The upper school history/social studies curriculum begins in ninth grade focusing on global history and geography from the evolution of early man and development of the first civilizations to the global convergence in the 13th-15th centuries. In tenth grade, students study the formation of the modern world through the lenses of history, politics, the environment, and geography. With this solid background in World History, eleventh grade students are ready to focus on the study of the major forces that have shaped the United States such as political liberalism, nationalism, industrialization, and imperialism. In twelfth grade students focus on modern global issues that deal with individual and human rights, education, the environment, and global citizenship.
The underlying goal of the curriculum is to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of how forces influence the course of global human history, from antiquity to today. Students learn through projects as well as texts (primary and secondary sources), debate, research analysis, document analysis, written analysis, discussion. By asking students to apply their knowledge of the past to the challenges of the future in an increasingly “globalized” world, students develop a critical global perspective as well as an understanding of the responsibilities they have as individuals and citizens in a democratic society.
History Course Offerings
World History I – year course
The ninth grade history course examines ancient world history from a thematic perspective. Starting with the evolution of early man in Africa 4-5 million years ago, students examine the political structures, social dynamics, geographic factors, gender roles, economic interactions, and philosophical ideas that have shaped various civilizations from Africa to Eurasia to the Americas. Beyond merely looking at points of similarity and difference between civilizations, the course aims to explore the impact of the interactions between people and ideas that have occurred over the past two thousand years in the hopes of gaining an understanding of the modern, interconnected world.
World History II – year course
This course is a comparative survey of major events in World History from the Middle Ages to the present. The first semester focuses on world historical events starting in the 14th century and stresses the importance of intercultural exchange. Students will investigate trade networks, international religions, and the rise and fall of empires as the course moves toward globalization and industrialization. The second semester focuses on revolutions, imperialism and nationalism. Students will engage in discussion about social, political, technological, and religious changes and how these themes have shaped the world we live in. In each term the analysis of primary print, visual and auditory sources, as well as interactive simulations, are used to reinforce students’ understanding of the major themes of the course.
AP World History– year course
Advanced Placement World History is a college-level course that offers motivated students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of world human activity over time. By focusing on selected themes of human activity, we will identify, explore, and compare civilizations, patterns of change, and connections within the history of the world from the foundations of civilization to the present. The course offers balanced global coverage of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe and requires significant reading, intensive essay writing and preparation, and project-based learning. The goal is to effectively prepare students for the culmination of the course, the AP World History exam in May.
United States History – year course
This course covers the history of the United States from the colonial era to the present. It is a general survey of the themes, people, stories, and factors that have shaped the American country. The course moves through the different eras of American history focusing on comparisons, changes, and connections. The history of the United States will be conveyed in this course through primary source documents, texts, music, art, films, photographs, and retellings in an attempt to provide multiple sources and a broader understanding of the American Experiment.
AP United States History– year course
Advanced Placement United States History is a college-level course for students seeking to immerse themselves in the study of the American experience. This fast-paced course uses discussions of readings, essay writing, and collaborative and investigative methods to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful on the AP exam. Students refine their analytical abilities and critical thinking skills and gain sophisticated understanding of historical and geographical context, make multicultural comparisons, and interpret changing historical frameworks.
Globalization: Determining the World’s Future– quarters 1-3
What is Globalization? What does it mean for you, for others, and for the non-human world? In this class we will look at “globalization” and its impacts on a variety of human and environmental contexts. Essentially, this course inspects how we got to where we are as a planet and species and how we are responding to our current historical context. We will also explore ourselves as global and local citizens: how do we participate as consumers, employees and as a global citizens living in the Vail Valley? How are others participating and contributing to a more sustainable future, both in Vail and elsewhere? Students will be asked to critically think, speak, and write about globalization as a phenomenon that permeates our current world context. Course materials will include current writings on global issues, public presentations, student generated lesson plans, and current events. Students will be challenged to propose sustainable and innovative solutions to contemporary global problems.
The upper school mathematics curriculum prepares students for the challenges of collegiate level work. Progress with geometric, algebraic, and trigonometric skills without the aid of technology is emphasized. Additionally, students learn how to harness technology to solve complex application problems. Advanced Placement courses in calculus and statistics are available for qualified students.
Mathematics Course Offerings
Geometry – year course
Geometry introduces and explores logical and spatial reasoning. Two-column proofs are introduced and applied to proving lines parallel and triangles congruent. Algebra is a necessary prerequisite for this course, as students often use geometric principles in order to set-up and solve algebraic equations, as well as graph lines. Additional topics covered in this course include: the Pythagorean Theorem, similar triangles, properties of quadrilaterals, area of polygons and circles, trigonometric ratios, and surface area and volume of geometric solids. Connections are made between the concepts and their applications in the real world. Students learn to use Geometer’s Sketchpad, a computer software program, to enrich their understanding of the topics.
Algebra II – year course
Algebra II is an in-depth study of linear, quadratic, polynomial, exponential, and logarithmic functions. Students learn to distinguish the characteristics of equations and graphs of each of these functions, and then apply them in a variety of situations, often through the use of a graphing calculator. Through both independent and group problem-solving, students strengthen the skills, both with and without the use of a calculator, that will be the foundation for future math courses in high school and college.
Algebra II/Trigonometry – year course
This rigorous, fast-paced course essentially combines two courses, Algebra II and Trigonometry. Students in this class meet five times during the six-day rotation. Through the fall and winter, the course will focus on an in-depth study of linear, quadratic, polynomial, exponential and logarithmic functions. Students learn to distinguish the characteristics of equations and graphs of each of these types of functions and then apply them in a variety of situations. During the spring, students use right triangle trigonometry, the law of sines, and the law of cosines to solve triangles and application problems. Students solve cyclical real world problems using the graphs of trigonometric functions. At the conclusion of this course, highly qualified students may enroll in AP Calculus AB only after completing summer work with rational equations and conic sections.
Trigonometry and Introduction to Pre-Calculus – year course
Trigonometry and Introduction to Pre-Calculus begins with studying introductory pre-calculus concepts including logarithmic and exponential functions, conic sections, and rational functions. In the second semester, students begin their study of trigonometry through solving triangles by finding unknown angle measures and side lengths using right triangle trigonometry and the laws of sines and cosines. The course uses a unit circle approach to trigonometry and distinguishes between angles measured in revolutions, degrees, and radians. Applications are made by finding the arc length and area of a sector. The trigonometric functions are defined, graphed, analyzed, and transformed. Students analyze real world cyclical data through graphing and finding an appropriate equation to model the data in the form of a sinusoidal wave.
Advanced Pre-Calculus – year course
Advanced Pre-Calculus begins by focusing on transformations of graphs, composition of functions, inverse functions, and an in-depth study of both rational functions and conic sections. Students extend their knowledge of trigonometry using an analytic approach to prove complex trigonometric identities. Vectors are introduced and applied to navigation using trigonometry. Students will also explore vector operations, polar coordinate representations, parametric equations, sequences and series, combinations and permutations, as well as limits and derivatives in preparation for their study of calculus. The use of a graphing calculator is emphasized throughout the course.
AP Calculus AB – year course
Calculus AB is an advanced placement course with an equal focus on differential and integral calculus. The concept of the derivative is defined, and rules are established for finding the derivatives of elementary functions. Derivatives are used to graph functions, and applications are made to optimization, related rates of change, and the motion of an object along a line. The definite integral is defined and evaluated using the fundamental theorem of calculus. Applications of definite integrals include finding the area under a curve, volumes of solids of revolution, the distance traveled by an object moving along a line, and accumulated change. Students conclude the year by taking the Advanced Placement test which may qualify them for college credit.
AP Calculus BC – year course
Calculus BC is an Advanced Placement course that builds upon the foundation established in Calculus AB. Differential and integral calculus concepts are reviewed, and applications are explored at a more rigorous level than in Calculus AB. Numerous new integration techniques are introduced. Solutions to differential equations are approximated using Euler’s method. The calculus of parametric equations is applied to motion in two dimensions. Students calculate the area between curves using integration in polar coordinates. They apply a variety of methods to determine the convergence or divergence of an infinite series. Students then create and analyze power series, in the form of Taylor and Maclaurin series, to represent transcendental functions. Students conclude the year by taking the Advanced Placement test, which may qualify them for college credit.
Statistics (with AP option) – year course
Statistics and AP Statistics cover the fundamentals of statistical analysis and their applications to real world data. The year begins with a focus on core concepts, such as graphing, summarizing data, and working with statistical models. Throughout the second half of the year, these topics will be revisited in different contexts to practice producing and evaluating data. Students will use technology (graphing calculators and spreadsheet generators) to aid in and strengthen their statistical analysis. Students choosing to enroll in the AP option will be held to higher standards of depth and mastery through differentiated quizzes, tests, and projects and will also be required to take the AP Statistics exam in May.
The English curriculum follows a developmental progression of increasing sophistication in grammar, vocabulary, discussion skills, writing, and reading. Emphasis is also placed on the study of Shakespeare which occurs in grades 9-11.The upper school English department utilizes Harkness Tables, wooden oval tables that allow discussion to be the primary method of learning. In each grade, texts are pulled from the American, British, and World canon to provide a wide range of diversity and organized by theme. AP English Literature and Language is offered to 11th grade dedicated students with solid skills in critical reading and writing. In 12th grade, students are provided with an opportunity to choose their English class from two offerings that vary each year based on teacher and student interest. A Senior Seminar class will be offered in the 4th quarter for those students who continue their study of English.
English Course Offerings
English 9: Foundations of Literature – year course
This is a required year long course for all freshmen. We focus on establishing the foundation necessary for upper-level skill progression in English. Students begin this journey with the study of various genres including novels, short stories, and poetry, as well as a performance based unit on Shakespeare that culminates in our annual Shakespeare Festival. A heavy emphasis on grammar and structured writing skills pervades all that we do in this class so that students are practicing skills that will aid them through the rest of their academic careers. The Harkness Table provides students with opportunities to hone listening and speaking skills, and to allow them the cultivation of their own voices and opinions in discussion.
English 10: British & World Literature – year course
This is a required year long course for all sophomores. The tenth grade year in English focuses on the study of British and World texts based in analysis, discussion, paper-writing, and creative projects. The content of the class is based around finding similarities between students and characters regardless of differences in time, culture, and language. Students learn and use grammar skills and a sophisticated vocabulary in order to speak and write articulately, as well as to prepare for standardized tests. The course also contains a Shakespeare component culminating in a Festival at the end of the year. Students leave this course with the ability to participate effectively in discussion, critically examine texts, write interesting and analytical papers, and use correct mechanics to communicate.
English 11: American Literature – year course
This course is one of two offered to juniors, and it focuses on the use of American Literature to cultivate connections to our history curriculum and between students and their cultural roots. We discuss texts that highlight the development of one’s awareness of the individual and society. To that end we focus on analysis of novels, poems, short stories, and personal narratives, as well as the formal study of a Shakespeare play. Student-led discussion constitutes the primary method of learning in order to carry on the Harkness tradition of strong speaking and listening skills. Students hone their skills in writing personal narratives, compare and contrast essays, and literary analyses with the goal of practicing different organizational techniques and effective communication. Vocabulary and grammar are regular components of the daily work in this class.
English 11: AP English Literature & Language – year course
This is an optional, year long course open to 11th grade students who have achieved a high level of success and sophistication in their English skills. Pre-requisites must be met for admission into this course. Attendance in this class guarantees a student’s commitment to taking the AP English Literature and/or Language exam in May. This class will provide a typical VMS experience in English with Harkness table discussions and in-depth conversations about literature, but will also focus on AP specific skills like multiple choice tests and essay responses. The AP English Literature & Language course title also demands a close attention to grammar, vocabulary, rhetoric, writing skills, and a focus on non-fiction texts, in addition to the typical study of literature found in VMS English classes.
Seniors have the opportunity to choose between two theme based classes for Quarters 1-3, These courses, regardless of topic, prepare students for college and beyond by expanding their personal point of view through listening, questioning, and defending their stance regarding literature and writing. They work on longer essays, college essays, research, personal narratives, writer modeling, and alternate forms of writing. Emphasis is placed on appropriate and creative use of technology to allow students to become comfortable with collaborative and innovative presentations. Literature is carefully chosen to inspire new perspectives, a moral sensitivity, and passionate as well as compassionate responses. Each year, creative course selections are offered based on the interests of both teachers and students.
Identity Crisis – quarters 1-3
The quest to understand the self and one’s place in the world is at the heart of the human condition. Thus, appropriately, most great works of literature contain characters in this human struggle to define the self. As readers, we become voyeurs, prying into the minds of these men and women navigating their way through society and its constrictions, and we soon begin to identify with our protagonists’ vulnerabilities because their struggles and uncertainties are universal. Thus, reading the following works of literature will allow us to question aspects of ourselves—our identity, our perception, our relationships, our world. We will also read various essays, short stories, and poems to explore these ideas. Assessments will include in-class written and oral commentaries, short essays, text-based analytical essays, and personal writing as well as ongoing studies in grammar and vocabulary.
The texts of the course may include: E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.
Streams of Consciousness – quarters 1-3
Throughout the course of human history, water has been both physically and metaphorically life-giving. Rivers provide the tools that we as humans need to survive: we bathe, drink, travel, irrigate, and baptize in the waters that flow through our world. These streams that run through the land are representative of the thoughts that run through our minds. Rivers are a metaphor for those qualities that are somewhat less quantifiable: enlightenment, quests (both internal and external), fulfillment, sacredness, love, philosophy, and the sublime. This course will explore the power of rivers both literal and figurative; in poetry and prose, fiction and essays; and through students’ own analysis and creative writing. We hope to include a 3 day river trip at some point in this class.
Likely texts may include: selections from Ed Abbey, Ernest Hemingway, Pamela Houston, Barry Lopez, et al.; River Teeth, David James Duncan; A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean; A River Sutra, Gita Mehta.
Science courses in upper school offer students a survey of the core sciences through lab-based instruction. In all classes, students use principles of design to construct unique and genuine experiments. Ninth graders are taught many practical skills and concepts using the physical sciences to prepare them well for higher-level thinking and communicating effectively as a future scientist in advanced course. Starting in tenth grade, students can select a traditionally rigorous route or an accelerated route. Depending on the route taken, students have numerous choices during junior and senior year designed to support any college aspiration. AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics C, AP Chemistry, and Anatomy and Physiology are offered to students who have met the prerequisites. All courses integrate a sense of place in typical lessons and are designed to provide practical insights into the scientific world.
Science Course Offerings
Foundations in Chemistry and Physics – year course
In this course, students will learn to think scientifically by studying and experimenting with the physical world. Topics in both Chemistry and Physics will be covered and related to everyday life in order to introduce students to the physical sciences. Interactive labs and demonstrations will be used to strengthen important science skills like collecting measurements and making sense of data. This course will prepare students to think critically about the physical world and give them direction in the science course offerings available to upperclassmen.
Biology (Includes EEB and CMB) – year course
- Evolution, Ecology and Behavior (EEB)- This course will explore the role and function of organisms in ecosystems. Population dynamics, organism interactions, and the flow of energy will expand our understanding of ecological systems. We will also study how natural selection and evolution of groups and individuals create and affect biodiversity in ecosystems. Students can expect lab-based work, collaborative learning, and rigorous content to prepare them for an AP Biology Course.
- Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB)- This laboratory science course takes a molecular approach to the study of life while also acknowledging the driving force of evolution in shaping the foundations of life’s metabolism. Students will learn how life works at the molecular level through numerous lab investigations and will improve their communication skills through well-supported lab analysis and write-ups. Essential metabolic processes will be examined closely including: biochemical synthesis, cellular respiration, protein synthesis, cellular division, and molecular genetics. Students will be well prepared for AP Biology after completing this class and will be ready for future coursework in the biological sciences in college.
Accelerated Chemistry/Cellular and Molecular Biology – year course
- Chemistry- This course is designed to give students a rich understanding of how and why matter interacts on earth in an accelerated semester of instruction. Students develop a strong foundation in the language of chemistry and learn how to apply this foundation to increasingly complex reactions. Many lab investigations will be conducted to bring concepts to life as students learn how to report data properly in support of conclusions. Areas of study include: bonding, formulas, qualitative reactions, stoichiometry, acid-base chemistry, and oxidation-reduction reactions.
- Cellular and Molecular Biology- This laboratory science course takes a molecular approach to the study of life while also acknowledging the driving force of evolution in shaping the foundations of life’s metabolism. Students will learn how life works at the molecular level through numerous lab investigations and will improve their communication skills through well-supported lab analysis and write-ups. Essential metabolic processes will be examined closely including: biochemical synthesis, cellular respiration, protein synthesis, cellular division and molecular genetics. Students will be well prepared for AP Biology after completing this class and will be ready for future coursework in the biological sciences in college.
Chemistry – year course
This course is designed to give students a rich understanding of how and why matter interacts on earth. Students develop a strong foundation in the language of chemistry and learn how to apply this foundation to increasingly complex reactions. Many lab investigations will be conducted to bring concepts to life as students learn how to report data properly in support of conclusions. Areas of study include: bonding, formulas, qualitative reactions, stoichiometry, acid-base chemistry, oxidation-reduction reactions, and organic chemistry.
Anatomy and Physiology – year course
This course will explore the structure and function of human tissue, organs, and musculoskeletal system. We will use the broad topics of what bodies do to tackle the various systems of anatomy, including bones & muscles, circulatory system, digestive tract, and the nervous system. Where applicable, structures will be compared with other species to provide insight into the various advantages and disadvantages of human systems. Students can expect lab and group-based work (think dissections!), written analyses, and rigorous content.
AP Environmental Science – year course
The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science. This course is a rigorous science course that stresses scientific principles and analysis and will include a laboratory component as well as issues-based projects. The content of the course follows the AP curriculum and will give students an appreciation for and understanding of the complexity of events that have shaped the earth during its 4.6 billion year history.
AP Physics – C – year course
This course will be an in-depth, calculus-based look into the theories of Newtonian Mechanics. It is designed for first year physics students and is equivalent to an introductory college physics course in mechanics. In order to address each concept thoroughly and to cater to varied learning styles, the course is taught through classroom discussion, hands-on experiments, problem-solving in small groups, demonstrations, and investigations into real world applications. Calculus AB is considered a co-requisite course, meaning it may be taken concurrently. The syllabus of this course will follow the format laid out by the College Board in order to prepare students to take the AP Physics C Mechanics Exam in May. By the end of this course, students will not only know the fundamental laws of Physics, they will also be familiar with the origin of these laws and learn to apply them to situations in the world around them.
AP Biology- year course
This course is a college-level biology course aimed at providing an in-depth look at the structures and processes governing life on earth. Biochemistry, genetics and organisms are the focus of this class. Lab skills are honed through inquiry-based experiments and an examination of feline anatomy during a dissection project. Students prepare for and take the AP Biology exam in the spring. By the end of this course, students will have developed an enduring understanding of the essential interactions that shape life on earth from the molecular to the ecosystem level.
AP Chemistry – year course
The AP Chemistry course provides students with a foundation to support future advanced course work in chemistry. Through inquiry-based learning, students develop critical thinking and reasoning skills. Students cultivate their understanding of chemistry and science practices as they explore topics such as: atomic structure, intermolecular forces and bonding, chemical reactions, kinetics, thermodynamics, and equilibrium. By the end of this course, students will have acquired the skills and knowledge to be successful in advanced coursework in college.
The department’s goal is to develop each of the four language-learning skills in every student: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The curriculum provides students with opportunities to learn grammar, vocabulary, and cultural awareness through enrichment and immersion programs. Additionally, learning is supported through the use of technology and an online reading, listening, and speaking component.
World Languages Course Offerings
Mandarin I – year course
Mandarin I introduces basic Chinese Mandarin language and Chinese culture to beginning learners, focusing on pronunciation and speaking tools for real life situations. Cultural components, literature, and history complement language skills and enrich the curriculum. The course is designed for students who have not had the opportunity to learn a non-European language.
Mandarin II – year course
Mandarin II is an advanced-beginner level course designed for upper-school students who have previously studied Chinese for one academic year. The overarching goal of the course is for students to build upon the foundational language skills covered in their first year of study and to develop an increased proficiency level that allows them to engage with more complex language across the four language domains, i.e. listening, speaking, reading, and writing. As students become increasingly familiar with the language, they will encounter opportunities to learn more about the culture of the global community of Chinese speakers.
Spanish II – year course
Spanish II will provide an introduction and review of the basic concepts and vocabulary of the Spanish language. The students will practice and perfect their use of “agreement” in all of their communication in the target language. To learn a foreign language one must take a risk and take ownership of his or her own learning. Class participation is an essential and integral component of daily class activities. Students will learn through grammar exercises, games, videos, daily conversations, and popular music.
Spanish III – year course
In Spanish III, there is a focus on expression. By the end of this year, students will have learned how to express ideas in the past, present and future tenses, in both written and spoken Spanish. The instructor speaks mostly in the target language, and students should also communicate in Spanish at all times. The use of authentic materials (newspapers, Spanish-language television, popular music, etc.) helps the students to immerse themselves in the culture without leaving the classroom.
Spanish IV – year course
In Spanish IV students continue to be immersed in the target language. A comprehensive review of previously learned grammatical tenses is followed by an introduction to some of the more advanced tenses such as the perfect tenses, future, conditional, command forms, and subjunctive moods. Students are expected to incorporate more advanced vocabulary and grammar into their written and verbal expression.
Advanced Spanish IV – year course
The Advanced Spanish IV course seeks to expand on the grammar, vocabulary, conversation skill set, and cultural themes learned in previous VMS Spanish courses. Using authentic materials from a variety of Spanish-speaking cultures, the course will additionally integrate group and individual projects, oral presentations, debates, literature, music, and film to provide a diverse approach to language comprehension and expression. The class will be taught entirely in Spanish, and students will be expected to use their own Spanish skills during all of their classroom activities. Students in this class are preparing for the AP Spanish Language and Culture course.
Cultural Spanish – year course
After a review of grammar and vocabulary, this course focuses on understanding culture through classic literature, music, movies, and current events. The class will use the Spanish language to explore the “conflicts” of human nature, political strife, and life along the border. We will view the films “Missing”, “A Better Life”, “El Norte”, and “Tortilla Soup”. The following novels, short stories and poems will provide the students with an opportunity to practice their speaking, reading, writing and oral skills in the target language: El Mancebo, Una Carta a Dios, Nada Menos Que Todo Un Hombre, Un Senor Viejo Con Unas Alas Enormes, and Yo Soy Joaquin.
AP Spanish Language and Culture – year course
The AP Spanish Language and Culture class is a rigorous course taught exclusively in Spanish that requires students to improve their proficiency across the three modes of communication – interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. The course focuses on the integration of authentic cultural resources including online print, audio, and audiovisual resources, as well as traditional print resources that include literature, essays, magazine, and newspaper articles, with the goal of providing a rich, diverse learning experience. Students are expected to communicate using advanced vocabulary and linguistic structures as they build proficiency in all modes of communication and prepare for the content and format of the AP Exam in May.
At the upper school level, the performing arts program is designed to allow students with interests in music or drama to further develop their skills through both exploratory and performance-based courses. Upper school music performance electives include the Upper School Choral Ensemble and Instrumental Ensemble, which meet two to four times a week and explores music in a variety of styles. Vocal pieces may include music from the classical, popular, jazz, or Broadway traditions, and often incorporate student-composed pieces as well. Instrumental music may include traditional band repertoire, as well as jazz and popular works. Students are encouraged to build their knowledge of music theory, musicianship, and notation as a part of these classes. Students may supplement their performance classes or delve into other areas of interest with electives including piano and guitar, as well as music theory and composition courses.
Performing Arts Major Course Offerings
Musical Theater Performance Major – semester two course
This major level course explores basic musical theatre acting skills through application. The students learn the play selection process, the rehearsal process, and the performance/staging process of the selected production piece. The production for this course will be a musical. However, singing and dancing experience is not necessary. Students can choose non-singing and dancing roles. The production is a requirement for all students who take the course. There will be limited afterschool rehearsals, and the rehearsals are planned around other school activities to give all students an opportunity to participate. The student, however, must be available the Sunday through Saturday of the production week.
Choral Ensemble Major – semester course
This major level course is for students who would like to explore and expand their musical knowledge through singing. Through this major level course, students further develop vocal technique and music reading skills, and build their ability to hear and sing independent harmonic lines. This course combines a more in-depth music theory curriculum with performance. Music for this class is student-driven, and may include pieces from popular, musical theater, jazz, and classical literature. Students may also hone their accompanying skills at the piano or guitar if they choose. This group performs throughout the year as part of VMS’s concert schedule, and may play in collaboration with the upper school instrumental ensemble.
Instrumental Ensemble Major – semester course
This class is designed for students who would like to explore and expand their musical knowledge through playing an instrument not only at an ensemble level, but as a soloist as well. Through this major level course students will build instrumental technique, sight reading skills, aural training, along with composition and a theory curriculum and develop the ability to play independently with others. Music for this class is student-driven, and may include pieces from jazz, popular, and classical literature. This group performs throughout the year as part of VMS’s concert schedule, and may play in collaboration with the upper school choral ensemble.
Performing Arts Elective Course Offerings
Instrumental Ensemble Elective – semester course
This class is designed for students who would like to explore instrumental playing at the ensemble level. Through this elective, students build instrumental technique and music reading skills, and develop the ability to play independently with others. Music for this class is student-driven, and may include pieces from jazz, popular, and classical literature. This group performs throughout the year as part of VMS’s concert schedule, and may play in collaboration with the upper school choral ensemble.
Theater Dance Elective – semester course
This elective course will focus on trained dancers who will dance lead in the spring musical. This course showcases dancers who train with dance studios who would like to share their talents by dancing lead in the musical show. This course is strictly for choreography only. It is not a technique class. There will be extremely limited afterschool rehearsals, as the demand of the dance studios is generally quite extensive. The student, however, must be available the Sunday through Saturday of the production week.
Choral Ensemble Elective – semester course
This class is designed for those who enjoy singing in a group atmosphere. Through this elective, students build vocal technique and music reading skills, and develop the ability to hear and sing independent harmonic lines. Music for this class is student-driven, and may include pieces from popular, musical theater, jazz, and classical literature. Students may also hone their accompanying skills at the piano or guitar if they choose. This group performs throughout the year as part of VMS’s concert schedule, and may play in collaboration with the upper school instrumental ensemble.
In upper school, students can take a variety of visual art courses designed to enhance their skills and hone their talents. In the areas of drawing, painting, three-dimensional design/ceramics, photography, and computer art, students take a sequence of classes of increasing skill level to meet the art requirements. Upper school electives combine studio work with theory, aesthetics, criticism, and understanding of the arts. Introductory level courses cover critical skills and concepts such as composition, color fundamentals, and understanding of materials and techniques involved in the specific medium that is being practiced. As students progress to higher level classes, they use these skills and develop more complex techniques, leading to individual and unique styles of artwork. For upper school students who seek more intensive studies, Senior Portfolio and Senior Projects in the arts are possible.
Visual Arts Major Course Offerings
Foundation Studio – year course
This course provides ninth grade students with a foundation in studio art. Students are introduced to theories of modern art while experimenting with a variety of materials. Throughout the year, the class will explore numerous mediums including, but not limited to, drawing, painting, sculpture, assemblage, block printing, collages, mixed media, and digital studio. The course encourages students to think creatively, conceptualize, and practice craftsmanship. Critiques are a vital component of the course. By balancing the study of art history, studio practice, and art criticism, students develop various approaches to art-making and gain insight into the art world.
Design Major – semester course
This course helps students gain an understanding of the principles and elements of design, including, but not limited to, the following: unity, focal point, emphasis, movement, contrast, pattern, scale, balance, rhythm, line, shape/volume, texture, space, value, and color. Project will include 2D and 3D studies allowing for students to have more choice over their medium selections. A greater understanding is gained through the completion of sketchbook assignments and personal art projects. Students develop skills in the analysis of art through verbal and written critiques, as well as the development of art vocabulary.
Design and Technology Major – semester course
This major track course provides students with the understanding and technical skills for digital and traditional methods of making art. Students utilize different digital and traditional techniques while taking in compositional considerations to create a personalized body of work. This course will explore mixed media, typography, photography, drawing methods and other digital media. A greater understanding of conceptual thought is gained through the completion of weekly digital assignments. Students develop skills in the analysis of art through verbal and written critiques, as well as the development of art vocabulary.
Drawing Major – semester course
This course delves into the study and process of drawing. Students build a strong foundation of drawing skills based on observation, and they challenge their creative and abstract thinking skills through a series of lessons and projects. Personal expression is emphasized as students explore the creative process using a variety of drawing media. A greater understanding is gained through the completion of sketchbook assignments and personal art projects. Students develop skills in the analysis of art through verbal and written critiques, as well as the development of art vocabulary.
Painting Major – semester course
As an exploration into the study and practice of painting, this four day/week course explores method, development, and presentation of water based and acrylic painting. Students are expected to develop a body of work that demonstrates attention to creative process, expression, and the elements of composition. A greater understanding is gained through the completion of sketchbook assignments and personal art projects. Students develop skills in the analysis of art through verbal and written critiques, as well as the development of art vocabulary.
Senior Portfolio Major – quarters 1-3
Senior Portfolio is a major level course directed towards students who wish to develop a professional quality portfolio or their own personal collection of work. This major track class is three quarters in length. Students create a personal body of work while exploring modern and contemporary art theory and philosophy. Students are expected to develop a personal art statement and complementary portfolio. Students may work in any medium for their coursework. By balancing the study of art history, studio practice, and art criticism, students develop various approaches to art-making and gain greater insight into the art world and their own personal exploration of art approaches.
VISUAL ARTS ELECTIVE COURSE OFFERINGS
Fiber Arts Elective – quarter course
During this course, students will explore a variety of Fiber Arts methods, including weaving, paper creation, and multi-media projects. The students will be encouraged to be creative and demonstrate personal exploration in a wide range of fiber projects.
Painting Elective – quarter course
This elective course will allow students to explore painting techniques using watercolor and acrylic painting mediums. Students will be introduced to new methods, and they will be encouraged to show creativity in a wide range of projects.
Drawing I Elective – quarter course
This elective course will allow students to explore a variety of drawing mediums and techniques. Students will be introduced to new methods of drawing while encouraging creativity in a wide range of projects.
Drawing II Elective – quarter course
This elective course will build on the techniques learned in Drawing I, and will allow students to explore a higher level of drawing challenges. Students will be introduced to new methods of drawing while encouraging creativity in a wide range of projects.
Sculpture I – quarter course
This elective course will focus on basic construction techniques and methods. Students will explore a variety of mediums, including clay, paper, and wire. Students will be encouraged to be creative in planning and executing 3-Dimensional works of art.
Sculpture II – quarter course
This elective course will build on the construction techniques and methods learned in Sculpture I, requiring students to produce 3-Dimensional works of art that demonstrate more technical skills and conceptual thought.
Mixed Media Elective – quarter course
This elective course will focus on how to combine multiple mediums to develop mixed media art pieces. Students will work with materials such as cut paper, drawing tools, paints, three-dimensional objects and more. This course will push students to learn about the properties of each material while expressing themselves through creative project studies.
Printmaking – quarter course
This elective course will explore a variety of printmaking techniques, including carving processes and ink applications. This class will focus on the basic elements of Art and principles of design, which will be emphasized within the printed composition.
Yearbook Elective – quarters 1-3
The yearbook elective is a three-quarter course dedicated to the process of designing and producing the VMS Yearbook. Students learn what is required to design and create a book for publication. This student-run course focuses on photography, page design, typography, and editing.
Offered during every quarter, 9th and 10th graders are required to take three quarter electives each year. 11th and 12th graders are required to take two quarter electives each year. Electives meet once every six days and sign-ups will occur before every quarter. Academic electives are courses where teachers offer a class outside their disciplines where they explore a particular academic passion. Examples in past years include: Creative Writing, Financial Literacy, Social Psychology, Chess, Modern Physics, and Greenhouse Internship.
Intraterm is a week-long program led by faculty and staff during which all 9th-12th grade students choose a course of study designed to enrich the traditional curriculum and the student’s intellectual curiosity. Course titles from previous years include: Southern California College Tour, Winter Safety Skills, Costa Rica Immersion, Art for Change, Exploration of Architecture, Science Research Experience, Food, Discovering Engineering, Space Exploration, and the Harvard Leadership Institute.
Rather than traditional course work, seniors may elect to complete a project during the fourth quarter of grade twelve. Projects most often fall within the realm of science, humanities, fine arts, and performing arts. Student may choose between researched-based or creative project, with a possible internship, all of which culminate in the submission of a scholarly paper and/or portfolio, an oral defense, and a presentation to an audience comprised of the senior’s advisory board, community experts, peers, and the general public. Students who opt to participate in Senior Project will substitute two classes, during fourth quarter to accommodate the demands of the project. Advanced Placement courses cannot be dropped for project work. Projects from past years include: Holography: The Light Train; Lost Color: A Comprehensive Look at Vitiligo and its Treatments; Computer Programming; Discerning Between “Can” and “Should”: Examining the Role Christian Ethics in End-of-Life Pediatric Cases; Kettle Soups: A Restaurant Business Plan; Causes of the Poverty Cycle in Tanzania: Potential Solutions to Curb Malaria; Oasis of the Soul: Writing River Teeth; Using Brazilian Jiu-jitsu to Stop Bullying; An Explication on the War on Drugs In Mexico.