Course Catalog


Visual Arts | Music | Theater

Visual Arts

3-D Functional Forms & Play (Spring 2015)

In this 3-D focused studio, students will create objects that invite interaction. We will build animated pieces that possess moving parts, explore game design, and discover where and how the notions of designing, sculpting, building, and "play" intersect.

Build a Tiny House (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

Are you an HGTV addict? Interested in architecture? Sustainable design? Join Robert Medley on a fantastic venture - learning to build a 'Tiny" house. The culmination of this course will be the production of an actual living structure that can be sold at auction to benefit Financial Aid at Catlin Gabel.

Ceramics (Yearlong)

In this course, 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.

Chemistry of Art (Spring 2015)

This interdisciplinary course will introduce and apply chemical principles to understand the properties of common artistic materials. Activities will include both traditional chemistry experiments and art projects. Topics covered include the electronic structure of atoms and molecules and the nature of color, acid/base chemistry, electrochemical cells, and oxidation-reduction chemistry. These will be used to understand the properties of paints, paper, textiles, metals, ceramics, glasses, and glazes. Experiments may include extracting natural dyes, grinding pigments, papermaking, electroplating, and photographic developing and printing. Prerequisite: Science I.

“Drawing” (Offered Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

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. Students will explore mark-making in 2-D, 3-D and Mixed Media. The student may begin the semester as someone experienced creating pencil drawings on paper, but then may start using ball point pen on wood, acrylic paint on a discarded coffee table, stringing wire across a public space to divide it up, or making a self-portrait with a sewing machine.

Draw/Paint Intensive: The Canvas (Spring 2015)

If you like drawing and painting, you'll love this course. Students will learn how to work with a variety of drawing and painting media including: water-based oils, acrylic, inks, charcoal, and more. Emphasis will be placed on producing large-scale works.

Genres (Honors Level; Yearlong)

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. This class will meet two times per week for the entire year; upon completion, students will receive one full credit. Prerequisite: Media Arts, Creative Writing, Directing, Advanced Play Production, Acting, or consent of the instructor.

Honors Portfolio (Fall 2014 for Seniors and Spring 2015 for Juniors)

Honors Portfolio is a graded, studio based course where advanced arts students in fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture) and digital arts (photography, graphic arts, and multimedia / video art) can meet with a team of instructors who will mentor them as they develop portfolios for college admission. Student artists are given creative prompts to work through based on trends in contemporary and historical artistic practice. Students collaborate and critique one another's work in bi-weekly seminars and meet one on one with teachers for instruction in technique. This is a rigorous course requiring a dedication to studio practice outside of assigned class meeting time.

Illustration (Fall 2014)

This new class is for anyone interested in how to make images that tell a story. Students will explore a wide range of image making processes: drawing, printmaking, photography, video, and animation.

Media: Sight & Sound (Spring 2015)

Formerly 'Media Arts,' this updated course explores tools that are used to record, edit and modify video and audio. Students will learn about cameras, lenses, lights and microphones. We'll spend a lot of time reviewing shot composition and how to get the best quality image and audio on every shoot. Projects like music videos, audio postcards, and short-form documentaries in either audio or video will help students explore the range of ways media can be used to captivate an audience.

Media: Time Based Art (Fall 2014)

Attention: Filmmakers, artists, performers and coders - Interactivity is the name of the game with this new state-of-the-art arts course. We'll learn how to create interactive arts experiences that incorporate performance, video, sculpture and more. Projection mapping, arduino boards, hacking devices such as the Kinect or Wii to capture motion and artist-friendly computer programming will all be explored. Students should have some background in ONE of following areas: theatre, dance, filmmaking, or computer programming. We'll share our expertise to make really cool, contemporary art.

New Media Studies (Yearlong)

This collaborative yearlong course combines study of print media history, news in the digital age, and core journalistic skills while allowing students to practice writing for an audience as the CatlinSpeak staff. CatlinSpeak is an award-winning online news magazine and print newspaper that is designed, written, and published by 10th to 12th grade students. Students pursuing an arts credit option will be responsible for producing digital content including podcasts, vlogs, photo essays and graphic illustrations. Technique will be reviewed the first 6 weeks. Production will continue through the remainder of the year.

Photography: People and Places (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

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 photojournalism. We'll work in the studio and on the streets of Portland to build a portfolio of our best work.

Printmaking & Book Arts (Fall 2014)

Students will work in a number of different printmaking processes such as woodcuts, linocuts, etchings, collographs, monoprints and digital prints. We will create individual works on paper (and other surfaces), edition a series of multiples, exchange prints with each other, work on some large scale collaborative pieces, and learn to make unique artist books.

Publications & Promotional Design (Yearlong)

Formerly Yearbook, Publications & Promotional Design will teach students the fundamentals of desktop publishing with the Adobe Creative Suite. Students will produce the annual Catlin Gabel Yearbook and will also produce a variety of promotional materials for school events including programs for plays and music concerts, posters for guest speakers, and more.

Sculpture: The Figure (Spring 2015)

In this 3-D offering, students will sculpt, carve, and assemble major projects of figurative forms (human, animal, and....)

Structural Design & Engineering (Fall 2014)

Why do buildings, sculptures, and objects stand up? What geometries lead to stability? How does material choice inform the structure and design process? How can we connect form with function? What factors do you need to consider in creating an effective and aesthetic design? This project-based course explores the basic principles of designing and building functional and beautiful structures, objects, and mechanisms. Main topics include statics (loads, force, and torque), material science, and the design process. Students will be presented with a series of challenges to design and build. Attention will be paid to structural stability, use of materials, cost-effectiveness, and beauty and elegance of design. The class will involve field trips around Portland and research into current and historical structural design. It will also involve drawing, sculpting, prototyping, calculating, and hands-on building. Prerequisite: Science II.

Studio Projects (Independent Study Art; Fall, Spring or Year)

This pass/fail course is designed for a student who wants produce a body of artistic work in any media (ceramics, digital media, drawing, painting, sculpture and more). Students propose a body of work they would like to pursue and then, pending instructor approval, are enrolled in the class. While students have their work critiqued, they are not held to the standard of the Honors track. Consent of instructor required.

Textiles / Fiber Arts (Fall 2014)

You will experiment and learn how to use thread, yarn, fabric, and anything else you may want to stich, sew, weave, quilt, and tie together to create unique works. You may decide to patchwork old t-shirts together to create a monster truck quilt, sculpt a free standing elephant out of yarn, or make a pair of pants out of plastic sheeting.

Woodworking (Yearlong)

In this year-long course, 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.


Advanced Instrument Study (Yearlong)

For the serious instrumental music student, you may apply to receive credit for your hours of practice and preparation as a musician. Students pursuing this credit will be guided by on-campus faculty to refine pieces for public recital in the community.

Class Piano (Spring 2015)

Always wanted to learn how to play piano but never learned how? In this course students will learn the fundamentals of piano, sight-reading music, and will prepare a piece to present in public recitals.

Jazz Band (Yearlong)

Intermediate and advanced instrumental students have the opportunity to study and perform jazz literature. Typical instrumentation includes trumpet, trombone, clarinet, flute, saxophone, electric or string bass, guitar, piano, and drums. Instructor approval is required.

Rock Band (Fall 2014)

A companion to the Upper School Jazz Band, this course invites guitarists, horn, keyboard and percussionists to ROCK.

Semester Sing (Spring 2015)

If you love to sing, but don't want to get up early for Choir, this might be the right class for you. Semester Sing is an ensemble for singers of all tastes and stripes to band together and sing. Literature will range from Early Music to Lorde. Accompanied and a cappella numbers will be presented in public recitals.

Songwriting (Spring 2015)

Students will be given tools to create music ranging from electronic computer programs, learning the basics of guitar and piano, basic music theory, song writing and poetry structure and utilization of other musicians or producing. The course will be project based designed around creation of compositions.

Wake up with Charlie! Choir (7:25 - 7:55 Tue-Fri)

There is power in numbers. Historically the Chamber Choir was the crown gem of the Catlin Gabel Arts program. Under the leadership of former Choir Director C. Glenn Burnett, the Choir recorded albums and toured internationally. In more recent years, Choir was scheduled during the regular school day, which resulted in scheduling conflicts due to everyone's vastly different academic loads. Now we can return the Choir to its glory: Join Charlie Walsh Tuesday-Fridays in the CAC from 7:25-7:55. Workload is minimal, which means you can do choir AND another arts elective!

World Instruments (Fall 2014)

Whether or not you're musically inclined, World Instruments is a fun opportunity to learn to play instruments from all over the world. Rotations through percussion (djembe, marimba, taiko, stomp, spoons, etc.) strings (ukulele, dulcimer, basic guitar, etc) and perhaps even a little pan-flute thrown in the mix.


Acting (Fall 2014)

Members of this class will experience an orientation to the world of the theater, including nomenclature, history, and theater criticism. Students will also explore techniques of mime, mask, voice, movement, and improvisation. Acting will be investigated through script analysis and scene study. Students will experiment with the writing of original monologues. Open to all students.

Advanced Play Production (Honors Level; Yearlong)

In this course for the serious student of theater, each student chooses a specialized area of theatrical production (such as directing, playwriting, costume design, lighting design, or theater history) to study in an immersion approach. During the course-selection process, applicants must complete an interview with the instructor and gain approval of a proposed learning plan. Consent of the instructor is required.

Afternoons with Elizabeth: CG Players Troupe (Fall Trimester, Winter Trimester or Spring Trimester)

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.

Applied Theater Concepts (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

This course is an introduction to many aspects of theater, including makeup, mask-making, costume adaptation, sound editing, the projected image, prop construction, set design, and qualities of light. In the latter part of the year, each student will identify an area of concentration. The course requires participation in two mainstage productions and the Director’s Festival of One-Acts.

Dance (Spring 2015)

Explore a variety of movement styles, ranging from ballet and modern dance to tap, yoga, and devised movement. Incorporating a mix of practical studio time with study of style and choreography, this class will offer the opportunity to expand your personal movement capabilities, while analyzing the historical and stylistic roots of different movement types. Will include an element of performance, as well as some research, dance analysis, and choreography.

Improv (Spring 2015)

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 (Fall 2014)

Sing, dance and act... at the same time! Focus on skill building as well as study of the musical theater canon and history of this American art form. Practical hands-on work mixed with research and presentation. There will be a performance element as well as a scholarship component.

Play Production (Spring 2015)

In this course, students will explore various areas of theater production, including directing, playwriting, costume design, and lighting design.

Stagecraft (Fall 2014)

An introduction to basic stagecraft and set construction, this course exposes students to the application of lighting and sound as production elements. Weekend and after-school work is required. Open to all students.

Global Online Academy

Online offerings do not count toward the two-year arts requirement.

Digital Photography (Global Online AcademyFall 2014)

Photography can be a powerful and persuasive tool. This course is designed for students to learn how to give an emotional context to social, political, environmental, and global issues through photography. Students will learn how to prepare for and execute specific types of photographs, as well as the technical elements of digital editing. While students work on photo-based projects they will simultaneously engage in discussions about topics such as the appropriate use of Photoshop, or the ethics of digital advertising. Students will be given opportunities to interpret specific global issues through their own photographs. In addition to taking photographs, students will write descriptions and reflections, and give constructive feedback on their peers’ work. Students enrolled in Digital Photography must have access to a digital camera.

Graphic Design (Global Online AcademyFall 2014)

This course will explore the relationship between information and influence from a graphic design perspective. What makes a message persuasive and compelling? What helps audiences and viewers sort and make sense of information? Using an integrated case study and design-based approach, this course aims to deepen students’ design, visual, and information literacies. Students will be empowered to design and prototype communication projects they are passionate about. Topics addressed include: principles of design & visual communication; infographics; digital search skills; networks and social media; persuasion and storytelling with multimedia; and social activism on the Internet. Student work will include individual and collaborative group projects, graphic design, content curation, some analytical and creative writing, peer review and critiques, and online presentations.

The Graphic Novel (Global Online AcademySpring 2015)

In the digital age stories take form in a variety of media and reach a diversity of audiences. The graphic novel lets authors communicate their story in both pictures and words. This course will explore digital narratives, as well as graphic novels in a variety of forms, and look at these texts with a focus on story and place. Students will have an opportunity to tell their stories, and create their own short graphic novels. In addition, students will be asked to reflect on their writing and artistic processes throughout the semester. No artistic experience is needed for this course.

Music Theory and Digital Composition (Global Online AcademySpring 2015)

This course focuses on the building blocks of music (scales, chords, keys, intervals, harmonic relationships, rhythm and meter) with the ultimate goal of helping students create compositions of their own. Students will use a variety of online resources to build their skills and to learn to create and arrange music using various digital media. The intent is for students to craft their own work without resorting to pre-determined, canned, digital samples, but rather to draw from their own intellect the musical tools that can be written down, tweaked, and ultimately performed and recorded. Class members will share their work with others online, offer peer feedback in conjunction with faculty guidance, and begin building a body of their own compositions.

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 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. 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 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 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 artform 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


Introduction to Computer Science

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.

Advanced Computer Science (honors level)

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.

Advanced Topics in Computer Science (honors level)

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. 

Global Online Academy

Computer Programming 1: JAVA (Global Online AcademyYearlong)

This course teaches students how to write programs in the Java programming language. Students will develop problem solving and computational thinking skills framed by the questions: How do computers store information? How do they make intelligent decisions? How can they efficiently process large tasks? Students will learn the major syntactical elements of the Java language though objected oriented design. The emphasis in the course will be on creating intelligent systems though the fundamentals of Computer Science. Students will write working programs through short lab assignments and more extended projects that incorporate graphics and animation. No previous computer programming knowledge is necessary

Computer Programming 2: Analyzing Data with Python (Global Online AcademySpring 2015)

In this course, students will utilize the Python programming language to read, manipulate and analyze data. The course emphasizes using real world datasets, which are often large, messy, and inconsistent. The prerequisite for this course is familiarity with and hands-on experience using some high-order programming language, such as Java, C++, VisualBasic, or Python itself. Because of the powerful data structures and clear syntax of Python, it is one of the most widely used programming languages in scientific computing. There are a multitude of practical applications of Python in fields like biology, engineering, and statistics.

iOS App Development (Global Online AcademySpring 2015) 

Learn how to build apps for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad and publish them in the App Store. Students will work much like a small startup: collaborating as a team, sharing code, and learning to communicate with each other throughout the course. Students will learn the valuable skills of creativity, collaboration, and communication as they create something incredibly cool, challenging, and worthwhile. Note: For this course, it is required that students have access to a computer running the most current version of Mac OS X. An iOS device that can run apps (iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad) is also highly recommended.


Required Courses | Open Electives | Senior Electives

Required Courses

Freshman English

Freshman English focuses on writing as a process and on reading culturally diverse works which 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 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 The Tempest, Lan Samantha Chang's Hunger, as well as selected poems and short stories reflecting diverse voices and points of view."

Sophomore English

Sophomore English is a genre survey course designed to examine questions of personal and cultural identity, to develop analytical and persuasive skills, and to impart the vocabulary necessary for literary analysis. The fall begins with a unit entitled “Postcolonial Literature: The Empire Writes Back,” a study of the work of writers from the former British Empire. Students examine poems by Achebe, Walcott, Yeats, and Wright; Ngugi’s novel, A Grain of Wheat; and Fugard’s play, “Master Harold”…and the boys. In the winter, students continue their exploration of identity and culture—including issues of race and “othering”—with Shakespeare’s Othello. The second semester begins with a formal consideration of lyric poetry, with students focusing on “fixed forms” such as the villanelle and the sestina, as well as on “shaping forms” such as the ode and the elegy. Students also write a paper and teach a lesson on a Romantic or Victorian poem. “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote” arrives, students examine The Canterbury Tales, and again return to the topics of identity and culture through a consideration of class, occupation, and religion. They end the semester with a study of the essay. Over the year, students write essays that include literary analyses and creative narratives, generated through a collaborative process that includes multiple drafting, peer editing, and metacritical reflection. Participants give two formal presentations based on their writing. Students memorize and recite the School Chapter, the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales, and two lyric poems. Class traditions include The Winter’s Tale, Chaucer Day, and the sophomore epistolary project.

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, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Allen Ginsberg, Toni Morrison, and Junot Diaz. 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

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.

Poetry Writing (Global Online Academy; Fall 2014)

This poetry-writing workshop explores identity and seeks to answer the question How are you shaped (or not) by the community you live in? Our goal will be to create a supportive online network of writers that uses language to discover unique and mutual understandings of what it means to be a global citizen from a local place. Students will draft and revise poems, provide and receive frequent feedback, and read a range of modern and contemporary poets whose work is grounded in place. Sample assignments include audio and video recording, an online journal, study of performance poetry, peer video-conferences, a video interview with a renowned poet, collaborative poetry anthologies, and a class publication. All writers will have the opportunity to send their work to international contests and publications. Note: This online elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's English requirements.

Fiction Writing Workshop (Global Online Academy; Spring 2015)

This course connects students who are interested in creative writing (primarily short fiction) and provides a space for supportive and constructive feedback. Students will gain experience in the workshop model, learning how to effectively critique and discuss one another's writing in a digital environment. In addition to developing skills as a reader within a workshop setting, students will work to develop their own writing identities through a variety of exercises. The course will capitalize on the geographic diversity of the student body by eliciting stories that shed light on both the commonalities and differences of life experiences in different locations. Additionally, we will read and discuss the work of authors from around the globe. Students’ essential responsibilities will be twofold: to act as writers and readers. Both will require participation in discussions of various formats within our online community, as well as dedicated time outside of class reading one another’s work and writing pieces for the workshop. Note: This online elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's 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 2014-15.)

Fall Semester

From Romance to Novel

We examine the development of the novel and narrative styles from the medieval "roman," or romance to famous novels of the 20th C. 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 in novels from the modern period, which focus on love against the backdrop of war. Readings may include Beroul's Tristan and Iseult, Madame de Lafayette’s The Princess of Cleves, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Rebecca West's Return of the Soldier, Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient.

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 andfusion. 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.

Southern Gothic

This course will explore the Southern Gothic tradition in literature, film, and music. We will examine characteristics associated with the gothic impulse—the idea of the “grotesque,” the use of folklore and myth, dark humor, social disorder, graphic violence, freaks—and discuss how writers used these to explore ideas about race, class, gender and sexuality, tradition, and family relationships. If the gothic reveals what we might call the “dark side” of American life, what cultural fears and anxieties do we find expressed here? We will read texts by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Charles Chesnutt, RichardWright, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson, Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Spencer, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Breece D’J Pancake, Harry Crews, Raymond Carver, and Karen Russell. Summer Reading: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.

Modernity and Modernism

An exploration of the culture of industrial capitalism called Modernity, and asurvey of some of the literary work that has emerged in response to that culture, often designated by the capacious term “Modernism.” The class will begin by reading selections from three so-called “Prophets of Modernity”: Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. We will then use the framework offered by these three authors to analyze a number of literary works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We will read poetry by William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, H. D., and T. S. Eliot; fictionfrom Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and Jean Rhys; drama by Samuel Beckett; and cultural criticism from MatthewArnold, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Benjamin. All of these authors are concerned, in one way or another, with the plight of the individual in an increasingly alienating environment, with the relations of men and women, with the dynamics of race and social class, and with the problematic role of culture in the new “modern” world. These will be our concerns as well.

Shakespearean Visions

This course is centered on William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies: Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. While we will luxuriate in the beauty of The Bard’s finest, we will also explore twentieth-century echoes of his visions, including Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Ran. In order to grasp Shakespeare’s impact on modern theater, we will begin with a reading of the medieval morality play, Everyman. Summer reading: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Spring Semester

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 (2008), and selections from M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) and Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon (2013).

Reading and Writing Memoir About Difference

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 Neal 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.

Faust Through the Ages

This course explores the Faust myth from a variety of disciplinary and creative perspectives. “To sell one’s soul,” “to make a deal with the devil,” or even “to beat the devil at his own game,” are all expressions that have retained their currency for centuries. The legendary Faust, a man who sells his soul to the devil to achieve knowledge and pleasure, has appeared repeatedly in world literature since the 16th century, serving as a symbol for the folly, daring, and danger in pursuing human ambition at any price. We will examine the development of the Faust motif through time, from the legend’s origins in the myth of Prometheus, the Tao Te Ching, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Genesis to its emergence in Renaissance-Reformation Europe and its many iterations in recent popular culture. Tracing its evolution through a rich history of adaptation in literature, drama, music, film, and art, we will read Faust adaptations by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Goethe, Oscar Wilde, and Sherman Alexie. We will alsoevaluate F.W. Murnau’s 1926 silent film, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s staging of Marlowe’splay, Svankmajer’s surrealist Faust, and music by Schubert, Berlioz, Liszt, Robert Johnson, the Rolling Stones, Queen, U2, and Tenacious D.

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 hasrendered 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, and Scott’s Blade Runner.


The primary focus of this course is Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first canticle in his poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy (La Commedia). After a close reading of this fundamental text, we will explore some more recent literary representations of hell, and consider the ways in which they echo Dante’s unique vision. Included in our discussion will be the way the journey to the underworld serves as a transformative experience for its hero. In addition to Inferno, texts will include Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, poetry by T.S. Eliot, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.


Required Courses | Electives | Online Electives

Required Courses

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

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

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

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.


Yearlong Electives

New Media Studies

This collaborative yearlong course combines study of print media history, news in the digital age, and core journalistic skills while allowing students to practice writing for an audience as the CatlinSpeak staff. CatlinSpeak is an award-winning online news magazine and print newspaper that is designed, written, and published by 10th to 12th grade students. The first six weeks focus on learning the fundamentals of journalistic writing, understanding the historical arc of journalism, and becoming comfortable with online tools such as Twitter and Wordpress, which are used by news sites around the world. Students gain applied skills such as layout, blogging, vlogging, and news tweeting as well as the crafting of story budget lines, leads, op-eds, blurbs, features, photo essays, and graphics. The staff members work as a team to produce daily written and video content for the website and quarterly print editions. In addition, students research, discuss, and write about current events from around school to around the world.

New Media Studies II (honors level)

This course runs simultaneously with New Media Studies, but requires more responsibility, vision and leadership. Two or three students are chosen every year to participate at the honors level and manage the CatlinSpeak staff as editors. Duties include running meetings, tracking deadlines for multiple staff members, working with staff to grow ideas into publishable material, having an extra weekly meeting with course advisors, advertising to the school and larger community, assisting in creating course content, and staying apprised of the latest trends in digital and print media. On occasions, honors students are required to organize public events such as the two mayoral debates hosted by CatlinSpeak in 2012. Enrollment is by consent of instructors.

Fall Semester

Economics (Honors Level)

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? Do taxes inhibit or facilitate prosperity? Why did the housing market collapse in 2007, and what is the best way to respond to this problem? This course introduces students to the economic tools and reasoning required to address these—and many other—sophisticated contemporary questions, and to help inform student choices as consumers, workers, and citizens. Both national and international contexts will be engaged, often using readings from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist to examine economic events and debates. This course is open to juniors and seniors.

Globalization: Debates & Controversies (Honors Level)

Globalization is both a process and a state of being. We can see that the world is swiftly becoming ever more interconnected: blueberries from Chile, BlackBerrys from China. It is also a way of thinking: we know we are connected to people in China, India and elsewhere in new ways and we therefore think about our role in the world differently. Globalization occurs at the level of economics, politics, culture, and the physical environment; it can be resisted but it is undeniably shaping our lives. In this semester-long course, we will examine the ways in which globalization is taking place before moving on to a more experiential, cooperative project. First, we will look at the way the global economy works by learning about the World Trade organization and other such global bodies. We will examine the processes of outsourcing and offshoring, thinking about how they affect lives everywhere, and consider the debate between seeing these and other changes as “globalization” or “Americanization.” Then we will turn to the issue of climate change, 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 take part in policy debates on this current and vital issue.

Palma Scholars Seminar: Measuring Success—The Analytics Revolution (Honors Level)

What does it mean to be successful? How can we measure that success and track improvement over time within a specific field? What are the keys to taking a good product and making it great? And how can a team function most cohesively, ensuring that, through effective collaboration, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? This course will develop tools for defining and measuring success through the fields of sports analytics, educational theory, business, and psychology before ultimately formulating strategies by which people and organizations can elevate themselves from good to great.

Transitional Justice (Honors Level)

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 seniors.

Spring Semester

9/11 (Honors Level)

September 11, 2001, was a tragedy that must be understood on multiple levels. Locally, it radically altered New York City, leaving physical and psychological scars. Nationally, it shook a superpower, prompting widespread fear, confusion, and new policies that highlighted the tension between freedom and security. Internationally, it rewrote diplomatic relationships, launching the War on Terror and spurring many human rights concerns. While 9/11 was a starting point for all of this, it was also an endpoint, the product of decades of global transformations. This class situates 9/11 where it belongs, at the center of an extended narrative, amidst the contemporary trends of post-imperialism, globalization, and terrorism. This course is open to seniors.

The Constitution in American Life and Society (Honors Level)

This course is an investigation of the US Constitution as a document active in American lives past and present. By examining constitutional debates, judicial decisions, and through a close reading of the Constitution itself, students will consider issues from the balance of power between the branches of government, the right to declare wars, and civil rights. We will study historical issues in depth, such as the background to and creation of the Constitution and key cases, including Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. Students will also research, debate, and write essays on a number of current constitutional debates—including cases now and soon to be before the Supreme Court, including campaign finance, same-sex marriage and government surveillance programs. The semester is capped with a creative assignment in which students will use video, audio, a graphic novel or some other medium to share their research on a contemporary constitutional issue. This course is open to seniors.

Economics of the Innovation Revolution: Making, Coding, and Failing

This course will begin by defining and exploring the “Innovation Revolution” by reading course texts and conducting case studies of the fastest growing companies in Portland who are “making, coding and failing” their way to success. Students will then connect with local makers, coders and risk takers to write biographies on local innovators, while identifying the skills and business practices needed to run a profitable company that makes, codes and fails. Teacher and student will work together as learners to develop their making, coding, and failing skills in partnership with organizations like ADX Portland, Code Scouts and local startup incubators. Teacher and students will build online portfolios to showcase their skill development and apply these skills sets by developing a product, service or company by the end of the course. Student portfolios will be graded by the teacher and by peers based on process, progress, and collaboration. Course texts will include: Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson. This course is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Palma Scholars Seminar: Sports and Human Rights (Honors Level)

We are living through a stretch in which a number of dubious regimes host major international athletics competitions—the Beijing Summer Olympics, the Sochi Winter Olympics, Qatar's World Cup, among others. Of course, this isn't new; Nazi Germany famously hosted the 1936 Olympics while Argentina's military dictatorship celebrated that country's home-field championship in the World Cup. To what extent does bringing international competitions to problematic states promote the cause of human rights and political freedom? Do these events spur economic development that is beneficial to all? Those competitions serve as a jumping-off point for a broader examination of the intersection of sport and human rights throughout the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. How can sport serve as a vehicle for social change and justice, and under what circumstances does it reenforce elite interests?

Global Online Academy

Fall Semester

9/11 in a Global Context (Global Online Academy)

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day that changed the world in profound ways. In this course students will explore the causes of 9/11, the events of the day itself, and its aftermath locally, nationally, and around the world. In place of a standard chronological framework, students instead will view these events through a series of separate lenses. Each lens will represent a different way to view the attacks and will allow students to understand 9/11 as an event with complex and interrelated causes and outcomes. Using a variety of technologies and activities, students will work individually and with peers to evaluate each lens. They will then explore the post-9/11 world and conclude the course by planning their own 9/11 memorial.

Applying Philosophy to Modern Global Issues (Global Online Academy)

This is an applied philosophy course that connects pressing contemporary issues with broad-range philosophical ideas and controversies, drawn from multiple traditions and many centuries. Students will use ideas from influential philosophers to shed light on recent political events such as the global economic downturn and the sweeping revolutions of the Arab Spring, as well as new developments in fields as diverse as biology, cognitive science, and political theory. In addition to introducing students to the work of philosophers as diverse as Confucius and Martin Heidegger, this course also aims to be richly interdisciplinary, incorporating models and methods from diverse fields including history, journalism, literary criticism, and media studies.

Genocide and Human Rights (Global Online Academy)

Students in this course study several of the major genocides of the 20th century (Armenian, the Holocaust, Cambodian, and Rwandan), analyze the role of the international community in responding to and preventing further genocides with particular attention to the Nuremberg Tribunals, and examine current human rights crises around the world. Students will read primary and secondary sources, participate in both synchronous and asynchronous discussions with classmates, write brief papers, read short novels, watch documentaries and develop a human rights report card web site about a nation in the world of their choice.

Microeconomics (Global Online Academy)

In this course, students will learn fundamental economic concepts, which will enable them to develop economic ways of thinking and problem-solving skills that they will be able to use in their lives—as consumers, savers, members of the work force, responsible citizens and effective participants in the global economy. Students will deepen their understanding of basic microeconomic theory through class discussion and debate, problem solving, and written reflection. Students will also engage in a stock market simulation. As a culminating activity, students will develop their own business proposals based on sound economic rationale and theory and "pitch" the idea to their classmates for venture capital funding.

This We Believe: Comparative Religions (Global Online Academy)

A theme-based comparison of the world's religions yields a deeper understanding both of the diversity of perspectives in our global population and of the truth that is within all traditions. Students in this course will develop a more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices, and learn to engage in effective and productive collaboration with peers around the world. After establishing a foundational knowledge of “the Big Five”: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, we will then apply a thematic approach, exploring specific characteristics of religion through the lenses of various faith traditions.

Spring Semester

Comparative Politics (Global Online Academy)

In 2012, the Economist issued a report titled “Democracy at a Standstill.” This course uses the comparative model to ask students to consider whether democracy is in fact at a standstill, but more importantly, if and why we should care? By looking at current events, reading scholarly research, analyzing data, conducting personal interviews and engaging in a series of debates, students will constantly re-evaluate their own beliefs and understandings about how power should be distributed and utilized.

Gender Studies (Global Online Academy)

This course uses the concept of gender to examine a range of topics and disciplines that might include: feminism, gay and lesbian studies, women’s studies, popular culture, and politics. Throughout the course students will examine the intersection of gender with other social identifiers: class, race, sexual orientation, culture, and ethnicity. Students will read about, write about, and discuss gender issues as they simultaneously reflect on the ways that gender has manifested in and impacted their lives.

Macroeconomics (Global Online Academy)

In this course students will study macroeconomic theory as it relates to domestic and global policies on employment, national income, government spending, and the impact of foreign spending on domestic economies and foreign exchange markets. Students will use real world events and data as case studies in order to develop a better understanding of the driving forces behind domestic and international macroeconomic markets. In the final portion of the course, students will have the opportunity to develop their own solutions to a local/global issue of their choice (such as poverty, environmental pollution, and limited access to education) based on their new understanding of macroeconomic theory.


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

Algebra and Geometry

Algebra I

This is a comprehensive course in which students master fundamental algebraic topics and techniques. These include evaluation and simplification of algebraic expressions, solving and graphing linear equations, linear systems, operations with polynomials, radical and rational expressions, and factoring. Throughout the course students encounter many opportunities to gain problem-solving skills and number sense. Students use manipulatives to gain an understanding of abstract concepts. Those who successfully complete this course enroll in Algebra II/Geometry, Year One the following year.

Algebra IB

This is a course in which students finish mastering fundamental algebraic topics and techniques. These include evaluation and simplification of algebraic expressions, solving and graphing linear equations, linear systems, operations with polynomials, radical and rational expressions, and factoring. Throughout the course students encounter many opportunities to gain problem-solving skills and number sense. Students use multiple methods to gain an understanding of abstract concepts. Those who successfully complete this course enroll in Algebra II/Geometry, Year One the following year.

Algebra II/Geometry, Year One

This course introduces and integrates concepts of geometry and intermediate algebra emphasizing an inductive approach. Geometer’s Sketchpad and Fathom computer programs, a graphing calculator, and manipulative tools such as patty paper, compass and straightedge are used to help students discover fundamental geometrical and algebraic relationships. Topics include properties of parallel and perpendicular lines, triangle, polygon, and circle properties, right triangle trigonometry, transformations, linear and quadratic functions, arithmetic sequences, variation, proportion, and similarity. Coordinate geometry is emphasized throughout. If time allows, students will also study some elementary statistics, including measures of central tendency and fitting data to a line. Prerequisite: Algebra I or the equivalent.

Accelerated Algebra II/Geometry, Year One (Honors Level)

This course will cover all of the topics of Algebra II/Geometry, Year One, at an accelerated pace and a greater level of depth. We will place extra emphasis on deductive reasoning and the role of proof in mathematics. Additional topics may be included. Prerequisite: Algebra I or the equivalent; consent of the instructor and the department chair.

Algebra II/Geometry, Year Two

This course is the second in a two-year sequence and continues to integrate geometry and intermediate algebra concepts, but now emphasizing deductive reasoning. Students write various forms of formal proofs in order to establish many of the geometrical and algebraic conjectures they formed in the previous course, as well as additional principles. New topics include congruent triangles, inequalities in triangles, solid geometry, real number exponents, inverse functions, higher degree polynomial functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, complex numbers, Pythagorean proofs, rational functions, and coordinate geometry proofs. Prerequisite: Algebra II/Geometry, Year One, or the equivalent.

Accelerated Algebra II/Geometry, Year Two (Honors Level)

This course will cover all of the topics of Algebra II/Geometry, Year Two, at an accelerated pace and a greater level of depth. Additional topics may be included. Prerequisite: Algebra II/Geometry, Year One, or the equivalent; consent of the instructor and the department chair.

Intermediate Electives

One intermediate elective is offered each year. The prerequisite for all intermediate electives is completion of Algebra II/Geometry, Year Two, or the equivalent.

Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry

This year-long course provides instruction on functions, statistics, probability, and trigonometry for the general college preparatory student. Emphasis is placed on polynomial, exponential, logarithmic, and rational functions, and the development and use of the trigonometric functions on the unit circle (including the study of right and oblique triangle applications). It also includes a component on the gathering and use of data to address real-world issues, statistical influence, and probability.

Game Theory (Global Online Academy; Spring 2015)

Do you play games? Ever wonder if you’re using “the right” strategy? What makes one strategy better than another? In this course, we’ll explore a branch of mathematics known as game theory, which answers these questions and many more. Game theory is widely applicable in the real world as we face dilemmas and challenges every day, most of which we can mathematically treat as games! We will consider significant global events like the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mandela’s rise in South Africa, or the rise of Nobel Peace Prize winner Sirleaf in Liberia from a math perspective. Specific mathematical ideas we'll discuss include two person zero sum games, utility theory, two person non-zero sum games, multi-player games, game trees, matrix algebra, linear optimization, and applications of game theory techniques to a plethora of real world problems. (Prerequisite: Comfortable with Algebra) Note: This is an online course.

Statistics 1 (Fall 2014)

This course will cover gathering, describing, and displaying data, and topics in probability. Students will learn how to gather data by conducting censuses, surveys, and experiments around their school. We will also cover topics including, but not limited to, boxplots, the Normal model, and linear regression. We will always strive to connect the statistical material learned in class with real world applications to economics, elections, weather, and other themes. The semester will culminate with a unit on probability in which students will calculate the expected value of casino games. The two major goals of this course are for students to see the connection between mathematics and the real world, and for them to gain the tools to discern between reliable and questionable data that they are confronted with daily in the media and in everyday life.

Statistics 2 (Spring 2015)

This course will cover how to analyze data using statistical methods. Students will study confidence intervals and tests of inference including, but not limited to, hypothesis tests for proportions and means and the Chi-squared test. With the tools from this course, students will be able to form educated opinions from data on questions ranging from, “Is global temperature increasing?” to “Do SAT scores predict success later in life?” We will always strive to connect the statistical material learned in class with real world applications to economics, elections, weather, and other themes. The two major goals of this course are for students to see the connection between mathematics and the real world, and for them to gain the tools to discern between reliable and questionable data that they are confronted with daily in the media and in everyday life. Statistics 1 is a useful, but not mandatory, prerequisite.

Advanced Electives


A short review of the concepts of functions and their properties is followed by a thorough study of circular and triangular trigonometry. Students study conic sections, logarithmic and exponential functions, the graphs of rational functions, Binomial Theorem, arithmetic and geometric series and sequences, polar coordinates, 2-D vectors, polynomial graphs and functions, and parametric equations. Students use paper, pencil, and graphing calculators. Completion of this course prepares students to take Honors Statistics and/or Honors Calculus I. Prerequisite: Algebra II/Geometry, Year Two, or the equivalent.

Accelerated Precalculus (Honors Level)

Topics covered include all of those listed for Precalculus. In addition, Accelerated Precalculus includes three-dimensional vectors, DeMoivre’s Theorem, and mathematical induction. This course is for students who have a strong interest in mathematics and want to pursue advanced topics in great depth. Students are prepared to take Statistics and/or Calculus I upon successful completion of this course. Prerequisite: Algebra II/Geometry, Year Two, or the equivalent.


This course 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 (Geometer’s Sketchpad, Mathematica, Desmos, etc.) will be utilized to help students understand concepts. Introductory rules for finding derivatives and integrals will be mastered and applied. This course is for students who want an introduction to calculus, but without the rigor required of preparing for an AP level exam.

Honors Calculus I (Honors Level)

Students enrolling in this course are assumed to have strong fundamental algebra and precalculus skills. Topics include limits, continuity, derivatives, integrals and their applications, slope fields, and separable differential equations. Concepts are approached through a three-step process: graphically, numerically, and analytically. 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: Precalculus or Accelerated Precalculus.

Honors Calculus II (Honors Level)

This course is a continuation of Calculus I and includes infinite sequences and series; parametric, polar, and vector function calculus; slope fields; Euler’s method; L’Hôpital’s rule; improper integrals; integration techniques; and an introduction to differential equations. If time permits, multivariable calculus is introduced. Students are prepared to take the Advanced Placement Calculus BC exam in May. Prerequisite: Calculus I or the equivalent.

Multivariable Calculus (Global Online Academy)

In this course, students will explore vector algebra and functions, matrices, curves in space, arc length and curvature, and velocity and acceleration. Further topics include partial differentiation, local extrema, exact differentials, the chain rule, directional derivatives, gradients, double and triple integration, line integrals, and volume. Students must have access to a computerized 3-D graphing utility, such as Grapher (a standard utility on Mac computers) or Autograph, and must be comfortable using learning to use new technology independently. Prerequisite: Calculus I. Note: This is an online course.

Honors Statistics (Honors Level)

This course begins with an in-depth study of descriptive statistics, variation, and probability, which leads into the study of inferential statistics. Topics 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. If time permits, a few of the following topics will be presented based on student interests: Continuous random variables, Monte Carlo Methods, nonparametric statistical methods, multivariate analysis of variance and covariance, hierarchical linear modeling, and exploratory factor analysis. In addition, students will learn how to critically analyze quantitative research, evaluate the evidence on which generalizations are made, and write a quantitative methods paper.

Advanced Statistics and Data Science (Global Online Academy; Fall 2014)

This course is designed to help students discover the power, diversity, and broad applicability of statistics. Students will learn a variety of data analysis techniques, such as multiple regression, simulation studies, and survival analysis, with an emphasis on showing how these methods have revolutionized the use of statistics in fields such as engineering, environmental studies, economics, and medicine. Within each unit, guided activities assist students in working through the entire process of a real-world case study. The course uses an inquiry-based approach that teaches advanced statistical techniques through group work and hands-on exploration of current research questions. By researching the literature, planning and carrying out experiments, and presenting their results, students in this course will experience data analysis as it is actually practiced. Note: Students should have taken at least one semester or equivalent of an introductory statistics course. *Students taking this course are eligible to receive transferable Grinnell College credit.

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 which will enable them to express their opinions, intentions, desires, personal interests, 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 uses 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 / VI (Honors Level)

In this honors-level course, students learn more grammar and concepts that enable them to communicate accurately in various social and cultural contexts. Video or culturally authentic materials and literature will be employed as they tie in with the theme of each chapter. Students who complete Level V and would like to continue their study in Chinese have an option to take the course at Level VI the following year.


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 the Upper School second-level course. It gives students the ability to function adequately in French as they use oral and written expression, listening, reading, and interactive speaking skills. Students acquire essential vocabulary and grammatical structures, including present, past, and future tenses. The course is conducted in French, with English explanations if necessary, particularly in grammar. Cultural knowledge is an integral part of both language learning and successful communication. Yearlong course.

French II: Interpersonal Communication

This course involves continued work on acquiring grammatical structures and vocabulary, as well as developing greater competence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The course promotes a massive review of vocabulary, grammar and structures while introducing students to the richness and diversity of the Francophone world. Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics—oral, written, recorded and videotaped. They engage in conversations and communicative exchanges. Role playing is a key part of the course. Cultural knowledge is an integral part of both language learning and successful communication.

French III: Interpretive Communication

This course is designed to increase students’ overall language proficiency – their ability to hear, speak, read and write French with ease and confidence, while simultaneously expanding their cultural knowledge and broadening their worldview. The course is conducted in French. Course materials include the Latitudes 3 books, Grammaire en Dialogue, news articles and podcasts, French websites, songs and films, plays, fables and poetry, including works by Molière and Jean de la Fontaine. Through exposure to these materials and a focus on new grammatical concepts, students learn to use more sophisticated vocabulary, complex grammatical structures and all of the major verb tenses and moods, including the conditional and the subjunctive. In addition to exploring current topics in the media, students in French III are exposed to 17th century French literature. French III concludes with a survey of the many francophone countries of the world, enabling students to expand their worldview.

French IV: Conversation & Composition

Section I (Literature): Students are expected to have mastered the fundamentals of written and oral expression in view of the more complex and linguistically sophisticated material under study. Students review and study major grammatical structures, read extensively, and develop increasing accuracy in written and oral expression through discussion of literary texts and essay writing. The course is a unique approach to literature, encouraging students to read and create with the language as they explore both classical and non-traditional French and Francophone literature. Excerpts are selected to facilitate reading activities and to break down the fear and mistrust that many students have of authors and their works. 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.

Section 2 (Theater and Film): In this course, students will improve their comprehension and conversation skills in discussions of French and Francophone plays and films. The first semester will focus on theater. After reading and acting out scenes from several plays, students will write their own short plays and produce them. This will help students sharpen their oratory skills, pronunciation and elocution.The second semester will focus on Francophone films, which will serve as thought-provoking catalysts for conversations and debates. In this class, students will be exposed to Francophone culture, vernacular language and regional accents. The course will include readings, and both creative and analytic writing.

French V: Literature & Art (Honors Level)

This course provides an in-depth, intensive study of the language through a large number and variety of excerpts, novels, poetry, and articles from the current press, students explore topics of historical and cultural interest. These present challenges from both the vocabulary and the text itself. Students engage in literary discussion, debate, critical analysis of French art, and write in the methodology of expository papers in French. Students are encouraged to put aside their own cultural vision in order to learn from the values of other cultures. Plays and films complete the course to develop deeper critical thinking skills and to understand the cultural and social contexts of the French-speaking world. Student interests guide the selection of films and topics. Cultural knowledge is an integral part of both language learning and successful communication.


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, 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 almost entirely in Spanish.

Spanish III: Communication B

Level three involves further study of grammatical structures and verb tenses, the acquisition of additional vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and the development of a solid oral proficiency at the intermediate-high level. Students focus on mastering the skill of narrating past, present, and future events with a particular emphasis on the ability to manipulate the various past tenses, plus the conditional and the subjunctive. Classes are conducted entirely in Spanish, and students are expected to participate verbally every day. A vareity of methodologies will be used to study the language, 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 at the upper-intermediate / advanced level. 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.

Spanish Seminar A (Honors Level)

In the first semester, students will students will apply Spanish language skills to the study of people, cultures, and communities in twenty-two Spanish-speaking countries, including the United States. The course will focus on key issues that have affected and/or are affecting the development of these communities. Students will gain the historical perspective needed to better understand the current composition of Portland´s thriving and steadily growing Hispanic/Latino population. Project based learning, service and experiential learning will be integral components of the curriculum to make our work engaging and relevant. In the second semester, students will apply their Spanish language skills to the study of the written work, style, voice, and perspective of contemporary women writers from the Hispanic world. We will explore a variety of genres and topics over the course of the semester. We will discuss the works of writers including (but not limited to) Esmeralda Santiago, Julia Álvarez, Laura Esquivel, Josefina Aldecoa, Wendy Guerra, Rigoberta Menchú, Isabel Allende, Cristina Garcia, Gloria L. Velásquez, Bessy Reyna, and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Along with our analysis we will also contextualize the work of these authors with a cultural and framework. As one may imagine, this will be a reading intensive class.

Spanish Seminar B (Honors Level)

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.

Global Online Academy

Arabic I: Language through Culture (Global Online AcademyYearlong)

This full-year course will highlight Modern Standard Arabic, and some of the spoken dialect of the Levant. With an emphasis on Arabic culture, students will learn commonly used expressions and phrases from the Levant area. Students will develop their skills in listening, reading, writing, forming grammatically correct structured sentences, and most importantly, conversation. This will be accomplished through podcasts, videos, culture circles discussions, web conferencing, and collaborations in group projects. In addition, students will have direct conversations with native speakers of Arabic, through a virtual club called “Shu Fe Maa Fe”, where students are required to meet online with their assigned partner and learn about a certain cultural topic every week, such as traditional food, greetings, gestures, values, history and more. Since Arabic is becoming one of the most functional languages in the world, especially in the areas of commerce, business, and trade, students participating in this course can avail themselves of the opportunity to learn the language in a highly stimulating and rich cultural context. Note: This online elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's language requirements.

Japanese I: Language through Culture (Global Online AcademyYearlong)

This full-year course is a unique combination of Japanese culture and language, weaving cultural comparison with the study of basic Japanese language and grammar. While examining various cultural topics such as literature, art, lifestyle and economy, students will learn the basics of the Japanese writing system (Hiragana and Katakana), grammar and vocabulary. Through varied synchronous and asynchronous assignments, including hands-on projects and face-to-face communications, students will develop their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. The cultural study and discussion will be conducted in English, with topics alternating every two to three weeks. The ultimate goal of this course is to raise awareness and appreciation of different cultures through learning the basics of the Japanese language. The focus of this course will be 60 percent on language and 40 percent on culture. This course is appropriate for beginner-level students. Note: This online elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's language requirements.

Physical Education & Health

Health | Physical Education | Interscholastic Sports | Seasonal Calendar


Health 9

Health 9 is required for all freshmen and meets through the year on alternating days with Foundations, Study Group and Lifetime Fitness. The major topics of Health 9 focus on two parts.

Human Sexuality: Students learn about human anatomy and physiology, as well as the psychological and social aspects of sexuality. Students study behaviors that maintain and improve relationships. Course content includes accurate information about and discussion of healthy sexual behavior and choices, STDs, conception and contraception, rape and sexual harassment, sexual orientation, homophobia, and HIV/AIDS.

Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles: Students examine answers to current questions about healthy living. Students learn how a well-balanced diet is important for maintaining good health and disease prevention. There is a particular focus on adolescent eating habits, especially junk foods and snacking. At the end of the unit, students use a computer program to analyze their eating habits over a three-day period. Results are compared to the Recommended Daily Allowance for their individual profiles.

Health 10: Social Influences of Behavior
Health 10 is required for all sophomores. 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.

Physical Education

Offerings during the school day

Lifetime Fitness
Lifetime Fitness is required for graduation, and 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.

TRX Training (Winter Trimester)
This class is an exercise class using suspension training body weight exercises that build body strength, flexibility, and core strength at the same time. Read more about TRX at

Performance Fitness (Fall and Spring Trimesters)
Performance fitness is a core-strength, functional-training fitness class. The goal of this class is to gain physical competence in key areas of physical fitness including: endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility and balance. Students train using a variety of equipment including kettle bells, medicine balls, dumbbells, physioballs, spin bikes, tread mills, TRX, and rowing machines. Functional training emphasizes exercises that use many muscle groups and movement patterns that simulate the demands of our bodies in daily life and sports.

Co-Ed Volleyball, Badminton, Tennis (Winter Trimester)
This PE class includes instruction in basic and advanced volleyball, badminton, and tennis skills and scrimmage games.

Disc Golf, Ultimate Frisbee, and Tennis (Fall and Spring Trimesters)
Disc golf is played much like traditional golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, however, players use a flying disc, or Frisbee. The sport was formalized in the 1970s and shares with "ball golf" the object of completing each hole in the fewest number of strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, least number of throws. With Ultimate Frisbee, students will learn beginning and advanced techniques and compete against each other in scrimmage matches.

Offerings after school

Beginning Tennis (Fall Trimester)
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 Trimester)
Workout in the weight room with a personalized workout regime or join a group instructor-led workout.

Yoga (Spring Trimester)
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.

POM / Dance (Fall and Winter Trimesters)
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.

Outdoor Program

OLA: Outdoor Leadership and Adventure (Fall Trimester)
The program is a group-oriented effort to expose students to new skills and experiences associated with outdoor education. It is progressive and is designed so that individual sessions build on previous ones. Attendance at all events is important for success, for both the individual and the group. Activities include a ropes and challenge course, orienteering, GPS work, canoeing, rock climbing, Ultimate Frisbee, rappelling, ecology, hiking, route finding, and mountain biking. To meet a one-term PE requirement, a student must participate in 36 hours of OLA activities. There is one required weekend trip over the course of the term.

Rock Climbing (Winter Trimester)
Students learn the basics of climbing and belay techniques, equipment maintenance, climbing safety, and risk assessment. 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. For guidelines on independent PE credit, click 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:

Basketball Basketball
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.)




PE & Health ClassesPE & Health ClassesPE & Health Classes
During the DayDuring the DayDuring the Day
Health 9 / Lifetime FitnessHealth 9 / Lifetime FitnessHealth 9 / Lifetime Fitness
 Health 10 Health 10 Health 10
 Performance Fitness TRX Training Performance Fitness
 Disc Golf, Ultimate Frisbee Co-Ed Volleyball, Badminton, Tennis Disc Golf, Ultimate Frisbee, Tennis
 After School After School After School
 OLA Rock Climbing (fee) Yoga (fee)
 Beginning Tennis Fitness by Design 
 POM/Dance Pom/Dance 
 Interscholastic Sports Interscholastic Sports Interscholastic Sports
 Cross-Country  Basketball Baseball
 Soccer Ski Team (fee) Golf (fee)
 Volleyball Swim Team Tennis
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.

Accelerated Science I and Science II (honors level)

These courses cover all of the topics of Science I and II at an accelerated pace and 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

Astronomy (Offered 2014-15; alternates with Geology)

This year-long course starts with the solar system, and how we know what we know about all the interestingly varied bodies that comprise it. Students will make their own measuring instruments to perform naked-eye astronomy, learning major constellations and how to locate planets along the way. Historical methods of astronomical scientific discovery will be discussed and used, leading to an appreciation of how our knowledge of the solar system has blossomed. The underlying physical principles governing the makeup and operation of the solar system will be investigated in activities, reading and discussion. In the second semester, we will extend our study beyond the solar system and investigate the larger universe beyond our immediate neighborhood, using the recent advances in science and technology that have led to a rapid expansion of our understanding of the operation of the universe. Extensive use is made of audiovisual material in presenting the historical, scientific, and aesthetic aspects of the material covered.

Geology (Offered in 2015-2016; 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.

Psychology Seminar

In this introductory course, students will research concepts related to brains, behavior, cognition, learning, and memory. Topics will include brain plasticity, psychodynamic theory, evolutionary psychology, and neuropsychology. Students meet regularly to discuss topics and present research. This Pass/Fail course meets once per cycle. It is open to seniors and is worth one-half credit in science. (Note: Students receive science credit, but this course does not count towards a student’s three-year science requirement.)

Science Teaching Assistant (year or semester)

Teaching assistants are vital contributors to our Science I and Science II classes. TA’s attend class each day and work directly with students. TA’s 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 TA’s 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

Organic Chemistry (Not offered 2014-2015; offered 2015-16)

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.

Water (Not offered 2014-15; offered 2015-16)

Water is essential to life as we know it. Its chemical and physical properties make water a unique necessity in biological systems. However, the era of cheap and plentiful access to water is ending, posing a potentially greater threat to humans than the loss of any other natural resource, including fossil fuels. This class will begin with an overview of why water is a key component in our ecosystem, how humans use water, and the cumulative effects of human activity on Earth’s freshwater supply. We will examine where our Portland water comes from and where it goes, how it provides energy for our daily lives, what our water footprint is, and other local issues. Field trips to water, wastewater, and hydroenergy sites will help us understand the relevance of water in our local community. This course will also explore social, economic, and environmental implications of water management and the key challenges that affect water conservation on a global scale.

Fall Semester 2014


In this course, we will delve more deeply into topics that were introduced in Science I and Science II to learn about the relationship between organisms and the environment in which they live. Why do some plants and animals exist in one place but not another? By the end of the semester, students should understand how individual organisms are specialized to inhabit specific niches in the limited number of places they are found on Earth.

Environmental Science

This course will focus on educating students to become discerning and actively engaged citizens regarding a range of environmental dilemmas. The first semester will concentrate on soil and food production, population dynamics and the challenges presented by an ever-expanding global population and the importance of biodiversity and its conservation. The second semester involves an in depth study of renewable and non-renewable energy sources and the future of energy, followed by the chemistry of air and water pollution. Recommended (but not required) prerequisite: Ecology.

Evolutionary Biology

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 rather than attempting to memorize the history of living things. How can we account for the extinction of dinosaurs and the existence of mites that crawl around our eyelids? How on earth 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, genetic base of evolutionary change, modes of speciation, molecular evolution, principles of systematic biology, paleontology and macroevolutionary trends in evolution (plants and animals), extinction and human evolution.


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.

Pathogens and Parasites

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 (Offered Fall 2014; Alternates with Physics B)

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.

Physics B: Waves, Sound, and Optics (Offered Fall 2015; alternates with Physics A)

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.

Structural Design and Engineering

Why do buildings, sculptures, and objects stand up? What geometries lead to stability? How does material choice inform the structure and design process? How can we connect form with function? What factors do you need to consider in creating an effective and aesthetic design? This project-based course explores the basic principles of designing and building functional and beautiful structures, objects, and mechanisms. Main topics include statics (loads, force, and torque), material science, and the design process. Students will be presented with a series of challenges to design and build. Attention will be paid to structural stability, use of materials, cost-effectiveness, and beauty and elegance of design. The class will involve field trips around Portland and research into current and historical structural design. It will also involve drawing, sculpting, prototyping, calculating, and hands-on building. (This course can be taken for Arts or Science credit.)

Spring Semester 2015

Anatomy and Physiology

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.

Chemistry of Art

This interdisciplinary course will introduce and apply chemical principles to understand the properties of common artistic materials. Activities will include both traditional chemistry experiments and art projects. Topics covered include the electronic structure of atoms and molecules and the nature of color, acid/base chemistry, electrochemical cells, and oxidation-reduction chemistry. These will be used to understand the properties of paints, paper, textiles, metals, ceramics, glasses, and glazes. Experiments may include extracting natural dyes, grinding pigments, papermaking, electroplating, and photographic developing and printing. (Open to students who have completed Science I and can be taken for Arts or Science credit.)

Chemistry and Microbiology of Food

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.

Experimental Chemistry

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.


This is a field-oriented class, with several required field trips throughout the semester. The final trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in May is required for credit. In class, we will study the different families of birds found in Oregon. We will also note which species are found in which biomes and what habitats they prefer. We will study the special adaptations of avian anatomy and physiology that make it possible for birds to function as they do. Much time will be spent learning how to identify, by sight and sound, the different species of birds found in Oregon, thus beginning what we believe will be a lifelong hobby for most class members.

Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism (Offered Spring 2016)

This semester-long course begins with an investigation into electric fields and currents. We will investigate circuit components such as resistors and capacitors and assemble various circuits. We’ll learn about logic circuits and build a simple calculator. The interaction of magnets and charged particles is very important to modern technology, and we will spend quite a bit of time in lecture, demonstration, and lab gaining a firm understanding of this critical concept.

Physics E – Electrical Engineering

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 2014

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.

An 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

In this course, students will collaboratively solve medical mystery cases as experienced by students in medical schools. Students will enhance their critical-thinking skills as they examine data, draw conclusions, diagnose, and treat patients; they 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, analyzing personal health and lifestyle, interviewing a patient, and creating a community-service action plan.

Spring Semester 2015

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, will deepen their understanding of biological concepts, will strengthen their critical-reasoning skills, and will 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.


Students will develop a keen ability to analyze global energy issues. A historical and scientific exploration of fossil fuels gives students the foundation to tackle economic and environmental concerns related to traditional and alternative energy. Students do technical analyses of the rates of depletion of the reserves of major oil-producing countries, and investigate the motivations for an oil-producing nation to become member of OPEC. Students will take sides in major energy debates on topics like “fracking” or the international movement of energy supplies. In their final project, students present to their peers on all key aspects of an alternative energy source, including technical and economic viability and environmental sustainability.


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.

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 course begins with an in-depth study of molecular biology, emphasizing eukaryotic genetics and its manipulation. This leads into an in-depth study of human systems. Students engage in a term-long project in which they shadow a scientist in their field and delve into the topic based on their experience. Laboratory work includes genetic transformation of bacteria through plasmids, size exclusion and hydrophobic interaction chromatography, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, gel electrophoresis, and PCR. The second half of the year involves discussion of clinical cases, a number of animal organ dissections, field trips to the OHSU cadaver lab and/or the primate research center and hands-on experiences
Suggested (but not required) prior coursework: Experimental and/or Organic Chemistry, semester biology electives.

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.)

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

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