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Academics

Upper School

Welcome to the Upper School!

The Upper School provides a rigorous academic experience coupled with a robust extracurricular program that prepares students for higher education beyond Berwick. Berwick high schoolers learn independence through confidence, engaging with a dynamic faculty that challenges them to be their best selves.

Academics

Pinnacle* Program

Pinnacle* courses encourage students to confront ideas and problems that are relevant to the real world, stretch their thinking, require sophisticated analysis and application, and foster an appreciation for diving deeper into a specific content area and related skills. 
Pinnacle* courses are guided by the understanding that rigor is not defined by a textbook, but rather it comes from what students do. It is not standard across a curriculum; it is unique to each department, teacher, and above all, each student. Rigor is not quantified by the breadth of material covered in a course–it is measured by a student’s depth of understanding. 

Pinnacle* courses at BA emphasize: 
  • Student application of knowledge from previous coursework. Therefore, students earn approval to enroll based on their success and depth of investment in prerequisite courses. 
  • Opportunities for choice within the structure of the class that allows students to pursue an aspect of the subject matter that captures their interest. 
  • Varied assessments that allow students to demonstrate acquisition of skills, content mastery, and depth of understanding, while providing context for their future work as young artists, historians, linguists, mathematicians, scientists, or writers. Beyond traditional methods of assessment, other examples include portfolios, exhibition/art installation, research presentation, comparative analysis, or performance. 
  • Authentic experiences (internships, service, travel, and community collaborations -- local, abroad, and/or virtual) which ask students to apply and nurture their knowledge outside the boundaries of Berwick Academy. Pinnacle* courses may or may not be tied to an Innovation Pursuit. 

Logistics and Guidelines 
  • Pinnacle* course descriptions and criteria will be determined by each department.
    Pinnacle* courses are open to 11th and/or 12th graders. 
  • Eligibility is determined by Department Chairs in consultation with faculty
  • Courses will be granted Pinnacle* status based on the above criteria, as determined by the Curriculum Council. 
  • A student wishing to take 3 or more advanced courses (Honors and/or Pinnacles*) in a given year must receive approval from the Director of the Upper School.

Pinnacle* Courses

List of 19 items.

  • Analytical Chemistry

    This course will build and expand upon topics studied in IPC/IBC focusing on more depth and placing the lab experience first. Students will explore topics in thermodynamics, bonding, molecular geometry, intermolecular forces, kinetics, equilibrium, acid/base chemistry, electrochemistry, and advanced topics in organic/biological chemistry. Each major unit will begin with a laboratory exercise allowing students to explore chemical concepts through inquiry-driven learning and collaboration. This course will also emphasize skills in scientific writing, presentation, and real-world lab techniques which will mirror not only a college-level chemistry course, but also the nature of science in general. The year will culminate in a public exhibition of an authentic, question-driven, data rich investigation in which students demonstrate their learning and commitment to diving deeper and expressing their curiosity in the field of Chemistry.
    Open to Juniors and Seniors
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • Applied Physics

    Throughout this advanced, project-based course, students are challenged to demonstrate real-world applications of physics, mathematics and engineering concepts. Students will dive deeply into topics related to acoustics, electricity, mechanics and fluid dynamics. As part of their exploration, students will design, build, test and analyze models to discover how and why things around us work the way they do. The year will culminate in a public exhibition of an authentic, question-driven, data rich investigation in which students demonstrate their learning and commitment to diving deeply and expressing their curiosity in the field of Physics.
    Prerequisite Calculus (can be taken concurrently)
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • Chamber Chorus

    This Pinnacle course is to award credit to our serious music students who tirelessly dedicate themselves to the ensemble of their choice. This higher-level ensemble seeks to develop and enrich a student's performance capabilities, music perceptivity, artistic sensitivity, and overall musicianship. Pinnacle courses are offered simultaneously with their non-pinnacle counterpart.
    Open to Seniors Only
    Prerequisite: 3 subsequent years of the same performing group, demonstrated readiness and instructor approval.

  • Classical Impacts on Modern Society

    This pinnacle will offer a full range of topics in language and literature and in art, architecture and archaeology. Much of what we experience in our own lives has its origins in the ancient Greek and Roman world, from the architectural elements of our campus buildings to elements of tragedy showing themselves in TV sitcoms. We will study Greco‑Roman literature presented in tragedy and mythology, which contains profound and challenging insights into the human condition that are as relevant today as when the works were first composed. Much the same is true of Greek and Roman art and architecture, which likewise holds a central place in the western artistic tradition. How do we negotiate our sense of what it means to be human and what our place in the world is? How can we create the best relationships with our family, our friends, and our social and political community? What is most important and most meaningful in life? Through the in‑depth study of Classics, you learn that near and far, familiar and foreign, are just a matter of perspective.
    This course is open to all eleventh graders and twelfth graders, including students with a language waiver.  Requires Department Chair approval.
  • Comparative Physiology

    The course integrates physiology from the cell to the organism with comparisons among animals, plants and microbes. Emphasis is on understanding the basic physiological concepts, stressing structure-function relationships and underlying physio-chemical mechanisms. Significant emphasis will be placed on laboratory investigations designed to encourage students to think like physiologists as they explore how the properties of cells determine function at all higher levels of biological organization including how cell membranes create selective barriers and how substances cross these barriers, how biological processes are regulated, and how cells and organisms exchange energy and matter with their environment, respond to their environment (including stimulus transduction, intercellular communication, and information processing), and generate mechanical forces and movement.
    Open to Juniors and Seniors
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • Computing in Context

    This year-long class will continue the exploration of advanced data structures as well as give students the opportunity to research and produce larger projects in different coding environments. Computational thinking, as a design process, will be emphasized. There will be three major units: data structures; web applications and data visualization; and formal app development. The app development unit will finish with a capstone independent research project designed to solve a community need.
    Prerequisites: Algebra 2, Advanced Computer Science, and permission of the instructor
    (In exceptional cases, students who have taken the combination of Introduction to Programming Concepts and Java Graphics may apply for admittance)
  • Encounters with "The Other"

    What happens when we encounter those unlike ourselves? When do we see ourselves as different? The senior-level Pinnacle English class will examine our response to the ways we learn from "The Other". Using texts that arise from outside the mainstream U.S., along with texts from across the globe with specific emphasis on colonial and post-colonial writers, we will continue to explore these encounters as mirrors and springboards for understanding. This course will be a writing and reading-intensive with a focus on deep textual analysis and an emphasis on analytical and creative writing. We will also have opportunities to explore local communities off-campus as part of long-term explorations and non-fiction writing projects. As a class, our goal will be to work on a portfolio of publication-quality writing and share some of those pieces with a wider audience than ourselves. Potential Texts: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (England); Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (England); Chinua Achebe, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" (Nigeria), Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Tayeb Salih, A Season of Migration to the North (Sudan); Athol Fugard, Blood Knot (South Africa); J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (South Africa); Kafka, The Metamorphosis (Czech); Toni Morrison, Beloved; Claudia Rankine's Citizen; John Edgar Wideman, "Looking at Emmett Till"; Layli Longsoldier, Whereas (poems); Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts; Eula Biss, Goodbye to All That; Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live
    Open to Seniors Only
  • Exploring Human Behavior

    This pinnacle course expands upon introductory psychological concepts to delve deeply into human behavior and mental processes. In Trimester 1, 'Criminals and Cults', we will investigate the factors and qualities that contribute to criminal behavior, cult leadership, and cult following. Trimester 2, 'The Psychology of Conflict', moves into an examination of concepts of abnormal and social psychology, trauma, social justice, race, and global citizenship against the backdrop of the Rwandan genocide and refugee crises across the world. In Trimester 3, 'The Science of Happiness', students will learn about the psychological research behind happiness and test behavioral strategies to increase their own personal well-being. This course places a high value on producing one's own thinking about human behavior, making deep connections between units, and developing empathy for and understanding of the human condition outside one's own community. This course is project based, with each trimester ending with a focus on addressing a real-life problem through prevention.
    Open to Seniors Only (preference given to students who have successfully completed Biology Honors. 
    Requires Intructor's Approval
  • Inside China

    This course is designed for students who have studied Mandarin in the Upper School for at least three years. Students are exposed to authentic materials about Chinese history, philosophy, education, geography, economy, and society. Students are asked to explore and evaluate current issues in China and the US, including topics ranging from race, religion, gender issues, internet, movies, and pop cultures. By the end of the year, students are expected to analyze various media sources, write creatively and analytically, and give speeches and presentations completely in Mandarin.
    This course requires Department Chair approval. 
  • Multi-Variable Calculus

    This pinnacle mathematics course begins where Advanced Single Variable Calculus ends. The primary content of the course is built around establishing an introductory working knowledge of Calculus with functions f : Rn →R and their corresponding vector representations. This course will work to establish Green's Theorem, Stokes' Theorem, and the Divergence Theorem. There is intentional room left open in the curriculum to engage student and teacher interests in related topics (Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Real Analysis, and Calculus of a complex input are prior examples). Students who take this course should be prepared to have their mathematical intuition and assumptions challenge on a regular basis and will have a large responsibility in developing the concepts of the course.
    Prerequisites: recommendation by Calculus teacher and Department Chair approval
  • Portfolio Development and Presentation

    In this class, students will learn and apply the real-world skills needed to develop a body of work and its presentation in the form of a portfolio. Geared for students who are interested in taking their art to the next level and building skills associated with art making and expression, this class asks that students address the essential questions of interpretation of the world through visual means, the development of one's own personal voice as an artist, and the ability to self-assess and present one's work. Although a year-long course, Portfolio D and P takes students through three trimesters focusing on different aspects of portfolio development: Drawing/Design, Personal Voice and Presentation.
    This class is intended for juniors who will be able to utilize their portfolios in the college application process, and would provide a strong base for Senior Studio Seminar, our senior pinnacle class. 
  • Senior Studio Art Seminar

    In this class, students learn to work independently and as mature artists. Through concept specific or materials specific assignments, students increase the depth of their investigation in art as well as developing essential skills of expression and their personal voice as an artist. Students address essential questions of the artist’s impact through authentic engagement in the greater community. Outcomes include developing a body of personally relevant work, the ability to discuss and defend choices, a portfolio of work which can be presented, and exhibition.
    Open to Seniors Only
    Prerequisite: Art of Seeing and advanced study in art electives
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • Spanish Through Literature & Film

    Students in this Pinnacle course will study numerous cultures and the Spanish language through thematic units. Each unit will start with an authentic film from the Spanish-speaking world. Short stories, articles, essays, works of art, poems, videos, songs, online activities, and other resources will be explored. Students will be expected to analyze various media sources, write creatively and analytically, interact entirely in Spanish, and question other points of view.
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • Statistics in Society

    What do racial profiling, gun-control policies, political polling, and global climate change all have in common? The answer is statistics. Statistical concepts are used to answer questions, make decisions and help us understand our world better. This rigorous project-based course will allow students to choose topics of their interests while using introductory statistical concepts to analyze, collect data and draw conclusions on current issues ranging from our campus to the world today. Each section will conclude with an authentic written report that uses the data and results to support their conclusions. Purchasing statistical software will be required.
  • String Ensemble

    This Pinnacle course is to award credit to our serious music students who tirelessly dedicate themselves to the ensemble of their choice. This higher-level ensemble seeks to develop and enrich a student's performance capabilities, music perceptivity, artistic sensitivity, and overall musicianship. Pinnacle courses are offered simultaneously with their non-pinnacle counterpart.
    Open to Seniors Only
    Prerequisite: 3 subsequent years of the same performing group, demonstrated readiness and instructor approval
  • Symphonic Band

    This Pinnacle course is to award credit to our serious music students who tirelessly dedicate themselves to the ensemble of their choice. This higher-level ensemble seeks to develop and enrich a student's performance capabilities, music perceptivity, artistic sensitivity, and overall musicianship. Pinnacle courses are offered simultaneously with their non-pinnacle counterpart. NOTE: Students in Jazz Band enrolled in the Symphonic Band* will be required to include additional materials as related to their study in jazz.
    Open to Seniors Only
    Prerequisite: 3 subsequent years of the same performing group, demonstrated readiness and instructor approval
  • The American Experience

    This year-long Pinnacle Course is designed for students who are keenly interested in deepening their understanding of American Literature, while expanding and refining their writing skills. This course will take a chronological look at a variety of literary periods, reaching back to the Puritans and other New England writers and extending forward through the eras that shaped the 1800s and 1900s. Literary movements will be further broken down into themes that run through the progression of periods and the shifts that occur such as the role of nature, America’s relationship with God, and one’s role within society, to name a few. Through an assortment of poems, pamphlets, stories, novels, and films, students will come to understand the development of literature within our culture and how it reflects our changing society. Authors may include but are not limited to Bradstreet, Fitzgerald, Poe, Hawthorne, and Miller.
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • The Cold War

    In the half century between the end of World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union, the modern world took shape even as it teetered on the brink of nuclear destruction.  The high stakes ideological struggle between east and west affected every continent and nation, extending from the deepest ocean and into space. This year-long course will examine the global themes and topics of this ideological conflict, as well as its impact and legacy on the world since. Students will explore areas of interest on topics such as Cold War arts and culture, espionage, nuclear proliferation and environmental hazards, guerrilla wars, and the nationalist and populist movements. Students will demonstrate their understanding through a variety of group and individual research projects and assessments. As a Pinnacle* course, The Cold War seminar is intended to engage students' critical thinking and analytical abilities while honing their research, writing, and presentation skills. This course is intended for highly motivated and dedicated students.
    Open to Grade 12 Only
    Requires Department Chair Approval
  • We the People

    Ideals and Identity in American History
    This year-long pinnacle course offers an exploration of topics in our history. The first trimester will focus on the Founding and Federalist eras, in particular the political and ideological debates around the framing and functioning of the government. In the second, students will examine how sociocultural issues such as gender, race, geography, and ethnicity impacted the formation of an American identity. The third trimester explores models of leadership in the politics and popular movements of the 20th century. Within these thematic parameters, students will read and pursue research into areas of particular interest and demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of projects and assessments, while working together to complete a detailed understanding of these historical periods and issues, and their application for today. As a pinnacle course expecting the highest levels of motivation and capability, this class is open to highly qualified juniors and seniors based upon their standing in previous history classes. We the People fulfills the third year requirement in history. 

    Open to Juniors and Seniors
    Prerequisites: World Civilization and European History
    Requires Department Chair Approval

Learn more about Berwick or start the enrollment process by completing the form below:

With our focus on balance while offering a variety of artistic and athletic options, Berwick students find life lessons in every corner of our campus, learning as much outside the classroom walls as they do inside. A Berwick graduate is well-rounded, well-spoken, and kind. How we treat one another matters as much as success in the classroom, on stage, and on our playing fields.

Students are at the center of all curricular and extracurricular activities. Inside the classrooms, students can direct their learning, from the ability to choose from a wide array of electives to which book to study in a certain class.
Outside the classroom, students lead assemblies, form clubs, and many choose to complete an Innovation Pursuit to dive deeper into a particular passion.

Advisory Program

Berwick Academy prides itself in providing a unique high school experience that is both safe and supportive. With an 8:1 student to teacher ratio, Berwick Academy’s smaller size lends itself to personalized attention for all of its students. Each Upper School student is assigned a faculty advisor who serves an important role in guiding and monitoring academic and social progress during a student’s four years. This advisor/advisee relationship is an integral part of the Berwick Academy Upper School experience. Students meet with their advisors to begin every Tuesday and Thursday morning, in addition to a longer session every third Monday. 

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  • Learn More About the Advisory Program

    Advisors check in with their advisees at least twice a week, and the multi-grade structure of the advisory groups promotes strong community bonds, creates a natural peer mentoring environment, and provides younger students with a source of support within the student body. In addition to serving as a source of guidance for students, advisors serve as a point-person for parents as well. If students are experiencing social or academic issues, advisors work closely with parents/guardians and other faculty to ensure the appropriate parties are informed, and that an action plan is created and implemented to best support the student. Advisors will check in with parents/guardians at the beginning and mid-point of each trimester to communicate directly with families, review recent academic and social progress, and collaborate on goals for the upcoming weeks of the academic year. Students stay with the same advisor throughout all four years, enabling a strong bond between advisor and advisee that often lasts even after graduation. The Advisory Program is just one part of the support system offered at Berwick Academy and represents the community of excellence that Berwick fosters.

Berwick Academy

Berwick Academy, situated on an 80-acre campus just over one hour north of Boston, serves 600 students, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Deeply committed to its mission of promoting virtue and useful knowledge, Berwick Academy empowers students to be creative and bold. Berwick strives to graduate alumni who shape their own learning, take risks, ask thoughtful questions, and come to understand and celebrate their authentic selves.