US Program Overview
In the Upper School teachers collaborate to provide students a holistic learning experience. By invoking shared themes and questions and collaborating on core learning experiences, the faculty design opportunities for students to make interdisciplinary connections, develop skills and creativity, and more fully experience how knowledge illuminates everyday life. In this way, Upper School students at Calhoun achieve understanding and, to borrow the phrase of one of our favorite scholars, are poised for the having of wonderful ideas.
Each student is a member of a cluster, a group of eight to ten students who share the same advisor and gather daily with the advisor for announcements, attendance, and some group activities. Every student has a private weekly meeting with the advisor to discuss academic and social progress and issues. These weekly conferences are the basis of an advocacy system in which the cluster advisor represents the student, stays in touch with individual faculty and serves as a contact for parents. Parent/student/advisor conferences are held at least twice per year for all students.
The Upper School curriculum is organized around the theme Self and Society. In this year, through world history, literature, the foundations of art sequence, life skills, and investigations in active physics, students examine the role of the individual in relationship to the world. These inquiries challenge students to consider the importance of self-expression and the world's interdependence. From their first module in the Upper School students also do art, as we firmly believe it is a critical component of every student’s education.
The Upper School curriculum is rooted in two essential questions that illuminate the relationship between knowledge and power: How is knowledge constructed? and To what end is knowledge constructed? Whether in Chemistry, Modern World History, or English II, these shared essential questions encourage students to identify and grapple with the way knowledge is used and misused. Sophomores also have a wealth of curricular choice, and they explore the construction of knowledge in classes including Probability and Statistics, The Politics of Disaster, Journalism, and Music Theory to name only a few.
Students do increasingly sophisticated and independent work in their core classes, including US History, American Literature, Biology, and Math. Juniors also become the artisans of their own education in the class, Workshop. In Workshop, guided by a multi-disciplinary team of teachers, students design a project that synthesizes knowledge from at least two disciplines to produce an original creation. For example, a student might investigate the Fibonacci series in math and in nature to create an original piece of artwork, while another might do original archival research to inform a piece of musical theater.
Students’ schedules are highly individualized as they choose from among a rich array of electives in science, math, the arts, and the humanities. With the help of a team of faculty, seniors also continue to sharpen the skills needed to arrange and carry out a plan by taking their learning out into the world of work. In the class Work, students identify a field of interest, investigate how work is conducted in that field, and arrange an internship for the last module of their senior year. For example, a student interested in culinary arts might apprentice himself to a chef while another might join a scientific research lab at a local university. This final Upper School experience helps students readying to depart from our community build a bridge out of the school and into what we hope will be a lifetime of meaningful learning and joyful hard work.