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Upper School Curriculum

Bryn Mawr’s college-preparatory program offers stimulating and challenging academics across many disciplines. In addition, our coordinate program with Gilman School and Roland Park Country School provides the opportunity for students to participate in coed classes during their Upper School years, and to choose from a large and varied selection of elective courses. Coordinate classes are concentrated at the junior and senior levels, but offerings in world languages begin in ninth grade.

Course Descriptions

List of 12 items.

  • English

    The English Department seeks to help its students find beauty and meaning in the written word, be confident in sharing their thoughts, and express their ideas clearly in writing and in speech. Our goals are rooted in the belief that strong language skills ready us for the essential human pursuits of seeking selfknowledge and participating in the world.

    The English curriculum emphasizes careful reading, vigorous writing, creative thinking, attentive listening, and articulate speaking. Because the development of these skills is a process, we teach the same skills with increasing sophistication in each of the four Upper School years. By reading a diverse selection of literature, students become aware of the relationships among the reader, the writer, and the text. Students write frequently, and through the drafting process and the individual attention of their teachers, learn both to develop their ideas and to write with greater power. In all English classes, teachers encourage and value the participation of every student. The curriculum also prepares students to take standardized tests such as the SAT and the AP Literature and Composition Exam.

    English is coordinated with Gilman in the eleventh grade; in the twelfth grade, students choose from a wide array of semester electives at Bryn Mawr, Gilman, and Roland Park.
  • History

    The History program provides students with a comprehensive foundation in the political, economic, cultural and intellectual development of the world. Courses emphasize the historian’s tools – research, primary source reading, and verbal and written analysis, and classes use technology extensively. Cross registration with our coordinate schools allows seniors to pursue a wide range of historical methods and topics. Cocurricular opportunities such as Model Congress, Debate Club and Model United Nations enhance the formal program. AP World History prepares students for the AP World exam; AP Economics, AP Comparative Government and Politics, and AP Human Geography are offered in the senior year. The Advanced Seminar in United States History helps prepare students for the AP US History exam.
  • Mathematics

    The Mathematics department seeks to develop in its students an understanding and love of mathematics, with a vision for its importance and relevance in our increasingly technologically sophisticated world. Our curriculum focuses on understanding mathematical concepts and applying mathematical skills to the logical and critical thinking processes involved in problem solving and real-life situations. Through exploring ideas both with and without the aid of various technologies, students gain an insight into the historical foundations of mathematics and the excitement of mathematical discovery.

    The individual courses develop skills in all levels of pre-college mathematics. Students are grouped homogeneously in mathematics. Various measures are considered so that appropriate grouping is made for each student. A strong record, mature outlook, and the ability to work successfully, independently, and in more depth in a faster paced course are especially important for placement in honors courses.

    Student participation in honors mathematics in the Upper School at Bryn Mawr is based on a process which includes a teacher recommendation to the department, which then makes a decision based on current and past performances in mathematics classes and on tests and other assessment measures. Consideration for placement in an honors mathematics course from a non-honors level is based on, but not limited to, teacher recommendations, year averages of 95 or higher and semester exam scores of 85 or higher in non-honors mathematics courses during the previous two years. Placement in an honors course from a non-honors course will require some summer work in topics not covered in the non-honors sequence. In order to remain in an honors mathematics course (Elementary Functions, Honors Geometry, Pre-Calculus AB, Pre- Calculus BC, AP Calculus AB, or AP Calculus BC), a student must display mastery of the material by earning a yearly average of 83 or higher and a semester exam score of 75 or higher for every semester. Each student’s placement is re-evaluated every year.
  • Science

    The goal of the Science department is to have all students sense the excitement of science and appreciate natural processes. To that end, all courses are laboratory-oriented and stress the ability of the student to perform valid inquiry exercises. By encountering a variety of courses, students increase their understanding of how the universe functions, recognize the inconstancy of knowledge, use and appreciate the tools of science, become better acquainted with technology, and gain skills and knowledge necessary for good citizenship.
  • Computer Science

    The Computer Science curriculum emphasizes problem-solving, computational thinking, and collaboration while utilizing the latest emerging technologies. Students learn about Computer Science in a project-based environment and often utilize our Innovation Lab in their coursework as they develop solutions to real world problems.

    All ninth grade students take a semester-long course entitled “Intro to Computer Science.” Ninth grade students learn about a wide array of Computer Science topics, HTML, CSS, 3-D printing, Arduino circuits and computer programming in C. Tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade students have access to a wide range of Computer Science electives, including:
    • AP Computer Science
    • Programming iPhone Apps (Honors)
    • Robotics
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Industrial Design
    • Graphic Design I and II
  • Fine and Performing Arts

    Visual arts students have a wide range of courses to choose from to develop their drawing, painting, graphic design and animation skills. The year culminates with a thematic cross-divisional art show as well as the annual Upper School Art Show.

    For students interested in music, opportunities include auditioned choral groups Camerata and Dayseye, Upper School String Ensemble, Quadrivium and handbell choir Ex Solo.

    Every Upper School student takes dance in preparation for the annual Gym Drill, a beloved Bryn Mawr tradition featuring an exhibition of cultural dance and rhythmic exercises. In addition, the Upper School Dance Company prepares an impressive annual concert of ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop and musical theater pieces.

    The Upper School supports the dramatic arts through an assortment of classes and performance opportunities, in addition to backstage support such as lighting, sound, costume design and set design and construction for drama productions. Annual dramatic and musical productions offer experiences that help strengthen performance skills and promote collaboration.
  • Health

    Health education is an important goal of student health service on campus. Health resources available to students include the Upper School nursing and counseling staff as well as the athletic training staff.

    The Upper School at Bryn Mawr addresses a variety of health related issues throughout the school year. We begin with 9th Grade Seminar, a course the meets once a cycle to discuss balance in one’s life and nurturing physical and emotional needs. Topics include meditation and relaxation techniques, community and how we treat each other, body image and the media, mental illness, relationships, and sexual health. In addition for the 9th grade, Bryn Mawr contracts with Freedom from Chemical Dependency, a nationally recognized group, to provide an intensive week-long program addressing drugs and alcohol which is followed up by discussion throughout the year.  Many of these themes are followed up in grade retreats each fall. Seniors also participate in several programs to address taking care of themselves now and while in the transition to college.
  • World Languages and Cultures

    Students at Bryn Mawr are given the opportunity to study a wide variety of classical and modern languages and cultures. Through Bryn Mawr’s partnership with coordinate schools, students can choose from seven languages: French, Spanish, Latin, Chinese, Russian, Greek and Arabic. As with the Lower School and Middle School language programs, Bryn Mawr students develop their skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening while gaining cultural literacy.

    Students also have the opportunity to participate in several global trips (including exchange programs to French- Spanish-, Chinese-, and Russian- speaking countries) to gain real-life exposure to another culture and to practice their language skills.
  • Physical Education

    The main goal of the Upper School Physical Education curriculum is to support each student as then continues to develop their own physical capabilities. Upper School physical education classes promote the importance of a healthy, physically active lifestyle and focus on trust, teamwork, communication, leadership, and cooperation.

    Students take PE in 9th and 10th grade and will participate in a variety of individual and team sports including wiffle ball, softball, tennis, pickleball, handball, flag football, floor hockey, tchoukball, tsegball, fencing, volleyball, badminton, ultimate frisbee, basketball, squash, angleball, and archery. Students will also participate in yoga, muscular strength, agility, and cardiovascular conditioning classes throughout the year. In addition, health and wellness topics will be integrated into the curriculum such as the importance of sleep and good nutrition, first aid, and CPR/AED.
  • Public Speaking

    All eleventh grade students are required to take a course in public speaking. Students will develop confidence as speakers, improve articulation and increase vocal expressiveness. In preparation for Senior Convocations, Public Speaking students study and practice speech techniques through three major speeches assignments: a personal narrative speech, an informative speech and a persuasive speech.
  • Psychology

    Students have the opportunity to take AP Psychology or Developmental Psychology as an elective course. Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles and methods associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. Additionally, the Developmental Psychology class, which has a strong focus on child development, gives students the opportunity to observe Lower School students.
  • Online School For Girls

    Bryn Mawr partners with the Online School for Girls, part of the independent school consortium One Schoolhouse, which provides students access to additional courses that may not be offered at Bryn Mawr or its coordinate schools. Click here for more information.