Upper School (9-12)
The Upper School curriculum offers a rigorous academic program to challenge every student and satisfy a broad range of interests. MBS students can also participate in an array of co-curricular options to gain a deeper understanding of themselves while contributing to the community beyond. We encourage our students to take risks, to engage deeply in learning, and to become independent thinkers. At MBS, we teach the values and habits of mind that we believe will prepare young people not only for success in college, but also for lives of meaning and fulfillment.
Overview of Academic Guidelines and Requirements
The school year consists of two 16-week semesters. Students are required to take a minimum of six courses per semester. Seniors must pass all of their courses to graduate. Exceptions to any of the academic requirements listed below must be approved by the Head of Upper School and Dean of Faculty.
Students generally go beyond these minimum requirements in pursuit of their academic interests, and we encourage them to do so.
For a detailed description of the 2018-19 Upper School Courses see our Curriculum Guide here.
- Advanced Seminar/Advanced Studies Program
- Design Arts and Sciences
- Performing Arts
- World Languages
- Writing Across the Curriculum
In an effort to provide a rigorous alternative to the standardized curriculum and testing of AP courses, the Upper School offers a suite of Advanced courses for seniors and selected juniors that equal or exceed AP courses in terms of conceptual challenge, complexity of material, development of critical skills and overall preparation for college academics. They are therefore the most academically rigorous courses we offer. These courses, which are either one semester (Advanced Seminar courses) or full year, (Advanced Studies courses) are proposed by faculty with a particular interest and expertise in a given field and are subject to a thorough peer-review process, overseen by a committee of experienced teachers with college teaching backgrounds. These advanced courses foreground critical thought and discussion, require students to work independently and are flexible enough to encompass a broad range of course themes. In all Advanced courses, the level of reading, writing and discussion equals that found in a first-year college course. Both Advanced Seminar and Advanced Studies courses are designated with the prefix “AS,” indicating a level of rigor comparable to or exceeding AP courses.
Upper School Design Arts and Sciences is a multi-disciplinary program. The field and study of Design Science comprises the core of the program and the pedagogical focus stresses collaboration, team building, storytelling and media authorship. Using computers as fundamental tools, students are encouraged to adopt a “design” mentality and see hands-on project work as a unified, connected activity held together by some form of "narrative" or story structure. Students are encouraged to develop and discover new skills, take pride in their creations and acquire a respect and appreciation for the work of their peers and other designers and artists.
Studio Arts offerings cover a range of traditional fine arts such as painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, engineering drawing and architecture and a variety of crafts-based arts. Students gain hands-on experience with the various media and modes of representation that characterize the visual arts.
English promotes an integrated seven-year sequence of studies that teaches skills from Grade Six to Twelve. In proportion to cognitive and intellectual opportunities at each level, students learn to read and write critically, with increasing sophistication, as they discover how to ask appropriate questions of texts in all the genres and write with an analytical clarity that promotes creatively developed ideas. Works are chosen both for their literary merit and global awareness of the human condition. As students progress through the program, they deepen their understanding of the dynamic relationship between readers and texts. Class discussion progressively nurtures skills in higher order thinking with an emphasis on articulate self-expression. Teachers create opportunities for project-based learning that augments the emphasis on traditional means of analytical communication.
Interdisciplinary work is cardinal in the Department. In the Middle School, interdisciplinary work arises from teachers’ intentional collaboration with their colleagues in social studies, math, science, languages, and fine arts. In the Upper School, the Humanities program in grades 9, 10, and 11 facilitates the study of common themes as they arise in English and History. Grade 12 provides a rich selection of electives rooted in the study of British and European literature that anticipates the thematic and structural orientation of courses students can expect to encounter in college.
A model of cross-disciplinary collaboration, the Humanities Program in Grades 9, 10, and 11 merges the traditional subject areas of English and History to create a rich and engaging experience of both literature and history. An integrated Humanities curriculum, organized thematically and global in perspective, encourages students to discover significant connections among diverse cultures, works of literature, and time periods while promoting skills in close reading, analytical writing, critical and creative thinking, and oral presentation. Robust techniques of differentiated instruction in discussion-driven classes lead to increasing levels of sophistication of skills at all levels. Technology (including iPads) is fully integrated into classrooms for purposes of reading, writing and revising, and enriching work in progress. Students participate in a series of symposia that permit the entire grade to reflect on the connections they have discovered as they worked in their English and History classes.
The Upper School history program features classroom activities designed to bring history to life, link the past with the present, promote critical thinking and build academic skills. We offer a rigorous and global curriculum of year-long courses and semester electives. Our enthusiastic faculty use a range of teaching materials and methods not only to impart knowledge and understanding, but also to tap into student creativity and encourage active, participatory citizenship. Students learn to value questioning and to be decision-makers; they learn how to conduct research, apply knowledge and express themselves. Teachers emphasize critical thinking and writing, and believe that history can be made rich with drama, triumph, and tragedy, full-blooded characters and lessons learned for the 21st century.
The Humanities approach to the study of English and History merges the traditional subject areas of these departments to create a richer and more engaging experience of both literature and history. An integrated Humanities curriculum, organized thematically and global in perspective, allows students to make new and surprising connections among different cultures, works of literature and time periods, while enhancing a common set of critical skills. The Program relies heavily on analytical writing, critical and creative thinking, discussion-driven classes, close reading and oral presentation. It is also a model of cross-disciplinary collaboration for both students and faculty.
Morristown-Beard School’s mathematics department strives to produce students fluent in quantitative reasoning who can both do and communicate mathematics. We emphasize connections within and beyond mathematics, while ensuring that students develop the mathematical tools and problem solving skills they will need in the future. As students progress through our program, the focus of courses gradually changes from procedural to conceptual thinking. Throughout this transition, we support students with teaching practices based on nationally-recognized standards, and easily available extra help.
Our program is designed to meet each student’s individual needs, and we carefully consider student placement in mathematics courses. Placement decisions are made based on teacher recommendations, previous achievement, and, for students new to the school, entrance examination scores. Students wishing to accelerate their math program through summer work must obtain the approval of the mathematics department chair no later than May 31.
The science faculty believes that science education should prepare students for a future that includes college, career, civic responsibility, and global guardianship. It is our goal to provide our students with the science background they will need to tackle the rigors of
science courses in college. In their science classes, students learn to analyze and think critically ways that will guide them toward making responsible, informed decisions as young adults. In keeping with the MBS commitment to developing global awareness, students in science know that they are world citizens, and that scientific and technological decisions occur within a social and ethical context.
The science curriculum includes a sequence of courses designed to introduce students to the broad, basic areas and elements of science. These courses meet the admissions requirements for the variety of colleges and universities to which our students apply, and are also offered at different levels in order to enhance opportunities for student success. In addition to the core subjects of physics, chemistry and biology, qualified students may take Advanced Geosciences, science electives, and/or Advanced Placement courses.
Morristown-Beard’s Performing Arts curriculum features both performance-based and arts literacy classes. This range of courses allows students who have previous performance experience to enhance their existing skills while also encouraging students without training or experience to explore the world through the unique prism of the performing arts. Independent Study opportunities in dance, theater management, film studies, songwriting, playwriting and other aspects of the performing arts can also be arranged. Co-curricular and extra-curricular offerings include annual vocal, instrumental and dance concerts, as well as a fall play, a winter musical, a theater lab performance and an a cappella singing group.
Health is defined as not merely the absence of disease, but as a dynamic, multi-dimensional state of wellness that is variable, constantly changing and dependent largely on personal habits and decisions. It is the essential foundation of a full and rich life. The goal of Morristown-Beard's Wellness curriculum is to produce positive attitudes and healthy decision-making in the physical, emotional, mental, and social areas of growth; it is a holistic approach to wellness. The student learns facts and correlations, analyzes and discusses them, and then applies them to the decision-making process in real life situations.
Graduation Requirement: One Quarter each stipulated year (see explanation below). Each course runs for One Quarter, or 8 weeks, meeting three times per week in grades 6-9 and 11 (in Grade 10 Health is replaced by Driver's Education, and Grade 12 participates in the Senior Transitions). Students are required to meet the requirements of each course before progressing to the next level.
The Language Department offers classes in French and Spanish (level 1 to AP), and Latin (level 1 to 5 Honors). Freshmen coming from the MBS middle school are placed through a combination of testing and teacher recommendation. New MBS students take a placement test and typically enroll in levels 1, 2 or 2H. The graduation requirement is three consecutive years of the same language in the Upper School.
The ultimate goal of second language study is the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of situations. This requires that students develop oral, aural, written, grammatical, lexical and cultural forms of linguistic competency. We endeavor to develop all forms of competency through use of a variety of approaches, with special emphasis on appropriate use of the target language in various contexts. As students reach upper level courses, increased emphasis is placed on higher order thinking carried out in the language being studied. A variety of assessment practices (oral, aural, written, project-based, formative and summative) measures student progress across the range of required abilities. While mastery of vocabulary and basic structural elements of language is required, the MBS language program endeavors to maintain a vibrant and stimulating atmosphere of learning in which student engagement and active participation in class activities are strongly promoted.
In addition to the ability to comprehend ancient Latin texts, the study of Latin develops a host of skills that are applicable in all disciplines. It promotes analytical and synthetic thinking, intellectual and linguistic rigor, and effective, clear communication. It also contributes to gaining self-knowledge through learning about the origins of Western Civilization. Latin students will delve into various aspects of Roman literature and history, culture and mythology, thereby making connections between the classical legacy and contemporary civilization.
Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is a pedagogical movement that values writing as a method of learning across all fields, not merely in the traditional areas such as English and history courses. When students are given frequent opportunities for WAC, they think more critically and creatively, engage more deeply in their learning, and are better able to transfer what they have learned from course to course, context to context. In 2011, MBS established a comprehensive Center for Academic Writing (modeled closely on the writing centers found in every college and university) led by a trained composition specialist who has helped to establish a robust writing program at the School. Transformative assignments have been integrated into Science, Math, Wellness, Foreign Language, History, and Performing Arts departments. In 2013 we created a junior elective designed to train students to be peer tutors in composition. Students engaged in academic writing at MBS are supported through a variety of writing workshops, feedback from faculty and peers, and other services offered by the Center.
The Center for Academic Writing
Morristown-Beard School is a community of writers. We forge connections across disciplines and across divisions. In an effort to cultivate confident, competent writers, we are committed to providing support services embedded in composition pedagogy. The Morristown-Beard School Center for Academic Writing supports students, faculty, and staff from all Upper School levels and disciplines through all stages of the writing process. The Center’s primary goals are:
- Support students, faculty, and staff in all stages of the writing process through individualized instruction
- Supplement classroom instruction and support writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives
- Offer one-on-one tutoring by trained faculty and peer tutors
- Facilitate the growth of strong academic and creative writers