Upper School Program
The Tools to Take You Anywhere
The Upper School at Northwest will challenge you in ways that expand your worldview and deepen your self-understanding.
We offer an interdisciplinary liberal arts program which includes an expansive study of mathematics, science, humanities, arts, and modern languages. By exploring issues, ideas and methods across these subject areas, our students learn to read critically, write cogently, think broadly, and solve complex problems.
Through this program of study, students acquire the knowledge, skills and confidence to embrace the expectations and evolving demands of college and beyond.
Get Ready to Stretch
Express Your Ideas Effectively
In our signature humanities program, you’ll study history and literature together—learning to do your own research, develop informed opinions...
Express Your Ideas Effectively
In our signature humanities program, you’ll study history and literature together—learning to do your own research, develop informed opinions, and express your ideas effectively in writing, public speaking and debate.
Collaborate, Experiment & Analyze
You’ll establish a strong foundation in science and math courses, which integrate problem-solving, hands-on labs, and the use of...
Collaborate, Experiment & Analyze
You’ll establish a strong foundation in science and math courses, which integrate problem-solving, hands-on labs, and the use of real-time data.
Students in Advanced Biology Topics, test mussels from the Puget Sound to identify if they are local or invasive species. A math modeling project uses a Federal Reserve simulator to model the impact of real-life economic events on inflation, unemployment, and interest rates. Physical science students design catapults with a set of predetermined parameters to learn the importance of precision and consistency in design.
Expand Your World View
As an upper school student, you will have unparalleled opportunities to develop into a global citizen through engagement, immersion, and study...
Expand Your World View
As an upper school student, you will have unparalleled opportunities to develop into a global citizen through engagement, immersion, and study. A homestay in Spain will immerse you in the language. A friendship with an international student living in the dorms will teach you how lives around the world are similar and different. And a research project studying the Tibetan Independence Movement will teach you the importance of human rights.
Develop Leadership Skills
You'll develop intellectual independence, personal responsibility, and leadership skills during your upper school years. There are a number of ways...
Develop Leadership Skills
You'll develop intellectual independence, personal responsibility, and leadership skills during your upper school years. There are a number of ways for you to grow in these areas, for example, educating our school community on social justice issues through Days of Learning, taking an active role in our Carbon Neutrality Task Force or serving as a tutor for younger students. There are even opportunities to be a teaching assistant during your senior year.
Value Social Responsibility
Northwest’s curriculum and co-curricular activities are centered on our core values of social justice, environmental sustainability, and global engagement. We...
Value Social Responsibility
Northwest’s curriculum and co-curricular activities are centered on our core values of social justice, environmental sustainability, and global engagement. We foster an understanding that responsibility for the needs of the community does not lie with one individual or group, but with every student.
The best problem solvers are creative thinkers, so the arts are a central part of the upper school experience. Through...
The best problem solvers are creative thinkers, so the arts are a central part of the upper school experience. Through artistic self-expression you will deepen and expand on your strengths. You'll develop skills ranging from agile thinking to healthy risk-taking to resilience.
Even early on, as a student at Northwest, I was learning to think for myself. In Humanities, we brought in newspaper articles and discussed the underlying messages we were being fed in the news and teachers asked us to form our own opinions. Deconstructing the messages within the media and creating my own meaning is something I will use for the rest of my life.
A Northwest Education Inspires a Love of Learning
Our graduates enjoy careers as research doctors, surgeons, physical scientists, technologists, authors, artists, entrepreneurs and the list goes on. They credit their Northwest education for inspiring their further education and sense of purpose.
Northwest requires the following minimum course of study in Upper School:
- Humanities: 4 years
- Mathematics: minimum 3 years
- Science: minimum 3 years
- Modern Languages: minimum 3 years
- Visual and Performing Arts: 4 years
- Physical Education: 2 years
- Environment: 4 years
- Immersive Summits: 4 years
Requirements by Area of Study
Students pursue an integrated and sequential study of world civilizations in grades 9-11, fulfilling English and social science requirements in a double-credit course. The program incorporates history, literature, philosophy, and art through weekly lectures, discussion seminars, and writing tutorials. In grade 12, students complete a trimester-long civics course and two history/cultural studies electives to complete Northwest’s social science requirement, as well as three trimester-long English electives.
Most seniors take a fourth year of study in Math, Science and Modern Languages. All seniors must take a fourth year of study in at least two of the three subjects.
A minimum of six arts courses are required over four years. To fulfill the arts distribution requirement, students must take at least one course in each of the four departments and at least one art course per year. Based on individual circumstances it is possible to petition for reduction of this requirement.
Two times a week, students and faculty work in mixed-grade teams to care for the school and immediate surrounding areas. This activity supports environmental sustainability, facilitates leadership development, and builds community. Four years of satisfactory work in Environment are required to graduate.
Students must fulfill a two-year Physical Education requirement in order to graduate. One year of PE credit is earned through 9th grade PE which is a required 3 trimester long course. Additional credit toward the two-year physical education requirement can be met through enrollment in dance, outdoor education, or fitness, or by participation on an interscholastic sports team. It is recommended that students fulfill the PE requirement through participation in a variety of these activities.
International students who receive ELL support are gradually integrated into more courses with fluent English speakers each year. Physical education/health, arts courses, sports teams, class trips, the Environment Program and the Outdoor Program offer additional chances for interaction.
For two weeks every spring, students participate in an immersive, crossgraded academic experience. Summits offer authentic learning with real-world applications in Seattle and across the nation. Examples of Summits include Urban Agriculture and Sustainability; Science Fiction, Science Film; and The March Goes On: Civil Rights Past, Present, and Future.
Requirements by Grade
Participate in the equivalent of eight courses plus Summits* and Environment**, Humanities counts as two courses and students take two arts/electives. Environment is two times each week.
- Humanities 9 or Humanities – ELL
- Algebra I
- Algebra II
- Physical Science
- Modern Languages
- Beginning Grammar/Writing – ELL
- Arts/Electives (select two courses)
- Physical Education/Health (full-year course required in 9th grade)
Summits* — an immersive, two-week long, interdisciplinary, multi-grade, deep dive into a topic, offered during the last two weeks of school. Required.
Environment** — Caring for our school environment for 10 minutes, 2 days per week. Required.
Participate in the equivalent of seven courses (minimum) plus Summits* and Environment**, Humanities counts as two courses and students take two arts/electives. Environment is two times each week.
- Humanities 10 or Humanities 10 – ELL (counts as two courses)
- Algebra II
- Modern Languages
- Intermediate Grammar/Writing – ELL
- Arts/Electives (two courses)
Summits* — an immersive, two-week long, interdisciplinary, multi-grade, deep dive into a topic, offered during the last two weeks of school. Required.
Environment** — Caring for our school environment for 10 minutes, 2 days per week. Required.
Participate in the equivalent of seven courses (minimum) plus Summits* and Environment**. Humanities counts as two courses and students take two Arts courses each trimester.
- Humanities 11 or Humanities ELL – Transitional year for ELL Students
- Algebra II
- Math Analysis
- Advanced Calculus
- Math Modeling
- Modern Languages
- English Composition & Advanced Grammar – ELL
- Arts/Electives (two courses)
Summits* — an immersive, two-week long, interdisciplinary, multi-grade, deep dive into a topic, offered during the last two weeks of school.
Environment** — Caring for our school environment for 10 minutes, 2 days per week.
At Northwest, we called teachers by their first names and we felt we could approach the teachers and ask questions. We could have an honest discussion with them; we could have a disagreement. In the sciences you are going to question everything. You're going to go to your boss and have a dialogue. You'll never get anywhere in science if you don't know how to ask questions. NWS was really good at encouraging that open inquisitive attitude.
Grade 12 Requirements
Participate in the equivalent of six courses (minimum) plus Summits and Environment. Typically, seniors take five academic courses and two arts.
- Humanities 12: Social Studies
- Humanities 12: Language Arts
- Math: Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Advanced Calculus, Statistics, Mathematical Modeling
- Science: Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Topics in Biology, Physics
- Modern Languages: Chinese, French, Spanish, Advanced English Composition
- Arts/Electives (two courses)
Note: Current students, please refer to the Blackbaud portal resource board for more details on course electives and requirements.
Upper School Course Catalog
The Ancient World Through the 17th Century
In this course, we examine a variety of world cultures from early civilizations to the 17th century. Students learn the basics of Humanities methodology, asking questions such as: What does it mean to be human? How have different societies defined what is (and what is not) human? How does the individual relate to society? How do societies interact with one another? How do societies interact with the natural environment? Using an analytical framework called the Five Elements of Society, Humanities 9 students study world history, literature, philosophy, and visual art while drawing connections to current world events. The course includes a survey of the origins of major world religions. Informed by Northwest’s mission statement and core values, the Humanities 9 curriculum reflects the conviction that including a diversity of ethnic, racial, religious, gender, and economic perspectives is essential to a comprehensive understanding of the human experience.
Full texts may include Parable of the Sower, Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus Rex and Antigone,
The Tempest, and a choice of graphic novels, either Persepolis or Zahra’s Paradise. Students read excerpts from Sapiens, The Aeneid, primary sources from Ancient Greece and Rome, religious texts such as the Torah and Talmud, Old and New Testaments, the Qur’an, Tamil poetry, and medieval poetry and literature (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Canterbury Tales, The Prince, and
Students practice the following skills—historical questioning and primary source analysis; persuasive, expository, creative, and narrative writing; literary analysis and strategies for close reading; note taking, annotation, and organizational skills; and presentation and rhetorical skills—through projects such as literary and historical analysis essays, reader’s theatre, creative writing (narrative fiction and poetry), research projects, student-led seminars and debates, and current events project.
Power, Politics, and Society in the United States from 16th Century to the 19th Century
Humanities 10 continues the interdisciplinary study of cultural history, economics, civics, literature, and art with a focus on the United States during the 17th-19th Centuries. The course is taught through a global lens, including events, theories, and thoughts that had a significant impact on the social, cultural, and political structure of the United States during this time period and beyond. The course asks these essential questions: (1) How do our identities shape the way we interact with the Humanities? (2) How do power, positionality, and narrative shape the US and our experiences? (3) Why and how do people rise up? Major topics include the African Diaspora and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; European Enlightenment, Revolutions, and the Roots of American Democracy; the U.S. Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Legacies of Jim Crow; American Imperialism, Westward Expansion, and Indigenous Histories; The Industrial Revolution, Capitalism, Immigration, Labor, and the Social Realities of the Post-industrial City; and, Gender and Sexuality in the 19th Century.
Full-length texts have included Homegoing, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, A Doll’s House, A Small Place, Beloved, The Crucible, and The Way to Rainy Mountain. Additional texts have included excerpts from the philosophers and the architects of the American Constitution. The course also includes various selections from historical primary and secondary sources, short stories, music, visual art, and poetry.
This course focuses on developing students’ ability to analyze history and literature. Students engage the curriculum not only through formal essay composition but also through creative and collaborative works that assess their learning through experiential, identity-based projects that include Homegoing Infographics, Uprisings Project: 19th and 21st Century Revolutions, Structured Academic Debates, Labor Union Simulations, Virtual Museum Exhibit: Hidden Narratives of the 19th Century, Debunking Myths of the Civil War: Monuments Project, Facing East: Sacred Sites Mapping Project, and an Immigration Research Project.
Imagining Nationalism & Internationalism in the 20th Century
Humanities 11 is designed as an interdisciplinary course, which challenges students to adopt diverse reading practices from history, literature, and cultural studies. In a collaborative teaching and learning environment, students learn to craft arguments in a range of disciplines for both academic and popular audiences. The course will be structured around student-driven inquiry and analysis, with both creative and formal academic assignments.
Rather than a comprehensive survey, we touch down on particular case studies, guided by ongoing inquiry into the politics of nationalism and internationalism in the 20th Century as they developed in diverse cultural, geographic, and social contexts. In each case study, we seek to understand how race, class, gender, and sexuality play a role in the way nationalist and internationalist ideologies developed and were resisted. From Jim Crow in the U.S. to European fascism to liberation movements in Latin America, we explore each case study to better understand the assumptions and the struggles of our present moment.
In each case study, we ask:
- How do different philosophies of both nationalism and internationalism develop, in tension, over the course of the 20th Century?
- How do various ideologies of difference (including race, gender, sexuality, class) inform conceptions of nationalism and internationalism?
- How do different narratives imagine and construct national and international communities?
- How do different storytelling strategies challenge dominant nationalisms or internationalisms?
Full-length texts have included: Quicksand by Nella Larsen, Company K by William March, Citizen 13660 by Mine Okubo, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli. Also included have been selections from historical primary sources, short stories, documentaries, film, and poetry.
Selected Assignments/Projects: Students will practice formal academic writing, literary analysis, and historical, critical thinking in assignments like the The Progressive Era: Imagining Historical Conversations Essay; the Fascism: Propaganda Visual Analysis; and the Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance: Historicizing Literature Essay. They will practice applying their historiographic and cultural analysis in creative applications through assignments like the Japanese Incarceration: Curating a Museum Exhibit and The Holocaust: Designing a Memorial for King County. And, they will practice scholarly research, reading, and writing skills through their Modern China: Structured Academic Controversy Research Presentations,and the 20th Century Liberation Movements: Scholarly Research Paper.
Eleventh grade International students may be enrolled in a sheltered section of this course, designated Humanities 11—Transitional.
In their senior year, Northwest students choose a series of electives that will define their course of study in both the Humanities 12: Social Studies and Humanities 12: Language Arts tracks. Students will choose preferences from a list of trimester-long electives in both tracks and will have the chance to sample several focused, inquiry-based lines of study in diverse topics and fields. Topics and approaches for these courses are designed to reflect student interest, instructor areas of expertise and passion, and the larger mission of the school itself. These more focused courses are intended to align with the school’s educational goals for student-centered learning, and to prepare them for the challenge of college-level pacing and expectations.
In the Humanities 12: Social Studies track, students will begin the year with a focus on Civics and U.S. government studies in a curriculum that is built around a trimester-long Civic Engagement Project. In this project, seniors volunteer their time to an electoral campaign, social justice project, nonprofit, or other approved political project of their choosing. Through these projects, students are encouraged to find ways to authentically engage in the political process by channeling their interests. The course facilitates reflection on these experiences in civil service and an analysis of the larger social, political,
and historical contexts for this kind of engagement. After the first trimester of Civics, seniors will rotate through two more trimester-long electives, built to facilitate learning in the fields of History and the Social Sciences from a variety of different critical perspectives and areas of study.
In the Humanities 12: Language Arts track, students will rotate through three trimesters (a whole year) of electives in the Humanities, including courses in Literary Studies, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Art History, and Media Studies. As with most Humanities courses at the NWS, these courses will engage students in a combination of academic and creative writing, all with the aim of encouraging complex learning on identity, representation, and the important role of art and culture in our social and political worlds. At the end of the year, students will complete a cumulative portfolio project, where they will reflect upon connections that they have independently formed across their Humanities 12 courses in both tracks. This final reflective piece is intended to encourage independent learning and personal growth, while encouraging all students to see a larger goal or purpose for their education in the interdisciplinary study of art and society.
Creative Writing: Identity, Joy, Justice, Action
This creative writing course centers joy and self-awareness in the reading and writing process. Creative writing from a critical identity lens requires that we move beyond the writing maxim, “Show, don’t tell” and shift into a space where students consider the ways in which writing is political.
This course will challenge students to consider how their positionality impacts how they read and write. Designed for students who wish to become better readers and creative writers, this course will expose students to a variety of writing styles and genres, with a particular focus on writers of color who celebrate their identities and amplify writing as a form of activism. Students will practice reading and writing in various genres, including narrative, verse, and creative nonfiction, using materials drawn from their own work and selected texts from established and peer writers.
Hope in Misery: Science Fiction & Social Justice
“At its best, science fiction stimulates imagination and creativity. It gets reader and writer off the beaten track, off the narrow, narrow foot path of what “everyone” is saying, doing, thinking— whoever “everyone” happens to be this year.” – Octavia E. Butler in “Positive Obsession,”
Bloodchild: And Other Stories
“Without new visions we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics but a process that can and must transform us.” – Robin D.G. Kelley in Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
This course looks at how hope and social justice are imagined in science fiction stories where the future is presented as bleak and miserable. Joining scholarly and activist conversations, we will work together to think about how our authors imagine social justice community organizing strategies, and we will consider their different visions of “hope in misery.” We will study the near future through a science fiction lens to help us better understand the present, as we work towards envisioning and creating more equitable and just futures. Our class texts will include aliens, magic, new technologies and other fantastical qualities, and will inspire new and creative ideas for creating social change today.
Innovation in Modern Latin American Art and Literature
This course will introduce seniors to seminal works from a broad range of genres, including literary prose, poetry, manifesto, crime fiction, and visual art by Latin American writers, thinkers, and artists from the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries. This course will discuss major developments in Latin American social thought to explore how literature negotiates and shapes contemporary concerns regarding gender, class, race, sexuality, and colonialism within the contexts of modernity, nationalism, capitalism, revolution, and dictatorship. In addition, students will develop their critical skills in literary and cultural analysis and build their argumentative and creative writing abilities.
Introduction to Ethics
In this seminar-style course, seniors will explore various schools of ethical philosophy with an eye towards exploring their own views on key ethical questions. These will include both metaethical questions (such as whether right and wrong are objective categories) as well as applied ethics (such as the nature of obligation to those less fortunate than oneself). The course will focus on the three primary ethical schools of philosophy (Kantian/deontological ethics, consequential ethics, and virtue ethics), with a short final unit on existential ethics. It will not be a chronological survey or a history
of philosophy course. Instead, the goal is to group authors by key questions and subject matter to highlight various approaches to historical questions. The goal of the seminar is to direct students towards confronting and examining their assumptions about right and wrong to help them refine their own views.
This course examines literature produced by people from and in colonized and formally colonized spaces in the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia. Students will read a variety of literary genres (including a novel, poetry, short stories, and memoir selections) that reflect upon the experiences of people living in the path of U.S. and European empires. As students learn to think historically about how the cultural encounters between the colonizer and the colonized have shaped the politics of the literature we read, they will learn about the relationships among history, art, and political resistance.
Translation: The Journey in Between
Translation is close to my heart and defines, for a large part, my journey as an immigrant, teacher, writer, and translator. I believe that the liminal space of translation is always an uprooting, a state of both disorientation and intimacy, and a discovery that enlarges the scope of our humanity.
This course provides an important framework to reflect on our current reality and on our shared humanity across borders. The “other” we translate can touch us, move us, and resemble us.
Translation is both a place of learning (about us and others) and a promise of understanding. The key questions we are raising throughout the year are: Who translates and who is translated? What is translation? What is translated and when? How do we translate? Why does translation matter? The class is both language-intensive and literary, part of a classical education, and yet directly linked to contemporary issues we are navigating right now. It gives us a place to be aware and critical of the
world we live in, to explore our own language(s) and culture(s), to better understand the mechanisms at work when moving from one domain of knowledge to another, from one register of language to another, from oneself to another. It also offers us a great opportunity to work creatively with language.
This course builds the mathematical foundation to all other Upper School math courses. Students move on to expand their understanding of linear equations, inequalities, and systems of linear equations and inequalities. They use these representations to model relationships and constraints but also reason with them abstractly. Students write, rearrange, evaluate, and solve equations and inequalities, explaining and validating their reasoning with increased precision. Students deepen their understanding of functions and their ability to represent, interpret, and communicate about them—using function notation, domain and range, average rate of change, and features of graphs. They also see categories of functions, starting with linear functions (including their inverses) and piecewise-defined functions (including absolute value functions), followed by quadratic functions. For each function type, students begin their investigation with real-world and mathematical contexts, look closely at the structural attributes of the function, and analyze how these attributes are expressed in different representations. The course ends with a close look at quadratic equations. Students extend their ability to use equations to model relationships and solve problems. They develop their capacity to write, transform, graph, and solve equations—by reasoning, rearranging equations into useful forms, and applying the quadratic formula. In solving quadratic equations, students encounter rational and irrational solutions, providing an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the real number system.
Geometry is a course of logic and problem-solving in both two and three dimensions. Students begin learning the fundamentals of Geometry, such as points, lines, and angles, and build on those concepts through working with congruence and similarity in polygons. Students engage with triangles where students are introduced to the Pythagorean Theorem, special right triangles, and right- triangle trigonometry. Logical reasoning is emphasized through justification of processes and writing proofs to defend reasoning. Properties of circles are then explored to solve for area, circumference, sectors, arcs, and segments. Students work with geometric concepts in the coordinate plane, and compute area and volume. Additionally, throughout the year, students will reinforce skills learned in Algebra I and connect it to Geometry. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Algebra I.
Students begin the course with a study of sequences, which is also an opportunity to revisit linear and exponential functions. Students represent functions in a variety of ways while addressing some aspects of mathematical modeling. This work leads to looking at situations that are well modeled by polynomials before pivoting to a study of the structure of polynomial graphs and expressions.
Students do arithmetic on polynomials and rational functions and use different forms to identify asymptotes and end behavior. Students also study polynomial identities and use some key identities to establish the formula for the sum of the first terms of a geometric sequence. Next, students extend exponent rules to include rational exponents. They solve equations involving square and cube roots before developing the idea of a number whose square is expanding the number system to include complex numbers. This allows them to solve quadratic equations with non-real solutions. Building on rational exponents, students return to their study of exponential functions and establish that the property of growth by equal factors over equal intervals holds even when the interval
has non-integer length. They use logarithms to solve unknown exponents and are introduced to the number and its use in modeling continuous growth. Logarithm functions and some situations they model well are also briefly addressed. Students learn to transform functions graphically and algebraically. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Geometry.
This course is for students who desire a theoretical, conceptual, and rigorous mathematics course after completing Algebra II. Pre-Calculus continues the in-depth study of functions started in Algebra II with an emphasis on preparation for Calculus. Rational, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions are presented along with their applications. Students learn to move fluently between verbal, numeric, graphic, and formulaic representations. Real-world phenomena are modeled by each function. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Algebra II.
In this first-year Calculus course focusing on the mathematics of motion and change, students are introduced to limits, derivatives, and integrals and their connection through The Fundamental
Theorem of Calculus. Students learn to calculate instantaneous rate of change, area under a curve, and other aspects of functions, and apply these skills to real-world applications.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of Pre-Calculus.
This is a second-year Calculus course. Topics include limits, vectors, proofs, and advanced integration techniques. Students differentiate and integrate functions and relations expressed parametrically and in the polar coordinate plane to find area, volume, and arc length. Additionally, infinite sequences and series, convergence tests, improper integrals, power series, and Taylor polynomial approximations are explored, culminating in Euler’s identity. The course concludes with an extension of the ideas of Calculus to three dimensions, including equations and intersections of lines and planes and partial derivatives. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Calculus.
A course taken as an option after Algebra II to prepare students for future high school and college math courses. Students enrolling in Math Analysis will both review and build on techniques from Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. Following a practical approach, this course allows students time to apply algebraic skills and concepts while building confidence with mathematical reasoning. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Algebra II.
This course is available to seniors as a primary math course, or an elective taken in addition to another math course. We live in a data-driven society; therefore, interpreting data accurately is vital. Students learn to interpret, process, and visualize the data we confront in our daily lives. Students read, discuss, and write about the use and misuse of statistics in media and politics. Students
design and conduct observational studies and experiments. Applications in this course include a wide variety of disciplines: psychology, sociology, biology, criminology, political science, business, economics, and law. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Algebra II.
This course is available to 12th graders as a primary math course, or an elective taken in addition to another math course. Students study applications of mathematics including economics at the macro and micro levels and finance at the federal and personal levels. Students also study the creation of algorithms and big data. The class dives into the stock market, game theory, and using mathematical models to simulate decision making. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Algebra II. This course is only available to seniors.
Some math classes have Teaching Assistant opportunities for students. Teaching Assistants help answer student questions during individual work time, help present content, and generally support the teacher with classroom activities. Teaching Assistants must have a free period during the math class they are assisting. Interested students should contact faculty directly. Credit/No Credit.
Physical Science focuses on building understanding of the physical universe through careful observation, investigative practices, scientific modeling, and collaboration with peers. This course celebrates the wonder and awe that inspires scientific thinking and supports the development of skills and perspectives necessary for growth as a student of science. The course explores observational astronomy, engineering and design process, visible light and electromagnetic radiation, atomic theory, climate science, among other topics.
Biology for 10th graders provides each student with a strong foundation in the fundamentals of the living world, and gives them tools to think critically, creatively, and inquisitively about current and future scientific and global issues. The course starts small by learning about the molecules that comprise all living things; these molecules make up cells, the building blocks of life. We study the organ systems of the human body, emphasizing how these are all connected. The course moves on to genetics and evolution, and finishes the year examining ecology. Students will collaborate with peers on a variety of inquiry-based activities and labs.
Chemistry bridges students’ observable world to the submicroscopic realm of molecules, ions, and atoms. This course has four primary objectives: 1) to develop students' chemical literacy in a highly chemical world, 2) to prepare students for college-level chemistry courses, 3) to provide students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills transferable to all disciplines, and 4) to equip students to function in a laboratory, enabling them to solve problems and answer questions. This course students will gain a deeper understanding of the chemical processes that shape our world and develop valuable skills that will serve you well in any field.
Physics offers students a deeper conceptual understanding of the rules of the physical world, using mathematical calculations to describe physical interactions, and drawing connections between science and the most important questions our society faces. In this course, students complete laboratory investigations and engineering design projects, strengthening their scientific understanding and gaining experience in the skills and practices of a scientist. Topics include kinematic motion, forces, energy, electricity, and aerodynamics. Coursework is differentiated to accommodate a range of math aptitudes. Students complete this course equipped with the skills necessary to tackle real-world challenges with confidence.
Students’ understanding of chemistry goes to the next level in this course. Advanced Chemistry builds on the foundation established in junior year. Exploration of complex topics such as kinetics, equilibrium, and thermodynamics will develop students’ abstract and mathematical skills, while offering a deeper understanding of the chemical processes that shape our world. Engaging labs enrich each unit, providing hands-on experience with a variety of chemical instrumentations and techniques. Collaborative learning encourages students to work together to solve complex problems and tackle challenging experiments. This course is designed for students who are naturally curious about the world around them and are eager to take on the challenge of a rigorous chemistry curriculum.
Advanced Topics in Biology
This year-long course has students delve into genetics as a tool to improve human health. Exciting labs offer hands-on experience in modeling insulin, transforming bacteria for insulin production, and using electrophoresis to detect genetic mutations. Students will also get to work with sophisticated scientific tools like BLAST to detect the BrCa1 gene and perform a model ELISA to test for HIV. In a biohacker CRISPR lab, students will attempt to manipulate genetic material. Later in the course, students use genetics to explore the marine environment and understand threats to its sustainability. In fieldwork, students monitor near-shore habitats to understand fundamental oceanography and marine biology. Students learn to design and communicate scientific research, and as they push the boundaries of scientific discovery, they will debate and grapple with ethical issues surrounding advancing genetic knowledge and technology.
Lab Assistant – Physical Science, Biology, or Chemistry
Seniors have the opportunity to be a Lab Assistant for 6th General Science, 7th Life Science, 8th Earth Science, 9th Physical Science, 10th Biology, or 11th Chemistry. Seniors will work with one of the above science classes to help prepare materials, facilitate activities, and provide support to faculty and students in each class. Faculty permission is required, and assignments made after the student has received their fall class schedule. Lab Assistants must have free periods that match the science course they want to support. Lab Assistants receive credit only; no grades are awarded in this program. Available to 12 graders only.
This course is an introduction to standard Chinese (Mandarin Chinese). Students learn the Pinyin Romanization system and use acquired oral language skills in a variety of activities and games. While our focus is primarily on oral proficiency, students learn to read and write basic Chinese characters and to recognize these words in context. At the end of this course, students will reach the ACTFL Novice Mid level of oral proficiency and will have acquired the following language skills: ask and answer basic questions, make self-introductions, describe likes and dislikes; in addition, students will deliver short oral presentations in Chinese, two cultural presentations, and engage in short reading and writing activities. These skills are employed within the framework of familiar contexts such as family, leisure activities, home and school life, and will touch on Chinese food, festivals
and traditions. Films viewed may include The Road Home (Wo de fuqin muqin) and Beijing Bicycle (Shiqi sui de danche), which give insight into Chinese family life and society in both rural and urban communities. Both films will be watched with English subtitles, occasionally focusing on the Chinese dialogue for comprehension.
This course is a continuation of Chinese I and focuses on building students’ command of oral communicative structures in more sophisticated contexts, as well as building skills to read and write using Chinese characters with gradually less pinyin support via supplementary elementary story texts. Unit themes include learning about school life both in the US and China, daily activities and hobbies, and learning about places in China. In the class, we will work on building oral fluency with the goal of conducting the class entirely in Chinese by midyear. Students will reach the ACTFL Novice High oral proficiency level at the end of the course. Films viewed may include Not One Less (Yi ge dou bu neng shao) and Shower (Xizao), with increased focus on the language spoken in Chinese without the benefit of English subtitles.
Our focus in Chinese III continues to be on increasing oral proficiency and fluency, along with a review of major Chinese grammatical patterns and more intensified practice of Chinese characters to bring students to engage in intermediate level tasks of spoken proficiency. Class discussion and presentations focus on comparing the differences between Western and Eastern values on topics such as holidays and etiquette. Our reading will be supplemented with annotated news and culture articles found on several websites along with reading an intermediate level supplementary reader. Students will reach or approach the ACTFL Intermediate Low level by the end of the course. We view films that show the lives of ordinary Chinese people both in cities and rural areas, such as Together (He ni zai yiqi) and Postmen in the Mountains (Na shan, na ren, na gou), with students completing comprehension tasks viewing the films without English subtitles.
The goal of Chinese IV is to engage students to work more independently in Chinese, either in projects interviewing Chinese-speaking international students, or reading authentic texts online and providing oral reports to the class. The cultural focus of this class will shift to learning about life in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as China, with screenings of Taiwanese and Hong Kong films like Yi Yi, The Wedding Banquet (Xiyan), Comrades, Almost a Love Story (Tian mi mi) and Eat Drink Man Woman (Yinshi nannü) and focusing on how Taiwanese and Hong Kong Chinese culture compare to and contrast with mainland Chinese and other world cultures. Students will be expected to function in performance tasks meeting ACTFL Intermediate Levels, moving toward tasks that approach advanced level skills. (A minimum enrollment of four students is required for this course to be offered.)
ELL Beginning Grammar & Writing 9th grade
This class helps students begin to develop strong academic writing and grammar skills. They learn about sentence structure, grammar, mechanics, and the writing process. They are introduced
to standard organizational patterns of the paragraph and the basic concepts of essay writing. Throughout the year, students practice using the rules of English grammar in both speaking and writing activities through playing grammar games, working on individual and group projects, and giving presentations to the class.
ELL Intermediate Grammar & Writing 10th grade
This class presents a more in-depth study of English grammar and helps students use different grammatical structures to express ideas through paragraphs and essays. Students learn and practice standard academic patterns of essay organization and work to develop a mature writing style. Several grammar-based projects, writing assignments, and presentations are required.
ELL English Composition & Advanced Grammar 11th grade
This advanced course in the English language is designed to help international students improve their language skills in all areas: grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. In this class, students use a variety of academic and technical discourse in English to work on activities such as reading comprehension, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Vocabulary development using the Academic Word List (AWL) and learning strategies for taking the Internet-based TOEFL test (iBT) are introduced and practiced throughout the year.
English Composition & Advanced Grammar 12th Grade Elective
This advanced course in the English language is designed to help international students improve their language skills in all areas: grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This class challenges students to develop their voice in academic writing and polish their advanced grammar and vocabulary. Using the ACTFL Superior standards to assess performance, students write, test, and teach each other as they engage in collaborative learning, creating a culture of learning in which peers can be teachers. In this class, students use a variety of academic and technical discourse
in English to work on activities such as reading comprehension, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Through examination of student samples and daily discussions, students will learn what effective writing means. As students strengthen their writing skills, they will reflect on different writing styles and techniques. Several grammar-based projects, writing assignments, and presentations are required.
- What makes good writing?
- How can communication in different writing styles highlight different goals of academic writing?
- To increase students’ ability to communicate original ideas and insights
- To become strong, confident, capable communicators in writing and speaking
- To use and master the academic English necessary for strong writing
This course is designed for beginners and is taught entirely in French. The course aims to develop the skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing to a basic level of proficiency so that students can communicate ideas in French and understand some cultural aspects of the French-speaking world.
The focus is on learning the tools to exchange basic information with others. Students learn how to talk about themselves, their immediate surroundings (family, friends, school, free-time activities, and others) and how to get by in a French-speaking country. We begin the year by learning to describe who we are (learning numbers to share age and phone numbers, expressions for giving, and asking for personal information such as address and languages spoken). We also learn to describe what life at school looks like by discussing schedules, classes, and likes and dislikes. We connect with our sister school in Angers, France, and compare school life in the U.S. to school life in France. Later, students learn to describe their families and friends and discuss family structures. Finally, the focus shifts to free time as students learn to describe their daily routines and recreational activities, as well as wishes and plans. Building oral and written proficiency, learning grammar, developing
metalinguistic awareness, understanding authentic documents (films, songs, short texts), and cultural topics are all part of the curriculum.
This course is taught entirely in French and starts with a review and expansion of the material covered in French I. We review the major verb groups and develop grammar and vocabulary skills through major units such as our relationship to our devices, environment and climate change issues, and current events as needed (elections, cultural and societal issues and controversies). Students study French culture and society as well as the broader francophone world. We read short texts (often complementing topics studied in Humanities) and read and memorize poems. We also include the viewing (followed by discussions and written assignments) of French-language films. We strongly emphasize the development of listening and speaking skills to be able to further engage in more complex conversations. The year’s primary goals are to develop a solid foundation for the continuous study of French and encourage oral and written expression.
This course is entirely taught in French. Students review and extend the learning of the past tenses, as well as learn the future and the conditional. They expand their oral skills through class discussions and group presentations. Films and projects are directly linked to grammar and the Humanities 11 curriculum. Some class projects include recording the life story of a family relative, and the reading and discussion of Tahar Ben Jelloun’s book, Le racisme expliqué à ma fille. The main goal at the end of French III is for students to sustain a conversation, express their opinions, and challenge others’ opinions both in class and through more developed written compositions.
At this advanced level, we approach the language mainly as art. Students study literary texts (several short stories and one larger piece), as well as do translation, discuss current events, and engage in conversation with students from our partner school in Angers, France. Grammar is reviewed and studied according to the needs of the students and the texts being read. To help their mode of expression, students study relative clauses, the literary tense of passé simple, and the subjunctive. Themes, books, and films are chosen according to the class’s interests, language level, and popular culture. The last trimester is often devoted to personal and collective projects and presentations such as the creation of an online magazine, a book of poems, a short soap opera, or a one-act play.
This course is designed for students with little or no background in Spanish. Taught primarily in Spanish, the course focuses on teaching the 5 C goal areas of the ACTFL guidelines: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. Students engage in a variety of listening, reading, writing, and speaking activities. The class teaches basic skills and communication through the following topics: introductions and simple conversation, numbers and the alphabet, the weather, hobbies and activities, sharing personal information, school classes and activities, diversity of people and language in Latin America, future plans, and present tense verb conjugations.
The 10th grade Spanish class is a continuation of the 9th grade Spanish curriculum and is taught primarily in the target language. Students continue to deepen their Spanish language proficiency. Each lesson targets the four essential skill areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Throughout each trimester, students engage in themed units of study and benefit from the opportunity to use the language in creative and meaningful ways. Students experience cultures from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries through the use of authentic materials. By the end of the 10th grade year, students are able to express themselves on basic topics in the past, present, and future tenses. Ultimately, students gain an understanding of the true practicality of learning a world language.
This class is entirely taught in Spanish. The course aims to advance the skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing that students have acquired since beginning to learn Spanish. Students work on increasing language proficiency so they can communicate ideas and understand some cultural aspects of the Spanish-speaking world. Building oral and written proficiency, learning grammar, developing metalinguistic awareness, and understanding authentic documents and cultural topics are all part of the curriculum. Students start the year with oral and written activities to get to know
one other and review what they’ve learned. Main study units include topics such as the environment, the city, and living a healthy lifestyle. Students learn to express their opinion, give directions, and talk about their health. Because no foreign language study takes place without studying the target culture, we also listen to music, watch films, and read authentic journalistic or literary texts from the Spanish-speaking world.
This course is a continuation of the three-year Spanish language requirement in the Upper School, serving primarily students from 9th grade Spanish III or incoming 10th graders who can demonstrate an appropriate Spanish proficiency level. Vocabulary and language functions are embedded in the themes covered throughout the year. We focus on what the students can do with the language, using authentic documents and real-life tasks. Themes and essential questions are centered around healthy living, the tourist or traveler, the environment, city life, the arts, and current events.
Taught entirely in Spanish, this course completes the three-year Upper School language requirement for students who began Spanish in Middle School. We continue examining the connections between cultures and communities (macro and micro), and gaining critical thinking and problem-solving skills by applying sophisticated grammar structures and vocabulary. Throughout the year, students discuss key themes relevant for today, such as technology and its challenges, global issues, multiculturalism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, environmental awareness, and local community engagement.
This course is an elective, and the focus is on communication and the consolidation of the skills and knowledge acquired at the beginner and intermediate levels. Students communicate in Spanish and study real-life materials such as newspaper articles, films, music, and literature. Students continue to develop their interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational skills in the Spanish language as well as critical reading and analytical writing as they explore short stories, novels, plays, essays, and poetry from Spain, Latin America, and U.S. Hispanic authors, along with other non-required texts. Connections between cultures, history, and communities are examined more in-depth, emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving while applying increasingly sophisticated grammar structures and vocabulary. We will discuss key themes relevant for today’s students throughout the year, such as technology and its challenges, global challenges, multiculturalism, diversity, equity & inclusion, environmental awareness, and local community engagement.
Teaching Assistant – Modern Languages
TAs in the Modern Languages Department aim to establish an environment where students can learn from their peers and in small groups. The role of the TA is to provide a further review of concepts for students who need additional practice and explanation. TAs are available to all students (6th-12th) during study hall and by appointment. Teaching faculty can refer students, or students can voluntarily sign up. TAs create and maintain a calendar where students access appointment times.
Available to Grade 12 students who have completed or are currently enrolled in the highest level of the language.
Physical Education & Health Courses
Grade 9 Fitness, Health, and Wellness
All 9th graders will be enrolled in a full-year health and fitness PE course. The class combines physical activity and training with a health and wellness component that addresses topics in the areas of physical, social, emotional, and mental health (mindfulness, nutrition, mental health and mental illness, sex and relationships, drugs and alcohol, etc.) Students are challenged to apply information and practices to their daily lives and expected to both reflect and act upon their fitness, health, and wellness needs. Students have regular access to all training equipment and facilities in the 401 building and receive both personal and group coaching to build a program that is designed to meet their needs and goals. Required for all 9th graders. Meets state requirements for Health.
This course provides students with opportunities to develop a wide variety of outdoor recreational skills and interests. The course exposes students to many of the following kinds of activities and skills: hiking, bicycling, camping, rock climbing, sea-kayaking, rafting, alpine (downhill) skiing, Nordic (cross-country) skiing, snowshoeing, snow cave and igloo building, camp cooking, and outdoor safety. Because we visit wilderness areas that are highly susceptible to human impact, this course stresses environmental ethics and minimum-impact camping. The course does not meet during the week, but rather involves day-long or overnight trips on weekends. Students are enrolled in this class only in those trimesters in which they take part in outdoor offerings. The amount of credit (half or full) is based on the level of participation in the outings offered each trimester. To earn full credit, a student needs to complete at least five days of outdoor experience in that trimester. Occasional training/planning sessions will be scheduled as needed, usually at lunch or after school. The course counts for Physical Education credit.
Interscholastic Athletic Teams
Fall: Cross Country (Boys & Girls), Fit Club/Strength & Conditioning (Boys & Girls), Soccer (Girls), Ultimate (Boys), Volleyball (Girls)
Winter: Basketball (Boys & Girls), Fit Club/Strength & Conditioning (Boys & Girls), Mixed Ultimate (Boys & Girls)
Spring: Track & Field (Boys & Girls), Fit Club/Strength & Conditioning (Boys & Girls), Ultimate (Girls)
Fit Club/Strength & Conditioning
Open to all Upper School students, this course is offered after school in the Fitness Mezzanine. Fit Club participation will enhance one’s fitness, strength, and mobility. Strength & Conditioning is tailored to personal goals and/or sport-specific fitness, power, and functionality.
There are two sessions each day: Fit Club takes place from 3:45-4:30 pm, and Strength & Conditioning follows from 4:30-5:30 pm. Students may attend as fits their schedule; attendance is not mandatory. PE credit is earned by students based on attendance (full credit = participating an average of three or more sessions per week, half credit = participating an average of 1.5 times per week). The athletics participation fee ($125) is required for this course. This fee is covered by the NWS Experience Fund for students receiving financial aid. Eligibility forms (waivers and sports physical) are required prior to participation.
Teaching Assistant – Physical Education
Students may petition to be a TA for a middle school PE class. Preference would be for students to TA for a team sport class, but exceptions could be made for variety classes as well. Students would assist in student management, learn leadership skills by leading drills and teaching skills in 1v1 opportunities, and generally support the teacher/coach however needed. Credit/No Credit. Available to 12 grade students.
Computer Science Principles • Grades 9-12
and the social impacts of computing. Students create rapid research projects, flash talks, and film reviews. They also apply the general principles of program design and algorithmic thinking to create their own applications. All students can succeed in Computer Science when given the right supports and opportunities, regardless of prior knowledge or privilege. The course materials have been developed to actively eliminate and discredit stereotypes and elevate equity within the field of Computer Science.
Programming I • Grades 10-12
The course begins with Alice 3, a visual programming language made by Carnegie Mellon University, that helps to teach the basics of computer programming using characters that interact in a virtual world. Then, students move to using Python 3 to apply the concepts they learned. Topics include variables, expressions, operators and string operations, functions, stack diagrams, Boolean operators, conditional execution, and basic data structures (lists and dictionaries). Students learning to program see the world in a whole new way. When faced with a task that feels tedious, programming allows students to automate it. When faced with a challenging intellectual question, students will learn to write an algorithm to solve it.
Journalism • Grades 9-12
How do you tell a good story? How do you tell a true story? How do you build an online presence and use social media to promote your stories? In this course, students work to find stories that matter to them and get those stories into the hands (and phones) of readers. They learn how to recognize
a good story, research and gather facts, conduct interviews, and shape the information into an engaging piece of writing. In the era of fake news, we emphasize truth-telling and fact-checking in this class. In terms of stories, we cover news, arts, sports, features, and editorials. Our work appears in the NWS print newspaper, The Publishing Haus, and additionally, we focus on expanding our digital presence and entering into journalistic discourse on social media. Together, we make decisions about how best to design and format our publications. For students who want to bring their passions—for politics, justice, art, music, sports, photography, or digital media—to readers at Northwest and beyond, this is the class for them.
Peer Mentoring • Grades 11-12
This year-long class offers students the opportunity to develop essential leadership skills and a knowledge base around issues that can impact teens and young adults. The most significant element of being a Peer Mentor is active participation and engagement in class and in the NWS community. The class supports and develops Peer Mentors, allowing them to grow into their responsibilities as leaders within our community of students, faculty, and families.
Class activities typically include discussion, outside reading, field trips, guest speakers, exploration of community resources, leadership development, and mentoring younger students. There will also be teaching and facilitating opportunities in the Middle School, 9th grade, Community Meeting, Advisory, Parent Forums, faculty meetings, etc. On occasion, Peer Mentors may be asked to miss one of their classes to work with students in other grades. Mentors