Course Catalog

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Art 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

Students develop a broad foundation that will support their individual journey in studio art. They make their own artistic choices, are encouraged to take technical risks and deal with artistic dilemmas. Students learn to “draw” on the computer. They improve their skills of web research and increase their understanding of art history. The ultimate goal of this course is to increase each student’s ability to shine as an artist and their enjoyment of the creative process.

The course content of sixth grade art is based on the elements and principles of art. Through a series of projects, students improve their handling of media and ability to draw. They complete additional assignments, which fine-tune their sketching skills. Several days are designated during the quarter to learn to “draw” on the computer. Students participate in several web research projects based on art history topics.

Dance 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

6th Grade Dance focuses on the basic technique and terminology of dance while maintaining the fundamental philosophy that everyone can dance. Dance class meets for 70 minutes 5 days a week. Students will learn to isolate, perform a variety of steps and combos, and the basic elements of choreography. The dancers perform what they have learned in the Middle School Creative Arts Assemblies and in the Upper School Dance Concert in March.

Drama 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

In this quarter-long course, students learn the fun and basic skills of drama. From discovering the expressive elements of dramatic activity to learning theatre terminology, students will explore all of the work that goes into a play, both onstage and behind the scenes! Through story-telling techniques and introductory improvisational games, students develop a greater sense of confidence, self-awareness, and self-expression. We’ll strengthen creative thinking and public speaking skills as we present our work to one another within group settings. The skills from this class integrate across the curriculum spectrum as students are able to apply their learned dramatic techniques to other class assignments, such as oral presentations, creative thinking, and problem-solving. The course culminates with a Creative Arts Assembly where the students showcase highlights from their semester.

Music 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

The sixth graders will spend a quarter singing and composing music. As they rotate through four stations, students will compose a rock band song, learn the ukulele, create an art piece while listening to music, and write songs using GarageBand. Students will have the opportunity to explore new instruments or play ones that they know. There are chances for students to sing solos, create lyrics, and perform for the class. After spending three class periods working on their songs, students will present their compositions. As a culminating activity, the class will choose their favorite pieces and these will be featured on a “demo day” for all sixth grade Creative Arts classes.

Drama 7/8: From Page to Stage
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

In this semester-long course, we dive in for a deeper understanding of all the work it takes to put a piece of theatre on the stage. Students will practice basic playwriting skills, learn the basics of theatrical design & tech areas, and, of course, practice acting using monologues and scenes from famous plays, movies, and TV shows. The class is designed to support the students’ pursuit of co-creating characters, sets, costumes, etc. with a script. Together we’ll build a performance for a Creative Arts assembly at the end of the semester to feature our successes for an audience.

Drama 7/8: Improvisational Performance
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

In this semester-long course, we welcome everyone to the stage to play and perform! Students build upon the fundamental skills gained in 6th Grade Drama by learning sophisticated acting techniques to explore full and focused unscripted performance. Through a wide variety of improv games, short and long-form storytelling pieces, improvised singing/dancing, and quick-thinking challenges, the class celebrates fun in risk-taking to enhance our confidence and teamwork. The course culminates with a chance to entertain an audience with its spontaneity skills at a Creative Arts assembly at the end of the semester.

Mixed Chorus 7/8: Sing Your Heart Out
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

Do you love to sing? Do you want to improve your singing skills? Do you want to sing with your friends and create amazing harmonies? Well then, come Sing Your Heart Out! in this Chorus elective. We will sing a variety of songs including Disney, Pop, Broadway, Jazz, and songs that you are interested in. You will learn how to read choral music, understand music theory, and have fun harmonizing using two, three, and four-part harmonies. Songwriting projects and musical activities will also be included in this course for you to explore and develop your creative, musical side! No prior experience necessary! We will perform for various events on campus and off, as well as a Holiday and Spring Concert!

Music 7/8: Jam! Steel Pan and Percussion
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play a steel pan? This is the perfect instrument for a beginner and can challenge a more advanced student. Come Jam! with your friends and play Rock, Reggae, Pop and Holiday music. Train your ear to listen to the ensemble whether you are playing the drum-set, vibraphone, or steel pans. Do you have experience playing the electric guitar or bass? We can easily add that to our group. If you currently play an instrument, come perfect your rhythm-reading skills and understand challenging rhythmic passages. Individual music projects and activities that are of interest to you will also be included in this class. No prior experience necessary! This is a performance elective and we will perform for the community and other special events throughout the semester. Come Jam!

Music Exploration 7/8
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

Come explore this NEW music class where YOU get to decide on music composition and creation projects that excite you! Do you love writing music or using GarageBand? Compose your favorite style of music and have the dance class choreograph it! Already play an instrument, let’s figure out how we can work that into a musical project for you; perhaps, performing in a rock band with other musicians from our class! Do you love a certain artist? Dive into their music and history and create a slideshow! Create an art project as you listen to your favorite song! Are you interested in becoming better at reading music or understanding rhythms? This may be the class for you. How about learning a cover song on the ukulele or writing songs to your favorite children’s book? Learn a drum-set solo, or try playing the electric guitar! The possibilities are endless. Let’s explore music together! Each project will be presented to our classmates on an agreed performance day.

Art 7/8: Mixed Media
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

Ever want to let loose in Art class? In Mixed Media we will work with such mediums as watercolor, acrylic paint, chalk pastel, and oil pastel to harness our individual creativity. Each project will reference a certain art movement, yet provide enough individual freedom to have each student’s artistic voice stand out. Come join Mixed Media! Don’t “brush” it off!

Art 7/8: Digital Arts
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

This class is designed to be an all-encompassing introduction to the digital arts. We will learn the foundational elements of design, color harmony, and composition while working with digital and traditional mediums. The class will dive into each project while being introduced to key design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. We will also have fun taking and editing digital photos (and maybe create a meme or two). If you love art and computers, this class was designed for you!

Art 7/8: Drawing
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

This class provides an exciting opportunity to hone your drawing abilities and gain new insight into multiple drawing mediums including graphite, charcoal, pen & ink, and colored pencil. Potential projects include portraiture/figure drawing, still life, photo rendering, perspective, and on-location sketching. All abilities are welcome! I hope I can “draw” you all in!

Dance 7/8: Choreo Lab
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

This class is for those wanting to learn choreography and create their own! I will teach choreography in different styles, and you will learn the tools to create, stage, and perform your own dances in a collaborative group setting. The class will include warm-ups and stretches, across-the-floor progressions, and choreographed phrases that will be modified by you and explored with tools learned in class! Guest choreographers will also bring new styles to our class, as well. All students will have the option to perform!

Dance 7/8: Just Dance!
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

This class is for everyone that wants to dance. We will use our warm-ups and across-the-floor combinations to work on technique and improve strength and flexibility. Following across the floor combinations, you will then learn choreography that is created for your class. Each dance that you learn will be in a different style! These styles may include, but are not limited to, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop, lyrical, and instrumental pieces. I will build the class around the dances that you are excited about! We will also explore the fundamentals of choreography. All students will have the option to perform!

English 6
Level: Middle School
Area: English

Sixth grade English exposes students to structured writing, literary discussions, and a wide variety of genre readings. As the year begins with The Giver, students explore this dystopian novel and question the necessity for choice and emotional capacity in humans. With this text, students practice defining vocabulary words in context in addition to using textual evidence to support their claims. The short story and poetry units that follow focus on specific literary devices that authors use to enhance literary themes. Students read pieces that illustrate character development, figurative language, irony, symbolism, conflict, and imagery. After processing and digesting the craftsmanship demonstrated by notable authors, students apply their understanding by crafting their own creative writings. Toward the end of the year, students read Counting by 7s, in which the protagonist overcomes personal challenges with help from a surrogate family. With this novel, students explore messages of empathy and resilience and examine word choice and character development. Throughout each unit, grammar concepts are introduced, practiced, and applied in all of their writing. This course serves as a foundation for both English skills and academic habits.

English 7
Level: Middle School
Area: English

The seventh grade English course focuses on building students’ analytical skills through close readings, discussions, Socratic circles, and writing. The course begins with the study of ten multicultural coming-of-age short stories, culminating in a comparison essay on a thematic similarity between two stories. The heart of the course centers on a thematic and critical study of To Kill a Mockingbird, in which students track eight themes, including outcasts, race, gender and status. This work culminates in a substantial analytical essay to prove a thesis of their own creation. A long and rich list of vocabulary words are drawn from the whole-class literature, and students learn their meanings before they encounter them in their readings. Throughout the year, poetry is explored. Students identify literary devices in action in the poems, which often supplement the whole class texts thematically or connect to our studies in grammar and writing. Toward the end of the year, a concentrated poetry unit focuses on the voices of immigrants to build empathy and perspective. Students also compose a variety of their own poems in response to those they study. Grammar lessons ask students to induce patterns in syntax, identify those patterns in mentor texts, and apply those patterns to create variety and impact in their writing. In addition to analytical writing, creative writing assignments target key skills. For example, a description of a person challenges students to build a unifying dominant impression through showing details. A 66-word story forces students to be highly selective in word choice. The course underscores the natural interconnectedness of reading, writing and language usage.

English 8
Level: Middle School
Area: English

The 8th grade English course centers around voice. The course begins with the classic Of Mice and Men. Students engage in a deep study of characters to discover how authors create complex, interrelated, and dynamic figures through writing. They also critique how authors address the voices of marginalized populations, especially within historical texts. Next, students read and write poetry to understand the power of word choice and poetic devices. In the contemporary fiction unit, students read and analyze the novel Bear Town through the lens of voice and truth. To conclude the year, students compose a “This I Believe” personal essay to voice a truth in their own lives. They will draw from our class readings, world events, personal experience, and their self-selected readings from throughout the year. Grammar instruction is integrated in each unit and focuses on the necessity for clarity to communicate effectively. For vocabulary development, students identify and collect words from their reading to incorporate into their speaking and writing. These lists are individualized and ask students to take ownership and be lifelong learners.

History 6
Level: Middle School
Area: History

History 6

Sixth grade history is centered around Human Geography and is devoted to the exploration and understanding of the essential questions, “What challenges does our community face?” and “How can we be agents of sociopolitical change?” Students learn about various concepts such as globalization, immigration, inequality, and social justice by examining case studies of historical and contemporary phenomena around the world. In terms of cognitive skill development, history in the 6th grade aims to create a solid foundation for analytical and argumentative writing, academic discussion, and formal presentation. Students are encouraged to examine beneath the surface and develop their analytical thinking skills through collaborative activities, interactive simulations, active reading, written work, and class discussions. Technology is integrated as appropriate throughout the curriculum, and there is also an emphasis on reinforcing overall learning strategies, such as time management, organization, and study skills. Additionally, we spend a significant portion of time examining current affairs, particularly in the parts of the world that we study, so that our students can develop a more comprehensive understanding of life around the globe today. Along our journey, we never forget our essential questions; they set the context through which we examine what has happened before us, how that impacts our world today, and what change we hope to achieve, while also facilitating our growth and progress as a sixth grade community and beyond.

Because learning history is most effective through action, each sixth grade historian at Menlo will culminate the year with the TED Talk Project where they will identify, research, and propose a solution to a problem in their local community. Using all of the critical thinking skills they have learned this year, they will present a TED Talk-style presentation to their peers and key stakeholders. 

History 7
Level: Middle School
Area: History

History 7

The course emphasizes critical reading, writing, speaking, and study skills. Students practice the application of academic skills across the curriculum as they learn critical thinking and writing through discussions, debates, and simulations; active reading and note-taking; and library research. Students are encouraged to examine beneath the surface and develop their analytical thinking skills through collaborative activities, interactive simulations, active reading, written work, and class discussions. In addition, this course actively contributes to the seventh grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, honing organization and time management, resilience, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance through collaborative learning.

Throughout the course of the school year, the seventh-grade History class will focus on world history and social justice. Students will learn about social, cultural, and technological change throughout world history. We will also read and examine A Different Mirror (for Young People) by Ronald Takaki. Current events are covered throughout the year as well. Lastly, the seventh-grade culminating project, the MOVE project, integrates problem-solving, research, and presentation skills across the core classes. MOVE is an acronym that stands for, “Motivate, Overcome, Voice, and, Empower.” Students are asked to research a modern national problem and create an oral presentation of their findings. 

Students examine the impact of geography on civilization, discuss the interaction between people and the environment, and learn to make connections between history and the world today. Essays and a research paper enhance writing skills, and students work with books, primary sources, maps, political cartoons, and periodicals that broaden their reading comprehension. Technology skills are learned and applied throughout the year. 

History 8
Level: Middle School
Area: History

History 8

Students develop historical thinking skills as well as historical understanding of the individual and collective experiences of people who make up our diverse nation. The course is designed to challenge and motivate active, confident learners through a variety of experiential, skill-building exercises. Students gain the ability to analyze historical events and grapple with the complexities of past and current events.

Eighth grade history covers major social, political, cultural, and intellectual developments throughout United States history beginning from the 1800s. We begin with the Colonial Settlement, and continue to the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. The latter half of the year brings us into modern times; the Great Depression, World War II, and the Civil Rights Movement. Year-long current event reports enhance the focus of historical themes as students learn to connect their studies to present-day events. Primary and secondary source materials (political cartoons, music, documents, images) are added to assist in critical analysis: formulating opinions, drawing conclusions, role-playing, and writing with authority. Using corroborated evidence, students strengthen their writing and research skills by developing historical essays and research-based reports. Collaboration is an essential component of the year, enhancing students’ soft skills and self-awareness. Students present their work individually and in cooperative groups. Technology is utilized as a supplemental tool to create and share ideas, students also practice traditional note-taking skills from occasional lectures. The curriculum is supplemented with a trip to Washington D.C. in the fall and a final culminating Impact Project in the spring.

Human Skills 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Human Skills

Sixth Graders explore the social and emotional aspects of strong communities and reflect on how their class can embody a strong community in order to support one another throughout their middle school experience. They practice communication skills such as active listening, perspective taking, and using an assertive voice. They reflect on their values in relation to one another and society. Students expand their ability to be introspective and reflective and learn concepts of positive psychology including optimism, growth mindset, and gratitude. Students practice identifying their own and others’ emotions and develop positive ways of managing feelings of disappointment, anger and frustration. They identify the characteristics of friendship and discuss positive strategies for handling conflict. Students review the difference between tattling and telling, in order to enlist adult support for a friend in certain circumstances. A variety of media is used to promote discussions around positive school climate and personal responsibility. Current film clips and ad campaigns are shown to teach media literacy and to explore stereotyping, prejudice and racism.

Human Skills 7
Level: Middle School
Area: Human Skills

In this semester-long course, students discuss their talents, passions and joys as well as the various stresses and challenges they may encounter. Students identify sources of strength in their lives and make action plans for self-care. Students learn about the adverse effects of various substances and the psychology of addiction. Portions of the documentary films Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In are used to spark thought and discussion related to stereotypes, prejudice, and critical consumption of media. Students explore concepts within social psychology such as “groupthink” and bystander intervention.

Human Skills 8
Level: Middle School
Area: Human Skills

In this course, students explore and discuss a wide range of topics under the broad area of human sexuality. Students identify aspects of healthy and unhealthy relationships and discuss personal values concerning dating and relationships, including the topic of consent and setting personal boundaries. They review the human reproductive systems and increase their knowledge and understanding of various methods of preventing sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Students further explore gender roles and stereotypes in our culture, and examine how these stereotypes affect human relationships, scrutinizing the effect of media. Students watch a variety of documentary films to expand their understanding of human sexuality. They learn the distinctions between sex, sexuality and gender and practice appropriate language in discussing these constructs. There is an ongoing focus on wellness and mental health in the course. Students review concepts about nutrition, sleep, managing stress, and identifying signs of anxiety and depression. As with Human Skills 6 and 7, students consider circumstances when enlisting adult support is warranted in order to take care of themselves and each other.

Mathematics 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Mathematics

The goal of this course is to create a solid foundation in mathematics that students will need and use in the years ahead. Emphasis is on strengthening computation skills, especially those involving fractions, decimals, and integers, and developing a thorough approach to problem-solving. Students will be challenged daily to develop mathematical habits of mind such as making sense of problems, utilizing appropriate solution strategies, communicating their methods with mathematical justification, and persevering through challenges. Organization of thinking and documentation of work are strongly emphasized. This course is designed to meet the needs of students with a variety of math backgrounds and provide challenge and engagement at all levels.

Topics covered include number theory, problem-solving, proportional reasoning, integer operations, data and statistics, probability, and geometry. The use of variables is woven throughout the curriculum to help prepare students for pre-Algebra.

By the end of 6th grade, students should feel confident in their abilities to reason through complex problems and be comfortable working with variables.

Pre-Algebra 7
Level: Middle School
Area: Mathematics

This Pre-Algebra course provides students the opportunity to stretch their abstract thinking, critical thinking, and analytical reasoning. Students will continue to work on documenting in organized steps and sharing verbally their thinking and solution strategy.  In addition, they will learn to defend their methods in peer review. In this course students will be presented with challenging but accessible problems, and asked to reason through them collaboratively with their peers.


Students will be introduced to formal algebraic thinking and apply algebraic concepts to their prior problem-solving strategies. Other topics include exponents, geometry (angle relationships, surface area and volume of 3D shapes), scale, ratios, proportions, percents, statistics, and probability.

Pre-Algebra (E) 7
Level: Middle School
Area: Mathematics

Topics studied include those listed in Pre-Algebra 7. In addition, students are further challenged to investigate connections between concepts and pushed towards deeper understanding and flexibility in problem-solving, through more rigorous applications.

Algebra 8
Level: Middle School
Area: Mathematics

This Algebra 1 course prepares students for the rigors of future classes by providing a strong foundation of algebraic concepts. Students will explore multiple representations of the linear, quadratic, and rational functions. Extensive treatment of the fundamental skills that underpin various relationships precedes the study of these functions. Real-life applications will be explored whenever possible. Additional topics covered include a review of operations with integers and rational numbers, solving equations and inequalities, operations on polynomials, radicals and rational expressions, factoring, functions and graphs, linear systems, and quadratics.

Students practice cooperative problem solving and learn effective communication skills that use the appropriate mathematical language to present problem solutions.

Algebra (E) 8
Level: Middle School
Area: Mathematics

Topics studied include those listed in Algebra 8. In addition, students are further challenged to investigate connections between concepts and pushed towards deeper understanding and flexibility in problem-solving, through more rigorous applications. Students are also introduced to the idea of a mathematical proof.

Science 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Science

In this course, students examine numerous physical, biological, and chemical phenomena using the scientific method. Students learn how to develop hypotheses, conduct experiments, make observations, gather data, and form conclusions based on critical analysis of results. Students strengthen their listening and public-speaking skills by sharing observations and debating conclusions with each other. They also develop their data presentation and writing expertise by recording their investigations in detailed fashion. Additionally, this course actively contributes to the sixth grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, managing time and materials, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance as well as the Middle School Habits of the Heart and Mind.

Students begin the year honing their scientific observation and inference skills with an array of discrepant events. Then they apply these skills to examining different types of energy and identifying evidence of energy transfers and transformations in toys. Through a variety of labs and demonstrations they make discoveries about pressure and heat that explain why ears hurt when one dives deep underwater and why metal feels colder than plastic even though they are the same temperature. Student take their understanding of heat transfer and engineer, budget, and build a “Penguin House” to keep an ice cube, the penguin, from melting. Next they apply their newfound understanding of pressure to the human cardiovascular system. Students dissect sheep hearts and lungs, measure the levels of carbon dioxide in a room after increasing amounts of exercise, and design and build their own model of the circulatory system with pumps, tubes, and connectors in the Whitaker Lab. Next, students go on virtual field trips around the world to probe for evidence to help them explain earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and fossil records. They use this evidence to mimic the creation of Continental Drift Theory and its evolution into the the Theory of Plate Tectonics. Finally, we end with the genetics unit where students distinguish between heritable and acquired traits and come up with their own models to explain inheritance. Their final project asks students to research a new genetic technology, such as the CRISPR or GMOs, and write a persuasive letter to the NSF arguing if further funding should go to this technology. The course consistently encourages students to investigate their own interests through special project assignments and laptop use. Students are also prompted to introduce and draw connections between their experiences and scientific current events.

Science 7
Level: Middle School
Area: Science
In this course, students continue to hone the science fundamentals they developed in sixth grade. They deepen their understanding of the physical, biological, and chemical world while drawing on key concepts explored in the prior year. Students use the scientific method to generate hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, gather and analyze data, and form meaningful conclusions. Students strengthen their observation, listening, writing, and speaking skills through a variety of experimental, written, oral, and visual tasks. In addition, this course actively contributes to the seventh grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, improving organization and time management, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance through cooperative learning.

We will begin the year by investigating and exploring the nature of science by planning, implementing, analyzing, and communicating our designed experiments. Students will apply these skills as we move into our first unit in astronomy, where we will focus on understanding how the universe formed and continues to change.  Next, students will zoom into one part of the universe, the Earth, where they will dive into its history, formation, and surface dynamics through weathering and erosion. They will use their observational skills by practicing how to identify rocks and minerals. Also, they’ll learn how fossils form and why it is so rare. Then, students will study how living organisms are classified and they will choose their own organism to take a deep dive that builds through the rest of the year for our overarching project.  Next, students will use this knowledge to look into the debate and science surrounding global climate change and human impacts on natural ecosystems, including on their organism. Lastly, we will investigate neurology and electricity. We will finish the year with a culminating project that integrates the concepts of the year with problem-solving, research, and engineering using their organism that they have been studying.

Students will continually work towards this question: “How well can you use what you know?” There will be an emphasis on open-ended dialogue and students will be expected to go beyond Knowing by Doing. As we explore the various topics of science, we will also continually ask the question: “How does science affect me in my own personal life?” While answering this question, it is my hope students will become aware of the scientific issues of the day and learn how each of us is connected to the world around us.
Science 8
Level: Middle School
Area: Science

This course asks students to continue to develop a passion for science and to build on the skills they have learned in sixth and seventh grade. Students construct meaning about the chemical, biological, and physical world by exploring and testing their current ideas, making new discoveries, and presenting their findings to peers for discussion. In eighth grade students further expand their ability to design and construct a scientific investigation; gather, analyze, and interpret data; communicate scientific processes and explanations; construct scientific models based on data; think critically, logically, and creatively; and establish the relationship between evidence and reasoning. Students strengthen their writing skills and flex their capacity to defend theories with evidence, while developing their own concepts of quality work, building communication skills, and improving analyses through examination of one another’s ideas.

Students build upon the rich content knowledge and skills established in sixth and seventh grade to delve deeper into the world of science. Throughout our studies of chemical reactions and chemistry, immunology and infectious diseases, physics of motion and forces, students use the scientific method to test their ideas about the world around them. Students then construct theories, which are tested further, analyzed by their peers, and addressed in class discussions. They will also examine controversial scientific issues and develop their skills of argumentation through organized debates. Individual topics will vary based on the questions raised by the students. Students will end the year with Innovations, a unit that challenges students to design and build contraptions for a specific purpose while exploring the intricacies and importance of design-thinking and technology.

French 6
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

French 6 is an introduction class, part of the three-year program offered in the Middle School. Communication is the goal, students hear mostly French in the classroom, and from day one they converse. Students learn fundamental grammar and basic vocabulary and work with their classmates on a variety of projects and role-plays. They explore different cultures, art, geography, and history of the French-speaking world.

Students study the present tense of both regular and irregular verbs and the near future tense. They learn how to introduce themselves and others, talk about their families, their activities, interests, get food, and converse in a variety of other daily life situations. During the year students complete different projects, present and discuss current events of the Francophone world, watch French films and videos, learn songs, cook and celebrate different holidays at their French café. They are encouraged to participate in Francophone cultural activities in the Bay Area and the class goes on a cultural field trip.

French 7
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

This course continues to develop the four basic skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The “immersion experience” continues and students learn to express increasingly complex ideas in French and hold more sophisticated conversations.

Each unit of study includes a corresponding activity or project, which promotes the relevancy of new grammar and vocabulary. These units are based on everyday situations according to different themes such as food, vacations, daily routine, health habits and sports, going to the doctor, visiting different countries in the world where French is spoken, and handling transportation. By the end of 7th-grade students should be able to speak and write using present, future, and some past tenses, reflexive verbs, expressions of quantity and the partitive articles, as well as direct and indirect object pronouns. During the year students will complete different projects, learn songs, cook and celebrate different holidays at their French café, and go on a cultural field trip.

French 8
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

This course builds on the skills learned in French 6 and 7. Students develop their oral communication, reading and listening comprehension, and writing skills. This course is taught exclusively in French. Students continue to acquire practical vocabulary and idioms and learn more advanced grammatical structures. Reading and writing increases in sophistication.

Students work with films, videos and news to improve their comprehension. They read various children books and write and illustrate their own books. They complete different projects, make an iMovie, continue learning about the French-speaking world via current event articles. At the end of the year, students have a 15-minute conversation with their teacher and write a one-page essay.

Latin 6
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

The primary goal for students is to learn to read and write basic Latin fluently while following the daily life of a Roman boy named Quintus and his family, as portrayed in the Oxford Latin Course. Quintus grows up to become the famous Roman poet known as Horace, who witnessed the collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire under Augustus! Throughout the course, students explore Latin grammar and vocabulary in-depth, focusing on the various cases of nouns in the first three declensions and various forms of verbs in the present tense. In addition, they cultivate a love of language by exploring the histories of words, not only English but also the Romance Languages, and their roots in Latin and Greek. Integral to the study of language is reflection on the foundations of western civilization through explorations of Roman daily life, history, literature, geography, and mythology. In addition, each student begins to understand how he or she learns and to develop strategies for optimizing memory, for launching clear written and oral expression, and for establishing critical thinking skills.

All Latin students belong to the California Junior Classical League and have the option to participate in local and statewide conventions.

Latin 7
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

During the second year course, students work to understand and use more complex grammar and more extensive vocabulary, especially both in reading and writing. They now learn the other verb tenses, having primarily focused only on present tense in the previous year. Students continue to follow the story of Quintus, the young poet Horace, as he leaves home in the Italian countryside to pursue his education in Rome. In following Quintus’ story, students learn about historical characters such as Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Cleopatra. They refine their knowledge of etymology, especially how morphemes affect word meaning, and continue to ponder the foundations of western civilization through explorations of Roman daily life, history, literature, geography, and mythology. Each student reflects on his or her individual progress and refines strategies for improving memory, polishing written and oral expression, and deepening critical thinking skills.

All Latin students belong to the California Junior Classical League and have the option to participate in local and statewide conventions.

Latin 8
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

During the third year of study, students read complex Latin narratives fluently and are able to express themselves with greater ease and length in written Latin. They explore and reflect on how the history of words, ideas, culture, and art has shaped our modern world, especially in relation to their travels in Washington D. C. Students concentrate on further strengthening and refining their learning skills in preparation for more advanced levels of language study, especially Latin, in Upper School courses. Upon completion of this course, students are ready to enter Upper School Latin at the second level. In the spring, students finish the portfolio, which they have been building continuously since sixth grade.

All Latin students belong to the California Junior Classical League and have the option to participate in local and statewide conventions.

Mandarin 6
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

The Middle School Mandarin program is an interactive course designed with an emphasis on communication and cultural understanding. In the first year, students will learn to introduce themselves, greet people, talk about their families and pets, count in Chinese, and talk about their likes and dislikes. Discussion and exploration of Chinese culture are integrated into the curriculum and enriched by experiential learning activities like dumpling making, brush painting, crafts projects, lion dance classes, and an annual field trip. While the emphasis is on developing overall proficiency, some attention is devoted to areas like pronunciation and character writing to prepare students for success in higher level classes.

Mandarin 7
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

The second-year Mandarin course has a dual goal of developing students’ language skills in Mandarin and deepening their understanding of and appreciation for Chinese culture. Students will grow more confident in their speaking and writing, and learn to handle a wider variety of conversational situations. The themes of the units will include talking about different countries and languages, discussing food and cuisines, conversing about sports and hobbies, celebrating a friend’s birthday, and describing your daily life. While the focus is on overall communication skills and cultural competency, fundamentals of the Chinese language including proper pronunciation and character writing will continue to be emphasized. Lessons will be taught in a gradually immersive approach in order to increase learners’ exposure to authentic language input and prepare them for real life interactions with native speakers. Discussions of traditional values and practices, historical and current events, and contemporary Chinese culture will be integrated into all aspects of the class and deepened through experiential learning activities like a cooking project and an annual field trip.

Mandarin 8
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

Building on the foundation laid in the previous two years, students in their third year of Mandarin study will learn to communicate with more precision and complexity in a wider range of topics. The themes of the units will include going to the stores, discussing clothing and fashion, dining at a restaurant, talking about the weather, and making phone calls. Lessons will be taught in an immersive setting in order to maximize learners’ exposure to authentic language input and prepare them for real life interactions with native speakers. Cultural understanding and appreciation will continue to serve as the underpinning of this course, where discussions of historical and current events, traditional values and practices, and contemporary culture will be integrated into all aspects of the class, and deepened through a research project and an annual expedition to a local Chinese community.

Spanish 6
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

In this introductory level course, students will learn to speak, read, write and play in Spanish while learning about the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Students will learn to use the language with ease, both inside and outside the classroom, in everyday situations.

Students will learn about the geography, culture and traditions of the Spanish-speaking world while they build basic communication skills and gradually immerse in the language. By the end of the year, students will be able to introduce themselves; to talk about their families and friends, their communities and their school; and to discuss their likes, dislikes, interests and activities. Students will study the present tense of regular and irregular verbs. They will be familiar with ser and estar, as well as have a good foundation in vocabulary relating to sports, clothing, entertainment, emotions, weather and school life. Throughout the year, students will complete projects about famous people, places and traditions of Spain and Latin America.

Spanish 7
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

This second-year Spanish course immerses students in Spanish language and culture and continues to develop their speaking, listening, and writing skills. Students learn to express increasingly complex ideas in Spanish and hold typical conversations with each other and with native speakers. Students often choose the focus of their projects, their work partners, and the structure of their presentations. Varied learning styles are supported on a daily basis.

Students learn how to communicate in authentic everyday situations through oral and written activities. Units are real-world and adolescent-focused and thematic in nature: food, shopping, celebrations, visiting the doctor, staying in shape, talking on the phone, and describing self and others. The present tense is reviewed, and the preterit tense and reflexive verbs are introduced. Spanish culture is explored through current events, a food project, a field trip, music, and art projects.

 
 

Spanish 8
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

This third-year Spanish course immerses students in Spanish language and culture and continues to develop their speaking, listening, and writing skills. Students learn to express increasingly complex ideas in Spanish and hold typical conversations with each other and with native speakers. Students often choose the focus of their projects and the structure of their presentations. Varied learning styles are supported on a daily basis.  


Students learn how to communicate in authentic everyday situations through oral and written activities. Units are real-world and adolescent-focused: describing feelings, telling a story, making comparisons, giving explanations, suggestions, and directions, talking about the news, and describing a problem. The present, preterit, and reflexive tenses are reviewed, and the imperfect and present perfect tenses are introduced. Spanish culture is explored through a Day of the Dead project, a video project, music, and a field trip.

Spanish for Spanish Speakers
Level: Middle School
Area: World Language

Spanish for Spanish Speakers (formerly Heritage Spanish) is a course for students who have had significant exposure to the language and may already possess a high level of oral and listening proficiency.

Objectives include building upon the language knowledge that students bring to the classroom and advancing their proficiency in Spanish for multiple contexts. Special attention is given to building vocabulary, acquiring and effectively using learning strategies, and strengthening composition skills and reading comprehension in Spanish. Cultural projects and readings reinforce learners’ understanding of the diversity of Spanish-speaking communities and the multiple issues related to the Hispanic cultures in the USA.

The course is conducted entirely in Spanish and includes middle school students in all three grades of both native and non-native backgrounds. Oral participation is emphasized in order to further develop oral skills by regularly practicing presentational speaking tasks. Spanish for Spanish Speakers provides students with an array of opportunities to communicate effectively and accurately including movie reviews, article reactions and book reports on short novels, and interviews with family members about their personal experiences and family traditions.

P.E. 6 - Boys
Level: Middle School
Area: Athletics

Students are able to participate and be exposed to activities and teams at various levels of competition and commitment. Our program structure provides every student a chance to participate in structured competition or learn a sport. They are given the opportunity to learn basic skills, improve physical fitness, learn rules and tactics, sportsmanship, and to work as a team.

Students work as a team, learn sportsmanship, and develop skills needed to participate in the variety of sports and teams by structured practices and expert coaching. The sixth grade program consists of the following sports: Intramural sports offerings include Dance, P.E., Swimming, Tennis and Water Polo. Interscholastic sports offerings include Coed Cross Country, Flag Football, Girls Softball, Swimming, Boys Basketball, Girls Soccer, Coed Water Polo, Boys Soccer, Baseball, Coed Tennis, and Girls Volleyball. Each student is able to pick four Intramural or Interscholastic sports per year and participate in our Cross Country Meets, Swim Meet, and Track and Field Meet.

P.E. 6 - Girls
Level: Middle School
Area: Athletics

Students are able to participate and be exposed to activities and teams at various levels of competition and commitment. Our program structure provides every student a chance to participate in structured competition or learn a sport. They are given the opportunity to learn basic skills, improve physical fitness, learn rules and tactics, sportsmanship, and to work as a team.

Students work as a team, learn sportsmanship, and develop skills needed to participate in the variety of sports and teams by structured practices and expert coaching. The sixth grade program consists of the following sports: Intramural sports offerings include Dance, P.E., Swimming, Tennis and Water Polo. Interscholastic sports offerings include Coed Cross Country, Flag Football, Girls Softball, Swimming, Boys Basketball, Girls Soccer, Coed Water Polo, Boys Soccer, Baseball, Coed Tennis, and Girls Volleyball. Each student is able to pick four Intramural or Interscholastic sports per year and participate in our Cross Country Meets, Swim Meet, and Track and Field Meet.

P.E. 7/8 - Boys
Level: Middle School
Area: Athletics

Seventh graders continue to build on learning individual skills, teamwork and sportsmanship. They further develop strategies, rules, and tactics needed to participate and have success in their sport. The emphasis of seventh grade is on participation and becoming a team player.

Students work as a team, learn sportsmanship, and improve skills needed to participate in the variety of sports and teams by structured practices and expert coaching. The seventh grade program consists of the following sports. Intramural sports offerings include Dance, P.E., Swimming, Tennis and Water Polo. Interscholastic sports offerings include Coed Cross Country, Flag Football, Girls Softball, Swimming, Boys Basketball, Girls Soccer, Coed Water Polo, Boys Soccer, Baseball, Coed Tennis, and Girls Volleyball. Each student is able to pick four Intramural or Interscholastic sports per year and participate in our Cross Country Meets, Swim Meet, and Track and Field Meet. The seventh grade can participate on our varsity “B” teams or on a few occasions tryout for our varsity “A” team.

P.E. 7/8 - Girls
Level: Middle School
Area: Athletics

Seventh graders continue to build on learning individual skills, teamwork and sportsmanship. They further develop strategies, rules, and tactics needed to participate and have success in their sport. The emphasis of seventh grade is on participation and becoming a team player.

Students work as a team, learn sportsmanship, and improve skills needed to participate in the variety of sports and teams by structured practices and expert coaching. The seventh grade program consists of the following sports. Intramural sports offerings include Dance, P.E., Swimming, Tennis and Water Polo. Interscholastic sports offerings include Coed Cross Country, Flag Football, Girls Softball, Swimming, Boys Basketball, Girls Soccer, Coed Water Polo, Boys Soccer, Baseball, Coed Tennis, and Girls Volleyball. Each student is able to pick four Intramural or Interscholastic sports per year and participate in our Cross Country Meets, Swim Meet, and Track and Field Meet. The seventh grade can participate on our varsity “B” teams or on a few occasions tryout for our varsity “A” team.

Computer Science 6
Level: Middle School
Area: Technology

The goal of this course is to introduce students to the breadth of Computer Science. Topics covered include Algorithms & Programming, Networks & the Web, Computer Graphics, and Robotics & other Embedded Systems. Developmentally appropriate tools like Scratch (block-based programming) and TinkerCAD(3D design and printing) allow students to access and develop the core concepts and skills of Computer Science without being impeded by high levels of abstraction and syntax. Projects in this course emphasize the creativity inherent in Computer Science.

Computer Science 7
Level: Middle School
Area: Technology

The seventh grade Computer Science course continues to build on the skills and experiences of the previous course. Students revisit the four realms of Computer Science explored in sixth grade (Algorithms & Programming, Networks & the Web, Computer Graphics, and Robotics & other Embedded Systems). In some areas students engage with the same tools at higher levels of complexity while in others they approach the topic from a new perspective, using the lens of a new tool. They begin to develop greater autonomy in their learning, through more open-ended projects. Students are asked to make connections to the big ideas and essential questions of other subjects and of their larger context as they find and solve problems.

Computer Science 8
Level: Middle School
Area: Technology

In the eighth grade course, we engage with more abstract elements of Computer Science. Students move from a block-based to a text-based programming language (Python) and projects throughout the curriculum become more programming-dependent. Students are introduced to concepts like recursion and object-oriented programming. They continue to develop autonomy and are encouraged to seek out both the challenges and the support that will engender a meaningful learning experience. As they leave our program, we hope that students will have begun to develop identities as creators rather than consumers of technology, and that they will be ready and excited to further explore Computer Science in the ways that best suit each individual student.

Dance 7/8: Dance In Motion
Level: Middle School
Area: Creative Arts

This class is for those who want to dive into dance through the eye of media and technology! We will explore dance in digital mediums like TV, movies, social media, Youtube, advertisements, video games, etc. and create our own dances within these different platforms. You can choreograph your own TikTok dance challenge, film a dance mini-movie, or create an advertisement using dance! Dancers will have a “Dancing With the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” unit as well. We will have guest choreographers and guest dancers. All students will have the option to perform!

Learning Seminar
Level: Middle School
Area: Electives

This interactive program, developed by researchers at Harvard’s School of Education, will teach learning strategies directly and explicitly through the Learning Seminar. Students will develop the necessary organizational, self-advocacy, time management, planning, self-monitoring, and study skills to meet the intellectual and emotional demands of their educational journey. Mastery of the SMARTs curriculum will be reviewed through teacher assessment and student reflection. It is our hope that students will understand which strategies work best for their individual learning styles, and will feel confident in using these tools throughout their educational experience at Menlo and beyond.

Applied Entrepreneurship
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

Menlo is situated in the heart of the Silicon Valley and yet do you know what it takes to bring a company from idea to IPO? In this exciting, project-based course you and your team will actually develop an idea into a viable product and start selling! Topics will include (to name a few) fundraising, the business plan, opportunity identification, business entity types, marketing, finance, business ethics, social entrepreneurship, and exit strategies. You can also expect frequent guest speakers from start ups, established companies, and VC firms. This class will meet during normal school periods, however, keep in mind that startups require your attention 24-7, and thus you will be expected to be “on call” all the time. Like entrepreneurship, this class is not for the faint of heart so please only sign up if you’re prepared to be all in. High risk, high return!

Prerequisites: This class is open to all juniors and seniors.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Applied Science Research (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

This is a course for students interested in studying advanced topics in engineering and science, students who envision a career in science or engineering, and/or students who are curious about how things work. The first semester students will explore electric motors, atmospheric science, the engineering of space travel and a craftsmanship project. Specifically, students will build a multi-phase electric motor and launch a payload via weather balloon high above the Earth’s atmosphere into space. This course is student centered and student driven. Students have great latitude in their choice of the topics, experiments, and projects. Students will learn the design, prototyping process and how to take and analyze data in order to optimize their projects. Students will also learn how to read and write engineering and scientific papers. In the second semester, they will specialize on one topic of their choice. This can be a research an engineering project or a science project. Possible topics range from what makes a baseball curve, building 21st-century prosthetics, green energy projects, to building a Tesla coil to particle physics to your idea. At the conclusion of the 2nd semester each student will write a science or engineering paper and give a final presentation at the Menlo Maker Faire.

Prerequisites: Complete Physics and Accelerated Chem with a B+ or Conceptual Chem with an A- or get permission from Dr. Dann.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Biotechnology Research (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

The course provides a unique opportunity for students with self-discipline and a curious mind to learn cutting-edge lab techniques and to put those techniques to use in a major independent project. Class time is spent mostly on hands-on lab work. The first semester involves learning techniques in cell culture, molecular biology, bacteriology, immunochemistry, and protein biochemistry, as well as learning to read and write scientific papers. In the second semester, students carry out an independent research project, either here at Menlo or off-campus in an academic or industry lab, by agreement between the student and mentor. As with AP courses, students will continue their work for this class through the first two weeks of May.

Prerequisites: Complete Chemistry and Biology and pass an application process through Ms. Buxton. Download the application form here.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Design and Architecture
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

Design…the intersection of form and function…of art and engineering. In this hands-on, project-based course you will learn how to create functional solutions to problems with an aesthetic sensibility. You will learn about Design Thinking and the important role of empathy in solving difficult problems. Creative, qualitative solutions will take precedence over quantitative solutions, and your ability to work with a team and effectively communicate your ideas will be tested. In the second semester, the course will transition to architecture. Emphasis will be placed on the major architectural movements of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and you will learn about the iconic buildings and famous architects associated with these movements. The culmination of the class will be a final project that will incorporate much of what you learned throughout the year.

This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Starting in the fall of 2021, this course will count as one year of arts credit for both Menlo and the UC.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Sustainable Earth Engineering
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

This is an interdisciplinary, project-based course in the Whitaker Lab on water, pollution, and energy. Students will design, build and test innovative projects pertaining to water creation and management, pollution mitigation and eradication, and sustainable energy.  

The adventure will start with a study of water’s role in the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history and throughout the world, including our very own California. Students will design, build and study various innovations for water lifting, storing, and distribution. The adventure continues with a study of how plants and animals survive with little-to-no water in severe desert regions and how we can use these bio-engineered solutions for human survival. Next, we study the exponential growth of the human population and the increasingly negative impact on the planet. Drinking water is getting polluted, plastics are damaging our ocean ecosystems, and the planet is experiencing an unprecedented change in climate. We don’t stop there, however; we prototype solutions! The final topic will be the future of energy. Students will study all aspects of energy including production, transmission, storage, and consumption. Students will end the year with a deep dive project into the future of water, pollution, and energy as it pertains to our very survival by innovating solutions that will keep us thriving on planet Earth.  

Throughout the course, students will do hands-on projects that will help them develop a much deeper understanding of the material. This work will force us to be creative and innovative, yet tempered with practicality.

This class is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have a passion for innovation, solving problems, and thinking out of the box. Students will be required to be trained on various tools in the Whitaker Lab.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Mechanical and Electrical Engineering
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

This is a yearlong course that switches topic midyear.

If you like to make things and break things, then this course is for you. This course will provide students with an introduction to mechanical engineering with an emphasis on hands-on activities and projects. We’ll take things apart to understand how they work, and we’ll apply what we learn to build things. Topics will include drafting, CAD using Inventor, dimensioning, tolerances, materials, fasteners, gears, bearings, actuators, and other mechanisms. Students will be introduced to the engineering design process, and they will learn about the role of mechanical engineers in industry. The course will take place in the Whitaker Lab and students will be trained on the majority of the tools in the lab.

In this course, you will amaze your friends, while you will dive into the fascinating world of electronics. You will learn how to solder, use capacitors, timing chips, work with solar energy and transistors in order to make a garden light and make laser trip wires to trigger scary things. You will learn how to amplify sound (op-amps). You will learn how to make electronic switches (transistors). You will learn how to move things (solenoids and linear motors). Most importantly you will develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a real-world setting by making cool stuff. There is very little nightly homework, but instead, it is expected that you put in extra time each week in the lab to work on your circuits or major project. The culminating project for this class is a musée mécanique exhibit to be shown at the Maker Faire.

Prerequisites: Completion of Physics. This is a sophomore/junior level course.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Neuroscience
Level: Upper School
Area: Applied Science & Engineering

Interdisciplinary Course: This course combines biology and electronics using a hands-on, scaffolding approach. This approach is three-pronged: (1) perform experiments using electrodes to detect actual neuronal activity in a living system, (2) learn the underlying biology of how that aspect of the nervous system works, and (3) build mechanical and/or electrical models.

Course Description:

It is said that understanding the human brain is one of the last frontiers; this course you will take a step toward that goal. You will take an adventure that is thought only possible in fictional writing like Frankenstein and along the way you will learn electronics, experimental techniques and neurobiology. We will explore the fascinating topic of how the brain and peripheral nervous system work by studying the electrical signals that encode neuronal messages, how sensory inputs are detected and how motor outputs are executed, and how the brain processes and creates meaning of your experience.

By building models, doing experiments and studying the biology you will investigate the following in the first semester of the class:

How do your sensory neurons collect, encode and transmit information about your environment for you?

How do your motor neurons get activated and how do they control the contraction of your muscles, allowing you to respond to your environment?

How fast do signals actually travel within neurons?

How does the nervous system “tune out” a stimulus that continues for an extended period?

In the second semester, we will examine:

How does the brain create your perception of reality?

How do medicinal and recreational drugs alter neuron function?

How does learning work and what is memory?

What is going on when things go wrong (like schizophrenia)?

Prerequisites: Completion of Physics with a B or better or by special approval from the teachers. This is a junior level course, but sophomores and seniors are welcome.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Art
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Studio Art students are taught foundation level skills while exploring a wide range of art mediums and techniques. The primary focus is on learning and utilizing the Principles and Elements of Design. Students will have direct instruction in drawing, painting, printmaking, and digital art. The first semester will concentrate on 2-D art concepts while the second semester will introduce 3- D art concepts. Students will research various art movements and participate in class presentations.

Advanced Art
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Advanced Art students develop mastery of their art skills and utilization of the Principles and Elements of Design. It is encouraged that students maintain an art journal throughout the year as well as develop a portfolio of original artwork. The instructor and guest artists will give hands-on demonstrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, mixed media collage, and digital art. Students create their own challenging projects utilizing techniques they have learned. Included in the course is an overview of contemporary art history as well as major art movements.

Prerequisite: Permission of the teacher and preview of student artwork.

AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Students who wish to register for an AP Art class will initially be scheduled into TOPICS OF FINE ARTS. Students will then work with the Ms Ollikainen at the beginning of the semester to determine which AP class the student will be moved into. Please speak to Ms Ollikainen for more information.

AP 2-D Design is a rigorous course where students complete a portfolio of original artworks in a variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, mixed-media, photography, and digital art. Experimentation, revision, and the effective use of the Principles and Elements of Design are emphasized as is documentation of the process of creating art. The  AP 2-D portfolio is comprised of two sections: selected works consist of three of the student’s best artworks submitted in their original form; the Sustained Investigation portion is a body of 15 artworks investigating a strong underlying visual idea. Students are expected to work extra hours outside of class and take complete responsibility in time management and project completion.  Student artwork is submitted digitally and is judged and scored by a panel of art experts.

Prerequisite: Completion of either Advanced Art or Topics in Fine Art and permission of the teacher.

AP Studio Art 3-D Design
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Students who wish to register for an AP Art class will initially be scheduled into TOPICS OF FINE ARTS. Students will then work with the Ms Ollikainen at the beginning of the semester to determine which AP class the student will be moved into. Please speak to Ms Ollikainen for more information.

AP 3-D Design is a rigorous honors level course where students complete three-dimensional artworks in a variety of mediums including clay, paper, wire, fabric and found objects. Digital 3-D art is also accepted. Artworks are judged through photographs of the dimensional works from different angles. The Quality section of the portfolio consists of five-dimensional artworks that demonstrate mastery of 3-D design in concept, composition, and execution. The Concentration section has an estimated 10 artworks investigating a strong underlying visual idea in 3-D design. The Breadth section includes 2 images each of 8 different artworks that demonstrate a variety of concepts and approaches in 3-D design. As in AP 2-D, students are expected to set aside ample time outside of class hours to complete their artworks.

Prerequisite: Completion of AP Art 2-D.

AP Studio Art Drawing
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Students who wish to register for an AP Art class will initially be scheduled into TOPICS OF FINE ARTS. Students will then work with the Ms Ollikainen at the beginning of the semester to determine which AP class the student will be moved into. Please speak to Ms Ollikainen for more information.

AP Studio Art Drawing is similar to AP 2-D Design, but the judging and scoring of artwork has a slightly different “lens” than the Design portfolio. In Drawing, mark-making, and representation of form in both drawn and painted artwork are emphasized whereas in 2-D Design, design and composition are paramount. Unlike AP 2-D, purely photographic artwork would not be part of a Drawing portfolio unless there were drawn elements in it. Digital drawing is accepted as is mixed media. Experimentation, revision, and the effective use of the principles and elements of design are emphasized as is documentation of the process of creating art.

Prerequisite: Completion of either Advanced Art or Topics in Fine Art and permission of the teacher.

Topics in Fine Art
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Topics in Fine Art is geared toward those students who have completed Advanced Art and wish to pursue their artistic interests further as they create their own challenging projects. Topics in Fine Art parallels the AP 2-Design course curriculum and introduces students to the AP art material. The course is not an AP level course in that final review of the student art portfolio will not be evaluated by the AP Board. Quality art created in this course may be used as part of the AP art portfolio should the student elect to take AP Studio Art in the following year. Students develop mastery of their art skills and utilization of the Principles and Elements of Design. It is encouraged that students maintain an art journal throughout the year as well as develop a portfolio of original artwork. The instructor and guest artists will give hands-on demonstrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, mixed media collage, and digital art. Students create their own challenging projects utilizing techniques they have learned. Included in the course is an overview of contemporary art history as well as major art movements.

Prerequisite: Permission of the teacher and review of student artwork.

Freshman Art (FAX) (1S or 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

FRESHMEN ONLY - A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

This class is designed for those who love art. It focuses on a fun, student-driven exploration of art mediums while building skills in techniques. A wide range of traditional and digital art tools will be available to choose from. There will be many opportunities for students to create their own projects both individually and in collaboration.

One Voice (FAX) (1S or 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

FRESHMEN ONLY - A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

Open to all freshmen interested in beginning vocal music in any capacity. Topics and repertoire covered will include a variety of vocal music styles. Essential elements of music performing and music literacy will be covered. Bring your friends, no prior experience is required to be in this vocal ensemble

Knight Singers
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

A year-long audition-only mixed chamber choir of a capella and accompanied vocal music repertoire that spans from jazz, popular, musical theater, classical, and more. Prior vocal experience is not required but is highly recommended. Musicians will perform repertoire in 2-4 part harmony and will perform at least twice a year. Those who enjoy singing in a more standard choral form should take this class. Watch a preview video here.

Open to 10th-12th graders.

AP Music Theory
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

The course presumes a somewhat fluent level in musical reading and notation upon beginning, but the class begins with a complete review of music basics. Time is spent discovering how small patterns such as scales, intervals and triads combine to create larger units such as phrases, periods and two- and three-part form. In class, students work on sight singing and ear training; the goal is the ability to read a musical score without singing or playing out loud. Students are also taught to transcribe musical sounds into notation. Regular melodic and harmonic dictation is given in class. Short compositions are assigned throughout the year to illustrate fundamental principles being studied, and the final project is the composition of a longer piece by each student to be included in a concert at the end of the school year. Critical and analytical listening to major works from the classics of European and American composers from the Middle Ages to the present, as well as representative music of Asia and Africa, is a regular part of the curriculum.

Prerequisite: Pass an entrance exam through Ms. Linford.

Jazz Band
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Jazz Band is open to all instrumentalists interested in elevating their musicianship through developing their performing and improvising skills through jazz and other jazz-related genres. In addition to learning standard tunes, students will also learn to create their own arrangements and original compositions for the band. The Jazz Band will perform at casual and formal events throughout the year. Past performances have included music by Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder, Esperanza Spalding, and Vulfpeck. Jazz Band may be repeated for additional credit. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Push Play: Making Music 1S OR 2S
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Video intro: shorturl.at/uzCGW

Ever wonder how Aphex Twin, Skrillex, and TOKiMONSTA make their music? This class will get you working with the tools and techniques of electronic music and no previous experience or knowledge is necessary. Learn to shape sounds with hardware and software that have historical and cultural significance since the 1960s to present day. Hone your listening skills by recreating familiar beats from your personal playlist. Create new songs from scratch and build a portfolio of your work. Limited to 10 students. Open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors

Chamber Orchestra
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Chamber Orchestra welcomes instrumentalists who are interested in a creative and collaborative process of making music. The repertoire is based on student interest and the rehearsal process goes beyond developing ensemble skills by integrating the discussion and analysis of history/context, harmony, and form. This ensemble will change the way you approach music and challenge the convention of which genres orchestras can explore. The orchestra performs several concerts throughout the year and past performances have included music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Astor Piazzolla, Joe Hisaishi, and Billie Eilish. Chamber Orchestra may be repeated for additional credit. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Vocal Exploration from Ragtime to Rap
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Designed to explore the intersection of music and culture, this course will include listening, reading, short presentations, and optional performances. Several American musical styles will be covered and some artists featured include Snoop Dogg, Taylor Swift, Eminem, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Tupac, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Bob Marley, and Duke Ellington. Watch a preview video here.

Open to 10th-12th graders.

Dance I: Just Dance S1 OR S1 & S2
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Designed for any level dancer, students will gain a solid foundation and appreciation for the love of dance! Throughout the year we will study multiple styles including jazz, contemporary, musical theatre, hip hop, and even TikTok dances. The focus of the course will be on the development of a technical foundation, understanding rhythm and musicality, strength and flexibility, choreography retention, and most importantly how to have FUN while moving your body! Class structure will include a warm-up designed around proper body alignment, across the floor movement, and choreography sequences focusing on applying proper technique and artistry. Students will collaborate with others and create their own choreography. Enrolled students will be expected to perform and participate in the Dance Concert. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Dance II: Advanced Dance S1 OR S1 & S2
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Building upon the foundations of Dance I, students will further develop their technique and dive deeper into dance as an art form. Styles of dance that will be studied include jazz, contemporary, world styles, musical theatre, ballet, and hip hop. Classes will include warming-up, stretching, movement sequences across the floor, and learning choreography. Students will build skills to develop their artistic expression through improvisation and creating and analyzing choreography. Enrolled students will be expected to perform and participate in the Dance Concert.

Prerequisites for this course include Dance I or permission from the teacher.

Choreography Workshop
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

This year-long course is designed for students of all levels who are passionate about growing as a dancer and an artist. Choreography and learning how to compose original pieces of work will be the focus of the course, including how to properly stage, light, costume, and design performances. Students will also focus on furthering their technical abilities through multiple styles including, but not limited to, contemporary, jazz, ballet, modern, and hip hop. This course will aim to challenge students through varied movement sequences, performance qualities, dynamic energy shifts, and exposure to improvisational techniques. Enrolled students will be expected to perform and participate in the Dance Concert.

Intro to Tap (FAX)(1S or 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

THIS IS PRIMARILY A 9TH GRADE CLASS AS IT IS PART OF THE A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS OPTION (FAX) 

All levels welcome! In this semester-long course, students will learn different elements of tap including technique, movement, musical rhythm, tempo, and phrasing. The course will focus on the historical context required to develop the skills needed to practice and perform this popular dance form. Class structure will include warming-up, stretching, and learning choreography, with a focus on developing performance qualities. Students will be introduced to terminology, important historical events, people who contributed to tap, and its lasting impact on pop culture. Tap shoes will be provided to those who need them.

Drama
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

Discover your individual voice through this introductory course on the fundamental elements and process of theatre including history and design. Explore today’s theatre through improvisation, observation, and performance. Through theatre games and daily exercises, build confidence and an understanding of what your unique perspective can bring to any material. Voice and movement within units include musical theatre and scene work. By year’s end know the purpose of a scene, understand objective, character development, and have a solid overview of theatre from a performance and business point of view. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Musical Theater Workshop
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

A performance based course focused on the three essential elements of musical theatre- music, drama, and movement. We will perform scenes from musical theatre repertoire from the golden age to the present. Prior experience in vocal music, drama, and/or movement is encouraged. 

Production - Page to Spieker Stage 1S and/or 2S
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

The first hands-on experience exploring and combining design, science, engineering, craftsmanship, art, and presentation inside the new Spieker Center for the Arts, this course is an opportunity to think big. It will cover digital theatrical LED lighting, live sound, production organization and management, set design, tools, construction, scenic painting, costume and prop design. Each student will be encouraged to find his/her own areas of interest. Learn how to safely use the diverse technology and tools of our new theater to take student projects from concept to completion. Students can also learn from working live events, concerts, dance, or theater. We will focus on collaboration, basic skill sets, and creativity. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Moviemaking
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

In this class, students explore and develop their creativity through making movies. The class is individually oriented, so students of all experience levels can focus on improving their specific skill sets and creating a variety of movie projects. Through many hands-on projects, students learn and practice skills such as using lighting effectively, using various microphones and cameras, using green screens, and editing in Final Cut. Students make a variety of movies, from comedies to experimental pieces to thirty-second ads to documentaries. Students learn and practice the IDEO approach to idea development in many of their projects. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Advanced Moviemaking
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

This advanced class is for students who have mastered the fundamental skills of moviemaking (i.e., sound, light, camera work and editing in Final Cut) and want to put their skills into action creating quality movies. Students will develop original ideas for all their movie projects; each student is encouraged to pursue the kind of movie that interests him or her the most. Students will work with the instructor to develop individual goals for building their skills and completing projects. Students will have access to the full range of equipment and software that Menlo has as they bring to life the movies they imagine.

The Art of the Fight (FAX) (1S OR 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

THIS IS PRIMARILY A 9TH GRADE CLASS AS IT IS PART OF THE A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS OPTION (FAX)

All levels welcome! In this semester-long course. Students will learn how to tell stories that have conflicts that escalate to physical violence — safely. For both film and stage, stories often involve conflicts that become physical. From slaps to swords and beyond, students will learn and practice standard stage combat skills and learn how to choreograph fight scenes.

Watch a video overview of this course here.

Photo 1
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

This introductory class uses both digital SLR cameras and smartphones to teach students the basics of photography. Students explore classic photographic project themes, like light, darkness, still life, landscape, portraiture, and others with each weekly project. Students are encouraged to experiment, and given the freedom to interpret and discover their own personal interests and styles. Open to all grades. Students provide their own smartphone and apps. (This is a year-long course.) Watch a video overview of this course here.

Photo 2
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

This class is for students who want to learn more advanced photographic techniques and editing processes in both analogue and digital photography. Students learn to use manual controls in both film and digital cameras to experiment with focus, depth of field and exposure. While learning the analogue process emphasis is placed on image and print quality using the dark room. While learning the digital process students learn advanced photo editing software to edit and manipulate images. With each project, students explore classic photographic themes; light, darkness, color, still life, landscape, portraiture, composition, abstraction, texture, reflections, patterns, and many others. Students are encouraged to experiment, and are given the freedom to pursue their own personal interests and styles.  Students are provided with in-class use of DSLR camera, lenses and software tools.

Pre-requisite: Photo 1

Photo 3: Independent Projects
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

This class is for experienced photography students who want to develop and improve their personal artistic practice by doing monthly projects of their own design. Students choose their own media, equipment, subjects and methods. Emphasis is placed on improving existing skills or developing new ones, exploring new and creative methods, and using alternative processes and imaging systems. With each monthly project, students are encouraged to produce creative, ambitious, innovative and high quality personal photo projects. Students are provided with technical support and in-class use of equipment.

Pre-requisite: Photo 1

Intro to Digital Animation level 1&2 YEAR-LONG
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

This mixed level course is for students who want to create 2D and 3D computer animations.

Students in Animation 1 will learn the principles of animation while acquiring skills in professional computer animation software.

Students in both levels will practice telling narrative stories through storyboarding, character development, sequencing, and modeling. Students will be given the freedom to experiment and discover their personal style.

Students in Animation 2 will be encouraged to work on animated shorts and collaborate with others.

Open to all grades.

 

. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Beyond Words (FAX) (1S or 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

FRESHMEN ONLY - A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

Mountains and minds can be moved with words. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. We all have stories to tell, ideas to share, and connections to make. The way we communicate is, in large part, who we are. Did you know that communication is only 7% verbal?!? 93% is non-verbal of which 55% is body language and 38% is tone of voice! This class studies the core principles of communication—both as the receiver and the sender. We will strengthen our own natural skills while exploring various techniques used by history’s great orators like Dr. Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Maya Angelou, and more. Watch a video overview of this course here.

How Music Works: Exploring and Expanding Your Musical Taste (FAX) (1S or 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Creative Arts

THIS IS PRIMARILY A 9TH GRADE CLASS AS IT IS PART OF THE A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

Studies show that musical preference is most strongly impressed during your teenage years. So what better time than now to learn more about how music works? Let’s explore your musical taste and dive into those sounds! Learn about how beats, chords, and melodies work together to create music that resonates with you. All genre preferences are welcome and you will listen to lots of music you never knew about. No previous musical training necessary; you will learn to analyze what you hear. This class can also benefit advanced musicians who want to gain a deeper understanding of the music they are formally studying. The primary goal of this class is to expand your love and appreciation for music. Watch a video overview of this course here.

Journalism I: Introduction to Journalism
Level: Upper School
Area: Electives

 Journalism today is not what it was even 10 years ago. Student journalists today still need to be able to write and use sources and evidence well, but they also need to be able to shoot video and craft stories for a short-attention-span audience. And many journalists today need to also be entrepreneurs, creating their own audiences and developing business plans that can sustain their work. Students in this course will learn and practice all the skills needed. They’ll also have the chance to get their work published in The Coat of Arms online and in print as soon as the quality is approved by student editors; all students will be publishing by the second semester.

Skills learned in this course will serve students in higher-level journalism, yearbook, and moviemaking courses; the course is a prerequisite for Journalism II. 

Journalism II: Advanced Journalism
Level: Upper School
Area: Electives

Students in this class will be members of The Coat of Arms staff, publishing both print and online work. They are encouraged to pursue stories that interest them and engage their audience. The staff of The Coat of Arms is responsible for attracting and keeping an audience of their peers, exploring new ideas and directions all the time and using data analysis to help determine what is effective. Yet this doesn’t mean student journalists will ignore the important role they play in a community, pursuing investigative journalism and informing their audience. The staff is challenged to continually build their communication skills in written, photo and video media. The Coat of Arms is a student-driven publication, and it’s ultimately what the students on the staff make of it. (Note: Journalism II and Journalism III meet together, in the same room at the same time.)

Prerequisite: either completion of Journalism I or rising senior standing. 

Journalism III: Journalism Leadership
Level: Upper School
Area: Electives

 Journalism Leadership (III) is only for CoA editors/leaders. Such students get a unique leadership experience. They steer the print and online editions of The Coat of Arms, and they must manage their peers on the staff as well. Because of this, students are graded not only on the content they contribute to CoA but also on how well they perform as leaders and managers. Leadership coaching is provided to help them develop and hone these skills. (Note: Journalism II and Journalism III meet together, in the same room at the same time.)

Honors Option: Students in Journalism Leadership may apply to take the course for honors credit. They must submit a proposal to the teacher in the spring. The proposal should explain a major project that the applicant will complete during the upcoming school year. Options are open-ended; some possible examples include an original long-form article, a series of articles on a topic, a major video story, a marketing program (planned and executed), etc. Each project must involve substantial amount of work over time and be high in quality. The proposal will be reviewed by a panel of teachers.

Prerequisite: Journalism I, Journalism II (& an approved project plan for honors option)

Yearbook: Publication Design I
Level: Upper School
Area: Electives

Students in this course are part of the yearbook staff. They collaborate with students in the Yearbook Club and any students doing independent studies to create a gorgeous 400-page book each year. New staff members learn about visual design, photography, image editing, and using software for graphic design. Because the book depends on students to create it, the staff must be productive, but the atmosphere in class is casual. It’s a fun change of pace from the usual daily schedule. -Students who go on from Publications I to Publications II can earn a University of California visual arts credit, as well as their Menlo Arts credit. 

Yearbook: Publication Design II
Level: Upper School
Area: Electives

This class receives both a Menlo Arts credit and a UC Visual Arts credit.

In this course, students take part in designing the form and content of the annual book. They learn more about the central principles of design: shape, line, color, repetition and balance. They also dive more deeply into what makes good photography and why in yearbook photography we emphasize faces, action, context and emotion. And they practice shooting and choosing photos to create strong page layouts. 

Prerequisite: Publication Design I

Yearbook: Publication Design Leadership
Level: Upper School
Area: Electives

In this third-year class students build on everything they learned in the first two years and add to that the challenge of managing peers, leading the staff through a year-long trek to create our book. These publications veterans make decisions for the designs for pages and the book overall. It is their responsibility to incorporate all that they have learned about design in their first two years in an aesthetically pleasing and very practical creation.

Open to juniors and seniors.

English 1
Level: Upper School
Area: English

English 1 students will work to establish their authorial voices while focusing on both reading and writing as active processes. In the fall, students will write a variety of expository pieces in order to deepen their awareness of their own opinions and values. Students then position themselves within larger cultural dialogues as we work on academic and literary arguments based on short stories, novellas, novels, and dramatic works. This practice will deepen their ability to recognize literary devices and will refine their ability to write logically and to support claims with evidence. Finally, students end the year with a focused study of rhetoric using op-ed pieces, speeches, plays, and fiction as inspiration. Students will become familiar with the fundamentals of grammar and punctuation, which they will practice throughout the year; they will also build their vocabularies through structured weekly practice.

English 2
Level: Upper School
Area: English

English 2 builds upon the foundation of English 1 in writing, reading, and grammatical instruction. Students will experience enhanced independence in crafting the structure of their writing, as well as develop greater complexity, specificity, and personal voice. Developing timed writing strategies further challenges students’ reading literacy and writing fluency. English 2’s curricular focus on American Literature produces many interdisciplinary opportunities with the History Department. Students gain an appreciation of how texts relate to the world around them and to their own lives. By spring, students will more precisely analyze how meaning is cultivated in a text, develop facility with inter-textual analysis, both within and outside of the text, and identify “cultural conversations” that emerge from our readings.

English 3: Rebels
Level: Upper School
Area: English

We’re all, to some degree, drawn to the idea of a rebel. Rebels are memorable. Rosa Parks became one of America’s most important rebels by refusing to give up her seat. Mark Zuckerberg committed an act of social rebellion when he dropped out of Harvard sophomore year to focus his career aspirations on the creation of what is now Facebook. The most memorable characters we know strayed from the norm in some courageous, even noble, way: Atticus Finch’s defense of Tom Robinson, Romeo’s and Juliet’s pursuit of forbidden love, Katniss Everdeen’s refusal to play the Hunger Games the way the Game-makers envisioned.

In this course, we will explore the role of the “rebel” in society, largely through the core textual and film selections including Ken Kesey’s counter-culture classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the film The Shawshank Redemption. We will examine how the social forces at play in these works provide us with insight into the society we live in now: here at Menlo, in Silicon Valley, in the United States.

AP English Language
Level: Upper School
Area: English

The purpose of AP Language is to prepare students to “write effectively and confidently in their college courses across the curriculum and in their professional and personal lives” (AP College Board Course Description). This rigorous course focuses on nonfiction writing, and students will become more proficient and comfortable both reading and producing complex pieces from a variety of fields (science, philosophy, popular culture, gender studies, etc.) and genres (e.g. essays, research, journalism, political writing, speeches, biography and autobiography, history, criticism). Students should expect to write frequently and in a variety of modes, since the course intends to develop their own awareness of audience, purpose and composing strategies. The course avoids a thematic or chronological approach in order to focus on essential reading, writing, and thinking skills involved in the study of rhetoric and composition.

Prerequisite: To be eligible, a student has to have earned an A- or above in the first semester of English 2.

AP English Literature
Level: Upper School
Area: English

Designed as an inclusive survey course that covers literature ranging from the infernal world of Dante and the Shakespearean universe to poetry written in 2021, AP Lit is a playspace for students who are excited about vivid works of fiction that represent diverse voices, styles, and eras. We write frequent, short response papers of typically 1-2 pages in order to gain comfort with shorter-form writing and draw meaning from complex poems, plays, short stories, and novels that speak to the human condition. Beyond those noted above, authors will traditionally include T.S. Eliot, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Yaa Gyasi, Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, Mary Oliver, Olive Senior, Mary Shelley, Amy Tan, Voltaire, Richard Wilbur, and Tennessee Williams, to name just some. We also integrate film, music, and art study into our work in order to consider narrative structure, tone, setting, characterization, and symbolism from new and unusual angles. AP Lit is ideal for students who love reading and enjoy robust discussion, literary analysis, and deep philosophical inquiry.

Prerequisite: To be eligible, a student has to have earned an A- or above in the first semester of English 2.

Investigations (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

By building a course devoted to non-fiction, I hope to both broaden and challenge your understanding of what’s happening in the world around us by exploring: Who’s writing about it, what they’re saying about it, why it’s important, and to enter into the conversations that emerge out of it. First, we will explore non-fiction writing through the lens of investigative journalism, reading works on various “whistle-blower” topics and viewing two “whistle-blower” films, The Insider and Spotlight, winner of the Academy Award for best film in 2016. We will explore how the media reports on current events and read a variety of social/political commentaries on relevant topics from publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Scientific American, Vanity Fair, and The Economist. As a capstone experience, you will each conduct your own in-depth investigation into a topic of your choosing. Bring your opinions!

Instructor: Ms. Plamondon

Fairy Tales: Reinventing the Spinning Wheel (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

“Once upon a time….” So begins perhaps the most pervasive storytelling mode in our world: that of the fairy tale. We use fairy tales as pedagogical tools for teaching values of right vs. wrong, as “means to conquer the terrors of mankind through metaphor,” and even as vehicles of resistance against the dragons we encounter every day. This course aims to immerse students deeply in the various modes of the great fairy tale tradition. It will ask students to engage their critical analysis skills as well as their creative writing skills. As scholars, we will interrogate western fairy tale canon in conjunction with non-western folklore and fairy tale tropes, “Disneyfication,” and the increasing ubiquity of fairy tales in contemporary pop culture. As creative writers, we will emphasize becoming “chefs” rather than “cooks,” intentionally using elements of narrative and poetic form and content to create specific effects in our creative retellings.

Instructor: Mr. King

Cafe Society: Paris ’20s & ’30s (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

Paris enjoyed a thriving arts and literary scene in the interwar years, attracting many American intellectuals to live and work in the famed City of Light. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin and Gertrude Stein, as well as jazz musicians and stage performers converged in Parisian cafes, bookstores, and nightclubs. In this course, we’ll read a selection of American expatriate writers associated with the “Lost Generation” and the Harlem Renaissance. We’ll explore the vibrant intellectual and cultural scene of Paris, including visual artists, musicians, and performers. As a culminating project, we will host a cultural salon, in which each student will assume the persona of a literary figure of the time period. At the end of the semester, we’ll watch Woody Allen’s nostalgic comedy, Midnight in Paris, a film full of references to the writers, artists and thinkers who left their indelible mark on this beautiful city.

Instructor: Dr. Longust

Gothic South (H) (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -William Faulkner

As the summer of 2020 made abundantly clear, even 159 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slavery and its effects continue to haunt this country like uneasy ghosts that still cannot find rest. The American South remains particularly impacted by the institution of chattel slavery; thus, its literary canon, in particular, is haunted by ghosts (literal and metaphorical) and marked by a compulsive need to look backward to somehow make sense of this monstrous sin that we (Americans)–Or is it they (Southerners)?–committed. This course will explore the region itself and our national relationship to it through the extraordinary fiction that continues to emerge from the former plantations, cotton fields, swamps, towns, and cities of the American South. Novels and short stories will comprise the bulk of our reading, accompanied by some theory and even some country music lyrics. Note that this course is not for the faint of heart. Authors may include Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Jesmyn Ward, and Suzan-Lori Parks, among others. The course aims to expand your imaginative schema of the region, to challenge your assumptions about it, and to help you cultivate a relationship with a part of the United States whose fate remains integrally entangled with ours.

Instructor: Ms. Newton

Modernist Poetry Workshop: Verse in a Burning World (H) (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

The first decades of the twentieth century represented a major inflection point in world history, as the comfortable traditions of previous centuries crumbled in the face of accelerating social and technological change. This is the period that gave birth to the literary revolution we call Modernism, which sought radically new forms of expression in order to articulate the human experience in an increasingly inhumane and unpredictable world. Today we stand at the dawn of a similarly tumultuous new age, and this course will examine the works of the Modernist poets as inspiration for our own poetic innovation. Students will analyze a wide range of Modernist poetry and experiment with various poetic techniques as they compile a portfolio of their own verse throughout the semester.

Instructor: Mr. Bush

Global Mythologies The Journey Inward (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

We are a species of mythmakers, and thus our societies are founded in and dependent upon shared narratives. Whether we call them myths, legends, or religions, these narratives reveal much about the human mind and our global cultural heritage. This course will provide a wide-ranging exploration of myths across time and space, from the ancient Indian Vedic texts to West African cosmologies to the stories of the Greco-Roman pantheon and Biblical accounts. Examining various traditions through a comparative lens will help us to better understand the origins of our supposedly modern cultures and provide insight into our continued reliance on shared mythological narratives.

Instructor: Mr. Bush

The Art of the Essay (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

If the thought of writing another closed-form analytical essay causes you to convulse in fear, you should probably take this class. We will spend all semester experimenting with alternative essay structures, reading, analyzing, and mimicking work by some of the great essayists of the 20th and 21st centuries. We will steal the best storytelling tricks from the fiction writer’s toolkit, and we will borrow strategies of persuasion from classical and contemporary rhetoricians. The course will be built on the workshop model, meaning that you will have to be both brave and nice: over the course of the semester, each student will courageously share his/her original work and will respectfully respond to the work of peers. Expect to be reading, writing, and critiquing constantly, but also expect to kind of sickly enjoy it.

Instructor: Ms. Newton

Dystopian Fiction and Film (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

With the re-emergence of dystopian fiction as the most popular genre for young readers, students will be exposed to dystopian classics that paved the way for more contemporary works. Students will explore the political and social climate that compelled writers to generate their narratives as well as the current, cultural conversations that emerge from these texts. Literature selections include: “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. In addition, students will view and analyze mise-en-scene techniques of notable dystopian films and shows, both classic and contemporary, including Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and selected episodes of the acclaimed British television series Black Mirror. Students will generate personal and social commentaries, a presentation of a dystopian film, and a research-based, capstone paper with the working title “1984 and Today’s Society.”

Instructor: Ms. Plamondon

Delight: Celebrating the Small Wonders of Life (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

When we think of delight or wonder, we might think of extraordinary, “mountain top” experiences, but the truth is that peak, high-intensity moments do not comprise most of our daily existence. Our lives are, in fact, made up of thousands of small moments that are easy to overlook in the business of living. By more closely noticing and savoring these moments, we might enrich our daily existence immensely. Poet W.B. Yeats wrote, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

In this class, we’ll encounter writers, poets, filmmakers, and artists who celebrate the small joys and ordinary wonders of their everyday lives. We will build a practice of noticing and documenting our own experiences of daily delight. Over the course of the semester, students will write a series of short reflections in different genres (essays, poems, maybe even song lyrics) about the humble pleasures in their lives. Poet Ross Gay calls this “scrounging for delight” and honing our “delight radar.” At the end of the semester, each student will curate the best of their reflections and compile them into a personal “Book of Delights” to serve as a keepsake or bestow as a (delightful) gift to someone else.

Instructor: Dr. Longust

Poetry Writing Workshop (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

Rip out the printed page. Riot with your words. Write the world as you wish it to be. In this workshop, we won’t just read world-changing poetry; we’ll author it. Whether you’re getting in touch with your inner poet or simply seeking new ways of communicating gracefully, this course is for you. You will train in a wide array of literary techniques that will spark your imagination and transform your language. The structure of each class meeting will vary from day to day and will include poetry critiques, surrealist games, reading discussions, collaborative writing activities, and publication workshops.

Instructor: Dr. Blumenthal

Medicine and Narrative (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

When it comes to the human body, scientific knowledge and narrative knowledge are seemingly at odds. The former demands dispassionate, objective observation; the latter invests our genome with the DNA of imaginative literature: symbol, image, metaphor. Yet clinical medicine cannot be practiced without a narrative patient history, and medical knowledge seems to strive for the archetypal shape of narrative: the medical crisis is a narrative “climax” of sorts that must be “resolved” by a cure. This course invites you to discover new ways of thinking about the relation between medicine and the humanities through close readings of memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, and media, as well as medical and scientific treatises. As you gain familiarity with topics such as disease and illness, disability, gender and sexuality, the human body, doctor-patient relationships, science and technology, equity in healthcare, pain, and bioethics, you will fashion original theories of narrative and healing at the vanguard of this emerging interdisciplinary field. This elective is designed equally for STEM students who are interested in healthcare and for humanities students interested in themes of malady, body, and identity.

Instructor: Dr. Blumenthal

Lyric and Lifeline (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

Hip hop is a powerful, energetic, and evolving global culture. This course begins by exploring hip hop’s origin story from a historical, political, spiritual, and economic perspective. Then, we study the evolution of hip hop by examining major early artists, tracks, and stylistic elements. Finally, we close out the course with a deep-dive into Kendrick Lamar’s seminal albums: “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” and “To Pimp a Butterfly”. As there is “no text without context,” students will also engage a variety of supplemental materials. In particular, students will read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a spectacular book that came out in 2015, the same year as “TPAB”, to facilitate many thematic connections. This course does not require any prior understanding of hip hop or rap. The writing for this class allows students to approach hip hop culture from several angles as a means of exploring their connection to, and understanding of, the artists’ themes and implications.

Instructor: Ms. Ramsey

Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Wise Silence/1S
Level: Upper School
Area: English

Instructor: Ms. Ramsey

How does one convey the experience and wisdom of the soul? In this course, we will conduct an intimate study of the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), a key author in American history and the founding father of the American essay form. Emerson remains both an intellectual and philosophical influence on our American sense of Self. Deeply tied to nature and the inherent genius and divinity of being, Emerson’s ethos is invested in the worth, responsibility, and truth of each individual. Emerson’s major essays (“The American Scholar,” “Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” “The Over-Soul,” “Experience,” “Circles” + ) will serve as the spine of our course, but we will also put Emerson’s work into conversation with an array of contemporary poems and essays. Our study and our time together is designed to inspire deep reflection and the thoughtful development of a personal connection with the nature of the human soul.

East Asian Pop Culture: Anime, Kung Fu, & K-Pop (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: English

This course aims to develop an aesthetic, historical, cultural, and philosophical understanding of various media forms in East Asian pop culture. We will study television, print media, film, and popular music in Japan, China, and South Korea. Course units will focus specifically on: (1) Japanese manga and anime & their reception in the West; (2) Chinese martial arts film; and (3) Korean dramas and popular music. We explore how these cultural products, having emerged largely through the combination of traditional and global forms of culture, have in turn profoundly affected popular culture around the globe. In addition to developing a shared scholarly vocabulary for critical discourse on film and contemporary critical theory, we will use an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture to gain skills to speak and write with intelligence about the diverse perspectives we bring to our understanding, interpretation, and emotional response to pop culture artifacts.

Instructor: Mr. King

Modern World History (9th Grade)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

The course begins with a look at how global trade led to an explosion of wealth and cultural production in the Ottoman Empire, Mughal India, Qing China, and Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. We then examine how the 19th-century world was shaped by topics such as Enlightenment ideals, nationalism, industrialization, imperialism, and reactions against these developments. The second semester focuses on the 20th century and the continuing tension between integration in a global, mostly Western-dominated system and the preservation of local traditions. The two world wars, decolonization, and the challenges facing the world in the 21st century are also major topics. Emphasis is placed on developing students’ skills in discussion, analytical writing, and conducting research.

US History
Level: Upper School
Area: History

This course examines the factors that led to America’s transformation from a relatively weak, divided, and isolated collection of colonies into the dominant nation of the twentieth century. In this course we will study the foundations of the United States; The Civil War and Reconstruction; Industrialization and Immigration at the turn of the 20th century; U.S. Imperialism; the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression; the impact of both World Wars on America’s government, economy, and society; the Cold War; and the Civil Rights Movement. Readings and class activities are structured to provide students with an opportunity to hear a variety of voices, explore differing and often opposing interpretations of history, and develop the tools necessary to define and support their own point of view. Special emphasis is placed on historical thinking and reading skills, media literacy, and the careful analysis of primary and secondary sources, as well as historical writing. Course requirements include several analytical essays and an independent research project.

Honors option available.

AP European History
Level: Upper School
Area: History

When comedian Eddie Izzard is asked about her background, she says “I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.” Take this class if you want to step up for some in-depth (and fun) analysis of the politics, ideas, conflicts, societies, and cultures of Europe since the Renaissance. This course has a lot to offer the history lover. The AP syllabus we cover is laden with rich, challenging topics. It demands patience for rigorous skill exercise in reading and evaluating sources, attending to the narrative details of 600 years of Europe’s history, conducting research and frequent analytical writing assignments. Students will be expected to commit to energetic class participation. The course is designed to prepare you for an AP exam next May, but the ultimate purpose of the class is larger than your exam results. We will engage critically with people and ideas of the past so as to be able to enhance the future, as informed individuals and as members of ever wider global communities.

Instructor: Mrs. Hanson

Juniors need to have earned at least an A- in RUSH, or a B+ in APUSH.

Contemporary American Issues (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

Our country may never be the same after January 6, 2021. On that fateful day, we learned that the health of our republic may be more in doubt than at any point since the Civil War. This course allows you to study carefully and thoughtfully the significant issues facing our country. We will search for an American identity. We will ask the painful questions about our national character and virtue. We will doggedly pursue rank American injustice and breaches of our Constitutional trust. We will find hope in each other, those we interview, and that which we research “in order to form a more perfect union.” We will call ourselves to account for our obligations as citizens in this pluralistic democracy of ours to be better neighbors, scholars, and citizens. Get ready for a wild ride through: the American exceptionalism debate; the Black Lives Matter movement; queer politics; the immigration debate, affirmative action, free speech on college campuses; gentrification and displacement in urban centers; the “gig” economy and economic inequality; and on and on. You will learn that there are no easy answers when studying different conflicts within the United States, but in examining these issues you are participating in a critical study of contemporary American society. This class may be taken for honors credit.

Instructor: Mr. Nelson

Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Ethnic Studies I: An Introduction to the Study of Minority Groups in the United States (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

Are you interested in learning from your peers’ personal experiences? Do you enjoy frequent discussion and debate in a safe classroom environment? Ethnic Studies operates from the consideration that race and racism have been, and continue to be, profoundly powerful social and cultural forces in American society. This first semester will focus on key issues such as prejudice and discrimination, assimilation and group membership, Americanization, class, racial and ethnic identity, and gender roles that have shaped relations in American society. We will investigate the origins of white identity and white privilege and the experiences of African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicanas/os and Latinas/os, and Native Americans. We will base our work on the concrete situations of people of color and use a methodological framing that emphasizes both the structural dimensions of race and racism and the associated cultural dimensions. The purpose of this course is to educate students to be politically, socially, and economically conscious about their personal connections to local and national history. We will focus on themes of social justice, social responsibility, and social change. The course spans from past to present, from politics to social reform, allowing students to identify similar social patterns and universal qualities present in other societies, including their own. Former students have said this course helped them develop as writers, researchers, and presenters while helping them to both challenge and clarify their personal beliefs surrounding identity, citizenship, and belonging in American society. An honors option is available.

Instructor: Ms. Borbon

Honors option available to juniors and seniors. 

Prerequisites: Open to seniors, juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Ethnic Studies II: Challenges for the Present and Future (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

Are you interested in learning from your peers’ personal experiences? Do you enjoy frequent discussion and debate in a safe classroom environment? Ethnic Studies operates from the consideration that race and racism have been, and continue to be, profoundly powerful social and cultural forces in American society. This second semester will focus on key issues such as immigration, citizenship, the patriarchy, and what it means to be an American. We will investigate the challenges faced by new immigrants from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, the push for LGBTQIA acceptance and inclusion, the importance of intersectionality, and the battle for gender parity. The purpose of this course is to educate students to be politically, socially, and economically conscious about their personal connections to local and national history. We will focus on themes of social justice, social responsibility, and social change. The course spans from past to present, from politics to social reform, allowing students to identify similar social patterns and universal qualities present in other societies, including their own. Former students have said this course helped them develop as writers, researchers, and presenters while helping them to both challenge and clarify their personal beliefs surrounding identity, citizenship, and belonging in American society. An honors option is available.

Instructor: Ms. Borbon

Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to seniors, juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Global Issues for Global Citizens (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

From global poverty to human trafficking, from climate refugees to animal poaching, from war crimes to child marriage – the problems on this planet are many. But, there are ways you and I can work with other like minded cosmopolitans and humanitarians to solve them. This course seeks to empower you to understand global issues in all their complexity and to take action. You will study the role of global governance institutions (e.g., the United Nations with its Sustainable Development Goals), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), terrorism and security, global public health, environmental policy, international trade, foreign aid and development play on the global stage. Our class activities, along with guest speakers, will help us understand that there is no “one size fits all” to the vexing issues that face our planet and us. But, this course is as much experiential as it is academic! You will participate in the Youth Philanthropy Project (YPP) - a unique opportunity to advocate for a cause you are passionate about in collaboration with an NGO of your choosing. Over the past five years of the Global Issues class, students have won over $25,000 for their NGOs from the generosity of the HAND Foundation. For more information about the YPP, see the project page on the Menlo School website under, “Global Learning at Menlo.” Join our class so you too can be part of the good we are doing for the world! This class may be taken for honors credit.

Instructor: Mr. Nelson

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Gender & Queer Studies 2S
Level: Upper School
Area: History

In this course we will undertake historical, cultural, and theoretical inquiries into gender and sexuality in the modern era. Drawing from feminist, queer, and postcolonial methodologies we will seek to understand how gender and sexuality operate in society and our everyday lives. Students’ critical thinking will be honed through the examination of how power, wealth, visibility, freedom, and voice have historically mapped onto norms of gender and sexuality. Accordingly, students will learn how resistance has been waged to trouble these norms, and how to deploy gender and queer theory for emancipatory action and hopeful futures. Through close readings, fun activities, insightful guest speakers, and film, we will pursue the following units: History of women and queer liberation in the United States; Social construction of gender, sexuality, and body concepts; Gender in culture and politics; and Queer theory. This class may be taken for honors credit.

Current Affairs and Civil Discourse (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

We are living through history, and they say journalism is the first draft of history writing. So we’ll try to understand the period we are living through – the pandemic, political ferment and polarization, racial reckoning, etc – as first-draft historians. Most of the readings will be from newspapers and periodicals, and we will listen to podcasts and TV news segments. The course will end with a research project of the student’s choosing. The main goals in this class are to:

  • Help make you deeply knowledgeable about the topics we cover in class – and you will have a large say in the topics we cover
  • Get you to engage with different perspectives both in the readings and in discussions
  • Guide you through a major research project.  
  • Help you become a more confident, cogent, and concise writer
  • Offer you a highly relevant learning experience

Instructor: Mr. Schafer

Open to juniors and seniors and sophomores with permission of the instructor. Honors option available.

Renaissance: a course in the Humanities (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

Why do humans often look to the past as they try to envision a better future, and what role can the arts play in driving social change? There’s a reason Gatsby famously exclaims to Nick, “Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!” and it’s not a fluke that Faulkner claims, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” These American authors articulate a truth about being human, and this course will explore the causes and artistic and social consequences of this backward-looking impulse. The French word “Renaissance,” or rebirth, has been used to describe this revival of art forms from older times in order to move society in a better direction. Our course begins with the Italian Renaissance of the 16thC, when artists (like Michelangelo) and thinkers (such as Machiavelli) reached back to the legacy of the Ancient Greco-Roman Classical World to develop a worldview that accommodated the growing powers of people outside the traditional power centers of the Catholic Church or traditional nobility. We will then look at how the concept of a Renaissance, or rebirth, nourished African-American artists and thinkers in the 20thC Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes is one example) and 21stC Afro-Futurism (think Black Panther) movements. The course will conclude with student-driven projects examining the concept of Renaissance in 17thC Mughal India, Ming China, and Tokugawa Japan. This course takes an interdisciplinary, Humanities-focused approach, using primarily artistic primary sources such as visual art, literature, and music, to understand the impulses and effects of this human impulse towards a Renaissance. All students will conduct research about a Renaissance of their choosing. Non-Honors students will produce an Annotated Bibliography. Honors students will create the Annotated Bibliography and write a 6-8 pg. essay. This course will give students credit towards Menlo’s requirement of 3 years of History. It (and its Honors component) are U.C. Approved. (It is also awesome on its own merits.)

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Instructor: Ms. Gertmenian

Modern Political Rhetoric (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

Have you ever wanted to improve your advocacy for political and social causes that are important to you? This course blends the study of political science and rhetorical criticism to assess the power of political persuasion to make history. By centering two key moments in modern American history – the HIV/AIDS fight of 1981-1996 and the modern environmental movement from 1969 to the present – we study tactics and strategies to bring about change in America. We engage politicians and other political operatives to understand how to become effective change-makers with public language in social media, speeches, social movements, art, and other mediums. From this study, you will become more knowledgeable about how political change is made and how you can become an ambassador for the change you’d like to see in our country. This class may be taken for honors credit.

Instructor: Mr. Nelson

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

The Pursuit of Happiness (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

According to the United States Declaration of Independence, the right to pursue happiness is self-evident. Yet it is not self-evident that we Americans are generally happy. How can we pursue happiness? How might we lessen stress and discomfort and discover greater ease? In exploring responses to these and related questions, this course surveys philosophies and religious paths that emphasize the practice of happiness rather than its pursuit. These include the classical Greek philosophy of Stoicism, elements of Hinduism, Taoist philosophy, and, in particular, lineages in Buddhist practice and philosophy. We also examine literature from positive psychology as well as elements of indigenous and Western religions. Within the scope of this content there are four primary aims: to understand the development of each tradition within its distinct historical and cultural context; to compare and contrast wisdom teachings and practices; to consider the relevance of traditions in light of contemporary research in psychology, ethics, biology, and related fields; finally, the course encourages students to try out different contemplative trainings and to reflect on their effects. An honors option is available.

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Instructor: Mr. Brown

Leadership Case Studies (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

Bloodthirsty tyrants, foreign invasions, and deadly plagues. You name it, Europe went through it; and the famous European leaders you’ve heard of are famous for a reason. Take this class if you’re interested in leadership tips from the men and women who transformed a chaotic and war-torn landscape into the high-functioning Europe we know today. We will study the daunting challenges that confronted kings, queens, popes, and parliaments as well as the life and death decisions they made. Students will develop skills in close reading of primary sources, advanced analytical writing, and decision analysis. Honors students will choose a leadership text from the era to write about and present in class. They will also conduct more advanced research for class projects and consult more sources than non-honors in our culminating research projects.

Instructor: Ms. Hanson

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Philosophy (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

First Semester Philosophy – The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates) In this course we examine such questions as: What is the meaning of life?  The purpose of life?  Who decides and how do we do so? What is the connection between my mind and body (and soul?)? What does it mean to be an “authentic” person? How do I know whether God exists? Can this be proven? What is the role of belief and faith in examining this issue? What is art? What is good art? What do I know and how can I know it? How does language frame our reality? In what way am I truly free to choose what I do? What factors influence my choices, i.e. advertising, nature & nurture, my DNA, etc.? What is “fairness”?  How can we maintain a just and fair society? What does it mean to behave ethically? In exploring these and other issues the student will learn the approach taken by some of the greatest thinkers throughout history. From a skills perspective, philosophy students should expect to develop the ability to decipher the logical structure of an argument and, in doing so, determine whether an argument is both valid and cogent as well as to understand various logical fallacies and pitfalls.  In addition, students will hone their ability to write clearly and creatively, defending their own position on various abstract “big picture” issues in both written and spoken form.  Lastly, students will learn to read closely and critically in order to decipher the position of a philosophical paper, how it is defended, and what their own position on that issue is (and why).  The Honors Student will have three additional assignments throughout each semester involving taking on three subjects of their choosing. In addition, honor students will be required to write longer papers than other students, including a longer research-based paper at the end of the semester and more activity on an online Discussion Forum.

Instructor: Mr. Bowen

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

Philosophy (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

In this course we examine such questions as: What is the meaning of life? The purpose of life?  Who decides and how do we do so? What is the connection between my mind and body (and soul?)? What does it mean to be an “authentic” person? How do I know whether God exists? Can this be proven? What is the role of belief and faith in examining this issue? What is art? What is good art? What do I know and how can I know it? How does language frame our reality? In what way am I truly free to choose what I do? What factors influence my choices, i.e. advertising, nature & nurture, my DNA, etc.? What is “fairness”?  How can we maintain a just and fair society? What does it mean to behave ethically? From a skills perspective, philosophy students should expect to develop the ability to decipher the logical structure of an argument and, in doing so, determine whether an argument is both valid and cogent as well as to understand various logical fallacies and pitfalls.  In addition, students will hone their ability to write clearly and creatively, defending their own position on various abstract “big picture” issues in both written and spoken form.  Lastly, students will learn to read closely and critically in order to decipher the position of a philosophical paper, how it is defended, and what their own position on that issue is (and why).  The Honors Student will have three additional assignments throughout each semester involving taking on three subjects of their choosing. In addition, honor students will be required to write longer papers than other students, including a longer research-based paper at the end of the semester and more activity on an online Discussion Forum.

Instructor: Mr. Bowen

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors. Juniors who take this course MUST take the honors option.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.  Students do not have to enroll in Philosophy I in order to take this course.

US Foreign Policy (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

What are the historical roots of the current tensions between the U.S. and countries such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran? How did the conflict in Afghanistan compare to the war in Vietnam? Has the NATO alliance run its course? Take this class if you would like to explore these and other questions in American diplomatic history. You will deepen your understanding of international relations by keeping up with today’s news while also exploring expert opinions about the past. Your reading and writing skills will improve with regular practice, and you will produce a formal research paper complete with endnotes and a bibliography. An honors option is available.

Instructor: Dr. Hanson

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

US Economic History (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

This class is organized along two parallel tracks. One is a chronological survey of major developments in American economic history from the mid-1700s to the Covid-19 pandemic. The other is a focus on five specific themes: banking and financial bubbles; laissez-faire vs. government regulation; economic growth; free vs. unfree markets; and the role of incentives in economic decision-making. This class will introduce you to skill sets that will prove useful in college and beyond, including basic statistical analysis and economic modeling. Along with economic history itself, you will get an introduction to the intersection of politics and economics called political economy. You will also have the opportunity to hone your reading, writing, speaking, and research skills. An honors option is available.

Instructor: Dr. Hanson

Prerequisites: Open to seniors and juniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

War and Peace: the Modern Middle East (1S)
Level: Upper School
Area: History

What is it with the Middle East? The whole region seems to brim with conflict over territory, ethnic strife, and diplomatic conundrums. Some suggest the combustibility of the region is a result of European imperialism (politics), and others point to the centrality of the oil market (economics). Still others identify religious difference (cultural factors) as the culprit. On top of this, the complex combination of forces in play is only half of the problem for anyone trying to understand the Middle East. There is also the problem of how to navigate the different assumptions and biases that have influenced Western understanding (and misunderstanding) of the Middle East over time. This class is designed to face both of these challenges head-on. Students in this course will study the turning points in the region’s history since 1919, and develop a nuanced picture of the forces at work today. You will sharpen your primary source analysis skills, expand your argumentative writing toolkit, and conduct independent research. Honors students in both the fall and spring will become experts in 21st-century trends by reading and presenting selections from an additional text, and will consult substantially more sources than non-honors students in our culminating research projects.

Instructor: Ms. Hanson

Note: Honors option available to juniors and seniors.

Prerequisites: Open to juniors and seniors, and sophomores with instructor permission.

AP Economics
Level: Upper School
Area: History

The fall semester looks at microeconomics—how individuals and companies make decisions. Students examine basic market theory and consumer decision-making. The bulk of the semester covers the theory of the firm. Topics include perfect competition, oligopoly, monopolistic competition, and monopoly. The role of government is also considered. The semester ends with a brief overview of the history of American economic history. The second semester is the study of macroeconomics—how the nation’s economy functions. The course looks at how to measure the size of an economy, unemployment, and inflation. Most of the semester is spent on understanding the tools the government has at its disposal to manage the economy. The unit on international economics includes trade and currency exchange rates. Keeping up with current economic events is an on-going part of the course.

Note: This course does not satisfy Menlo’s three-year History graduation requirement.

Open to seniors.

AP Government & Politics
Level: Upper School
Area: History

This introduction to American and politics is the equivalent of Political Science 101 at many universities and colleges. The course examines the enormous power and control various governments have over their citizens and what affects this has on politics in general. It is designed to help students understand not only the nature and function of government, but also their relationship to it. Students are given an introduction to constitutional theory, analyze the institutions and policies of the United States, and debate the current issues affecting their lives as Americans.

Note: This course satisfies a requirement for Citizenship & Leadership IP certification. This course does not satisfy Menlo’s three-year History graduation requirement.

Prerequisites:  A- or higher in the non-honors version of any fall History Department elective, or a B+ or higher in the honors version of any fall History elective. A student who does not automatically qualify for enrollment may be added to a waitlist and admitted on a space-available basis. Open to seniors.

Instructor: Ms. Okunnugo

Analytic Geometry and Algebra
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

A primary goal of the freshmen math program at Menlo is to shape a student’s conception of what it means to study mathematics. We want students to shift from thinking of their teacher as a sole locus of knowledge, to thinking that mathematics is a subject in which each student can construct his or her own mathematical understandings. To that end, the AG&A class is, by choice, textbook free. Within each unit of study, students are given daily problem sets from their teachers. New definitions are explained in the context of new problems. Students spend little to no time “taking notes” in a traditional sense. Class time is devoted to students solving problems and engaging in meaningful discussions about these problems, either with a nearby peer, in a small group of peers, or, sometimes, as an entire class. Because any study materials the students have are in large part self-created (they must work through the written problems, rather than reading a textbook author’s solution), we find that the materials are both relevant and meaningful. Topics studied include but are not limited to: systems of equations, angles in a plane, properties of quadrilaterals and regular polygons, properties of parallel lines, problem solving with circular sectors, triangle congruence, polygon similarity, right triangle trigonometry, coordinate geometry, transformations, graphing lines, and finding volumes of solid figures.

Prerequisites: Placement into this class happens via departmental placement test,  or via completion of IGA.

Analytic Geometry and Algebra (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Honors Analytic Geometry & Algebra covers the same course content as the non-honors course. Students move through basic principles and new concepts quickly, spending less time gaining basic practice, and more time engaging with larger multi-step problems. The Honors Analytic Geometry and Algebra course is as much a course in mathematical problem-solving as it is a course in traditional Euclidean geometry.

Prerequisites: Place into this class via departmental placement test.

Integrated Geometry and Algebra
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Integrated Geometry and Algebra is designed for students who enter the ninth grade needing additional review and practice in foundational algebra skills. Although the focus of the first several units is on developing mechanical proficiency, we expect students to move beyond basic procedural competence to develop a strong conceptual understanding of the material. In addition, students will learn how to document their work and how to study effectively for assessments in mathematics. Beginning in the second quarter, the curriculum is integrated with geometry through examination of the following topics: finding slopes of parallel and perpendicular lines, determining points of intersection by solving linear systems, manipulation of radicals and application of the Pythagorean Theorem, solution of Pythagorean inequalities, absolute value as a measure of distance, transformations of graphs of equations (lines, parabolas, and absolute value graphs), and the use of proportions in solving problems involving triangle similarity and right triangle trigonometry. An emphasis is placed on the development of problem solving strategies through applications of algebra to physical science, geometry, and finance. Connections to the ninth grade Physics curriculum are made through units covering mechanics and wave phenomena.

Prerequisite: Place into the class via departmental placement test.

Algebra 2 with Trigonometry
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

This course introduces students to several topics in secondary mathematics: Functions and their transformations, Inverse Functions, Inequalities, Quadratics, Polynomials, Exponentials, Radian Measure and the Trigonometric Functions, Logarithms, Probability and Combinatorics, and Sequences and Series. Emphasis is placed on process, depth of understanding, and the development of mathematical intuition, not on memorization of rote facts. Students are encouraged to use mathematical methods that are meaningful for them.  From this course, students can move on to either Precalculus or Advanced Precalculus.

Prerequisites: Completion of AGA or AGA (H) or completion of IGA plus recommendation from IGA instructor to take Summer Geometry plus successful completion of Summer Geometry.

Algebra 2
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

This course introduces students to several topics in secondary mathematics, including functions and their transformations, inverse functions, inequalities, quadratic functions and their transformations, polynomial inequalities, exponential functions and sequences and series.  Students should elect to take this class if they are looking for an approach to algebra 2 that will allow them to study specific topics for longer periods of time. This course prepares students for Precalculus but not Advanced Precalculus.

Prerequisites: Completion of AGA or AGA (H) or completion of IGA plus recommendation from IGA instructor to take Summer Geometry plus successful completion of Summer Geometry.

Algebra 2 with Trigonometry (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

This is an Honors course in Algebra 2. Topics studied include those listed for Algebra 2 plus a thorough treatment of rational functions, principles of end behavior as a precursor to studying limits, modeling with trigonometric functions & inverse trigonometric functions. Problem Sets are designed to challenge students depth and flexibility of understanding, in addition to their mathematical creativity.  This course prepares students for Advanced Precalculus or Honors Precalculus.

Prerequisites: Recommendation from freshman math instructor in conjunction with the department chair.

Pre-Calculus
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Building on the algebraic skills acquired in previous classes, this course attempts to deepen and strengthen students’ conceptual understanding and computational fluency. We extend and reinforce key algebraic concepts in the definition, application and manipulation of polynomials and rational functions, refining students’ graphical skills and exploiting technology as an aid to visualization and as an invaluable tool in tackling more complex problems. The heart of the course is devoted to a thorough presentation of the elementary transcendental functions: exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and inverse trigonometric functions. During the second semester students also explore some topics from discrete mathematics including sequences, series, elementary counting techniques and probability. This class prepares students for Calculus during their senior year

Prerequisites: Successful completion of Algebra 2.

Advanced Pre-Calculus
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

This course offers rigorous preparation for the traditional calculus sequence. Students refine their computational skills, extend their ability to exploit appropriate technology, and practice communicating their insights in written and oral form. After a brisk review of the unifying concept of function, students explore the algebraic complexities of polynomials and rational functions and discover new applications of the exponential and logarithmic functions. Emphasizing careful derivations, students then embark on a sophisticated study of the trigonometric functions and their applications. Students prepare to tackle calculus by exploring limits. During the second semester students will also spend time studying advanced topics selected from areas such as conic sections, linear programming, series, vectors, matrices, and probability and statistics. This class prepares students for AP AB Calculus during their senior year.

Prerequisites: Recommendation of Algebra 2 teacher.

Pre-Calculus (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Pre-Calculus (H) is an honors level pre-calculus course. It is aimed at the independent learners who are comfortable with handling symbolic language and abstract thinking challenges. Students work together in small groups in an effort to discover new concepts and explain new ideas from multiple perspectives. The course is aimed at honing the individual student’s mathematical creativity and providing a broad base of skills prior to taking calculus courses and higher. Students begin the year by engaging with contest level math problems that address many of the topics from Honors Algebra 2. In addition to extending previously studied topics such as transformations of functions, quadratic maximization, graphing rational functions, and exponential and logarithmic functions, the course includes a thorough introduction to limits and the definition of the derivative, an extension of trigonometry including trigonometric identities, the Law of Sines and the Law of Cosines, parametric and polar functions and their graphs, an exploration of methods of proof, and a thorough treatment of vectors and matrices. This class prepares students for AP BC Calculus during their senior year.

Prerequisites: Recommendation from the A2H instructor.

Calculus
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

One of the most beautiful and powerful branches of mathematics, calculus has long been the preeminent tool of scientists and engineers. In recent decades it has emerged to play a key role in the study of biology, medicine, economics, and finance. This course introduces students to the elements of differential and integral calculus, placing particular emphasis on applications drawn from the management, social, and life sciences. Students will sharpen (and develop a new appreciation for) their pre-calculus skills as they master and learn to apply derivatives, integrals, and the fundamental theorem of calculus. The focus is kept on conceptual understanding as students develop and apply new algebraic, numerical, and geometric skills. During the second semester the course also provides brief introductions to more advanced topics in mathematics, including partial derivatives, differential equations, and infinite series.

Prerequisites: Completion of Analytic Precalculus, or completion of Principles of Precalculus with a B or higher, or permission from the department.

Statistics
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Statistics is an application of mathematics for understanding the connections in business, the world around us, and the factors that affect change and consideration of options. Students make substantial use of the TI-83 calculator and JMP statistical software. The course is designed to equip students with many skills:

  • Quantitative literacy for use throughout their adult lives.
  • Participation advantages for effective and efficient public policy debates.
  • Evaluation skills for personal productivity in areas of insurance, health matters, banking, mortgage, leasing, and various other economic matters.
  • Analysis of economic trends, predictions, and estimations. Students are exposed to the newspaper and various forms of media and the critical skills required for accurate interpretation and full comprehension of articles that require statistical thinking.
  • Designing experiments based upon statistical findings, conducting polls, evaluating scientific claims, and presenting data. Students also examine a large number of case studies, both to appreciate the breadth and power of statistical techniques and to understand the widespread misuse of statistical ideas.

Prerequisites: Completion of Algebra 2.

AP Calculus AB
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

AB Calculus is a rigorous mathematics course that prepares students for the AP Calculus (AB) exam. We encourage students who have been successful with the previous pre-calculus course to consider an AP math class the following year. AB Calculus can be thought of as a turning point in a student’s study of mathematics, as the course demands a highly developed ability to think abstractly and aptly draw on skill sets developed in previous courses to tackle the calculus tasks before them. Teachers are dedicated to encouraging the development of a self-reliant learning style with strong inductive, deductive, and abstract reasoning skills to serve students well in a collegiate environment.

Prerequisites: Recommendation from Analytic Precalculus instructor or completion of Honors Precalculus.

AP Calculus BC
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Beyond becoming prepared for the Advanced Placement examination, students in this course will be expected to acquire a deep understanding of the mathematics of single variable calculus. Topics studied include but are not limited to: the historical development of calculus, and its philosophical implications upon key topics in the history of both science and mathematics; the topics in single variable calculus as defined by the college board’s AP BC Calculus test; advanced Math Projects in areas of student interest.

Recommendation from Honors Pre-calculus Instructor or recommendation from Advanced Pre-calculus instructor and a strong performance on a placement test.

AP Statistics
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

AP Statistics covers all of the same content as our Statistics course, moves at a faster pace, and prepares students to sit for the AP Exam in the Spring. Additionally, AP Statistics includes an introduction to Python programming and the development of small Python programs that help more deeply explore selected topics in probability and statistics. Assumes no background in programming or Python.

Prereq: Completion of Honors Algebra 2, Advanced Precalculus, or Honors Precalculus, or approval of the Math Department Chair.

Advanced Topics in Math (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Advanced Topics in Mathematics is designed to provide students who have completed the traditional calculus sequence with the opportunity to continue their mathematical studies, deepening and broadening their understanding and preparing them for the possible further study of mathematics. Topics covered may include multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, topics in discrete mathematics, and calculus-based probability theory.

Prerequisites: Completion of Honors Precalculus plus either concurrently enrolled in BC Calculus or have completed BC Calculus.

Conceptual Physics
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

This is a conceptual course designed to prepare students for chemistry, biology, and subsequent science courses. This class will focus on fundamental science study skills to give students the tools necessary to succeed in future science courses. The course develops students’ ability to understand concepts, observe phenomena, collect and interpret data, and present and write succinct and coherent lab reports. Problem-solving is introduced with careful attention paid to mathematical understanding. Students collect, graph, and interpret data regularly, often using digital probes interfaced with computers in the laboratory. The course teaches skills and content through a combination of lecture and hands-on experiments and demonstrations. Topics studied include waves, sound, light, mechanics, heat, and electricity & magnetism.

Enrollment in Integrated Geometry and Algebra is required for Conceptual Physics.

Physics 1
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

The freshman physics course is a conceptual course designed as a preparatory course for chemistry, biology, and subsequent science courses. While concepts are stressed, the course involves the use of algebraic equations at a basic level to develop problem solving skills. The course develops students’ ability to observe phenomena, collect and interpret data, and present and write succinct and coherent lab reports. Students collect, graph, and interpret data regularly, often using digital probes interfaced with computers in the laboratory. The course teaches skills and content through a combination of lecture and hands-on experiments and demonstrations. Topics studied include waves, sound, light, heat, mechanics, and electricity & magnetism.

Conceptual Chemistry
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

This course provides a strong foundation in chemistry by favoring application of essential principles over broad coverage of topics. The goal of the course is to build critical skills and interest in the nature of materials through observation of familiar materials and their properties. We will conduct some more involved laboratory studies to link fundamental concepts with common applications of how things work. In addition, the course will focus on organic and biochemistry to prepare students for success in biology. This course is for students who learn best when given time to process and apply material, spending time discovering the significance of basic concepts rather than rapidly addressing new ideas.

Prerequisites: Open to all sophomores.

Accelerated Chemistry (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

Accelerated Chemistry is a demanding introduction to the foundations of matter and its behavior. Topics include fundamentals as well as modern atomic theory, chemical equilibrium, electrochemistry, and thermodynamics, drawing upon skills and knowledge gained in physics. In order to cover a broad range of topics and include real-world applications, new topics are introduced quickly and mastery is built through problem-solving and laboratory investigation. Laboratory activities explore increasingly complex systems with numerical techniques where applicable. The course includes a detailed foundation in organic and biochemistry to prepare students for biology. This is a course for students with good analytical skills, curiosity about nature, and desire to apply knowledge in complex ways.

Prerequisites: Earn an A- in freshman Physics or teacher approval.

Biology
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

Biology uses chemistry as a launching point to start students on a journey from microscale to macroscale. Topics explored include biochemical molecules and digestion; cell and organelle structure and function; human physiology and reproduction; genetics and molecular biology; a biotechnology unit that utilizes modern laboratory techniques and explores bioethics; ecology; and evolution. The biology faculty works closely together to develop ways to encourage deeper thinking in our students. This work has resulted in an academically challenging and exciting course that is in a constant state of evolution as the team brings new ideas and approaches to the teaching of biology.

Prerequisites: Completion of Chemistry.

Advanced Topics in Biology (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

Advanced Biology is designed to represent a year of college laboratory biology. The goal of the course is to provide students who enjoy biology an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the process and content of biology. Topics studied include cellular energetics, molecular genetics, plant science, developmental biology and physiology (with an emphasis on systems not studied in Biology, such as immunology, and neurobiology). Considerable emphasis is placed on the development of skills in experimental design and interpretation. Students will learn advanced modern laboratory techniques (such as chromatography, spectrophotometry, microarrays, antibody assays and microscopy). Students should expect regular reading, from both a traditional textbook and other sources such as scientific journals.

Prerequisites: Earn a B+ in Biology or have their Biology teacher’s permission.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Anatomy & Physiology
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

Human Anatomy and Physiology is a course that includes an in-depth study of the eleven body systems that maintain homeostasis from anatomical, physiological, and histological perspectives. The structure and function of the body’s systems will be investigated using microscope investigations, laboratory exercises, and dissections designed to give the student hands-on experience with different tissues and organ systems. Additionally, students will be exposed to topics such as medical careers, medical ethics, healthcare and health insurance, as well as what it is like to live with a chronic condition. This course culminates with a visit to the Division of Clinical Anatomy at Stanford University where students will have access to interactive digital resources, physical models, and cadaver specimens. This course will be extremely beneficial to those students seeking a future in health-related fields, however, any student would benefit from taking this course as a way to gain a better understanding of how their bodies are designed and the best way to take care of it.

Prerequisites: Complete Chemistry.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Experimental Archaeology (1S OR 2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

This is a spring or fall semester-long interdisciplinary, project-based course set mostly in our new outdoor classroom. The aim of the course is to explore how humans moved from the Stone Age into the Bronze Age by exploring Archaeology, Ancient History, Science, and Art.

Students will carry out a series of experiments over the semester to learn and replicate skills from fire lighting and flint knapping to pottery making and bronze casting. Students need to be willing to get their hands dirty as many of the experiments will be carried out in an outdoor setting, and you will get dirty! At the same time, we will look at how archaeologists work and we will learn about some of the most important archaeological sites and civilizations from around the world. The course will end with a simulated archaeological excavation and a final project in which the students will use the skills they have mastered to create an object from one of the civilizations covered in the course.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

AP Chemistry
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

AP Chemistry is a challenging and exciting course which provides an in-depth understanding of chemistry. At the end of the course, students are prepared to take the AP Chemistry Exam. AP Chemistry probes deeply into the nature of matter and its changes on both the macroscopic and microscopic levels. Topics include the structure of matter, chemical bonding and orbitals, quantum mechanics, and the role of energy and entropy in reactions among others. The course promotes a qualitative (i.e. descriptive) understanding of chemistry and has a substantial quantitative (i.e. using math and numbers) component as well. The focus of AP Chemistry is on problem-solving. There is little to memorize; instead, students master the concepts and learn to apply them to solve many, many problems. In the lab, students learn to be independent as they devise their exact procedure in many of the labs. This course is ideal for those who enjoy the many challenges of science.

Prerequisites: Earn a B+ in Accelerated Chemistry, or earn an A in Conceptual Chemistry and have Conceptual Chemistry teacher’s permission.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

AP Physics 2
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

AP Physics 2 is a college-level course in physics designed for students interested in studying physics as a basis for more advanced work in the life sciences, medicine, geology, and related areas, or as a component in a non-science college program that has science requirements.  Credit for advanced placement for the AP Physics 2 course provides the student with an opportunity either to have an accelerated college program or to meet a basic science requirement; in either case, the student’s college program will be enriched.

The course includes topics in both classical and modern physics. A knowledge of algebra and basic trigonometry is required for the course; the basic ideas of calculus may be introduced in connection with physical concepts, such as acceleration and work.  Understanding of the basic principles involved and the ability to apply these principles in the solution of problems are the major goals of the course.  The lecture stresses the concepts of physics. The labs develop skills of experimentation, observation, analysis, and use of lab equipment including computers.  Problem-solving emphasizes mathematical and analytical skills as applied to physical laws and concepts.

The course seeks to be representative of topics covered in similar college courses, as determined by periodic surveys. Accordingly, goals have been set for coverage of six general areas:  mechanics, fluids, kinetic theory and thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, waves and optics, and modern physics.

Prerequisites: Rising sophomores: earn an A in Physics and have Physics’ teachers permission. Rising juniors and seniors: earn an A- in Physics both semesters or have Ms. Jensen’s permission.

 

 

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Advanced Topics in Physics: Quantum Mechanics (H) (1S) Electromagnetism and Relativity (H) (2S)
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

This is an advanced course in physics where we discover the fascinating world of
Harmonic Motion, Rotational dynamics, Electro-magnetism, Super-conductivity,
Quantum Mechanics, Relativity theory and Particle physics. Students will be challenged to think in four dimensions, apply calculus to real-world problems, and suspend how they think the universe works in order to be open to how it really works. Students will read articles in cutting-edge physics, solve problems in topics of current research and do hands-on experiments. Students will be very well prepared for the AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism exam from this course. Students can also prepare for the AP Physics C: Mechanics test with their knowledge from AP Physics 2, material from this class, and some extra work outside of class. If you are part philosopher, part engineer, and part scientist with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for solving tough problems this class is for you.

Prerequisites: Completion of or simultaneously taking AP Calculus BC and Completion of AP Physics 2.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Environmental Science
Level: Upper School
Area: Science

Did you know that the 2017 hurricane season was the most expensive season on record, costing the United States approximately $280 billion dollars in damages? Have you heard of the term environmental injustice; the majority of those housed near toxic waste sites, congested highways, and landfills are disproportionately people of color in the United States, meaning those populations are subjected to higher air, water, and soil pollution? Many project that by the year 2050 wars will be fought over resources such as clean water and food shortages due to major drought and other natural disasters. The study of environmental science and the need for environmental activism, policy, and reform are paramount to the continued success of our species. Your generation more than any other will see a slew of new environmental issues crop up, and will be responsible for solutions for lasting change. Become a part of this vital and exciting conversation.

This class will be highly interdisciplinary, pulling from geology, earth science, chemistry, biology, history, political science, and current events. Through field trips, lab activities, and outdoor field research we will study the environment and our impact on it, and use critical thinking skills to propose solutions to some of the most important issues of our time.

Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

View student testimonials for this course and other science courses here.

Foundations 1 French
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes limited or no prior experience with the language. Students will acquire the speaking, writing, and listening skills to be able to understand and use in informal scenarios using common expressions and basic phrases. The course is conducted primarily in the target language and often incorporates authentic materials. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in basic detail:

  • Introduce self and others
  • Create questions about self and about others in the present tense on varying topics
  • Describe self, others, activities
  • Express actions, activities and events in the present tense
  • Discuss own likes, dislikes as well as those of other people
  • Create informal, interpersonal conversations that are culturally appropriate
  • Use and understand appropriate vocabulary for informal settings
Foundations 2 French
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes control of vocabulary and shows no significant, fossilized errors in Novice level material. Students will continue to develop the topics of Level 1, working to enhance acquisition of speaking, writing and listening skills necessary to understand spoken and written material in the target language. The course is conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in increasing detail:

  • Express needs
  • Express feelings and reactions to less tangible situations.
  • Express and understand less concrete ideas.
  • Deal with most situations likely encountered while traveling.
  • Describe events, experiences, dreams, hopes, and ambitions.
  • Talk about family, school, and social settings.
  • Demonstrate understanding of culturally appropriate behavior.
  • Give brief explanations for opinions and plans.

Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 1 or department placement.

Intermediate French
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

  • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
  • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
  • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
  • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
  • Interact with a degree of spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
  • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

 

Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 2 or department placement.

Upper Intermediate French
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is fully conducted in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

  • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
  • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
  • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
  • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
  • Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
  • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

NOTE: Upper Intermediate requires an independent learner who is ready to explore new language topics more quickly, to begin using these more advanced concepts in real-life situations, with a strong control of concepts learned in levels 1, 2, and Intermediate, and few or no fossilized errors in expression.

Note: This course has an honors option.

Prerequisite: B or better in Intermediate or department placement.

Advanced Seminar Topics French
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is designed for incoming students who are fluent or semi-fluent in French and/or for students who have completed Upper Intermediate French or French AP and wish to maintain their speaking, reading, and writing skills. The course offers a unique opportunity to explore the many facets of Francophone cultures around the world and to build solid linguistic competency.

This course is extremely innovative as it uses a non-traditional method, with French feature films as the point of departure for the vocabulary and grammar structures, cultural points, reading selections, writing, and communication activities presented in the textbook.

This French language and culture course is conducted entirely in French.

Note: This course has an honors option.

Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

AP French Language and Culture
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is intended for students who wish to develop proficiency by integrating the use of a variety of authentic materials with the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The course follows the same guidelines and descriptions of the College Board. The level of rigor and expectations of student knowledge is “to be comparable to advanced-level (fifth and sixth-semester or the equivalent) college/university French language courses.” Students who enroll must have a reasonable command of the target language and a basic understanding of the cultures of French-speaking peoples. The class is conducted fully in French, and it is designed to be an in-depth review and fine-tuning of the concepts and skills developed over previous years of study.

Prerequisite: A- or better in Upper Intermediate or Adv Seminar Topics (with honors option) and permission of current instructor

Latin 1
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

Latin I introduces students to the world of the ancient Romans by studying the Latin language, culture, history, and, of course, the myths. As students learn new Latin vocabulary, they are encouraged to deepen their understanding of the words by learning English derivatives; this further enriches their own personal English vocabulary as well. Students learn to read Latin following the tales of Sabina through the Suburani textbook series; this series is unique in that it focuses on the underrepresented groups in the Roman Empire and truly allows students to get a picture of daily life in ancient Rome. Additionally, we sometimes speak Latin in order to enhance our understanding of the language itself. The goal of this course is to build a foundation which will allow students to read authentic Latin literature in the advanced levels. 

Latin 2
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

Latin II continues the study of Latin grammar, history, culture, mythology and English derivatives; some topics of cultural interest may include life in Pompeii and Greece, gladiatorial games, and weddings. This course continues to follow the adventures of Sabina through the Suburani textbook series; this series is unique in that it focuses on the underrepresented groups in the Roman Empire and truly allows students to get a picture of daily life in ancient Rome. Latin is spoken in class on occasion in order to deepen students’ understanding of the language itself. Students will continue to build a foundation which will allow students to read authentic Latin literature in the advanced levels. 

Latin 3
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

Latin 3 takes up where Latin 2 left off, covering the basics of Latin grammar & syntax, along with a healthy dollop of culture — especially mythology, history and the influence of Latin on English. We also research some Greek and Roman art and architecture. 

Adv. Latin Lit I: Prior Latin 4
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

Both a postlude of Latin 3 and, for some, a prelude to the AP, this course offers a chance to read some of the lively Latin not covered by the AP. Students will also take a detailed look at Roman Civilization and its influence on modern life. There will be ample opportunity to read adapted and authentic Latin from a variety of authors including Martial, Catullus, Ovid, Pliny the Younger, and others; students get some choice in which authors we read. * This class may be taught in conjunction with Advanced Latin Literature II with a rotating syllabus. 

AP Latin Vergil
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course follows the AP Vergil syllabus in preparation for the exam in May. We read Vergil’s Aeneid in the fall and explore Caesar’s De Bello Gallico. We explore the history, meter, and figures of speech associated with the texts. We also review Latin grammar: verbs first semester and nouns second semester. Finally, as time allows, we practice reading unseen passages from various authors.

Prerequisites: Earn an A- or better in level 3 (H) or 4 and with permission of their current instructor. 

Adv. Latin Lit II: Prior Post AP Latin (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

The purpose of this course is to expose students to more authentic and unabridged Latin literature beyond the AP syllabus. We usually begin with selections of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but, each year, the readings follow the interests of the students in the class. In recent history we have read works by Plautus, Cicero, Suetonius, Catullus, Livy, Pliny the Younger and even Tacitus. We often take the challenge to write Latin elegiac couplets in the style of Ovid. * This class may be taught in conjunction with Advanced Latin Literature I with a rotating syllabus. Note: This course has an honors option. Prerequisites: With from their current instructor.

Foundations 2 Mandarin
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is for students with three years of previous study in middle school. This may also be the appropriate class for a student who has some previous study in weekend Chinese school. On the placement test, we look for sufficient mastery of pinyin dictation, pronunciation and tones, novice level vocabulary and expressions taught in Foundations 1 Mandarin (greetings, family, hobbies, dates and time, visiting friends, making appointments), word order with time and location, alternative questions, measure words, and the ability to compose a handwritten paragraph, minimum of 120 characters in topics such as self-introduction, hobbies and making appointments. Students also need to be able to communicate orally in the Novice mid-level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors. Students entering this level will be familiar with Chinese word processing and major Chinese holidays. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin.

Intermediate Mandarin
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is for students who have completed Foundations 2 Mandarin and for exceptionally strong students with three years of previous study in middle school. This may also be the appropriate class for a student who has some previous study in weekend Chinese school. On the placement test, we look for sufficient mastery of pinyin dictation, pronunciation and tones, beginning intermediate vocabulary and expressions taught in Foundations 1 and 2 Mandarin, and the ability to compose short paragraphs: minimum of 250 characters handwritten essay, on topics such as weather, directions, and food. Students also need to be able to communicate orally at the Intermediate Low level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin.

Upper Intermediate Mandarin
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is for students who have completed Intermediate Mandarin. Students entering this level must demonstrate adequate proficiency of intermediate vocabulary words, expressions and grammar from the Integrated Chinese Level1 Part1 and Part 2 textbook. Students in this level receive intensive review and practice of intermediate-level grammar and language functions. Students are expected to be able to communicate at the Intermediate-Mid level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors by the end of the year.

Please Note: this course has an honors option.

AP Chinese Language and Culture
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

AP Chinese Language and Culture is for qualified students who are interested in completing studies comparable in content and difficulty to a full-year course at the second-year college level. Students will read, discuss and analyze texts and media dealing with arts, geography, history, literature, social, and cultural practices of the Chinese-speaking world. Students also review the linguistic functions and grammatical structures of intermediary Chinese. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing of Mandarin will be practiced and developed further within a cultural framework. Mandarin will be the primary language of instruction. Emphasis will be on language as an expression of culture and a medium of communication.

Prerequisites: A- or better in level IV and permission of current instructor.

Foundations 1 Spanish
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes limited or no prior experience with the language. Students will acquire the speaking, writing, and listening skills to be able to understand and use in informal scenarios using common expressions and basic phrases. The course is conducted primarily in the target language and often incorporates authentic materials. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in basic detail:

  • Introduce self and others
  • Create questions about self and about others in the present tense on varying topics
  • Describe self, others, activities
  • Express actions, activities and events in the present tense
  • Discuss own likes, dislikes as well as those of other people
  • Create informal, interpersonal conversations that are culturally appropriate
  • Use and understand appropriate vocabulary for informal settings
Foundations 2 Spanish
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes control of vocabulary and shows no significant, fossilized errors in Novice level material. Students will continue to develop the topics of Level 1, working to enhance acquisition of speaking, writing and listening skills necessary to understand spoken and written material in the target language. The course is conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in increasing detail:

  • Express needs
  • Express feelings and reactions to less tangible situations.
  • Express and understand less concrete ideas.
  • Deal with most situations likely encountered while traveling.
  • Describe events, experiences, dreams, hopes, and ambitions.
  • Talk about family, school, and social settings.
  • Demonstrate understanding of culturally appropriate behavior.
  • Give brief explanations for opinions and plans.

Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 1 or department placement.

Intermediate Spanish
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is fully conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

  • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
  • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
  • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
  • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
  • Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
  • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

 

Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 2 or department placement.

Upper Intermediate Spanish
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is primarily conducted in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

  • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
  • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
  • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
  • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
  • Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
  • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

NOTE: Students who take this course with the honors option are expected to be independent learners who are ready to: explore new language topics at a faster pace, use these more advanced concepts in real-life situations, and demonstrate a strong control of concepts learned in Foundations 1, 2, and Intermediate, with few or no fossilized errors in expression.

Note: This course has an honors option.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Intermediate Spanish and Department placement.

AP Spanish Language and Culture
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is intended for students who wish to develop proficiency by integrating the use of a variety of authentic materials with the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The course follows the same guidelines and descriptions of the College Board. The level of rigor and expectations of student knowledge is “to be comparable to advanced-level (fifth and sixth-semester or the equivalent) college/university Spanish language courses.” Students who enroll must have a reasonable command of the target language and a basic understanding of the cultures of Spanish-speaking peoples. The class is conducted fully in Spanish, and it is designed to be an in-depth review and fine-tuning of the concepts and skills developed over previous years of study.

Prerequisite: A- or better in Upper Intermediate with honors option or Adv Seminar Topics Honors with honors option and permission of current instructor.

Advanced Seminar in Spanish Language & Culture
Level: Upper School
Area: World Language

This course is intended for students to expand and deepen their understanding of language structures, and the social and cultural realities of the world in which they live. Topics covered will be relevant to current events and some of the topics will be taught and evaluated by visiting instructors from within the department. The course’s communicative approach aims to continue developing students oral and written proficiency, and listening and reading comprehension skills. Students will:

  • Examine and discuss aspects of culture and society.
  • Discuss and explore new ideas with issues related to the Spanish-speaking world.
  • Research a topic of their interest to deepen their understanding.
  • Work collaboratively in groups or independently.

Note: This course has an honors option.

Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

Menlo IP Capstone Seminar H 1S or 2S
Level: Upper School
Area: Menlo IP

Menlo IP provides students with meaningful opportunities to build on their previous coursework and to become knowledge creators and autonomous learners. IP students forge new ways to distinguish themselves in their studies during their high school years. Students shape interesting, thoughtful, distinctive academic explorations in one of four broad Fields of Study. View IP program requirements here on the “Menlo IP Program Overview” page.

The IP Capstone Seminar is required for all IP students. The course offers support, guidance, and inspiration for capstone projects in any one of the four fields of study. Modeling a form used in higher education, students work with a panel of thesis or final product advisors, write an extended paper or produce a video or website (in addition to reflective writing), and present their conclusions before faculty, family, and friends. In the first weeks of the course, our approach will be skills-focused rather than content-focused, meaning that students will develop and hone the skills needed to successfully envision, produce, and complete a long-term project of their design. Examples of skills we learn include: design thinking principles in the initial stages, pointers for effective research, advice for contacting professional experts, or setting up internships and field visits. Next, we move into the independent work phase, which will require taking initiative, attention to written and oral communication skills, and frequent check-ins for staying on track. Students are expected to meet a series of benchmarks at various stages of the project. The seminar also provides opportunities for collaboration and sharing among students. This is an honors course open to Juniors and Seniors.

To apply, students must complete a proposal form (available here). This must be submitted and approved before you can request the class. 

CS1: Computer Science 1
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Assuming no previous experience with computers or computer programming, CS1 introduces students to the infinite possibilities of computer science and the art of programming. Students will use multiple programming languages to learn to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. Programs and projects are inspired by real-world applications of computer science to the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences. To end the year, CS1 culminates in a gratifying final project: a highlight of many students’ coding experiences at Menlo. CS1 is offered Pass/No Pass, rather than for a letter grade. 

Watch a video overview of this course here.

Eligible Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Prerequisites: None

CS2: AP Computer Science
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

Building off of the foundation laid in CS1, CS2 dives deeper into the field of computer science while expanding students’ programming skills. Students begin the year learning Java, one of the most popular and important programming languages. Students will learn about new topics, such as classes, objects, inheritance, and recursion. As the year progresses, CS2 challenges students to work on progressively larger and more creative programming projects. This culminates in the final project: a month-long endeavor to design and program a video game complete with mouse and keyboard input. In addition, students will be given significant preparation for the AP Computer Science A exam.

Eligible Grades: 10, 11, 12

Prerequisite: CS1

App Design & Development
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

In App Design and Development, students learn how to build apps that solve real problems for real people. The course focuses on iOS app programming, using the language Swift to build applications for iPhone or iPad. The course teaches students to program in Xcode, the same platform that real Swift programmers use daily. Students also learn to use graphics editors to design app layout and user interface. As the course progresses, students build multiple apps, each more complex than the last. The course culminates in the design and creation of an original app to be published in the App Store.

Eligible Grades: 10, 11, 12

Prerequisite: CS1

Advanced Topics in Computer Science (H)
Level: Upper School
Area: Mathematics

In Advanced Topics, students begin applying their programming skills in a truly project-driven course. After taking at least two years of computer science at Menlo, students are ready to tackle applications fields of computer science such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, cybersecurity, and more. While engaging with these new topics, students learn new programming languages—such as Javascript and SQL—while working with advanced data structures and algorithms. Choice plays a big role in the class, as students spend significant periods of time working in teams on a variety of ambitious programming projects. Topics vary from year to year, so the course may be taken more than once.

Eligible Grades: 11, 12

Prerequisite: CS2, or App Design and permission from the department (email Mr. Blick)

Freshman Seminar
Level: Upper School
Area: Freshman Seminar

A foundational part of the 9th grade experience, the Seminar is composed of six different classes that students rotate through over the course of one semester (1st or 2nd). Classes include: Ethics, Human Sexuality and Sexual Health, Community Engagement, Human Behavior, Identity, and Design Thinking. The central mission is to develop self-awareness and responsibility within the global village by empowering students to effectively care for themselves and others. The Seminar also provides students with an opportunity to explore Menlo’s values and how they come to life in and out of the classroom. Classes are intentionally kept small to foster active conversation and community building among the students.