Course Descriptions

Fall 2022 Course Descriptions

Civic Life and Government

To help our community of learners understand the roots and foundations of democratic government through primary documents, such as the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions; how and why government institutions developed; how government evolves through legislation and court decisions; and how individuals exercise their rights and civic responsibilities to maintain a healthy democracy in the nation and the Commonwealth.

The purposes of this class are to use the 4 domains of literacy (reading, listening, speaking and writing) as we:

• extend students’ knowledge of United States and Massachusetts government

• expand their capacity for civic reasoning

• strengthen their ability to develop research questions and conduct inquiries

• introduce significant recurring questions about the United States Constitution, rights, responsibilities, citizenship, a free press, and the concept of the common good

• establish foundational knowledge about government

Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales Writing Lessons (Middle School)

This class follows the “Structure and Style Writing Method” from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Students learn to take notes, retell narrative stories, summarize references, write from pictures, and compose their own fables, myths, and fairy tales.  This class begins simply and increases gradually in complexity to build student confidence in reading and writing skills.  Units 1 and 2 begin with one of Aesop’s fables from which students learn to create a key word outline.  Class discussion will explore literary elements of setting, character, conflict, theme, symbolism, metaphor, etc.  Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure will also be a part of lesson planning.  As the term progresses, students will practice using more stylistic techniques in their writing, such as similes and metaphors, alliteration, and conversation.   Direct and differentiated instruction, structural models, checklists, and useful word lists help support students as they develop their writing skills.  

Reading & Writing (High School)

The first unit of the term will focus on a close reading of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of a young white girl’s growing awareness of racial injustice in the Jim Crow South.  When her father takes on the task of representing a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, she is forced to face the individual and systemic racism present in her small town and the impact of racial prejudice on the lives of all members of the community.  The text pushes students to face an uncomfortable past, consider the ways that many of the book’s themes continue to resonate today, and think about how its warnings and lessons should inform the way we move toward the future. Coursework will include in-depth reading and analysis of the text and historical context sources, class discussions, chapter quizzes and questions, vocabulary in context, final paper, and much more! Coursework is designed to facilitate mastery of the Common Core State Standards and to help students become better readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers.  We’ll improve grammar and punctuation, advance vocabulary, sharpen public speaking skills, and have a great time learning together.  One of the underlying goals will be to prepare students for college writing.  After the completion of this unit, we will have a blast reading and talking and writing about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet!

World History II: The Rise of the Nation State to the Present

To help our community of learners understand the connections between the events of the 19th and 20th centuries to today’s world we will read, listen, discuss and write about significant  primary and secondary sources from the last 200 years.  Students will learn about the Industrial Revolution, 19th century political reform in Western Europe, and imperialism in Africa, Asia, and South America. They will explain the causes and consequences of the great military and economic events of the past century, including World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the Russian and Chinese revolutions. Finally, students will study the rise of nationalism and the continuing persistence of political, ethnic, and religious conflict in many parts of the world. For the final project students will create an artifact of social relevance worthy of inclusion in college admissions portfolios.

Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology 

To understand the structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) of living things, we will begin with an introduction to biological principles, including the unifying themes of life, the scientific method, and biological tools and technology. We will also explore the chemical principles that affect living things. The basic unit of life is the cell, and we will undertake an in-depth study of cell structure and function, energy, homeostasis, growth, division, meiosis, and genetics. Next will be a comprehensive study of the structure and function of the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, neurological, endocrine, cardiovascular, immune, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems. Students will be asked comprehension and critical thinking questions and will perform many laboratory activities with dissections. Various other methods of learning will be introduced, including lectures, discussions, cooperative learning, videos, PowerPoint presentations, microscope work, and group projects. 

Middle School Math/Prealgebra

Textbooks: Middle School Math Math in Focus, Singapore Math

Math Mammoth Marshall Cavendish Education

Copyright 2006-2016 Copyright 2014

Course Descriptions:

This course will cover the following topics:

Fifth Grade

  • The four operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • The order of operations, simple equations and expressions, long multiplication, long division, divisibility, primes, and factoring
  • Place value with large numbers and the calculator
  • Problem solving and simple equations
  • Decimal arithmetic (all operations)
  • Graphing and statistics
  • Fractions (all operations)
  • Geometry: review of angles, area, and perimeter; drawing circles; classifying triangles and quadrilaterals; volume of rectangular prisms

Sixth Grade

  • review of the basic operations with whole numbers
  • beginning algebra topics: expressions, equations, and inequalities
  • review of all decimal arithmetic
  • introduction to ratios and percent
  • prime factorization, GCF, and LCM
  • a review of fraction arithmetic from 5th grade, plus a focus on division of fractions
  • the concept of integers, coordinate grid, addition & subtraction of integers
  • geometry: review of quadrilaterals & drawing problems; area of triangles & polygons; volume of rectangular prisms with fractional edge lengths; surface area
  • statistics: concept of distribution, measures of center, measures of variation, summarizing distributions, boxplots, stem-and-leaf plots, histograms

7th and 8th Grade/Prealgebra

  • Introduction to basic algebra concepts
  • Integers and their operations
  • Solving one-step equations, including with negative numbers
  • Operations with negative rational numbers
  • Solving linear equations and writing equations for word problems
  • Graphing linear equations and an introduction to the concept of slope
  • Ratios, rates, proportions, and percent
  • Geometry: angle relationships, compass & ruler constructions, drawing problems, Pi and the area and circumference of a circle, cross-sections formed when cutting solids, surface area, and volume
  • The Pythagorean theorem (optional)
  • Probability
  • Statistics

Algebra 1

Textbook:  Algebra Structure and Method Book 1

Houghton Mifflin Company

Copyright 2000

Course Description: 

The course introduces students to variables, algebraic expressions, equations, inequalities, functions, and all their multiple representations. In this class, students will develop the ability to explore and solve real-world application problems, demonstrate the appropriate use of graphing calculators, and communicate mathematical ideas clearly. This course lays the foundation for mathematical literacy that will help students be successful in every subsequent course in mathematics. Topics will include: an introduction to algebra, working with real numbers, solving equations and problems, polynomials, factoring polynomials, fractions, applying fractions, introduction to functions, systems of linear equations, inequalities, rational and irrational numbers, and quadratic functions.

High School Geometry 

Textbook: Geometry for Enjoyment and Challenge

McDougal, Littell & Company

Copyright 1991

Course Description:

This course includes an in-depth analysis of plane, solid, and coordinate geometry as they relate to both abstract mathematical concepts as well as real-world problem situations. Topics include logic and proof, parallel lines and polygons, perimeter and area analysis, volume and surface area analysis, similarity and congruence, trigonometry, and analytic geometry. Emphasis will be placed on developing critical thinking skills as they relate to logical reasoning and argument. Students will acquire and demonstrate knowledge of concepts, definitions, properties, and applications of the topics listed above as well as develop the computational skills and strategies needed to solve problems. Students will develop critical thinking and decision making skills by connecting concepts to practical applications.

Financial Literacy

This course is designed to prepare students for financial adulthood. This semester students learn the benefits of budgeting, develop skills for managing debt and establishing credit, practice the financial decision-making involved in buying a car, explore choices involved in purchasing a home, and weigh their options for healthcare coverage, auto insurance, and other types of protection against financial risk. Through class discussions, group activities, and individual work, students will practice the skills essential for a financially healthy life.

Spanish 101

Spanish 101 is a beginner course that introduces the Spanish language to students who have no previous knowledge of the language. Students are introduced to basic vocabulary, common phrases and the grammatical structure of the language.  Course objectives include acquiring communication skills, and ability to speak and write in the present tense; conjugate verbs and apply other basic aspects of grammar; become familiar with basic vocabulary and common phrases; engage in and understand short conversations; write short sentences and paragraphs on familiar topics; and develop an awareness and appreciation of Hispanic cultures.  To achieve these objectives, students will engage in class discussions, structured conversations with peers and the instructor, listening and comprehension exercises, and written and spoken assessments.

Spelling & Grammar

Using a morphemic strategy, students learn basic spelling patterns and progress to new and more irregular spellings.  Carefully planned multisensory sound discrimination exercises to nurture and develop phonological awareness and segmenting skills. Dictation exercises including sentence writing to learn and practice correct punctuation and grammar.  


By studying and practicing forms of performance from the stage to film to voice acting, we aim to develop the ability to express oneself, comfort appearing in front of others, and familiarity with various performing methods.  Primary focus will be placed on finding appropriate material for students to spend time practicing and rehearsing their own skits, monologues, scenes, etc., with occasional classes set aside to watch performances and discuss what we can learn from them as a class.  If time allows, we will also examine the “backstage” side of drama, in terms of sets, lighting, staging, and so on. 

Media Literacy

Today when we are surrounded by more entertainment media than ever, it is essential to learn and continuously develop the skills necessary to fully understand and interpret that media.  This class will aim to give students the skills to critically examine the shows, movies, youtubers, music and writing that they absorb, and to draw their own conclusions about these pieces based in observation.   A secondary goal of the class will be the ability to express ones views and conclusions on a piece in a clear and reasonable fashion, once opinions have been formed.  We will begin by discussing shows and movies that the students are already familiar with, but will dedicate the bulk of our class time to watching and reading new things together and digging deeper through group conversation.

Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons (“DnD”) is essentially a game about telling a story as a group while using dice rolls to determine the outcome of certain actions.  Think of it like a movie where each player can control one of the characters on the screen (which makes me the director I suppose).  

The party has been hired to track down a group of lost adventurers, and have survived a treacherous trip through the Dwarven mountains, a trek through desert lands, and have now reached an ancient dragon temple.  Good luck on your travels everyone!

Visual Art

Goal is to give students the tools to pursue the kind of art that most engages them with confidence.  While it is wonderful to see students tangibly improve in technique, the larger focus of the class is on attempting new methods and learning how to practice effectively.  The key to our class is in learning the skills and mindset to keep pushing and practicing, and acknowledging progress along the way. Each class we narrow our focus onto one aspect of art making (color, line, shape, proportion, etc.), beginning with an artist or piece of media as an example whenever possible. From there, I will guide the class in a series of short exercises to get hands-on experience with this concept, periodically taking time to give feedback and offer direction.  When possible, we also like to take a class here and there to just mess around with a new material (plaster cloth, polymer clay, etc). The goal is to incorporate as diverse media as possible in connecting students with artistic concepts through images that they may already be familiar with, or would engage them effectively.  Artists from throughout history are referenced, as are movies, video games, comics, etc.  Occasionally, short youtube videos are incorporated that effectively break down very specific elements (“how to draw hair,” “using certain colors,” etc).


The chess program will introduce beginner-level students to the game of chess where they will acquire some of the skills necessary to enjoy the game and play good chess.  After an initial period of immersion in playing the game and learning the basics, the students will move on to learning about chess strategy and tactics.  Understanding the imbalances in chess positions, and learning the practical skills necessary to navigate them will be another focal point.  Throughout the course, problem-solving will be the major method of learning all aspects of the game.  We will also cover things like reading chess notation and using a modern day chess timer so that the students are prepared should they decide to try tournament competition.