maintains a personal exercise workout journal, tracks progress, assesses level of physical fitness, and sets personal goals.


ALO - Applied Leadership in the Outdoors (Fall; After School)

Students will develop as leaders using the outdoors as their classroom. Classes will primarily meet outside, and take students through a progression of group activities coupled with personal reflection. We will explore topics such as group decision making, leadership styles, conflict resolution, and communication styles. Students will apply these ideas during excursions in green spaces both on and off-campus. The course will culminate with a weekend trip during which students will draw from the technical and leadership skills they have developed throughout the course.

Beginning Tennis (Fall; After School)

This course teaches students who are new to the game the fundamentals of tennis. Instruction will include the proper technique and key mechanical components to successfully hit forehands, backhands, serves, volleys, and overheads. Drills and team match play, rules, and etiquette are included.

Fitness by Design (Winter; After School)

In this after-school elective, work out in the weight room with a personalized workout regime or join a group instructor-led workout.

Games / Fitness (Fall, Winter, or Spring; During School)

This class will include a variety of activities depending on class size and weather. Some classes may include games such as disc golf, volleyball, tennis, and badminton. On other days, students might participate in strength training and endurance activities to improve fitness. Weight room activities will use a variety of equipment including kettle bells, medicine balls, dumbbells, TRX, and rowing machines with the goal of improving strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance.

Nordic Walking (Fall; After School)

Nordic Walking is fitness walking with specially designed Nordic Walking poles and offers a very efficient aerobic workout and easy way to improve your physical fitness. Nordic walking is one of the most effective cardiovascular workouts because it works all major muscle groups in the body. Nordic walking fully engages both large upper and lower body muscles, similar to cross-country skiing, and can achieve similar benefits.

POM / Dance / Cheer (Fall or Winter; After School)

This is a co-ed group that meets regularly to choreographed dances, learn cheers, and promote school spirit. If you have any interest in dance, screaming for our Eagles, or if you just love to perform, this group is for you.

Rock Climber's Toolbox (Winter; After School)

This course will take place both at Catlin Gabel and at various rock climbing gyms in the Portland area. Students will learn abut rock climbing gear, climbing knots, different types and methods of belaying, basic anchor building, and climbing movement. 

Yoga (Spring; After School)

Co-ed Yoga is an after-school elective for students wishing to learn the practice of yoga. No previous knowledge required. A fee will be charged to student accounts.


Independent PE

Independent PE credit is an option for students who are engaged in regular, coached athletics outside of school. Examples include club soccer, gymnastics, and dance. Students must apply to the PE department for this program and may complete coursework during the fall, winter, and/or spring trimesters, as well as over the summer. The application can be found here.


Interscholastic Sports

Team sports are no-cut at Catlin Gabel; everyone is invited to participate, regardless of skill level or prior experience. Students have the opportunity to participate in many interscholastic sports, including:

Ski TeamSki Team
Swim TeamSwim Team
Track and FieldTrack and Field

Seasonal Calendar

PE, health, and sports at Catlin Gabel operate on a trimester schedule. The fall trimester runs from the first day of school to Thanksgiving break; the winter trimester runs from Thanksgiving to spring break; the spring trimester begins the day after spring break and ends on the last day of school. (Spring sports often begin practice before spring break.)





During the Day:

Games / Fitness


After School:

Applied Leadership in the Outdoors (fee)

Beginning Tennis

Nordic Walking

POM / Dance / Cheer


Interscholastic Sports:

Cross Country




During the Day:

Games / Fitness


After School:

Fitness by Design

POM / Dance / Cheer

Rock Climber's Toolbox (fee)


Interscholastic Sports:


Ski Team (fee)

Swim Team


During the Day:

Games / Fitness


After School:

Yoga (fee)


Interscholastic Sports:


Golf (fee)


Track and Field



Required Courses | General Electives | Online Courses | Advanced Electives

Required Courses

Science I and Science II

These courses are a two-year integrated sequence of biology, chemistry, and physics. We will explore the fundamental concepts of energy, chemical and physical properties of matter, electricity, chemical reactions, biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, evolution, and ecology. Current issues in science will be used to establish a sound foundation in science while highlighting the links between disciplines. In doing so, students will acquire skills in laboratory techniques, critical thinking, the scientific process, and the philosophy and theory of science. Students will learn to write lab reports, translate scientific inquiry into experimental design, and apply mathematical problem-solving to scientific analysis. In the process, students will become informed about current developments in science.

Advanced Science I and Accelerated Science II (honors level)

These courses cover all of the topics of Science I and II at a greater level of depth. Additional topics may be included. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor and the department chair.


General Electives (Biology | Chemistry | Physics | General Science)

These offerings are open to all juniors and seniors. In certain classes, priority will be given to juniors intending to take an advanced course in that subject area in their senior year.

General Science year-long classes

Geology (Offered 2017-18; alternates with Astronomy)

This year-long course focuses on physical geology. Students will study the earth and its many landforms, how they have come to be the way they are now, and how geologic processes affect the ways that they continue to change. The theory of plate tectonics provides a useful framework through which to understand many of these processes. An appreciation of the expanse of geologic time is formed as we consider the extensive changes wrought by extremely slow processes. The understanding of the variety of landforms and processes is enhanced and extended through lab activities and extensive use of audiovisual material. The interesting and well-exposed geology of the Northwest provides excellent opportunities for field trips. Prerequisite: Science II

Science Teaching Assistant (year or semester)

Teaching assistants are vital contributors to our Science I and Science II classes. TAs attend class each day and work directly with students. TAs help check daily homework, help students having difficulty with the material, set up and take down labs, and assist in the lab. As the year progress TAs may be involved in planning and teaching the class. Prerequisite: Approval of department. (Note: Students receive science credit, but this course does not count towards a student’s three-year science requirement.)


General Science semester electives

Fall Semester 2017

Anatomy and Physiology (Fall)

In this course, students will study form and function across a wide range of plants and animals to understand how organisms maintain homeostasis. The class uses a comparative approach to investigate how organism structure relates to function, including highlights of specialized features in organisms adapted to unique conditions. Laboratory activities will include experimentation, dissection, and microscopy work.

The Chemistry and Microbiology of Food (Fall)

This semester-long course examines the biology and chemistry of food We will look at foods and food systems in scientific terms and investigate how basic scientific principles explain the processing, preparing, and storage of foods for human consumption. Included will be the production of fermented foods, the chemistry of baking reactions and the properties of proteins that are important for food function. The course will also examine food safety and the risks posed by toxins to our food supply. Practical exercises will include bread-making and fermented food production.

Evolutionary Biology (Fall)

This course focuses on the processes of evolution and the patterns generated by these processes. The aim is to develop a scientific way of thinking about biological diversity.  How can we account for the extinction of (non-avian) dinosaurs and the existence of mites that crawl around our eyelashes? How did some insects come to look so much like sticks? We will seek explanations for such patterns of diversity and for the apparent “good fit” of organisms to their environment. Topics covered include the theory of evolution by natural selection (review of Science II), concepts of fitness and adaptation, the genetic basis of evolutionary change, modes of speciation, molecular evolution, principles of systematic biology, extinction, paleontology and macroevolutionary trends in evolution, and human evolution.

Experimental Chemistry (Fall or Spring)

This semester-long course investigates fundamental chemistry concepts through frequent experimentation. Topics covered include chemical bonding, reaction stoichiometry, solution chemistry and colligative properties, chemical equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation and reduction. This course is a prerequisite for Advanced Chemistry. Experimental and / or Organic Chemistry are recommended prior to enrollment in Advanced Biology.

Pathogens and Parasites (Fall)

This course applies microbiology, cell biology, and immunology to study the transmission, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Students will become familiar with the workings of bacterial, fungal, viral, and other parasitic organisms. We will also address how organisms protect against disease, the progression of infection, and the immune system. We will then apply these scientific principles to the historical and social impact of disease epidemiology.

Physics A: Mechanics (Fall)

This semester-long course will investigate the physics of motion: how and why things move. Kinematics and Newton’s Laws of Motion (Dynamics) will be the main focus. Motion in one dimension will lead to projectiles moving in two dimensions and objects moving in circular motion. Energy transformations and conservation of momentum will also be studied. This study of mechanics will conclude with an investigation of simple machines. This course will include extensive hands-on lab work.


Spring Semester 2018

Ecology (Spring)

Ecology is the scientific study of how living things interact with each other and with their environments. In this course, we will begin at the small scale by studying population ecology and learning the ways in which populations can grow (and be limited). Next, we will study how different populations interact in a community. Finally, we will take the most “zoomed out” approach to address how large-scale ecosystems and biomes function. Along the way, we will discuss experimental and sampling techniques, properly analyze and present data, read primary and secondary scientific sources, and learn many of the native plant species on campus in order to perform a forest structure study.

Environmental Science (Spring)

This course will focus on educating students to become discerning and actively engaged citizens regarding a range of environmental dilemmas. Topics covered will include Environmental Justice, an in depth comparison of renewable and non-renewable energy sources and the future of energy, the chemistry of air and water pollution, and the conservation/preservation of selected natural ecosystems. Recommended (but not required) prerequisite: Ecology.

Experimental Chemistry (Fall or Spring)

This semester-long course investigates fundamental chemistry concepts through frequent experimentation. Topics covered include chemical bonding, reaction stoichiometry, solution chemistry and colligative properties, chemical equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation and reduction. This course is a prerequisite for Advanced Chemistry. Experimental and / or Organic Chemistry are recommended prior to enrollment in Advanced Biology.

Neurobiology (Spring)

How does a single neuron work? How do collections of neurons cooperate with each other? How does an entire nervous system function to sense and interact within an environment? In this class, we will study the molecular and cellular processes that underlie sensation and perception. Then, by exploring the basic structure and function of nervous systems across a wide range of organisms, we will find patterns in how an organism’s sensory and perception abilities are determined by specific features of its nervous system. Finally, we will examine complex behaviors as emergent properties of these neurobiological systems.

Organic Chemistry (Spring) 

This course will delve into the world of carbon-based chemistry. Students will discover the large variety of compounds that can be produced with only a few simple elements. This laboratory-based course will look at many different classes of organic compounds, including alcohols, ketones, and esters. The course will also explore applications of organic chemistry to biology and to industry; students will learn to make aspirin, oil of wintergreen, and nylon! Experimental Chemistry is helpful, but not required, prior to enrollment in this course. Experimental and/or Organic Chemistry are recommended prior to enrollment in Advanced Biology.

Physics B: Waves and Optics (Spring)  

After students observe actual waves in water in ripple tanks, the principles of waves will be investigated in sound. Human hearing, interference, the Doppler shift, the science of music, and the speed of sound will be investigated through demonstrations and experimentation. Mirrors and lenses will be introduced through geometric ray optics, and the operation of many optical instruments will be investigated. The wave nature of light will be investigated, with interference being used to measure the wavelength of light. 

Physics C: Electricity & Magnetisim (Spring)

In this one semester course we will learn about many types of electrical circuit components:  capacitors, inductors, diodes, transistors, potentiometers, oscillators, and integrated circuits. We will investigate their use in both analog and digital circuits. We will use our new-found theoretical understanding to design, breadboard and construct actual circuits. Examples might include a crystal radio, burglar alarm, stop watch, and binary calculator. This course is oriented towards the practical application of electronics to electrical devices, and will provide lots of hands-on experience working with electronics components and electric circuits.


Global Online Academy Electives

(Note: Global Online Academy can be used to satisfy up to one elective semester of Catlin Gabel's 3-year science requirement.)

Fall Semester 2017


Ethics is the study of what one should do as an individual and as a member of society. In this course students will evaluate ethical issues related to medicine and the life sciences. During the semester, students will explore real-life ethical issues, including vaccination policies, organ transplantation, genetic testing, human experimentation, and animal research. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students will be introduced to basic concepts and skills in the field of bioethics, deepen their understanding of biological concepts, strengthen their critical-reasoning skills, and learn to engage in respectful dialogue with people whose views may differ from their own. In addition to journal articles and position papers, students will be required to read Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Global Health

What makes people sick? What are the best ways to mitigate health disparities? Using an interdisciplinary approach to address these two questions, this course hopes to improve students' health literacy through an examination of the most significant public-health challenges facing today's global population. Topics addressed will be the biology of infectious diseases, the statistics and quantitative measures associated with health issues, the social determinants of health, and the role of organizations (public and private) in shaping the landscape of global health policy. Additionally, students will learn about the biology and epidemiology of certain diseases and use illness as a lens through which to examine critically such social issues as poverty, gender, and race. Potential readings include The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, Sizwe's Test by Johnny Steinberg, and the essays of Paul Farmer, Steve Gloyd, and Atul Gawande. Student work will include analytical and creative writing; problem sets; peer review, critique, and discussion; and online presentations. Writing in this course involves students' personal reflections on their understanding of the workings of disease in society, write-ups of epidemiological studies, journal entries, grant proposals, and descriptive narratives of the dynamics of illness. This course may be taken for either science or history credit.

Introduction to Psychology

In this course, students will explore how the human mind works and the impact of environment and biology on the development of the psyche. This course seeks to address a number of questions: Why do people act the way they do? How is the human personality constructed? How accurate is memory? How do human beings experience attraction and revulsion? What do our dreams mean? In addition to discussing, studying, and researching how psychological processes can affect sensation, motivation, emotion, learning, and memory, students will also review relevant public policy through discussions with experts on criminal psychology and pharmacology, and review best practices regarding psychological ethics in both clinical and laboratory settings. Finally, students will design a comprehensive review of a particular psychological hypothesis and apply it to an experiment of their own design.

Medical Problem-Solving I

In this course students will collaboratively solve medical mystery cases, similar to the approach used in many medical schools. Students enhance their critical thinking skills as they examine data, draw conclusions, diagnose, and treat patients. Students will use problem-solving techniques in order to understand and appreciate relevant medical/biological facts as they confront the principles and practices of medicine. Students will explore anatomy and physiology pertaining to medical scenarios and gain an understanding of the disease process, demographics of disease, and pharmacology. Additional learning experiences will include studying current issues in health and medicine, building a community-service action plan, interviewing a patient, and creating a new mystery case.

Practical Astronomy

This course serves as a model of how modern astronomy has benefited from the digital revolution and advances in imaging technology. In the past two decades, the amount of information about our place in the universe has seen an explosive expansion. Our understanding of our own solar system has become fundamentally different in that short time. Students will learn the modern techniques used by professional astronomers to gather and analyze data. The course reviews coordinate systems used in locating astronomical objects and the basics of spherical trigonometry. Students will then be given practical problems such as determining the orbits of newly discovered solar system objects such as minor planets and comets. Data from professional observatories will be used to analyze the light curves of binary star systems and variable stars as well as to search for supernovae. These projects, given the global nature of the course, could include timing of occultations of stars by the Moon and asteroids, providing information vital to professional researchers. The Cranbrook Observatory at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, will be used as a source of data along with other international sources specific to each student for individual projects. Prerequisite: successful completion of a course in trigonometry and geometry.

Social Psychology

Social psychology examines how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of a person are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Students design research projects that explore contemporary issues relevant to this course, including but not limited to social media, advertising, peer pressure, and social conflict. In order to equip students to do this work, the course begins with an overview of research methods in psychology as well as several historical studies by Solomon Asch, Stanley Milgram, and Philip Zimbardo. Students develop foundational knowledge of social psychology by exploring a diversity of topics, including attitudes and actions, group behavior, prejudice and discrimination, interpersonal relationships, conformity, attraction, and persuasion. The capstone project of this course is student-designed research project that will be submitted for publication, presentation to an audience, or used to catalyze change in local communities.

Water: From Inquiry to Action

The second most common compound in the world, water is essential to life. It is also a cause of quick death. It sculpts mountains and reshapes coastlines. It gives rise to conflicts among neighbors and nations, yet it brings peace and pleasure to many. Characteristics of water can be studied in disciplines from art to zoology, and this course will touch on many of them through a set of case studies in the first five weeks. Those case studies are used to establish a pattern of questioning that shapes the rest of the course. For the next five weeks, students pursue answers to their favorite questions, choosing the disciplines on which to focus. They share their findings in a collaborative online environment and tag the connections among different areas of inquiry. They give and receive weekly critiques of each other’s work, developing the skills to generate meaningful, actionable feedback. In the final month, individuals or groups design and complete projects that apply a multidisciplinary understanding of water to a specific, real world issue of their choice.  These projects are submitted to relevant audiences in the public or private sector.

Spring Semester 2018

Abnormal Psychology

This course focuses on psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, character disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and depression. As students examine these and other disorders they will learn about their symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments. Students will also deepen their understanding of the social stigmas associated with mental illnesses. This course can be taken as a continuation of Introduction to Psychology, although it is not required.


Ethics is the study of what one should do as an individual and as a member of society. In this course students will evaluate ethical issues related to medicine and the life sciences. During the semester, students will explore real-life ethical issues, including vaccination policies, organ transplantation, genetic testing, human experimentation, and animal research. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students will be introduced to basic concepts and skills in the field of bioethics, deepen their understanding of biological concepts, strengthen their critical-reasoning skills, and learn to engage in respectful dialogue with people whose views may differ from their own. In addition to journal articles and position papers, students will be required to read Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Introduction to Psychology

In this course, students will explore how the human mind works and the impact of environment and biology on the development of the psyche. This course seeks to address a number of questions: Why do people act the way they do? How is the human personality constructed? How accurate is memory? How do human beings experience attraction and revulsion? What do our dreams mean? In addition to discussing, studying, and researching how psychological processes can affect sensation, motivation, emotion, learning, and memory, students will also review relevant public policy through discussions with experts on criminal psychology and pharmacology, and review best practices regarding psychological ethics in both clinical and laboratory settings. Finally, students will design a comprehensive review of a particular psychological hypothesis and apply it to an experiment of their own design.

Medical Problem-Solving I

In this course students will collaboratively solve medical mystery cases, similar to the approach used in many medical schools. Students enhance their critical thinking skills as they examine data, draw conclusions, diagnose, and treat patients. Students will use problem-solving techniques in order to understand and appreciate relevant medical/biological facts as they confront the principles and practices of medicine. Students will explore anatomy and physiology pertaining to medical scenarios and gain an understanding of the disease process, demographics of disease, and pharmacology. Additional learning experiences will include studying current issues in health and medicine, building a community-service action plan, interviewing a patient, and creating a new mystery case.

Medical Problem-Solving II

This course is an extension of the problem-based learning done in Medical Problem Solving I. While collaborative examination of medical case studies will remain the core work of the course, students will tackle more complex cases and explore new topics in medical science, such as the growing field of bioinformatics. Students in MPS II will also have opportunities to design cases based on personal interests, discuss current topics in medicine, and apply their learning to issues in their local communities. Prerequisite: completion of Medical Problem Solving I.


This course is an exploration of the neurological basis of behavior. It will cover basic brain anatomy and function as well as cognitive, behavioral, and psychiatric disorders from a neurobiological perspective. Examples of illness to be covered include schizophrenia, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. Diagnostic and treatment issues, including behavioral and pharmaceutical management, will be addressed. Additional topics include professional standards and the code of ethics governing all psychologists, psychometrics, and the history of neuropsychology. This course can be taken as a continuation of An Introduction to Psychology, although it is not a prerequisite.

Organic Chemistry in Modern Society

This course is designed with two goals in mind, one pragmatic and one philosophical. Pragmatically it will provide an absolutely invaluable foundation for further studies in the organic chemistry field, giving students a significant advantage at the beginning of any future course. Philosophically it aims to open an infinite world of discovery of complex molecules, their properties and reactions and applications, that hold the keys to confronting and solving the world¹s most challenging future scientific problems. The emphasis of the course is on stimulating interest in organic chemistry through an exploration of the molecules relevant to modern life. Students can use this course as a springboard for further learning, as the beginning of a longer journey.

Positive Psychology

What is a meaningful, happy, and fulfilling life? The focus of psychology has long been the study of human suffering, diagnosis, and pathology, but in recent years, however, positive psychologists have explored what’s missing from the mental health equation, taking up research on topics such as love, creativity, humor, and mindfulness. In this course, we’ll dive into what positive psychology research tells us about the formula for a meaningful life, the ingredients of fulfilling relationships, and changes that occur in the brain when inspired by music, visual art, physical activity, and more. We’ll seek out and lean on knowledge from positive psychology research and experts, such as Martin Seligman’s Well Being Theory, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow, and Angela Lee Duckworth’s concept of grit. In exploring such theories and concepts, students will imagine and create real-world measurements using themselves and willing peers and family members as research subjects. As part of the learning studio format of the course, students will also imagine, research, design, and create projects that they’ll share with a larger community. Throughout the development of these projects, they’ll collaborate with each other and seek ways to make their work experiential and hands-on. Students will leave the class with not only some answers to the question of what makes life meaningful, happy, and fulfilling, but also the inspiration to continue responding to this question for many years to come.  

Advanced Electives (All electives below are for one year.)

Open to all students who have completed Science II with permission from the instructor, department chair, and the student’s advisors. All students require approval from their advisors and the department chair before enrollment. Any pre- or co-requisites for admission are listed in the class descriptions below.

Advanced Biology: Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Science (Honors Level)

This full-year, experiential advanced biology course focuses on cell biology with an emphasis on molecular genetics, genetic engineering, and recombinant DNA technology. The course begins with a review of chemistry concepts necessary for an understanding of both cellular processes and molecular biology techniques. The fall term introduces molecular biology skills while at the same time providing a foundation classical genetics, mechanisms of DNA replication, the  control of gene expression, RNA processing and protein synthesis. Laboratory activities provide experience with a variety of tools that include, but are not limited to, DNA isolation and purification, bacterial culture, bacterial transformation, analysis of DNA using restriction enzymes, electrophoresis, and PCR, and CRISPR/Cas-9 gene editing. The spring term is dedicated to group research projects. Recent projects have included molecular analysis of microsatellite DNA sequences of grape vine clones, CRISPR/Cas-9 gene editing of bacterial traits, and identification of bacteria using phenotypic traits and molecular techniques.  Students are expected to work independently on topics that are intellectually and technically challenging. Prerequisites:  Permission of the Instructor.

Advanced Chemistry (Honors Level)

This lab-intensive course provides an in-depth look at many chemical concepts introduced in previous courses, as well as explorations of new ideas. Topics will include molecular structures and bonding theories, properties of solutions, kinetics, thermodynamics, organic reactions, nuclear chemistry, and buffers and acid/base equilibria. Prerequisite: Experimental Chemistry.

Advanced Physics (Honors Level)

This course explores further topics in physics using methods of calculus and other specialized and advanced applications of mathematics (which will be presented in class). These topics include kinematics, rotation, equilibrium, gravitation, fluids, Gauss’ Law, electric potential, capacitance, induction, and Maxwell’s Equations. The year will wrap up with a consideration of the theory of special relativity. Corequisite: Enrollment in Calculus. Suggested (but not required) prior coursework: Any of Physics A-D.

Science Research (Honors Level)

The purpose of this class is to give students experience in designing and implementing their own independent research project. Through an extensive search of scientific literature, students develop their own novel research question to investigate over the course of the year. Next, they develop protocols to address the topic of study and collect data and analyze it. Analysis of the collected data may include such tools as graphs and statistical analysis, and then students will write a discussion summarizing the findings. Students will present their work in an oral seminar format at the Junior Academy of Science and in poster format at the Northwest Science Expo for feedback from scientists. (Note: A student may take this course for credit more than once.)

Additional Offerings

In addition to our departmental offerings, students have the option to join the following non-credit options. Classes will meet up to three times per cycle. These electives do not count as part of the regular course load and are not graded; evaluation will be by narrative report. Students will receive a notation on the back of their transcripts showing they participated.

Design + Tinker + Make (Fall or Spring)

What does it mean to be creative? How do you develop creativity? How do you create for yourself and for others? What does design thinking mean? What’s the difference between Tinkering and Making? Discover the answers to these and other questions as we explore the world of designing, tinkering and making to express ourselves and solve problems. This hands-on class will have you experimenting with a wide variety of making and creating tools including but not limited to laser cutters, 3D doodling pens, arduinos, sewing machines, woodworking tools, and much more. We’ll take field trips to see other Maker Spaces in action and have a variety of guest speakers show us how they make and create. Unleash your creative powers. Open to all Upper School students. No experience needed.

Open to all Upper School students. No experience needed. 

Leadership Lab (Year)

This year-long class will explore various topics in leadership with a focus on developing competencies with the following skills: self-awareness, emotional intelligence, conflict exploration, systems thinking, observing and intervening in group dynamics, cultural responsiveness, and peer coaching. The format of the class will include group discussion and activities, short teachings, readings, and occasional homework. There will also be one weekend retreat sometime during the school year. Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.

WINGS Peer Mentoring Program (Year)

WINGS is a peer mentorship program linking senior leaders with incoming ninth grade students. Seniors apply to become WINGS leaders and will be registered for a weekly planning seminar and a separate meeting with their assigned group of ninth graders within the same block. The mentorship available through WINGS is deepened by multiple points of contact and connection over time. The trust established through ongoing relationship, separate from other points of cross-age connection (eg. being on athletic or extracurricular teams, in C&C or elective courses together) yields a unique opportunity for the 9th grader to have a ‘go-to’ person who can be an objective, supportive mentor. WINGS curriculum is based on strands from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and the Peer Group Connection (PGC) as well as other pieces related to inclusivity and identity development work gleaned from peer-reviewed resources. Learning strands include topics such as Sexuality & Consent, Identity Formation & Bias Awareness, Stress Management, Decision Making / Ethical Behavior.


An independent preschool through 12th grade day school in Portland, Oregon
8825 SW Barnes Road,
Portland, Oregon 97225 |
503-297-1894 |

Explore why Catlin Gabel is a national leader in progressive education.

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