Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

In our college preparatory curriculum, introductory-level courses taken by freshmen and sophomores encourage students to build a strong foundation in both skills and content. Upper-level courses foster advanced analytical, critical, and creative thinking skills; oral and written communication skills; academic responsibility; and personal integrity and confidence.

English 1

English 1 presents an introduction to literature, grammar, and composition, with an emphasis on student participation in discussions. Students study the foundation of traditional grammar. The writing program begins with paragraph construction as critical to the development of an analytical essay and moves toward the full-length interpretive essay supporting an original thesis. The literature component of the course is a genre study using classical mythology, Shakespeare, poetry, short stories, and novels. Vocabulary acquisition occurs in all realms of the course.

English 2

In structure and philosophy English 2 parallels, at a more advanced level, the freshman course. Sophomores continue the study of grammar. Composition assignments begin with the paragraph and move quickly to well-developed essays analyzing literature. Students read non-fiction, short stories, plays (including a Shakespeare play), poetry, and novels. Vocabulary work occurs throughout the year.

English 3

A survey course in American literature, English 3 emphasizes critical analysis of individual works of literature and of their thematic interrelatedness. Students continue to hone their reading and writing skills and to develop their ability for careful analysis of character, structure, imagery, and theme. Emphasis is placed on logical development, depth, and precision in the writing process. Students regularly write full-length critical arguments, often involving several classics of American literature. Grammar work emphasizes clarity of communication through grammatical correctness and sophisticated sentence structure. Vocabulary development occurs through the literature, an advanced vocabulary workbook, and SAT preparation in the fall.

English 4

Senior English examines world literature from varying historical times. Students read such authors as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Camus, Mary Shelley, D.H. Lawrence, and Ken Kesey; study literary movements such as Classicism, Romanticism, and Surrealism; and complete an intensive unit examining the formal elements of poetry, as manifested through poetry from the sixteenth century to the present. English IV hones the student’s ability to recognize and understand literary elements such as irony, tone, and symbolism; to work with a wide range of styles and levels of difficulty; and to place literature within a historical context. Students are expected to produce interpretive essays that are well-written, well-organized, and original in thought. Students increase their working vocabularies through a variety of approaches, and they review formal grammar and usage, with an emphasis on application to their own writing.

A.P. English 4

(Prerequisite:  students must have an overall high school average of 88% in English courses in order to enroll.)
The Advanced Placement version of the Senior World Literature course presents students with several more difficult works than in English 4, introduces literary theory and modes of literary criticism, and provides opportunities for a variety of analytical and creative writing.  Among others, authors read in the course include Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wilde, Moliere, Austen, Faulkner, Hesse, Kafka, and Ionesco.  The course also provides an intensive study of poetry from the sixteenth century to the present.  Grammar and vocabulary work occur weekly throughout the year.  Preparation for the national Advanced Placement examination occurs throughout the year, and students enrolled are required to take the A.P. examination in May.

World History

This freshman survey history course examines western history from early humans to the 20th century. Reading assignments come from the course’s textbook and from primary sources. The course emphasizes acquisition of historical facts, recognition of cause and effect relationships, and ability to understand and interpret both specific occurrences and broad historical trends. Skills work includes note taking, outlining, researching, writing interpretive papers, and preparing for tests consisting of a variety of questions from identification to short answer to essay.

World Geography

This course explores the complex relationships existing between physical environment and culture. Lectures, readings, videos, and class discussions address how the physical aspects of environment influence the human issues of worldwide cultures. The course examines both specific regions and global development. Skills emphasized in the course include map reading, observation, memorization, note taking, writing, and critical thinking.

United States History

U.S. History provides students with an understanding of the fundamental forces, events, and ideas that separately and together shaped the character and direction of the United States. Students develop an appreciation of democracy and the necessity for a literate, educated, and involved citizenry. The course begins with an examination of the causes for European colonization of the North American continent and traces trends in U.S. history through the civil rights movement to the present day.

Honors Global Politics and Environmental Issues

This advanced senior course explores in depth key political, religious, and environmental issues relevant to today’s world, such as world hunger, terrorism, sustainable energy, overpopulation, and water rights. Organized thematically rather than geographically, the course’s curriculum is influenced yearly by student research and input. Combining studies in physical and cultural geography, economics, science, and politics, the course culminates in students’ creating original solutions to real-world problems.  Monthly issues of National Geographic serve as supplementary reading to the course’s texts.

Algebra 1

The primary objectives of Algebra 1 are to solidify students’ foundations in basic math and to have them work toward a thorough understanding of the structure of Algebra and the nature of algebraic operations.  Fundamentally, Algebra 1 teaches specific algebraic manipulations and aims to develop powers of precision and logical thinking. Manipulation of algebraic expressions provides the starting point from which solution of equations evolves. Using a text that emphasizes the cumulative nature of mathematical facility, Algebra 1 requires considerable practice, drill, and repetition. This course provides the essential foundation for all higher-level math courses.


This geometry course presents a formal approach to Euclidean geometry. Its goals are twofold: first, to provide students with understanding of geometric figures; second, through repetition of formal two-column proofs, to teach students the deductive method of reasoning.  Students review algebraic skills and use them regularly to solve geometric problems. Concepts of trigonometry are also introduced.  Students engage in practical applications of geometry through trimester projects.

Algebra 2

The Algebra 2 course emphasizes problem solving, real world application, and the study skills necessary to succeed in higher-level math. Topics include quadratic equations, systems of linear equations, inequalities, exponential equations, and factoring of higher-degree polynomials. Students work consistently both with the standard language and symbols of math and with word problems.

Advanced Precalculus

Offered to students with a solid foundation in Algebra and Geometry, Precalculus prepares students for Calculus, either at Steamboat Mountain School or in college. The course incorporates a functions approach to Algebra, trigonometry, and Analytic Geometry. Students are expected to grasp new mathematical concepts at a consistent pace and to apply them readily to a variety of problems. 

Honors Calculus

This higher-level math course examines fundamental qualities of sequence; relationships and limits; rational, irrational, and transcendental functions; derivation and integration. Students learn to work both independently and collectively in their efforts to solve difficult mathematical problems. The course “flips the classroom,” with the teacher’s lessons pre-recorded for students to watch as homework; during class, students collaborate with each other and work with the teacher to answer questions and solidify their understanding.  The course encourages students to apply their knowledge from previous math courses as they build their understanding of Calculus.  Writing assignments, “Aftermaths,” occur regularly in the course and culminate in a year-end calculus paper. 

Advanced Placement Calculus 2

Open to students who have completed a full year of calculus, this course provides a theoretical and in-depth examination of the basic topics of Calculus 1: functions, sequences, limits, derivatives, and integrals. Students move at an accelerated pace and are expected to complete a significant amount of work independently.  Preparation for the national Advanced Placement Calculus examinations (AB and BC) plays a significant role in the course, as does completion of the final Calculus 2 paper.


This freshman-level introductory lab science course explores the organization of life. Students study basic organic molecular structures and the elementary chemicals of life, cellular physiology, genetics, cell division, reproduction, and embryology. The course also surveys plant structures, ecology, and evolution. Skills work includes careful reading of scientific language, note-taking, precision in lab work, organization, memorization, and test preparation.


This course covers general chemistry from a theoretical and quantitative approach. Generally taken by sophomores, chemistry begins with the study of atoms and molecules as the building blocks of matter. The course progresses to include such topics as elements and compounds, energy and phase transformation, quantum mechanics, and the atomic basis for the Periodic Table. Laboratory work provides students with the opportunity to study basic scientific procedure and to conduct experiments that provide practical applications for theoretical concepts. Students are expected to apply their solid study skills to memorizing, analyzing, and interpreting scientific information.

Anatomy and Physiology

A junior/senior elective open to students who have completed Biology and Chemistry, this course provides a concentrated introduction to the biology of human beings, its organs and organ systems. It emphasizes the interrelationships of body organ systems, homeostasis, and the complementarities of structure and function. Students are encouraged to assimilate information independently while also participating in class discussion, dissection, and extracurricular research. Anatomy and Physiology fosters an understanding of the complex relationships between form and function; retention of information is essential to the problem-solving focus of the course.

Advanced Placement Environmental Science

An advanced study course for juniors and seniors who have completed a year of Biology and of Chemistry, Environmental Science students think critically about environmental issues affecting our world today. Topics include sustainable agriculture, water quality, forest management, climate change, and alternative fuel sources. Students’ mastery of specific biological and chemical information is coupled with an emphasis on analytical thinking and problem solving for real-world environmental concerns. Students write frequently, fieldwork accompanies course reading and discussion, and preparation for the national Advanced Placement examination occurs throughout the year.

Honors Physics

Composed of students who have completed, or are concurrently enrolled in, Algebra 2, Honors Physics introduces several branches of physics, including mechanics (Newtonian physics), Quantum physics, heat, light, and relativity. The course demands of its students the ability to merge creative and logical thinking in an effort to solve both practical and theoretical problems in a variety of realms of modern physics.

Spanish 1-5 (A.P.)

In elementary levels of Spanish, the emphasis is on the development of the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Intermediate courses cultivate the application of grammar and vocabulary to broader communication, and these levels of Spanish stress reading for comprehension through selections of Hispanic literature. Developing fluency in reading, writing, speaking and listening, mastering advanced grammar, and working intelligently with Hispanic literature and culture are primary objectives of the highest level course. Advanced Placement Spanish V also prepares students for the national Advanced Placement examination in Spanish Language.

Chinese 1 -3

Chinese 1 and 2 introduce students to the basics of the Chinese language and culture; Chinese 3 stresses both oral communication and reading and writing fluency. Students in these courses complete lessons in speaking, reading, writing, listening, and understanding Chinese culture.  By the end of Chinese 1, students can reproduce Chinese intonation; listen and respond to commands and questions; engage in a basic conversation; read level 1 material; write short paragraphs in Chinese; differentiate between their home and Chinese cultures; and differentiate among various Chinese cultures.  By the end of Chinese 2, students can communicate about and respond to others’ feelings, moods, and experiences, and they can make suggestions, learn new information in Chinese, and explain information to others.  By the completion of Chinese 3, students can communicate orally with comfort and can read and write at a moderate-level of difficulty.  All levels of Chinese stress the importance of learning a second language in order to communicate with others; understanding and appreciating different cultures; connecting language knowledge to other disciplines; comparing and contrasting the nature of different languages; developing insight into the nature of language and its relation to culture; and utilizing this knowledge to participate in the multilingual world community.


Students in Art are introduced to basic media and techniques used in creating works of art. Each trimester focuses on different media, from drawing and painting to mosaics to murals to sculpture.  Students learn to “see” as artists, and they strive toward creating art works that blend quality craftsmanship with creative inspiration.  Art history and “the language of art” are included in each trimester. Students may enroll in art for a trimester, two trimesters, or the full academic year.


This course introduces the fundamental principles of script writing and film production. It also presents students with a history of film.  Students examine classics of the genre as part of their learning process. Using cameras, computer software, and green screen technology, students write, direct, act in, edit, and produce their own films. Collaboration, creativity, technical skill, and attention to detail are emphasized. Student films may range from short pieces to full-length features; the course culminates in an annual film presentation, open to the public, showcasing student films.

Graphics and Yearbook

This course is available to all students who have a solid foundation in MS Office. Students learn advanced computer concepts related to publishing both in print and on the web. Combining tenets of graphic arts with technological skill, and photography, students work with page layout, design, writing, and photo editing techniques. Production of the annual school yearbook occurs in this class.