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 students editors; all students will be publishing by the second semester. Watch a video overview of this course here.

    Skills learned in this course will serve students in higher-level journalism, yearbook, and moviemaking courses; the course is a prerequisite for underclassmen seeking to take 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 it. (Note: Journalism II and Journalism III meet together, in the same room at the same time.)

    Prerequisite: Completion of Journalism I or rising junior/ 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 by early March. 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 a substantial amount of work over time and be high in quality. The proposal will be reviewed by a panel of teachers.

    Prerequisite: Journalism II & permission of the instructor.

  • Yearbook: Publication Design I

    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. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Yearbook: Publication Design II

    In this course, students take part in designing the form and content of the annual book. This class receives both a Menlo Arts credit and a UC Visual Arts credit.

    Students will 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

    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: Introduction to Computer Science

    Assuming no previous experience with computers or computer programming, this course will provide students with an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming. Students will use a modern programming language to learn how to think algorithmically and solve problems efficiently. Problem sets are inspired by the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Languages include C, Python, and SQL plus HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This course culminates in a final project. Watch a video overview of this course here.

    No Prerequisites.

  • App Design & Development (Full year)

    Learn how to build apps that solve real problems for real people. In iOS App Development you will learn how to design and create apps for iPhone and iPad. In this course, you’ll build fundamental iOS app development skills with Swift. You will master the core concepts and practices that Swift programmers use daily, and build a basic fluency in Xcode source and UI editors. You will be able to create iOS apps that adhere to standard practices, including the use of stock UI elements, layout techniques, and common navigation interfaces. You will also explore app design by brainstorming, planning, prototyping, and evaluating an app idea of your very own.

    Prerequisite: Any Menlo Computer Science course or permission of the instructor.

  • CS2: Algorithms and Data Structures (H)

    This course is intended for students with at least one year of introductory programming experience. It does not assume any experience with Java. The course surveys the field of computer science and teaches the fundamentals of computer programming using the Java programming language. Projects include game programs with keyboard and mouse input, graphics, and board game puzzles. We will study the elements of procedural programming: variables, types, expressions, statements, decision structures, loops, parameters, and methods. We will also explore design models such as MVC and object-oriented programming concepts. You will be well-prepared to take the AP Computer Science A exam at the end of the year. By the time you complete this course, you will have a solid understanding of the programming process, its complexities, and a design process that will enable you to take on your own programming projects and solve real problems in the real world, for real people.

    Prerequisites: 1) Completion of APCS A or Intro to Computer Programming.
    2) Permission of the department.

  • Advanced Topics in Computer Science (H)

    For more advanced students of computer science, Menlo offers students the opportunity to practice with new programming languages (typical units of study might include Scheme, Python, C, C++, and/or Objective-C), to gain practice with more advanced data structures and algorithms, and to become familiar with a broad selection of topics in computing, including hardware, the Unix operating system, artificial intelligence, and computer graphics. Working in teams and exploiting tools such as version control software, students will also have the opportunity to collaborate on a variety of ambitious programming projects. This course is for students who have successfully completed AP Computer Science. Topics vary from year to year. The course may be taken more than once. Each student is expected to bring his or her laptop to class every day. Menlo may help students acquire laptops where necessary.

    Prerequisites: Complete AP Computer Science or get permission of instructor (email Ms. Chou).