Home » Academics » Upper School Philosophy and Programs

Upper School Philosophy and Programs

The Upper School is housed in a separate two-story building on the existing campus with updated classrooms, a large common area, science lab, and offices, and it is equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The Upper School expansion is representative of the Cambridge School mission statement and our steadfast determination to continue to serve students with dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, executive function challenges, and other language-based learning differences through high school.

Like our Lower and Middle Schools, the Upper School maintains small classroom sizes where teaching, learning, and personal relationships are paramount. The rigorous curriculum is specially designed to help students develop advanced academic skills, build a foundation of knowledge on those skills, and stimulate intellectual curiosity.

The Cambridge Upper School takes a unique and dynamic approach to teaching the standard high school coursework. It provides a comprehensive experience that includes instruction in performing and visual arts, athletics, and technology. There is a significant emphasis placed on cross-curricular and experiential learning to help students:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the material
  • Make stronger connections
  • Enhance academic achievement

This approach allows students opportunities to investigate their interests, acquire confidence in their abilities, believe in their own intrinsic worth, and develop the skills necessary to achieve success during the high school years and beyond.

Curriculum

Curriculum Highlights

  • Graduates receive a High School Diploma after successfully completing the required 120 credits.
  • During one-on-one Advisory students meet for check-ins with their advisor for 30 minutes.
  • In yearly Investigations Course students learn about metacognition (How does the brain work? How do we learn?), careers, applying to college, and strategies for success beyond high school.
  • Through Excursion Education students travel off campus to fully immerse themselves in strategic learning experiences to strengthen their knowledge and understanding of curriculum.
  • Students receive assistance with ACT accommodations and testing.
  • PAC (Parents’ Association at Cambridge) provides opportunities for Social Gatherings, including Fun Friday, where students get together after school for a fun social activity such as playing laser tag, going to see the latest blockbuster, or hitting the coasters at Six Flags.
  • Physical Education Credit motivates students to initiate and maintain a physically active lifestyle through pursuit of activities of personal interest. Students may elect to participate in school-affiliated sports, physical activities offered outside the school environment (team sports, gym membership, fitness classes, dance, yoga, rock climbing, personal fitness monitored by a electronic fitness tracker, etc.), or any combination thereof.
English/Literature

English | Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 20

FRESHMEN LITERATURE: Freshman Literature is cross-curricular in nature, incorporating a variety of works closely related to the students’ history curriculum whenever possible. Students read a span of literature including plays, novels, short-stories, and poetry. The  duality of the course allows students to analyze historical events and figures from a variety of viewpoints to gain a deeper understanding of topics. Students strive to comprehend, with scaffolding, literature at an abstract level by exploring nonliteral elements found within text.

SOPHOMORE LITERATURE: Sophomore Literature includes a variety of literature from short stories, plays, poetry, and novels. Whenever possible, the selections of literature are closely tied to the history curriculum allowing students to make stronger and more meaningful connections between the two disciplines. Students strive to develop critical thinking skills beyond the literal meaning of the text to draw inferences, understand character motivation, recognize symbolism and literary devices, and make connections in order to gain a deeper and richer understanding when reading.

JUNIOR LITERATURE: Junior Literature allows students to enhance their learning by critically examining works drawn from their history curriculum.  When students study the historical content, they truly gain a deeper understanding of literary works. Students study a variety of works including poems, plays, novels, short stories, and first person accounts. In this course, students strive to go beyond basic comprehension of literary works to analyze text through historical and critical lenses.

SENIOR LITERATURE: Senior Literature invites students to build upon their understanding of important events in history by deeply examining literary works from specific time periods.  Students strive to objectively analyze text, taking into consideration the author’s point-of-view. Students dive into a broad spectrum of literature including poems, plays, novels, short stories, and first person accounts. In this course, student work towards independence in their ability to analyze text critically and abstractly.

FRESHMAN COMPOSITION: Freshman Composition strives to improve students’ communication skills through grammar, writing, and vocabulary development. Instruction is tailored to meet individual student needs. The Winston Grammar Program is a systematic and sequential program used to provide direct instruction in grammar. Writing is developed through considerable practice with expository, narrative, informative, research, persuasive, compare and contrast, and literary analysis using the Hochman Writing Skills format. Students are encouraged to think beyond the basic concepts of a topic and move toward asking questions, inferring meaning, and developing logical judgments and arguments to support their ideas.

SOPHOMORE COMPOSITION: Sophomore Composition strives to build upon the skills acquired in Freshman Composition. The focus is on a variety of writing styles, including: informative, explanatory, personal narrative, persuasive, and compare and contrast utilizing the Hochman Writing Skills Program. Students are encouraged to carefully examine their ideas and convey them in a concise and sequential manner, while still painting a mental picture for the reader using varied vocabulary, specific details, and appropriate transitions. In addition, a particular emphasis is placed on research writing. Students gather information from print and online sources, including the digital library database; then, they demonstrate a solid understanding of the material through written text with appropriate citations.

JUNIOR COMPOSITION: Junior Composition focuses on formulating well-developed arguments from various perspectives to support claims in analysis of cross curricular topics and texts.  Students take a stance on a topic and establish its significance based on logical and sequential reasoning. Students then strive to establish the relevancy of their position, in light of alternative or opposing claims. Finally, students work to present claims and counterclaims while analyzing the strengths and limitations of each.

SENIOR COMPOSITION: Senior Composition provides students with an increased opportunity for self-expression through writing. Students focus on developing real and creative narratives. They begin by introducing narrator(s), providing one (or multiple) points of view, establishing setting, and developing a sequential series of events through the use of effective word choice and well-constructed prose.

Math

Math | Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 15

The Cambridge Upper School provides appropriate and challenging math instruction for each student based on their individual need and unique learning profile. All math courses are taught using a mix of direct, explicit instruction and multi-sensory activities to help students develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. Linking mathematical knowledge to life is another focus of each course as students explore the practical application of what they have been taught in the classroom. Course offerings include:

  • Pre-Algebra Concepts
  • Algebra Concepts
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry Concepts
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus
  • AP Calculus
  • Applied Math
  • Introduction to Probability & Statistics
  • Personal Finance
History

History | Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 15

WORLD HISTORY: This course explores major developments in world history by era and thematic content.  It includes analysis of the interaction of major world societies and the effects of technology, geography, and demography on human history. With a global focus emphasizing various regions of the world, students examine the social, political, cultural, and intellectual developments of world history. Further attention is designated to learning the elements of digital storytelling as well as translating written work into a visual medium. Students have the opportunity to write and produce either documentary or dramatic interpretations of major world historical events.

UNITED STATES HISTORY I & II: Equality, rights, liberty, opportunity, and democracy: these were the five core ideals of our founding fathers when they drafted the Declaration of Independence.  In this survey course of American history, students analyze how these five, seemingly basic principles, shaped American history from the establishment of the Constitution to the Civil War. During this course, students debate, discuss, and apply literacy skills to research primary and secondary sources, with an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills. Students also apply elements of storytelling to translate historical content into various mediums. The course includes a long-term culminating project, which explores how one of the five principles has shaped a particular event from American history.

HUMAN GEOGRAPHY: This course explores the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of the Earth’s surface. Students learn to employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human socioeconomic organization and its environmental consequences, including the methods and tools geographers use in their research and applications. This course explores geography from both a thematic and regional approach, using case studies from around the world with an emphasis on understanding the world in which we live today. Historical information serves to enrich analysis of the impacts of phenomena such as globalization, colonialism, and human–environment relationships on places, regions, cultural landscapes, and patterns of interaction.

Science

Science | Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 15

BIOLOGY: Biology encompasses the study of living organisms. Students examine the processes of life across a broad spectrum, from the biochemical inner workings of the cell to the interactions within ecosystems. Understanding biology helps students to make sense of a diverse, complex, yet interconnected world and to better understand the relevance of biology to their lives. Throughout the year this course provides an opportunity for students to develop scientific process skills and laboratory techniques, as well as to apply critical thinking and reasoning skills.  Students address real world problems through active inquiry that is based in content knowledge and concepts including: cell biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, and biodiversity. Through the use of current events, readings, discussions, multimedia, assignments, investigations, and other interactive experiences, students have multiple opportunities to develop their scientific literacy and to work collaboratively with their peers. Students learn to use evidence-based reasoning and to apply tools and resources to strengthen their organizational, technological, reading, writing, and math skills. 

FORENSIC SCIENCE: The Forensic Science course is created around the basis that learning is most meaningful when students are able to interrelate subject areas and to make connections to their lives. This class blends different areas of science and incorporates the core subject areas, such as math and writing. Students are asked to read, research, hypothesize, compute, and use deductive reasoning to approach various cases from and techniques used in forensic science. This class draws from events that are occurring in students’ communities, their nation, and across the world. Students integrate technology as they work to analyze evidence to connect the victim, suspect, and crime scene. Students work to improve their deductive reasoning and critical thinking, important skills for lifelong learning. In order to meet the needs and interests of students, this course maintains flexibility in its coverage of various topics.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE: Environmental Science seeks to provide students with the opportunity to develop the scientific concepts and processes necessary to understand the relationships found within nature. Students also enhance their ability to identify natural and man-made environmental  problems, to analyze the associated risks, and to develop potential solutions. Current events are utilized to support the concepts discussed and provide the backdrop for students to investigate and develop strategies to address both local and global environmental concerns. Laboratory and field studies are an essential component of this course.

EARTH AND PHYSICAL SCIENCE: In this course, students learn to evaluate geological, meteorological, ocean, and climate processes using a rigorous, inquiry-based approach. Utilizing laboratory tools and resources to collect data, students draw conclusions. Another continual focus of the course is the importance of physical science in everyday life, and students explore Earth’s conceptual spheres and how they are related. Students work to strengthen their ability to evaluate real-world events and experiences and examine they relate to basic earth science principles. 

PHYSICS: In this course based on conceptual physics, students explore the everyday world and the interactions within it, with a focus on concepts before computation. Students investigate the foundational concepts that govern our world, and then apply mathematical models and relationships to support these concepts. This course is designed for those students who have not yet begun study of, nor completed, a math class equivalent to Pre-Calculus, but this course implements concepts covered in Algebra. Students participate in a variety of demonstrations, laboratory activities, and hands-on projects as well as test, quizzes, and homework assignments. Conducting laboratory experiments is an essential component of this course, as it provides a foundation for real world exploration, practical application of math, communication about the precision and accuracy of their premises, and development of critical thinking skills.  This course covers topics in mechanics, properties of matter, temperature and heat, sound and light, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. Students also have the opportunity to delve into contemporary areas of interest in response to the application of physics in our quickly changing, technologically reliant society.

ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY: The anatomy course describes the human body from the microscopic to macroscopic levels, moving from cells to systems. The most important aspects of the organ systems are covered first, along with the pathophysiology (disease and disorder state) of each system. Clinical aspects of each system are also covered, such as why some skin sites are good for injection, why fungus grows well in certain body areas, and how cholesterol impacts arteries. The body is viewed as a dynamic and continually evolving organism, changing throughout the life cycle from infancy to adulthood. A major focus is placed on applying learned knowledge towards personal and societal health and well-being.

Foreign Language

World Languages | Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 5 (unless waived)

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE I AND II

These courses serve as an introduction to American Sign Language, as well as the deaf culture and history. Students explore the structure and intricacies of ASL through multi-sensory lessons that engage students and open them up to a new world of culture and communication.

Investigations

21st Century Skills, Careers & Career-Technical Education| Total Credits Needed for Graduation: 5

Freshman Year – Metacognition: Freshman receive explicit instruction in metacognitive strategies used in the learning process.  These strategies are then integrated across the curriculum to improve each student’s effective and creative problem-solving skills as it pertains to the process of learning. As part of this process, each student has one-on-one advising time during a separate period to address individual needs.  In addition to tenets from the Habits of Mind curriculum, the mindset work of Carol Dweck at Stanford University is incorporated into this class.  Her growth mindset concept is a belief that the ability to learn is not a fixed element, but rather one that can change and grow with effort and persistence.  Further, when students are educated in how the brain works in response to difficult situations, they are more likely to persevere and succeed.

Sophomore Year – Careers: Building on the understanding of “self” that is fostered in the freshman meta-cognition course, sophomore students start to investigate possible career choices. This course provides students with relevant hands-on experiences to help them explore their interests in an effort to assist them with matching their strengths and passions with future educational and career goals. Guest speakers, along with research and hands-on projects, help students to match their interests with possible future careers.  In addition, students may participate in an intern experience at one or more field locations.

Junior Year – Explorations: As juniors, students learn about the post-secondary options that best match their career goals. Students explore various options, including but not limited to, college. Computer software is also utilized to help guide students towards the best post-secondary option that meets their individual needs. While students explore higher education, they consider entrance requirements and gain an understanding of the admission process. Students learn how to research schools and how to get additional information once they have identified well-matched institutions. This includes off site visits to local institutions with tours so students can become familiar with the process of asking questions and seeking out information. In addition, students explore the ACT test, including test taking strategies and accommodations. A key component of the college search includes matching students’ career goals and learning needs with an appropriate pool of post secondary placements.

Senior Year – Capstone: As seniors, the year is devoted to planning, organizing, and executing the post-secondary application process. Students solidify their choices and create a timeline to meet various deadlines, participate in mock interviews, and write essays. In the second half of the year, they explore life after high school and their chosen new communities. Students also investigate the skills needed to live independently away from home.  In addition, they complete a capstone project on their chosen placement that examines the campus, learning supports, academic resources, and even where to get a good slice of local pizza. The students present their capstone projects to the Upper School community and parents.

Electives

Electives at the Cambridge Upper School are constantly evolving to reflect student interests.

Below is a list of some of the electives that have been offered.

  • Drama – Theater Arts Production
  • Design for Stage
  • Individual Instrumental Instruction
  • Fine Arts
  • Art History
  • Photography
  • Graphic Design
  • Public Speaking in the Context of the Law
  • Culinary Basics
  • Introduction to Robotics
  • Engineering & Design I & II
  • Creative Writing
  • Public Speaking & Debate
  • World War II: Origins, Nature & Impact
  • Introduction to Psychology
Upper School Faculty

Our faculty consists of:

  • Highly qualified and trained teachers
  • Speech-Language Pathology Department
  • Occupational Therapy Department
  • College Counseling Services
  • Adjunct Faculty including McCarter Theater, Westminster Choir College, and local artists

For more information, contact our Admissions Office at (609)-730-9553.

Top