Upper School Electives

Menlo School’s Coat of Arms staff prepares for another issue. Photo by Pete Zivkov.

Explore and discover what interests you.

In addition to departmental electives, Menlo offers a host of additional electives, many of which are open to all Upper School students. While they do not satisfy specific department course requirements, they allow students to find new intellectual passions and explore their interests on a deeper level. 

Meet our Upper School Electives faculty.

Course Catalog

  • Journalism I: Introduction to Journalism

     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

    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

     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 1: Publication Design

    This is a year-long class. 

    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 2: Advanced Publication Design

    This is a year-long class. 

    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. 

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

    Prerequisite: Publication Design I

  • Yearbook 3: Publication Leadership

    This is a year-long class. 

    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.

  • CS1: Computer Science 1

    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 about Computer Science at Menlo here.

    Watch a video overview of this course here.

    Eligible Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Prerequisites: None

  • CS2: AP Computer Science

    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.

    Watch a video about Computer Science at Menlo here.

    Eligible Grades: 10, 11, 12

    Prerequisite: CS1

  • App Design & Development

    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.

    Watch a video about Computer Science at Menlo here.

    Eligible Grades: 10, 11, 12

    Prerequisite: CS1

  • Advanced Topics in Computer Science (H)

    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.

    Watch a video about Computer Science at Menlo here.

    Eligible Grades: 11, 12

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