Upper School » Upper School

Upper School

At Quest to Learn Upper School, students are true systems thinkers and designers. They understand that the important challenges in today’s world can’t necessarily be solved in simple, traditional ways.
As students move from the game-related projects of middle school to high school, they become interested in projects that are more related to real world issues and scenarios, such as using their knowledge of science to investigate a hypothetical crime scene.
As a result, our high school curriculum helps students learn content in the various core domains (ELA, math, science, social studies) in ways that are meaningful to them and can be applied to real world issues and problems, as well as college and career. In general, in 9th and 10th grade students build foundational skills, including literacy and math skills, as well as being introducing to systems thinking. As they progress through high school, students have a wide variety of electives from which to choose.

Overview of High School Curriculum

Upper School courses offered include:

Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2/Trigonometry, Pre-calculus, AP Calculus
Chemistry/Physical Science, Earth Science, AP Environmental Science, Living Environment, AP Biology, Forensics, Critical Issues in Modern Science
Global History I, Global History II, U.S. History, Economics & Participation in Government, Geography and History of Sports and Mascots, Big History (an exploration of the history of the universe, from the Big Bang through the present day), Philosophy
9th Grade English, 10th Grade English, 11th Grade English, 12th Grade English, African American Literature, Shakespeare, AP Language and Composition, AP Literature and Composition, Mythology
Game Design, Maker Space, Painting, Drawing, Introduction to Theater, Advanced Film, Advanced Visual Arts, Advanced Theater, French Cinema
Spanish, Advanced Spanish
Home Base Advisory
Advanced Placement courses: Calculus, Environmental Science, Biology, Language and Composition, Literature and Composition.
Students may take college courses through Baruch College. Additionally, students can participate in education-based international trips throughout their high school years. The trips have varying focuses, such as language or science, and a catalogue of options is initially presented to 9th graders. Current destinations include Costa Rica and London.

Special Education in The Upper School

At Quest to Learn, we believe that students requiring special educational services, such as co-taught classes, need more supports in the 9th and 10th grade. In the 11th and 12th grade, as students grow and develop academic skills, we gradually pull back those services.

College Preparation

Quest to Learn prepares Upper School students for college and the college application process throughout their high school years in the Home Base Advisory class, in conjunction with Quest’s college counselor, Erica Formosa. In 9th and 10th grade, students are given an overview of types of colleges and degrees, they begin to discuss what their academic and career interests may be, and they learn the necessity of further developing good academic work habits. In eleventh and twelfth grade, students learn about the application process, and develop their profiles on Naviance in terms of their interests in specific types of colleges (small, large, liberal arts, etc.)

Faculty Highlight

Dan Bloom – Living Environment (9th Grade Biology) and AP Biology
 “I structured my Living Environment curriculum around a narrative that lasted an entire year. When a curriculum has a narrative, students are playing a role. I went a little sci-fi with it and structured the narrative around Jurassic Park: if we wanted to create an actual Jurassic Park, how would we do that? The students were part of a biotech company, and their job was to clone dinosaurs and build a park on an island.
We started out talking about genetics and genetic engineering, then learned about DNA and how DNA can be used to build an organism. We used this information to help us think about how DNA would help us if we were to build dinosaurs. In the later part of the year, we started talking about ecology: we have all these dinosaurs now, we’re on an island, how can we build stable ecosystems on the island with these different dinosaurs, knowing we need predators and prey, and certain resources.
We used the educational version of Minecraft, a game that students are all very into, as a sandbox game to build an actual island using our knowledge of biology, in order to support the dinosaurs. It was a really fun way to learn and apply some complex science.”

Highlights from Upper School

9th Grade Highlight

In ninth grade, students in Integrated Algebra participate in a project based on the TV show “Shark Tank” in which students use systems of equations along with graphing skills to design a food truck for NYC. Students decide the type of cuisine they want to sell, and they conduct a cost analysis to ensure they’ll make a profit. The mission culminates in a “Shark Tank” day in which all the students present their work.

11th Grade Highlight

Students have an option to take Forensic Science in 11th grade. They work with hypothetical crime scenes, conduct blood analysis, and in general take on the role of a forensic scientist.

10th Grade Highlight

Students read Fahrenheit 451 and engage in a mission around Big Brother, in which they debate the level of involvement the government should have in people’s lives.

12th Grade Highlight

Twelfth graders are offered an elective called Big History, based on college professor David Christiansen’s college course. The course is an exploration of the history of the universe, starting with the Big Bang and moving through the present day. In this course, students learn how everything is interconnected: science, math, social studies, and history. The course epitomizes Quest to Learn’s systems approach to learning.

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