Curriculum by Grade Level (9-12)
Once students enter high school at Catlin Gabel, interactions between grade-levels expands, both within our academic programs and through community activities. These curricular overviews by grade level provide prospective students and families with a general sense of the required coursework that is generally completed within these academic years.
The ninth grade year opens up new opportunities for all students, as more than a third of the class are newly-enrolled at the school, bringing together diverse experiences and backgrounds that enrich the learning environment and broaden perspectives.
Every student becomes part of an Upper School “C&C,” a group of mixed-grade students and a faculty advisor, that will meet almost every school day for the next four years. The group provides support and encouragement to each other as they navigate the challenges and joys of the teenage years. The advisor provides guidance and mentorship regarding the academic pathway, and tracks the development of the whole-person—their challenges and accomplishments.
Ninth Grade Curriculum
English and Social Studies: In English, students focus on the writing process and explore the concept of journey as a defining experience. The interdisciplinary social studies course “Human Crossroads” incorporates geography, history, anthropology, and sociology with a focus on themes and concepts that are applicable to any nation or culture.
Science and Mathematics: Science I is the first part of a two-year course, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to biology, chemistry, and physics, investigating relevant concepts that integrate these disciplines while building scientific skills. Ninth graders take the mathematics course that best suits their abilities and interests. Most often, students take algebra or geometry, while a few elect to enroll in precalculus, calculus, or statistics.
Modern Languages: Students study Mandarin, Spanish, or French.
P.E and Health: Students take Lifetime Fitness or apply for a physical education credit if they are athletes through Catlin Gabel or other athletic programs. All incoming students take a health course that includes a science-based understanding of nutrition, sexuality, and the nervous system, along with guidelines and laws regarding alcohol, nicotine, drugs, and sexual consent.
Electives: There are a variety of elective courses in computer science and the arts that take into account prior knowledge and student interest. In visual and performing arts, almost all Upper School courses are open to ninth graders, including media arts, photography, acting, chamber music, choir, and music theory and composition. Students learn experientially through Immersives, which encompass a variety of interdisciplinary offerings each year.
Sophomores build on the academic skills and knowledge developed in ninth grade, and further their critical thinking, reading, writing, and presentation skills. They take advantage of a wide range of electives to further their interests.
The four-year “C&C” advisory group continues to regularly meet. Faculty advisors work closely with individual students and their parents to help them plan their long-range academic planning and manage immediate needs.
Tenth Grade Curriculum
English and Social Studies: The sophomore English course emphasizes writing to effect change, with students focusing on social issues of personal interest. In social studies, the focus is “The Modern World,” and students consider how issues of today connect them to historical events of the past.
Modern Languages, Science and Mathematics: Students engage in next-level modern languages (in French, Mandarin, or Spanish), mathematics, and science courses and have opportunities to engage in a broad range of electives.
P.E and Health: Sophomores are required to take a second semester-long health course that centers on mental and physical health issues, including stress management, emotional stability, and interpersonal relationships.
Electives: Twenty-two visual and performing arts courses are open to all Upper School students, including playwriting, directing, sewing, and jewelry, as well as music and theater groups.
In the junior year, students continue to be closely connected with the C&C cohort and faculty advisor, and they begin to work with the College Counseling team, who engage with students and families in a process of personal exploration to determine which universities might be the best fit.
By their third year, students are capitalizing on their increasing independence to pursue solo projects or organize small group projects that can create opportunities for younger grades. Students may also apply to be a teaching assistant in computer science, English, mathematics, modern languages, or science courses, and they may take a range of courses in visual art, theater, and music.
Eleventh Grade Curriculum
English and Social Studies: Juniors choose between taking American Studies (an interdisciplinary course that explores the history, culture, and literature of the United States) or United States History and English 11, which take a chronological approach to our nation’s narrative.
Science: The science curriculum also expands, with courses such as astronomy, evolutionary biology, experimental and organic chemistry, geography, kinesiology, and pathogens and parasites, in addition to advanced level courses in biology, chemistry, and physics.
Mathematics and Modern Languages: The vast majority of juniors enter their third year of language study in French, Spanish, or Mandarin Chinese, or the next level of mathematics, including advanced topics offered through the Global Online Academy.
The last year of high school begins with a focus on the college selection process and eventually becomes a time of reflection and connection, as seniors celebrate what they’ve accomplished as a class and as individuals.
The Catlin Gabel community recognizes the unique nature of every senior class, but there are also traditional events built into the academic calendar to celebrate them and their lasting connection to the school. At the end of the year, a select group of students participate in the Senior Panel to share candid thoughts about their experiences with family members and teachers.
Twelfth Grade Curriculum
Seniors’ academic work often dovetails with their personal pursuits, as they embrace the many opportunities to put into practice the ideas and inspiration sparked in the classroom. Seniors also are paired with a first-grade “buddy” and serve as a role model and friend throughout the year. During the month-long Senior Projects in May, students pursue a personal interest by working with an on-site mentor at a chosen organization.
Required Curriculum: All seniors are required to take an English elective in fall semester and may elect in the spring to take a semester of Senior English, Dialogue for Democracy, or the Palma Seminar.
Advanced Courses: Students can continue to pursue advanced courses in social studies, computer science, science, mathematics, modern languages, and the arts.