Course of Study
Students must earn 24 credits in order to receive the Woodlawn diploma. Graduation requirements include four years of English, math, science, history, and foreign language. Students must also earn 1 credit of service (1/4 credit per year) and 3 credits of electives (3/4 credits per year). Units earned in grade 8 are reflected on the transcript but do not count toward the GPA. Upper level courses in English, history, and science are offered on a rotating basis.
All academic courses are taught at the Honors level or above. Woodlawn offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the upper school to challenge those students who excel in certain academic areas. Entrance into Advanced Placement courses requires administrative and faculty approval, with the exception of AP World History, AP US History, AP English Language and Composition, and AP English Literature. In order to qualify for an AP course, a student must earn either an A or a high B (with strong teacher recommendation) in the previous course within that subject area. AP tests are administered on campus each May. Students do not have to be enrolled in an AP course in order to take the AP test(s).
Technology is not taught as a separate class, but rather integrated into our other courses. Students graduate proficient in productivity software, digital media, digital editing, web-based research, and website construction. The following courses are offered in during the four academic years of upper school.
Writing is a primary focus at Woodlawn, and classes in the English Department are writing-intensive. Students use writing for analysis, self-reflection, and communication. We maintain writing portfolios to monitor student development and conduct individual conferences on writing with each student. Grammar is taught explicitly and in the context of writing assignments.
Starting with the pre-Biblical work The Epic of Gilgamesh, students begin to explore the concept of myth and the role of the hero, considering why we tell stories and what these stories and their heroes can tell us about the civilizations from which they emerge. Students continue looking at the role of the hero through a variety of texts from early world literature. Later in the year, students engage in an in-depth study of Shakespeare, the form of the Shakespearean tragedy, and the Renaissance period, using Romeo and Juliet to consider the qualities of more modern stories and heroes.
Modern World Literature
Students read a wide variety of classic and contemporary world literature from many different cultures, using novels, short stories, plays, and poetry as windows through which to understand a diverse set of cultures: Afghan, Indian, Chilean, Colombian, British, Russian, British, Nigerian, and South African. Many of the voices studied come from societies in the midst of change. As students grow to understand the world as a constantly changing place, students explore the complexities associated with establishing and maintaining cultural identities in a modern world.
AP English Literature and Composition
Taught in conjunction with American Studies, this course provides a college-level study of American and European writers of the 19th and 20th centuries and elements of literary composition.
AP English Language and Composition
Taught in conjunction with European Studies, this course is designed to engage students in a beginning-college level study of composition. Students develop the ability to work with language and text with a greater awareness of purpose and strategy while strengthening compositional skills.
Woodlawn School follows the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards as organized by the Common Core Standards for Mathematics. Our textbooks are used as tools to organize the standards into more specific objectives. At Woodlawn, we move beyond these basic objectives through more in-depth application problems and integrated real-world projects.
Our students take Algebra I in the eighth grade.
Geometry asks students to apply problem-solving skills, including those learned in Algebra I, to geometric figures. Students come to understand basic truths about the geometric world and learn how to build upon them, using logic, to create new knowledge. They also apply their knowledge to real-world design projects.
In Algebra II, students begin by examining linear equations and functions, systems of linear equations and inequalities, and matrices and determinants. The second trimester focuses on quadratic, polynomial, exponential, and logarithmic functions and powers, roots, and radicals. Finally, they concentrate on rational functions, quadratic relations and conic sections, sequences and series, and trigonometry.
Precalculus is about using various kinds of functions — linear, polynomial, exponential, rational, trigonometric, and periodic — and modeling the world with those functions as well as matrices and systems of equations. In standard Precalculus, students work at a high level, using those functions and tools to solve complex problems.
In Pre-AP Calculus, there is an additional goal of preparation for Calculus. Working with the algebra and understanding the intricacies of the functions and tools are as important as overall comprehension.
This upper-level math course requires precalculus and aims to show students the practical application of mathematics in several important real-world situations. Voting systems, polls/surveys, credit card verification, barcodes, optimization, statistical analysis, and the visual display of quantitative information are a few of the issues tackled in this class, in addition to historical figures in mathematics and the famous problems they posed or solved.
AP Calculus AB is equivalent to a college-level first semester course in calculus. We focus on learning the principles and applications of limits, differentiation, and integration through verbal, algebraic, numeric, and graphical representations. Applications to the physical and social sciences are an integral part of the course.
The Upper School history curriculum is modeled heavily upon Advanced Placement standards as established by the College Board, and places emphasis on writing and reading critically. Students work to construct and evaluate arguments using evidence, to use documents and other primary data, and to develop the skills necessary to analyze point of view, context, and bias in order to understand and interpret information. Students learn to assess issues of change and continuity over time, to see global patterns over time and space, and to connect local developments to global ones.
In World Civilizations, students look at the foundations of civilization, examining the link between our world and the developments of the ancient and classical eras. Students learn how and why early peoples joined together to form societies.
The study of European History since 1450 introduces students to cultural, economic, political, and social developments that played a fundamental role in shaping the world in which they live.
Modern World History begins with the transition from the Middle Ages to the Age of Exploration and the division of the world into European spheres of influence. Students study the interactions and the problems encountered in these diverse societies.
AP US History AP US History is a year-long course that is designed to provide a college-level academic experience and preparation for the Advanced Placement Exam. Rooted in the American Studies curriculum, the seminar allows students additional course time to cover the 500-year scope of United States history, beginning with the pre-Columbian period and extending through the present.
Woodlawn School follows the National Science Education Standards as produced by the National Research Council. Woodlawn School science courses strive to present content as inquiry experiences where students apply concepts to both familiar and new scenarios. We teach science information and skills that students can use to develop creativity through problem solving.
This first-year physics and chemistry course builds on the concepts and skills introduced in middle school and provides the foundation necessary for students to take Advanced Physics and/or AP Chemistry in future years. Students are exposed to both the theoretical and the experimental underpinnings of important concepts including scientific measurement, kinematics, force, motion, energy, atomic structure, chemical bonding, and stoichiometry.
Biology is the study of how living organisms operate. Woodlawn’s biology course for 10th graders introduces students to many topics that comprise the enormous scope of biology. Students engage in studies of biological molecules, cells, genetics, and evolution. The inquiry format of the course demands that students construct a portion of their own knowledge by observing phenomena, asking questions, and explaining concepts in the context of what they have observed and read. The portfolio format allows students to demonstrate several levels of biology literacy. The learning process includes reading a variety of science writing including texts, scientific papers, and journalism, discussion, development of lab skills, investigating case studies, conducting experiments, and taking tests.
The Environmental Studies course examines Earth's life-supporting resources, ways that humans use and exploit them, and new courses of action that increase sustainable resource use. The course is an interdisciplinary study of issues surrounding fresh water, air, soil, and energy. The course material engages students in the study of natural resource issues and ecology through case study analysis, philosophical literature, citizen science, resource monitoring on campus, and design challenges.
Physics is a branch of science that involves the study of the physical world: energy, matter, and how they are related. Students examine mathematically and conceptually — as well as experiment with — the motion of projectiles, the energy in sound waves, light, and electric circuits.
AP Biology focuses on five main themes of biology: Information, Evolution, Cells, Emergent Properties, & Homeostasis. Students examine each theme at five scales: molecular, cellular, organism, population, & ecological system. Students construct their own knowledge by analyzing the historical experiments (and the data they rest on) that gave us the fundamental concepts of biology.
This second-year chemistry course builds on the concepts and skills introduced in the ninth grade Integrated Physics with Chemistry course and prepares students for the AP Chemistry exam at the end of the year. Students take full advantage of the Woods Hall science lab, which comes equipped with a ventilation hood, three sinks, large lab benches and counter spaces, iMac computers, and a projector. Students are able to apply theoretical concepts to the real world and be-come proficient in chemical problem solving.
The Woodlawn School Spanish Department follows the national standards set out by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Overall competency goals follow the NC Standard Course of Study for Second Language Learning. In grades 9-12, students further develop skills in reading, writing & speaking built around more abstract topics such as politics, literature, art, and film. Short stories, essays, and novels in the target language are central for courses in grades 9-12.
Students work to deepen their Spanish comprehension skills through a survey of literature that aligns with their history and English courses. Students read pieces from classic Spanish literature such as El Cid, Lazarillo de Tormes, and Don Quixote. Students end the year by examining the cultural influences we see in cuisine, music, geography, history, etc.
Students gain intense practice with most tenses as well as in their speaking skills. Latin American literature greats, like Burgos, Martí and Borges are reviewed and select readings from AP Spanish are analyzed and discussed in depth. The course further dives into Dominican history and politics while students read the short novel, Antes de Ser Libres.
Students engage in an in-depth study of the Spanish language (grammar and functions), but also a selection of some of the most inspirational literary figures and artists from Latin America. Students read the short novel El Principe de la Niebla, and they begin to examine the sub-genre of magic realism. Here, they explore fun topics like contemplating reality and what could really happen.
Spanish Language and Culture
Students gain a deeper understanding of the Spanish language through practical conversations and real life scenarios. Students are taught strategies to better help them communicate in unfamiliar situations. Latin American culture and traditions are discussed in depth by exploring the differences between life in the United States and Latin America through music, film, literature, and other authentic sources.
AP Spanish Language and Culture
AP Spanish Language is equivalent to a third year Spanish language course in college. As such, the class is taught almost exclusively in Spanish and students communicate only in Spanish. Students work with authentic cultural materials and texts, and through contact with this material and with each other, they achieve very high proficiency levels in speaking, writing, reading, and comprehension of the Spanish language.
ElectivesElective Course offerings change each trimester and vary from social sciences and arts to fitness and academic competitions, such as Science Olympiad and National History Day. 3 Credits are required upon graduation at 1/4 each.Examples of past electives include:
- Studio Art
- Handbuilt Clay
- Musical Theatre
- A Capella
- Technical Theatre
- Film Criticism
- Current Events
- Debate and Speech
- Personal Finance
- Life 101
- Philosophy of Sci Fi
- Medical Physiology
- Computer Programming
Service1 credit, 1/4 each
Students in grades 9 - 11 complete Service in Action one trimester per year. Students are immersed in service activities on campus and participate in weekly field experiences off campus. The Service program is enriched through a guided and intentional curriculum that incorporates current events related to the populations the students serve. The Service in Action class works with organizations that assist the homeless, low-income families and students, refugees, and other local groups that welcome student volunteers. Through these hands-on experiences, we hope students move from awareness to advocate in action and continue serving beyond the school day. Throughout their years in the Upper School, students are guided in finding and narrowing their particular Service interest into a personal passion project, which follows the Design Thinking model of inquiry and action and ultimately culminates with the Senior Capstone Project. "We build bridges of insight through empathy, the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, understand the world through their experiences, and feel the world through their emotions." - Tim Brown, Change By Design
Senior Capstone Project
At Woodlawn School, “our mission is to produce independent, lifelong learners who are responsible, contributing members of a diverse global society.” As senior students near the end of their Woodlawn experience, the Capstone Project provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding and fulfillment of the school’s mission. Students meet requirements throughout the year that address each part of the mission statement. Through successful completion of the Capstone Project, students demonstrate their mastery of the school’s core values.