Upper School Curriculum
Key's curricula and teaching methodology flourishes in classrooms that allow for hands-on learning and class sizes that afford faculty ample time with each student.
- World Language
- Physical Education
- Visual Arts
- Music & Performing Arts
- Life Skills
- Independent Study
The Mathematics program at Key is sequential, with students progressing from Algebra I to Geometry and then to Algebra II. Upon departmental recommendation, following Algebra II, students enroll either in Trigonometry and Finite Math or Precalculus. Advanced Calculus (AB or BC) is offered to students who have successfully completed the Precalculus course. Calculus II/III is offered to students who have successfully completed Advanced Calculus BC. Statistics may be taken as an elective following Algebra II.
The program is supported by the Math Lab, providing opportunities for students to have added help in areas they find difficult and for moving students who have special interests and abilities beyond the mainstream work of a class.
Geometry with Trigonometry
Algebra II with Trigonometry
Trigonometry and Finite Math
Advanced Calculus AB
Advanced Calculus BC
Introduction to Computer Science
Students sit for both the Advanced Calculus AB and BC AP exam and have the option to take the AP in Statistics.
Working with students to observe phenomena in an unbiased fashion, pose increasingly sophisticated questions concerning what they see, and then seek answers to their hypotheses is the framework for the Science Department. In this process, students are encouraged to develop specific skills—critical thinking, problem-solving, working both independently and collaboratively, reading scientific material critically, and communicating effectively in both written and oral contexts. Concepts and processes in mathematics and science complement and augment each other, and the teachers in both departments meet to discuss curricular development and individual student progress and course selection.
Key’s Integrated Science program incorporates aspects of chemistry, biology and physics into each of the student’s required science classes in lieu of teaching them separately in grades 9 through 11 Through purposeful integration, the meaning and relevance of abstract topics become evident because students apply their learning as they explore topics traditionally found in other disciplines. By presenting the holistic picture of science, Key teachers are able to incorporate more iterative and experimental design and engineering projects throughout the courses than previously possible in the segmented or siloed curriculum.
Advanced electives including Advanced Biology and Advanced Chemistry are offered for students who wish to pursue those subjects in college-level courses. Students are able to take AP exams in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The members of the department counsel students about options in science courses throughout their Key School career.
A central focus of the Upper School Humanities program is the development of essential skills in writing essays; researching, analyzing and using primary documents; participating in classroom discussions and presentations; and, collaborating on academic projects. Students are regularly asked to write essays drawing on inferences and projections based on their understanding of time periods, cultures, customs, and historical events. Teachers maintain consistency in coaching students to cultivate the clarity of their expression, the precision of their thoughts, and the originality of their voices.
Seminar discussion, which requires students to think on their feet and to make creative use of evidence from course readings and elsewhere, is at the heart of the Humanities program. Humanities courses also emphasize collaborative skills through structured group projects.
The core English and history courses—Civilizations are team-taught in grades 9-11 and comprise Ancient Civilizations, Modern Civilizations and American Civilization. Civilizations courses not only integrate studies in literature and history, but also religion, philosophy, art, politics, economics, law, and the history of science. Comparative Literature, a requirement for twelfth grade students, draws upon this same framework to deepen students’ understanding of literature. Elective courses, which are offered on a rotational basis, enable students to pursue a diverse range of studies.
Through the study of Latin, students achieve a substantive understanding of the vocabulary and syntax of the English language. Additionally, they become familiar with some of the world's best writers and thinkers and a body of literature that has profoundly influenced Western culture.
Students also explore contemporary American culture through the lens of Ancient Roman culture. Key's Latin program aims to enable those who continue in the advanced levels to read fluently in the provocative constructs of the Latin masters.
In their study of modern languages—Arabic, Spanish and French—students learn to communicate in another language, gain a greater understanding of sentence structure and grammar, become familiar with Hispanic, Middle Eastern and French literature and culture, and increase their awareness of the world in which they live.
Students in upper level courses are encouraged to converse fluently, present orally, read ambitiously, and write in creative and expository modes in the target language. Cultural studies and activities, along with periodic travel opportunities, add enrichment to all levels of the modern language study.
Physical Education is an integral part of a student's total education. The Physical Education department faculty seeks to develop in each student an awareness of personal physical fitness and to provide activities, instruction and guidance to aid each student in achieving an appropriate level of fitness. The Upper School Physical Education program is an extension of the experiences and activities performed in the previous divisions within the School.
While there are no specific required physical education classes in the Upper School, all students must obtain one credit for graduation. Students need 1/3 credit yearly in grades 9-11. Students may obtain these credits in one of the following ways
- Play two interscholastic sports in a given year
- Enroll in the dance technique course
- Sign up for one activity per semester that is approved for a Physical Education credit
- Create an Independent Exercise Contract with a Physical Education teacher
Key recognizes the importance of visual arts education and believes the fullest development of each student is dependent upon intellectual endeavors in the visual arts. The Visual Arts department encourages student artists to think visually, problem-solve creatively and elaborate on ideas and themes. Teaching goals include the provision of a lasting appreciation for the visual arts, a broadened view of the world, an outlet for self-expression and creativity, an awareness of distinct artistic disciplines, and specific academic challenge in the study of art history, two and three-dimensional forms of art-making, video production, and photography.
The Upper School program offers a wide range of immersive studio experiences beginning with a year of Art I foundational concepts, and branches out to include studio concentrations and independent studies. Courses include: ceramics, digital photography, digital video, drawing and painting, and printmaking and design. Studio Art students have the option to sit for the Studio Art AP exam.
Key recognizes the importance of performing arts education and believes the development of each student is dependent upon intellectual endeavors in the performing arts. Teaching goals include the provision of a lasting appreciation for the performing arts, a broadened view of the world, an outlet for self-expression and creativity, an awareness of distinct artistic disciplines, and specific academic challenge in the study of music, theater and dance.
In addition to course offerings in the performing arts, students can also participate in activities such as the Upper School Chorus, Jazz Ensembles, Key Strings, Key Theater, and Key Concert Dancers. Students who participate in Key Theater stage two productions each year, including the annual musical.
Key School also offers all Lower, Middle and Upper School students private lessons in voice, string and wind instruments, piano, and percussion.
LIFE SKILLS - COMMUNITY SEMINAR (GRADE 9)
As part of the School-wide initiative of teaching all students important life skills, the Upper School offers students this instruction through both implicit means, embedded within existing curricula and program. Broad Life Skills topics include human physiology and development, physical well-being, self-awareness and regulation, collaborative skills, and responsibilities of citizenship.
Implicit instruction takes place in academic courses, outdoor education experiences, the activities program, athletics, the performing arts, and in the myriad interactions comprising day-to-day school life. Community Seminar, a one-semester course required of all ninth graders, includes units on alcohol and other drugs, sexuality and relationships, technology, personality profiles, and career exploration.
COMMUNITY SERVICE WORK ELECTIVE (GRADES 10-12)
This course offers students the opportunity to work for a semester with one of a number of human service agencies or programs in Anne Arundel County. Students research various placement options, and with the help of the instructor, make contact and arrange their placements with agencies and service organizations. All placements must be in human service work and must put students in direct helping relationships with the people an agency or program serves. The course is scheduled into a regular block, but students meet in only one of these, biweekly, as a seminar to encourage reflection on and discussion of their experiences. Remaining course blocks afford added schedule flexibility for students whose placements have them working on weekdays. Students work a minimum of three to four hours weekly at their placements and are required to keep journals based on their experiences. The course teacher acts as a liaison with each agency or program, monitoring students’ attendance and investment in work.
Independent Study provides an engaging opportunity for seniors to pursue a specific area of interest through dedicated, in-depth study. It is appropriate for highly motivated students who have demonstrated the capability to undertake a rigorous course of study without the structure and direction provided by conventional academic classes.
To be eligible for an independent study, a student must have earned a B+ or better in the last course taken in the department from which the proposed independent study would receive credit. To participate in Independent Study, students secure a faculty sponsor and submit a detailed proposal; this process affords students the opportunity to demonstrate initiative and independence.
Generally 25% of Key seniors pursue an Independent Study.
By leveraging students' innate curiosity and the knowledge and expertise of our faculty, the Key School program is designed to:
- Develop positive attitudes and values
- Build confidence
- Cultivate curiosity and a love for learning
- Build analytical thinking skills
- Foster healthy work habits
- Develop a solid foundation of social and emotional learning
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