Curriculum Corner

Highlights of the Academy’s extensive course offerings.

Darkroom Photography

This introductory course in black-and-white analog photography concentrates on the use of 35mm cameras and chemical processing. Students in Film Photography: Exploring 18th- and 19th-Century Photographic Praxis (ART506) are instructed in proper camera use, basic film exposure, and darkroom familiarity. Weekly meetings are divided into lab and classroom sessions. In the lab, students learn the fundamental tools and techniques of a traditional darkroom; in the classroom, students present their work to gain a fuller understanding of photography as a medium of expression and storytelling. Students examine the invention of photography and the “flaneur” tradition of 35mm photography as exemplified in the work of artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, and many others. With provided film cameras, students explore light-sensitive silver materials. They also receive laboratory instruction in printing fine art images with variable contrast filters.

Web App Development

The proliferation of websites and the demand for increasingly complex content have led to an explosion of programming solutions for developing web pages. Web App Development is a computer science course that introduces students to building web pages in the latest versions of HTML and CSS and programming in JavaScript, the most popular option for offering dynamic behavior on the web. Along with exploring the tools needed for deploying and managing their own websites, students get a preview of other aspects of programming for the web, such as databases, server-side systems, and web frameworks.

Respectful Discourse

Tenth grade seems to be a natural time for young people to question what they believe and to test received knowledge against an emerging sense of self and a widening view of the world. Philosophy and religious studies faculty invite students to do this openly and explicitly, as individuals and as members of our 300-level courses such as Religions of the Book, Introduction to Ethics, Proof and Persuasion, and Faith and Doubt. We immerse students in philosophical and religious discourses, introduce them to foundational texts, supply relevant vocabulary, model time-tested intellectual maneuvers, and coach their attempts to think, write, and speak like responsible adults. Emphasizing respect for context, complexity, and sound argumentation, we help them to experience this “respect” as both good in itself—and as vital to other human goods.

Intellectual inquiry

Introduction to Biology (BIO100) was recently redesigned to honor our institutional mandate to enable all our young people 1) to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and 2) to develop knowledge and skills to critically interrogate our individual and collective place in the natural world. Our redesign promotes intellectual inquiry through real-life context (focus on race, class, gender, sexuality, and (in)justice) for the core topics we study in biology and continuous opportunity to engage in rigorous debate using biological knowledge to grapple with critical topics. Central units include:

  • Evolution (human genetic ancestry contrasted with socially classified race)
  • Growth (cancer/errors of cell growth and environmental (in)justice)
  • Development (human biological sex and its connection to gender and identity)
  • Metabolism (energy transfer and climate change, explored through a lens of intersectionality)

A key aspect of empowerment and skill development is student design of lab work: students create their own questions, develop their own experiments, and interpret their work to generate authentic, original conclusions.

Writing & Reading

Focusing on the personal essay in the fall, poetry in the winter, and fiction in the spring, Writing to Read, Reading to Write (ENG200) is our three-term English course for lowers. Throughout the year, we encourage students to think beyond what a text means and consider how a text works. Emphasis is on writing as a multistep, collaborative process; hallmarks of the course include drafting, peer editing, workshop participation, revision, and reflection. We ask students to go beyond their comfort zones as writers and readers by taking creative risks in their essay assignments; by reading a wide variety of voices, authors, genres, and styles; and by reflecting upon issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality in their own writing and in the work of others.

ENG200 celebrates the diversity and wide experiences of our student writers. They learn that there is not just one way to write, let alone a “right” way, and that different writing goals and audiences demand different rhetorical tools.

Beyond Equations

Most students will experience at least part of the Academy’s five- to six-term precalculus sequence (MTH300–360)—core to the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics. Precalculus gives students access to the world of functions. Critical to our ability to make sense of the world, functions help us to visualize patterns, model behavior, make predictions, and analyze relationships between variables. This fall term, 16 instructors taught 35 sections of precalculus to 517 students!

Throughout their coursework, students develop the skills to reason through problems both quantitatively and graphically while connecting prior knowledge to newfound concepts. They also learn to use multiple representations to explain and describe mathematical relationships as well as apply models to interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena. Instructors work to create a collaborative learning environment in the classroom, where diverse perspectives are celebrated. Our goal is to build confident, innovative, and resilient problem solvers.

The Sound of Music

The foundation of our music curriculum, The Nature of Music (MUS225 or 235) is taken by almost all ninth-graders and new lowers. The course is intentionally designed to be a multifaceted and exciting introduction to music in all its forms: literature, theory, performance, and composition. Students learn about melody, harmony, types of instruments, and types of notations; listen to all genres and become critical listeners; and, perhaps best of all, acquire skills in music technology enabling them to compose their own original works.

In taking this course, we hope all Andover students develop a new appreciation for and love of music—an art form that is essential to humanity and the human experience. Many students go on to enroll in the music department’s wide range of electives.

Living in the 21st century

Connecting the past to the present helps us find solutions to our most pressing issues. PA’s Department of History and Social Science aims to equip students with the skills and perspectives that will help them face the challenges of living in the 21st century. This is accomplished in part by expanding electives offerings, which give students the opportunity to apply their growing knowledge as they explore areas of special interest.

Economics courses—with topics ranging from micro and macroeconomics to environmental economics and a research colloquium—have become popular electives. Others focus on schooling in America, North American borders, gender and sexuality, Critical Race Theory, the Middle East, Europe, Vikings, fashion, the history and literature of the Haitian Revolution, 1968, natural causes and climate change, urban studies, New England gravestones, and a 600-level seminar for students interested in developing their own history research projects. New this year: electives on African environmentalism, sports, and the Olympics.

Classics and Beyond

The Division of World Languages uses language as a medium to grant students more authentic access to other cultures. Latin and Greek do not, of course, offer the means to communicate with peoples from the ancient Mediterranean world, but through guided study of the literature, art, and philosophy of that time and place, students in First-Level Latin gain informed insight into cultures that have profoundly influenced our own.

They also learn to recognize and deconstruct systems of power that have not, in fact, been “around forever” but originated with a distinct purpose: to preserve the status quo for the privileged few. Students analyze familiar myths not simply as entertainment, but as a kind of proto-philosophy, warning against the human suffering caused when we attempt to move out of the role "assigned" to us by the universe (also known as hubris), and they discover that the use of "othering" to provoke nationalism, create fear and division within a group, etc., is a very old strategy—and one that can be dismantled.

Complete Course of Study