Other Electives

A variety of additional courses offered in the Upper School enable students to study subjects not typically found in traditional disciplines. They are often interdisciplinary in nature, and may involve significant off-campus study. Unless otherwise noted, the courses below are offered to students in Grades 10-12.


Recent advances in science and medicine have brought with them new ethical and moral problems. This course explores ways in which those concerns can and should be addressed and includes in-depth studies of such controversial issues as genetic engineering and euthanasia from both scientific and philosophical points of view. Students read case histories as well as opinions written by those most active in the field. Note: This course is open to seniors only.

Isms: Rational to Radical

What leads people from one state of mind to another? What forces contribute to black-and-white thinking? Why does the human psyche gravitate toward polarization, and what are the consequences of this tendency to categorize, judge, and operate from assumptions? Issues examined include radicalism (in religion, politics, racial views, and interpersonal relationships), relativism, feminism, heterosexism, and racism. Through readings, films, guest speakers, and personal experience, this course will lay out the many ways that society can enable and diffuse the human tendency toward extreme behaviors. Part psychology, part history, part literature, the course will build an understanding of the power of belief, and of ways to engage with people who see the world from “other” poles.

Masterworks of the History of Art: A Thematic Exploration of Art and Architecture

“Masterworks of the History of Art” is a five-semester sequence of interdisciplinary courses that explore the evolution of visual art and architecture. Rather than being a survey, each Masterworks course focuses on a specific era, delving into the philosophical and/or religious beliefs and the socio-scientific developments that gave rise to and shaped the artistic output of each period. Students develop the fundamental vocabulary and methods of art-historical study. They go on to develop the visual acuity and critical thinking skills necessary to understand and explain a broad range of art and ideas. In each Masterworks offering, students will make at least one off-campus visit to local museums, galleries, or religious sites, as well as one trip to a major regional museum. Note: These electives may be taken individually or as part of a sequence.

I: The Medieval World

Masterworks I focuses specifically on architecture in Spain, France, and Italy between the 10th and early 15th centuries. Topics include:

  • Hispano-Muslim Art and Architecture in Córdoba and Granada
  • French Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals
  • Renaissance Florence: From Vitruvius to Alberti

II: Figurative Art of the Early Renaissance

Masterworks II traces the confluence of the “rebirth” of classical ideas and aesthetic ideals, and the innovative socioeconomic forces that were reflected in the art of the Trecento and Quattrocento artists in Florence. Students also explore the vital technical and aesthetic contributions of the Netherlandish Renaissance painters of Northern Europe. Topics include:

  • Classical Revival and the Rise of Humanism
  • The Power of Perspective: Evolution from Giotto to Sluter
  • Florentine Humanism: Art and Architecture from Brunelleschi to Donatello
  • The Northern European Renaissance: The Conquest of Light

III: Art and Architecture of the High Renaissance to the Baroque

Masterworks III considers the works of the artistic titans of late 15th-century Florence and Rome and explores the shift toward the emotive intensity of Mannerism and the exuberant dynamism of the Baroque that continued until the mid-17th century. Topics include:

  • The Artist Exalted: da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo
  • New Architectural Rhetoric: From Bramante to Palladio
  • Ascendant Venice: Disegno versus Colorito
  • Mannerism and the Counter-Reformation
  • Rome: Cradle of Baroque Art and Architecture

IV: European Art: From Academy to Autonomy – 1600-1850

Masterworks IV focuses on the changing role of art in Europe from Post-Renaissance sacred art to art in the service of court and monarch, ending with bourgeois art—an autonomous art that emerged in response to social and economic change. Guided by cultural theorist Peter Bürger’s categories, the course traces the development of artistic style from the High Baroque to Romanticism. Students explore the features of visual art from 1600 to 1850 in Italy, France, Spain, the Low Countries, Flanders and Holland, and Britain. Topics include:

  • Baroque to Rococo: The Power of Light to Light-Hearted Frivolity
  • The Service of Art: Monarch to Merchant
  • Golden Age of Dutch Painting: Portrait, Landscape, Still-Life
  • Neoclassicism: In Service of Enlightenment and Revolution
  • Romanticism: Recourse to the Irrational

V: The Modern World – 1850-1950

Masterworks V explores the dramatic changes realized in European art in just 100 years—a product of the rise of the modern city, the Industrial Revolution, technological innovation, and the turmoil of the early to mid-20th century. Beginning with French realism, the course moves through Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, the birth of abstractionism, German Expressionism, and the ascendance of 1950s New York as the new center of the art world. Topics include:

  • The Concept of Modernism and the Avant Garde
  • French Realism to Post-Impressionism
  • European Indebtedness: Japonisme, Oceania, Africa,
  • and the Maghrib
  • New Century Technology: Vision, Speed, Color, Light,
  • and Sound
  • Surrealism and Fantasy: The Search for New Realities
  • Artistic Impressions of World War
  • The Rise of the New World: New York and Abstract Expressionism

Introduction to Psychology

This course is an overview of the field of psychology, the study of human behavior and mental processes. Students examine the nature of human awareness and growth through the lens of recent scientific discovery and personal inquiry. Content areas include neuroscience, emotion and well-being, human development, positive psychology, mental illness, trauma and recovery, morality, gender, and end of life. Work in the course includes close examination of nightly readings, daily reflection, reaction papers, films, and experiments.

Foundations of Computing and Programming I

This is an entry-level course in which students are introduced to computer science and programming. Students gain an understanding of how a computer works, basic algorithmic processes and problem-solving, and introductory coding. Students code using Scratch, Excel, and Python while learning the basics of problem-solving and coding structure. Class discussion and coding work focus on the topics of cryptography, finance, security, and ethics.

Foundations of Computing and Programming II

This is a continuation of the fall semester class on programming. Students learn more advanced programming topics such as recursion, lists, arrays, objects, and classes. Students code using Python, C, and JavaScript. Class discussion and coding work focus on the topics of cryptography, finance, security, and ethics. Prerequisite: Foundations of Computing and Programming I.

Computer Science Principles

Computer Science Principles introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science and challenges them to explore how computing and technology affect the world. Students learn about the architecture of the internet, file structures, data, and how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. Students will be introduced to the creative aspects of programming, abstractions, algorithms, large data sets, cybersecurity concerns, and computing impacts. Problem sets are inspired by the real-world domains of biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming.

Language Foundations Seminar

The Language Foundations Seminar affords students an opportunity to strengthen reading, writing, and executive function skills in a supportive, appropriately paced learning environment. Targeted academic skills include vocabulary, grammar, memorization, reading comprehension, and written expression. Students are grouped by grade level in a small instructional group setting to help ensure that the mastery of skills is directly applicable to students’ English and history curricula. The class is appropriate for students who want to focus more intensively on core skills before taking a World Language.