A Prep Education
Student-centered, active inquiry characterizes our curriculum, which covers a breadth and depth of study across six academic departments, the arts, athletics and community service. The required core subjects develop the disciplines and skills central to a liberal education. Elective courses stimulate students to follow their passions.
Students take charge of their own learning in discussion-based classrooms. Small classes (average class size is thirteen) engender a mentorship approach to learning, and students learn to communicate confidently and comfortably with faculty. Each department has designed its curriculum to engage, excite and educate.
Exploring the Past, Envisioning the Future
In their study of history, our students come to understand their own place in time and appreciate their role as informed citizens of their communities and the world. Our curriculum emphasizes critical reading, writing, and analysis.
By examining and interpreting events and trends of the past, students learn to think independently and to articulate ideas with clarity and consistency, and with support from evidence.
Frequent written exercises and oral presentations give students practice in gathering and interpreting information, analyzing concepts, and synthesizing themes.
Investigations into Problem Solving
Prep students learn to appreciate math as an investigative and problem-solving enterprise of beauty and truth that stimulates their imagination and engages their creativity. Our math curriculum contextualizes mathematics and illuminates its central role in the history of ideas. Through hands-on activities, we show students how to apply math to science and engineering situations, appreciate the importance of math in business and economics, enjoy math and logic puzzles, and begin to understand the subtleties of theoretical math.
Living the Questions
“Live and love the questions” lies at the heart of the English department’s philosophy of active learning. We emphasize inquiry over answers, investigation over conclusions. Students participate in and lead discussions on literature, examining concepts and craft in classic and contemporary works. From Southwest literature in seventh grade to world literature senior year, we offer students a wide range of opportunities to explore cultural perspectives, styles, and visions, as well as issues of personal and social identity.
The English program is writing-intensive: students are asked to express their ideas through analytical essays, personal narratives, journal writing, in-class reflections, short fiction, and poetry. Ultimately, our goal is to graduate students who are skilled in reading critically, writing articulately, thinking independently—and who understand the profound connection between literature and their lives.
Experiments in Critical Thinking
We share our enthusiasm for science with our students by actively engaging them in scientific inquiry through hands-on experiments and dynamic lab demonstrations. Beginning with Middle School life and earth sciences and progressing through physical science, biology and chemistry, our students become familiar with the experimental and collaborative nature of science. They are encouraged to develop their abilities as critically-thinking, scientifically-literate, and compassionate members of society.
Electives include honors chemistry, AP biology, and honors and conceptual physics. In all these courses, students develop their observational abilities, quantitative skills, and understanding of scientific methodology through their experiences, mistakes, and successes in their research projects.
Creating Cultural Literacy
We introduce our seventh graders to the study of language and culture with Latin, the basic building block of English and Romance languages. Eighth graders then begin a three-year course of study in Spanish with a goal of achieving functional literacy. Juniors and seniors may choose to continue on in Spanish, or they can choose from a series of rotating language and culture electives—Arabic, Mandarin, Italian, French, etc.—to gain exposure to other languages and cultures that hopefully whets their appetites for further language study, in college and beyond.
The language department recently moved into brand new quarters where students have access to the latest language acquisition software in a state-of-the-art language lab and in classrooms outfitted with “smart boards” and other computer-assisted technology.
We also conduct regular language and culture study trips to Europe and Latin America.
Learning with Technology
Prep students receive a thorough introduction to computers and the appropriate use of computer technology in required courses in both the Middle and Upper Schools. In these introductory courses, students gain an understanding of the processes of developing and applying technological concepts, and they learn practical skills and become comfortable with commonly used programs and software. They also investigate the ethical implications of living in a technology-laden world. Topics courses in computer science are available to advanced students.
Educating the Eye
Our art curriculum takes as its starting point our students’ natural desire for self-expression and personal exploration. While we stress high artistic standards, our primary goal is to encourage students to experiment with and explore the many media available to artists. While we realize not all of our students will pursue a career in art, we believe that all their lives will be enriched by a well-developed visual awareness.
Our art faculty are all practicing artists who have a passion for teaching. Our facility, housed in a recently renovated building that was once the architectural studio of the renowned architect John Gaw Meem, offers a state-of-the-art photography darkroom, shooting rooms, and digital photo facilities. In our ceramics wing, students practice the techniques of hand-building and wheel throwing, and experiment with high and low-fired glazes and raku. A large, light-filled room is dedicated to figure drawing, and a smaller, adjacent room houses our full-sized etching press.
Active Expression, On and Off the Stage
The performing arts are a vital part of our students’ educational program, both in the Middle and Upper Schools. A variety of electives allow students to explore theatre, music, singing, theory, and technique. Non-performance classes include stagecraft, world music and politics, and ethnicity in American music. All students have the opportunity to perform in annual drama and musical productions, and informally during forums and assemblies; our students also participate in all-state band and chorus, and the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest Arts Festival.
Run, Jump and Play!
In promoting our students’ physical education, we acknowledge the powerful connection between mind and body that is fundamental to a healthy growth. Our seventh graders learn the basics in more than twelve sports, most of which are played at the varsity and junior varsity level at Prep. In addition to acquiring athletic skills in team sports, our students are exposed to a number of other physical activities—and potential lifelong interests—such as hiking, martial arts and bowling. Our eighth graders also participate in a swim program, the goal being to have every eighth grader be “water safe.” Upper School students are expected to meet their PE requirements by participating in team sports, fitness classes or completing a personal contract for an outside interest (dance, riding, martial arts, for example). Our goal for all our students is to help them develop an appreciation for physical recreation, and a commitment to health and fitness that will carry into their adult lives.