Upper School Curriculum

Teacher writing algorithms on whiteboard

Upper school students enroll in eight major subjects. Seniors are eligible to take a maximum of three AP courses. Students take elective courses and may participate in our STEAM Institute (by application only).

Students take:

  • History

  • English

  • Math

  • Science

  • Hebrew

  • Jewish Studies

  • Health and Physical Education

  • Electives including world languages, Resource programs, STEAM, and arts

Upper school boy raising hand

Subjects

History

Our History program emphasizes the value of being informed, active citizens of today’s world through holistic study and analysis of the past. In these courses, we encourage students to form their own interpretations of the past by questioning and challenging the  analyses they encounter in texts and in class discussion.

Our classes integrate Jewish history, Western civilization, and American history. Students use primary texts, commentaries, art, and cultural resources to study integrated Jewish history, Western Civilization, and American history.

History courses progress chronologically beginning with non-Western cultures through the evolution of Western ideals, modernity, and democracy. All courses incorporate the history of the Jewish people in relation to these ideas as well as the history and development of Israel and Israeli politics.

English

Our students have many opportunities to practice writing effectively as they learn analytical, expository, and creative writing styles. They learn to be effective communicators through teacher feedback, peer editing, group workshops, and a writing center that’s open daily.

Topics covered in English courses are often integrated with themes covered in history and Jewish studies including good and evil; race and gender; and power and corruption. Types of literature included in our English curriculum range from Shakespeare to classic American literature to contemporary works. Many of our students take Advanced Placement tests in literature and earn college credit.

Math

Every Math class is taught by connecting topics from analytical, graphical, numerical, and verbal points of view. This allows us to differentiate instruction and satisfy many different learning styles. With the use of technology, we emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking, and real-world applications in our classes.

Depending on their individual math backgrounds, those entering 9th grade take either Algebra I Part 2, Geometry, or Algebra II. Within each Math class, individuals work at any of five progressive levels through to Trigonometry or Elementary Functions (precalculus), depending on what level they attain. Many students take an Advanced Placement class (Calculus AB, Calculus BC, or Statistics) in their senior year.

Science

Our Science curriculum is based on the philosophy that linking concepts together forms meaningful understanding. Students study natural phenomena like energy and evolution across disciplines to discover and understand universal principles.

All students take science classes in one of three tracks. In 9th grade, students begin their upper school studies in Biology before moving on to Chemistry and Physics in 10th and 11th grade respectively. They can then choose to take Anatomy and Physiology or one of several Advanced Placement science courses during their senior year.

STEAM

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is a framework for teaching across disciplines that inspire the next generation of innovators. Our STEAM program provides a rich curriculum of courses and electives that promotes meaningful collaboration and allows students to make important connections across subjects.

Centered on project-based learning and the design and engineering cycle, STEAM classes give students the opportunity to work together in groups, foster confidence, and develop leadership skills.

For those interested in a more intensive experience, our STEAM Institute is a special program with admission by application only. Students take engineering and biomedical engineering courses in 9th and 10th grades and participate in independent research during their junior and senior years.

 

World Languages

In addition to Hebrew, most Barrack students study one of three world languages: Spanish, French, or Latin. Students focus on the four basic skills of language learning—understanding, speaking, reading, and writing—and on the cultural and historical aspects of their chosen language.

Our World Language courses, which are offered based on students’ skills and interests, prepare them for advanced seminars. Students may extend their language study through lunchtime culture clubs, cultural exchange programs, and after-school trips.

Hebrew

Our commitment to studying Hebrew as a living language makes it possible for our students to investigate ancient texts as well as Jewish and Israeli culture through Hebrew conversation, history, and popular culture.

The Bishvil Ha-Ivrit curriculum brings the Hebrew language alive through print and digital media. From introductory to advanced levels, we offer Hebrew instruction tailored to each individual student. The curriculum is linguistically sequential, with texts and tasks increasing in complexity as language skills improve. Lessons feature things that matter to teenagers, from modern technology, food, family, and sports to friendship, leadership, and freedom.

Students attending a Jewish day school for the first time receive extra support material to enable them to succeed in the acquisition of Hebrew language.

Israel

Our curriculum is infused with interdisciplinary opportunities for our students to connect to their heritage and their homeland, Israel. Courses spotlight ancient and modern Jewish history, archaeology, ethnology, geography, Israeli government, and immigration.

The majority of our students spend the first trimester of their junior year at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, where they explore Israeli history, politics, and culture. Upon their return, the grade participates in an interdisciplinary series on contemporary issues in Israel.

Through speakers, projects, and debates, students look closely at many of the issues and challenges present in Israel today. Special seminars in junior and senior years allow students to engage with representatives from organizations that represent different approaches and points of view.

By graduation, Barrack students are prepared for the kinds of dialogue they will encounter on college campuses and beyond.

Jewish Studies

All upper school students attend Jewish Studies classes in one of three tracks:

  • Tanakh/Bible and Jewish Studies covers themes including literary genre in the Torah, prophets and prophecy, poetry and wisdom literature, pluralism in Jewish society, and Jewish ethics.

  • Beit Midrash is an intensive class that helps develop skills as students of Talmud and independent learners capable of understanding how to work with Rashi and later commentators.

  • Sha’ar Hadash (New Gateway) offers students new to Jewish day school an overarching introduction to Jewish biblical studies, history, beliefs, and practices.

In their senior year, students choose from electives such as contemporary Jewish issues, Jewish literature, Jewish philosophy, and the Jewish Leadership Initiative. Learn more about our Jewish Studies.

Electives

Electives vary from year to year based on student interest. Electives are available in subjects such as the Arts, STEAM, Jewish Studies, and Business and Economics, giving students the chance to explore new subjects or expand upon their current interests. We also offer AP and SAT prep courses. Examples of classes include Advanced Art Portfolio Preparation, Rube Goldberg Machines, Mock Trial, and Guitar.

Health and Physical Education

Our upper school Health curriculum emphasizes mental, physical, and psychological health during adolescence. Our health program covers healthy living topics most applicable to teenagers such as mental health and drug abuse, relationships, and nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. Students also take drivers’ education, CPR, and basic first aid courses. All juniors become certified in CPR and first aid.

In our Physical Education program, students complete units on strength and agility, net sports, yoga and Pilates, and personal fitness. Athletes who play on a Barrack athletic team, are in the spring musical, or participate in sports outside Barrack for more than 12 hours a week can opt out of certain physical education classes.

AP Courses

We offer AP preparatory classes as the culmination of study in a specific subject. Current AP classes include but are not limited to:

  • AP Biology
  • AP Calculus (AB)
  • AP Calculus (BC)
  • AP Computer Science
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Government and Politics
  • AP Literature
  • AP Physics
  • AP Psychology
  • AP Statistics