Upper School

Academics is at the heart of the GA experience, and in the Upper School we strive to balance tradition with a spirit of experimentation.

Students take physics and read Shakespeare, but many also join a STEM Research Group, take one of our Expedition Courses, or step to the microphone to give a Senior Voice.
 
Our starting point couldn’t be more promising: the GA student, someone who brings intelligence, kindness, and 100% commitment to whatever she takes on. And behind each student is an array of teachers who seek to listen to each girl and bring out her truest self.
 
In high school, we glimpse the adults we might become, but it’s still an early draft. It’s our hope that our students feel inspired by the many great teachers at GA (and our brother school, Brunswick), discover deeper gears of effort, and experience those essential moments of courage that matter so much at this age—whether it’s eating lunch at an unfamiliar table or running for student government (which a great number do).

Our goal is to help the girls see education as a life’s work. A way of living with confidence and curiosity.

Program Overview

English

Writing is the cornerstone of every Upper School English class. Through practice with a variety of writing forms and styles, our students leave GA confident in their ability to communicate their thoughts fluidly, logically, and comprehensively. In our discussion-based classes, we challenge our students to think critically and creatively as they tackle a diverse collection of stimulating texts. Projects, performances, and presentations encourage our students to develop their independent thinking skills and to read literature from different perspectives. Our program helps to develop our students’ empathy and instills an appreciation for how literature both enlarges and enlivens their world.

Math

The Upper School math curriculum is designed to help students develop an understanding and appreciation of math, and to feel secure in their ability to meet challenges head on. We want students to develop confidence in their mathematical ability, and we take pride in teaching our students how to become creative problem solvers who look for patterns and take risks. The curriculum extends from Geometry to Multivariable Calculus. Our classes are all single sex, based on studies indicating that girls tend to take more risks and feel confident in their performance in math when placed in all-female classes.

  • Our Geometry course emphasizes the traditional elements of Euclidean Geometry and the study of coordinate geometry, translations, and right triangle trigonometry. Deductive reasoning is emphasized wherein students are motivated to investigate and independently test hypotheses and draw conclusions.
  • In Algebra 2, concepts established in the Algebra 1 course and Geometry are extended to more advanced topics. The development of a strong fundamental understanding and analysis of functions is the principle objective.
  • In Precalculus, the girls continue the study of functions begun in Algebra 2, including polynomial, rational, trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential functions.
  • GA provides students with both AP and non-AP options for Statistics. Topics in all sections include the study of univariate and bivariate data, distribution, correlation and regression, confidence intervals, and hypotheses testing.
  • In our Calculus courses, students study differential and integral calculus. Students enroll in either AB or BC level courses. A non-AP course that is an introduction into the basic concepts of calculus is also offered.
  • Opportunities for students with a special interest and aptitude for math include the American Math Competition, the GA Math team, and a multivariable calculus course which is run as an independent study through Stanford University.

History

At GA, we think a deep understanding of history is critical to making sense of the world today. We help our students engage with the past with curiosity and an open mind. Our philosophy is inquiry based—we encourage our students to ask insightful questions, to use critical thinking to tackle problems, and to develop discussion and debate skills. 

All Group IX and X students study Modern World History and U.S. history, undertaking an extensive, monthlong research project on a top of their choosing. During the junior and senior years, students may select from a wide variety of courses, including specialized semester electives such as Modern Middle East, Debate, and Criminal Justice, and full-year AP classes including World, Art History, Human Geography, and Comparative Government. The department encompasses the social sciences as well, and many students opt to explore electives and AP classes in psychology and economics. For those particularly committed to research, we offer a yearlong Honors Humanities and Social Science Research class, focusing on methods in the fall and on the pursuit of original research in the spring, resulting in a 20-page paper. 

Complementing our rigorous and broad curriculum is a wide variety of co-curricular clubs, activities, and field trips. Students attend the Harvard Model Congress and the annual Model UN summits. Our Debate class helps prepare students for an in-house Debate team that competes with other schools. Field trips to museums, court houses, and local historical sites complement other classes. Numerous classes make use of GA’s Engineering & Design Lab as a space to design and create culminating projects. The Greenwich Academy Portal, a global classroom built into the school, enhances our department’s goal of fostering global citizenship by providing a forum for face-to-face dialogue with peers in such countries as Honduras, Iraq, and Afghanistan. 

Group IX:

The Group IX curriculum engages students in a thematic examination of world history from 1750 to 1945, focusing on core ideological concepts such as classical liberalism, nationalism, and imperialism, that define and dominate the modern era. The course is chronological, exploring recurring themes such as globalization and its impact, technology and demographic change over time, and the influence of revolution and reform movements. The class concludes with an exploration of the ways in which modern world history set the stage for such recent phenomena as African independence movements and the Cold War. 

Group X:

All sophomores take a U.S. History class that explores the pre-colonial period to the present. Students may opt to take an experiential U.S. Civil Rights course that includes a week-long tour of the Deep South, or they may apply to take the Advanced Placement U.S. survey. All U.S. classes consider traditionally marginalized populations, including African Americans, Native Americans, and women, and foster an understanding of the different lenses through which we view history. 


Group XI and XII:

After completion of Modern World History and U.S. History, students enroll in one of our many history and social science electives, seminars, or AP courses. Our semester-long seminars expose students to such specialized fields as military history, criminal justice, the history of the Middle East, abnormal psychology and behavioral economics. We offer numerous Advanced Placements courses that culminate in an AP exam in May, including AP Art History, AP Comparative Government, AP Economics, AP European History, AP Human Geography, AP Psychology, and AP World History. We require 2.5 years of history courses, but most students complete three full years of study. 

Extracurricular:
  • The Brunswick & Greenwich Academy Magazine of History is an in-house writing journal that provides students the opportunity to have their research and analytical writing published. The journal was started in 2005.
  • Students may also submit to Artemis: Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research, an online publication featuring scholarly research papers from the GA/Brunswick community and from outside schools. 

Science

Science in the Upper School means risk-taking, independent and collaborative thinking, and personal growth and discovery. It also means our teachers are invested in the success of each of our students, as we emphasize student-teacher collaboration. Because whether they’re completing core requirements in biology, chemistry, and physics, or diving into electives like AP Biology or Astronomy, GA students are engaged and excited about understanding the natural world better through a scientific lens. Laboratory work is core to all of our courses, because we believe students learn science best by doing science. We also aim to foster a sense of curiosity, build problem-solving skills, and emphasize the relevance of science in our daily lives. 

Biology:
  • We aim to develop an appreciation and understanding of the complexity and diversity of living systems
  • Freshman honors biology students have the option of taking an expedition course in which they participate in authentic research as a group outside of school. 
  • Our biotechnology curriculum is cutting edge, as freshmen gain hands-on experience with techniques such as PCR, gel electrophoresis, and bacterial transformation.  
  • Inquiry-based experimentation promotes creative problem solving skills
Chemistry:
  • Develop conceptual understanding of the principles governing matter at the particle level
  • Engages students in the hands-on exploration of matter’s interactions through frequent laboratory experiences
  • Emphasizes inferential reasoning 
  • Employs the quantitative analysis of data sets that support theoretical principles
AP & Electives:
  • Honors research seminar in collaboration with Small World Initiative/Tiny Earth- students gain authentic research experience while helping to solve the global issue of antibiotic resistance.
  • Exciting diversity of elective offerings including AP level and non-AP courses
  • Emphasis on student-teacher collaboration
  • Inquiry-based curricula
  • Rigorous standards
  • Variety of research methodologies  
Extracurricular:
  • STEM Interest groups meet regularly to explore concepts of interest in greater detail

  • GAINS Network/GAINS Conference 

  • Independent study opportunities working closely with a faculty mentor

  • Summer student research opportunities in industry and academia
     

Engineering & Computer Science

Computing touches every aspect of our daily lives in the 21st century. Whether a student has been building and coding through Lower and Middle School or has decided to become more than a computer user, we have a course for them. Our Engineering & Computer Science courses instill strong problem-solving skills and computational thinking while promoting both collaborative work and independent resourcefulness. While the content of our courses develops new toolsets in our students, they will also develop resilience and emerge as better thinkers.

Entry-level:
  • Engineering & Design I (cross-listed in Arts)
  • Introduction to Computer Science
Advanced:
  • Engineering & Design II (cross-listed in Arts)
  • Engineering Principles & Computation
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP Computer Science A
  • Honors Eng. & CS Seminar: Applications
Co-curricular:
  • Coding Club
  • STEM groups
  • Girls Advancing in STEM (GAINS) Initiative 
  • Robotics team

World Languages

At Greenwich Academy, learning a second language is a means to understanding world cultures. Teachers focus on developing students’ communication skills in order to think critically about their own culture, while delving into those of the language they study. Whether learning a modern or ancient language, students think globally about their place in the world and learn empathy as they engage in immersive experiences. All courses strive to present and discuss topics using authentic materials, developing students’ skills to speak, read, write, and listen in the target language.

  • Experiential learning is encouraged with courses that offer real-time, practical contact with native speakers through trips, community work, and digital media.
  • GA sponsors a variety of foreign study options including full immersion homestay programs in Argentina, France, and Spain.
  • Course offerings include modern languages Arabic, Chinese, French, Italian, and Spanish as well as the classical languages of Latin and Greek.
  • The Global Scholars program provides a venue for students to gain a better understanding of the challenges facing their generation while building their cultural competency skills.

Health & Wellness

We believe that good health results from the integration of physical, psychological, social, and emotional well-being. Our Health & Wellness program, which includes guest speakers, advisory activities, and supplemental programs, promotes self-respect and respect for others, and aims to provide students with the information and skills necessary to support healthy decision-making, relationships, and living. Through discussion and interactive class activities, the group IX and X curriculum is carefully planned, and includes developmentally appropriate materials covering health, wellness and life skills. Topics include:

  • Substance use/abuse
  • Adolescent development
  • Sexuality 
  • Body Image 
  • Healthy relationships 
  • High-risk behaviors and decision-making 
  • Stress management

Coordination

For nearly 50 years, GA and the neighboring all-boys Brunswick School have joined forces in the Upper School to combine resources to the immense benefit of both student bodies. Coordination means a single course catalog with more than 200 courses—83 of them Honors and Advanced Placement. It means four theater productions every year, two musicals and two plays. It means clubs, teams, and proms. United by a footpath and a commitment to providing students with every opportunity, GA and Brunswick have created in Coordination a program that combines both school’s strengths, while preserving each’s distinct, esteemed philosophy and culture.

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Tom Sullivan
Head of Upper School

Signature Programs

In addition to unparalleled core academics, GA offers a slate of signature programs in STEM, the arts, global learning, communications, civic leadership, and other spheres. 

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College Counseling

Student-centered and supportive, GA’s college counseling program is a team effort. Starting families with the engagement and expertise that culminate in a rewarding experience. 

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Clubs & Affinity Spaces

Student interest and enthusiasm drives extracurriculars across all three divisions, and by Upper School students can pick from more than 70 clubs and organizations—or start one of their own.

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