We strive to help students express themselves with clarity and power orally as well as in writing. We want them to be able to generate authentic, nuanced questions and original ideas. Reading literature with sensitivity and exploring varied cultural perspectives are also critical. Students write frequently. Readings range from the canonic to the contemporary and roam over a wide landscape of cultures and voices both in original English and in translation. Most genres are represented, including novels, short stories, essays, poetry, plays, graphic novels, and film. Classes are taught seminar-style. Lecture is rare. Class participation is essential as students try out their ideas aloud.

Reading Contemporary Short Fiction

.5 credit Elective open to 11th and 12th grade
In this class students will read and write about short stories representing a wide range of stylistic approaches by contemporary masters of the form. Authors may include, among others: Lorrie Moore, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, Amy Hempel, Edwidge Danticat, Ottessa Moshfegh, Helen Oyeyemi, Lydia Davis, and George Saunders.

Creative Writing

.5 credit Elective open to 10th, 11th 12th grade
Students write daily in this course, experimenting in genres that may include poetry, short story, microfiction, plays, and creative non-fiction. Study includes readings in each genre as models with emphasis on learning craft. Students share work with one another. Students also focus on the process of revising creative work, producing multiple drafts and critiquing. Each writer will create a portfolio of work.

Introduction to Media Studies

.5 credit Elective open to 11th and 12th grade
How does the way we consume media influence the way we think about the world around us? How do we understand our own power and privilege through lenses of race, class and gender? How much of our own sense of ourselves is socially constructed? How do we learn to “read” visual information in still and moving pictures? This class will address these questions, equipping students with the tools to analyze and critique various forms of media. Students will use the language of critical thinking (premise, implication, inference, assumption, ambiguity and nuance) to pull apart the messages layered in film, television, music, advertisements, video games, and social media.

Philosophy for Social Change

.5 credit - Elective open to 11th and 12th grade
Ideologies are complex systems of ideas, values, rules and practices that exert a powerful influence on how we see the world. For better or worse, ideologies form the foundation of our economic, social, and political institutions. If we hope to make social change, it is imperative that we understand the dominant ideologies that exert the most influence. This course will be an examination of three dominant ideologies: Capitalism, Patriarchy, and White Supremacy. We will seek first to understand the origin, geneology, and structure of these ideologies. We will then read critiques of each of them from thinkers whose voices are most often marginalized by these very ideologies. Lastly, we will consider new and alternative ideologies and paradigms currently emerging.

Say What You Mean

.5 credit Elective open to 11th and 12th grade
Do your ideas seem richer, smarter, deeper in your head than they do when you share them? Is it hard to make a persuasive point in conversation, even when your idea is clear in your head? Do you struggle to capture the complexity of your thinking when you write? In this course students will explore and practice rhetorical skills to strengthen the efficacy between thought and language. If you think of yourself as a scientist, artist, mathematician, political activist, or musician, you’ll need to write well to share your insights with the world. This course will make use of all kinds of reading and writing techniques to pursue the simple goal of clarity in writing and speaking. You'll learn how best to harness your creative process and use specific critical lenses to shape and polish your meaning.

Writing for Theater and Film

.5 credit - fall Elective open to 11th and 12th grade
This is a writing course focused on reading and writing plays and screenplays. Through reading and writing dialogue, students will have a greater understanding of how to develop a play or screenplay through studying diverse forms and themes. Students will study the arc of writing by developing characters and a storyline. Students will read and analyze the structure and dialogue of selected plays and screenplays. Students will write weekly and bi-weekly writing exercises in order to explore the range and complexities of writing for the theater and for film. This will involve using a variety of writing prompts and experimenting with a variety of styles. Most of these exercises will be read aloud and shared in class. The goal will be that the student will complete a one-act play or short screenplay by the end of the trimester. Student plays and screenplays will be considered for a formal stage reading or a stage or film production to be shared with the community.

Ethnic Studies

.5 credits
Ethnic Studies courses operate from the consideration that race and racism,have been, and continue to be, profoundly powerful social and cultural forces in American society. This course focuses on the experiences of Black Americans, Asian Americans,Latinas/os/x American, Indegenous Americans, and other racialized peoples in the US. This course is grounded in the concrete situations of people of color, and uses a methodological framing that emphasizes both the structural dimensions of race and racism and the associated cultural dimensions (Adapted from UC Berkeley, Department of Ethnic Studies). The major purpose of this course is to educate all students to be politically, socially, and economically conscious about their personal connections to local and national history. Ethnic Studies focuses on themes of social justice, social responsibility, and social change.


.5 credit Elective open to 11th and 12th grade
In the eternal quest for understanding, humanity has worn many lenses in order to see the world more clearly. In this course’s quest for understanding, students will don the heavy two-way lens of Existentialism, turning us as deeply inward as it does broadly outward. It is a mode of thought that commits us to a greater sense of self, our world, and our place in it. Although it brings, or rather illuminates, a heightened measure of despair, anguish, confusion, and alienation, this modern perspective, even as it seems to imprison us, simultaneously liberates us into a creative expanse of freedom and responsibility. As Jean-Paul Sartre concisely expresses, “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” Through a committed exploration of inspired essays, stories, plays, and films, followed by personal creation, we will attempt to make ourselves and resolutely confront the inevitable obstacles along the path of this noble journey. The world may be ours, so what will we do with it?

Writing About Literature

.5 credit 10th Grade Course Requirement
What can fiction show us that nonfiction cannot? How do stories, novels and poems expand our understanding of who we are? In this course, you will practice close reading of literary texts of all kinds and learn strategies for writing smart, effective essays. You will develop your literary vocabulary and the accuracy and power of your writing, including crafting an arguable and nuanced thesis statement, using evidence effectively, and deepening your understanding of grammar, syntax, and punctuation. We’ll aim to read closely, think deeply, and communicate clearly.

Writing Narrative Nonfiction

.5 credit 10th Grade Course Requirement
Narrative nonfiction can be summed up as true stories, well told. What is the difference between your truth and “the truth”? How do we seek out, explore and express these different truths honestly and accurately? How is writing narrative nonfiction different than creating a pictorial (Instagram, Snapchat) story? In this 10th grade course, we will approach nonfiction writing as a multi-step process that includes prewriting, drafting, and revision. You’ll also read a variety of published essays as inspiration for your own work. Through a series of projects, you will develop your writing voice as well as a personal writing process.

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