The academic curriculum at private schools can be rather advanced and challenging. However, amidst the traditional courses like Algebra and English are spectacular learning opportunities, made possible by enriched endowments or star faculty members or access to impressive campuses, abundant in art and history.
The appeal of a private school education lies not only in the curriculum, but for the experiences the school can provide beyond the classroom. Schools driven by their mission — one that often is dedicated to developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while nourishing the mind, body and soul, offer a vast array of programs, initiatives, and electives designed to expose students to more than the typical subjects and help them think differently about the world.
We took a look at some of the electives and special course offered by our member schools. What we uncovered speaks to the variety of educational resources, unique environmental characteristics and depth of faculty bodies available by these schools, across the country and in your own backyard. One thing is for sure — we wish we could go back to high school.
Blue Ridge School
The Blue Ridge School campus of nearly 800 acres, lies at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, the boys school provides small classes, a structured environment and a strong sense of community. Through the school’s outdoor elective curriculum, students can get a hands-on approach to the world around them – literally.
Outdoor Living Skills
Outdoor Living Skills is an elective offered by Blue Ridge School’s Outdoor Education Program. The course goal is to introduce students to the principles of recreation and leisure as well as the fundamentals of back-country travel. Class participants will specifically develop hard skills essential to outdoor recreation pursuits; including mountain travel, camping, cooking, and orienteering. Major projects will include a overnight camping trip on campus and a paper discussing recreation philosophy. Students who appreciate the challenge of wilderness pursuits and who desire to learn how to be better prepared for outdoor activities are encouraged to take this class.
At the Hoosac School, located in the Hudson Valley near the borders of New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont, students not only share in the experiences that the school has to offer, they also have library privileges at the area colleges and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and enjoy many cultural programs offered on these campuses. As such, Hoosac offers a variety of sophisticated electives focusing on business, government, technology and design.
Contemporary Global Issues
Through the use of newspapers, television, the Internet, video & DVD and Newsweek Magazine, the course explores worldwide as well as domestic events and patterns of human and governmental behavior. Analysis of world government structures and why they work or do not work to the benefit of the world populace. Topics each week are formed by global happenings in all areas: Politics, health, weather and natural occurrences, science, education, business, sports, the arts and cultures.
Kents Hill School
The Kents Hill School, in Maine, offers its own Environmental Studies curriculum, which features classes designed to teach students about their natural environment. With mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and with lakes bordering both sides of the 600 acre wooded campus, Kents Hills students have the perfect place to study the environment.
Environmental Art & Design
The purpose of this course is to focus on a variety of interrelated topics and projects with the environment at the center of our creative thinking. Water, wind, earth, metal, fire, and wood are each highlighted in a project. Students will be encouraged to look carefully at the work of environmental artists, contemporary and historic. Projects will take place in and out of the art studio and recycled materials will used whenever possible.
Evangelical Christian School
At the Evangelical Christian School in Memphis, students are exposed to a variety of activities beyond the classroom. The Enrichment and Electives Program, in particular, is designed to support and enhance the ECS mission by providing a resource-based, real-world, active learning curriculum. The program facilitates leadership and collaboration between students, teachers, parents, and the community.
Bit, Bytes & Bots Computer Adventures
This Middle School class teach students how program the amazing LEGO Mindstorms NXT robots. Students will use new skills to meet challenges such as using sensors to navigate through terrain or battling an opponent at Robot Sumo. This class will introduce programming concepts such as repeat loops, and if/then statements, and the use of sensors. The class can be taken by students with little or no experience with robotics. Each student will be provided with a laptop robot.
The Midland School, located in Santa Barbara County in the town of Los Olivos, encompasses 2,860 acres, a large percentage of which is relatively untouched. With access to neighboring state parks and national forests, the campus becomes part of the classroom. Science classes camp and learn orienteering as part of the curriculum, English classes search out secluded meadows in which to write, read, and discuss, and the fine arts classes include the landscape and natural materials in countless projects.
Water: California’s Liquid Gold
The topic of water use in California has always been, and always will be, controversial. Historically, agriculture has used 80% of available water supplies, but within the last few decades the West’s population boom and rising concerns for environmental preservation have challenged the traditional approach for allocating and dividing up water resources. This course will focus on local and regional water issues as they apply to demands from the environmental, agricultural, domestic, and industrial sectors. Understanding the state’s intricate plumbing system – the Central Valley Project, the State Water Project, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the Colorado River Aqueduct, and thousands of miles of canals and ditches – is crucial to comprehending the big picture of water use in California.