In Upper School, there are many educational opportunities beyond the expected—one-of-a-kind learning experiences that are there for the taking.
GFS encourages students to take initiative in their own education. Last year, more than 140 students in grades 9-12 pursued their special interests by developing a Directed Independent Study (DIS) in consultation with a faculty advisor.
The DIS program allows students to pursue interests outside of the regular curriculum by studying a subject or undertaking a project that they develop either individually or in small groups. The experience of planning an independent project and sustaining it to completion is invaluable in helping students take responsibility for what what and how they learn. Read More
In the fall of 2011, Germantown Friends School was delighted to venture into the realm of online instruction. Along with Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C., Dalton in New York City, and the Lakeside School in Seattle as well as six other leading independent schools, GFS collaborated on the launch of Global Online Academy.
As a founding member, GFS is able to offer courses that would not otherwise be available to our students and also make some of our signature courses more widely available. GOA brings together great teachers and great students in an excellent, interactive, rigorous learning environment.
January Term (or J-Term, as the students call it) enables our community to live the mission and values of our school and to explore new passions, interests and interdisciplinary ways of learning about the world and ourselves. Through a month-long program of “mini courses,” it provides teachers and students a space for experimentation, investigation, and reflection. Read More
During their junior year, students complete a month-long independent study of their own design, away from campus. Each student submits a proposal that is reviewed by a committee of faculty and includes a description of the student’s goals for the project, contact information for his or her on-site supervisor, a description of what the student will learn and/or produce during the project, and a budget outlining all project expenses.
Most students do their Junior Project during the month of January, and then give a presentation and submit a written report about their experience when they return to school in February. Many students use this opportunity to gain insight into a particular career path, while others spend the time pursuing an interest that intrigues them, developing new skills, or do humanitarian work in this country or overseas. The Junior Project is often a life-changing experience for GFS students, and many go on to pursue careers in related fields.
In addition to the departmental offerings, students in their junior and senior years may choose from among the following course offerings.
– Each seminar fulfills a major course requirement.
– If you wish to take a junior-senior seminar, please indicate a second and third choices (seminar or other major elective course).
– A seminar may be cancelled if fewer than 12 students elect it.
– These courses will not necessarily be offered in successive years.
SEM100 Design Thinking for Social Impact
major elective | grades: 11, 12
In this course, students will apply the principles of design thinking to the world around us, using a human-centered approach to partner with Germantown community organizations to solve local challenges. Operating from a mindset that is solution-focused and action-oriented, students will learn to employ design thinking’s five basic actions: to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. As they collaborate with neighborhood partners, they will gain confidence not only in the innovation process, but also in their creative potential and leadership abilities. The class will begin with a crash course in design thinking to familiarize students with the design thinker’s toolkit, exposing them to a new, multi-disciplinary approach to asking questions, applying knowledge, and finding creative solutions to “real world” problems. Students will develop skills as ethnographers, visual thinkers, strategists, and storytellers through a combination of discussions, readings, and collaborative, team-based challenges. Potential community partners may include Historic Germantown sites, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, and the Germantown Special Services District. The class will keep detailed journals to track their progress, and design and maintain the content of a blog or website to record their projects. In Design Thinking for Social Impact, students will hone their critical thinking, leadership, communication, and empathy skills while connecting more authentically with the Germantown neighborhood.
SEM110 Digital Humanities
major elective | grades: 11, 12
We live in the age of communication; we navigate a sea of information. This class will introduce students to the key concepts and concerns animating the growing field of Digital Humanities. Digital Humanities sits at the intersection of computer science, technology, and the humanities. Imagine a mash-up of your favorite English or history courses with math and Introductory Programming. What would it look like to use one line of code to analyze all the papers you’ve written to uncover the patterns and growth of your prose? How does engaging with seemingly incongruous materials develop new critical thinking practices for your academic journey? Digital Humanities invites us not only to engage in humanistic inquiry in a digital environment but also to think about digital environments from a humanities perspective. This course will teach students about new digital techniques for research and analysis and ask them to reflect on the relationship between such tools and the critical role of culture, gender, race, and power. Students will cultivate skills related to research practices, textual and data analysis, critical thinking, creative expression, and persuasive writing. This course is intended to bridge topics related to digital design, information sciences, media studies, and public history. Digital Humanities, which is interdisciplinary by nature, will make extensive use of the GFS Archive and Library as resources and loci of study and inquiry.
SEM120 Playwriting Workshop
major elective | grades: 11, 12
Theatre is vital for society. Theatre can entertain, but it can also both respond to our times and affect change. In this seminar, students will come together to study and explore the craft of playwriting and the art of theatre. Through the study of script analysis and dramaturgy, this cohort of workshop students will delve into how playwriting works—the rules of this form. Students will become practicing writers, working with writing prompts, exercises, and feedback sessions. Students, becoming playwrights themselves, will ultimately write a one-act play and create work(s) together as an ensemble. As the class shifts to production of student work, in-class topics will include how to cast your work, how to work with actors in rehearsal on a new script, and how to navigate feedback from the audience. The culmination of this course will be the presentation of student work.
SEM130 World Religions
major elective | grades: 11, 12
In the first semester, this course will guide students in an appreciation of Judaism and Christianity by exploring the centrality of their Scriptures in the respective life and practice of these faith traditions. Beginning with a study of the history of the Jewish people as recounted in their sacred texts, students will learn how the Jewish scriptures—Torah, Prophets, Writings—took shape and how the Jewish people came to place them at the center of their religious practice. Students will likewise consider how these scriptures, but especially the Torah, are read and interpreted today. In the second half of the semester, students will learn about the origins of Christianity and the evolution of Christian scriptures in that context. Focusing on the Letters of Paul and the four Gospels, students will explore the New Testament and learn the ways in which Christians understand Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of “the law and the prophets,” reading the Jewish scriptures as the Old Testament and bringing with the New Testament to constitute the Christian Bible. Students will study the various ways different Christians today use, interpret, and are guided by the Bible.
In the second semester, students will be guided in acquiring an understanding about the beliefs and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. In our effort to come to an understanding of these religious traditions, we will approach them with reverence and, in so far as possible, enter into their spiritual worlds through the eyes and hearts of their adherents. To this end, while studying the origins and history of each religion, we will endeavor to discover whatever values and commitments they exhibit by acquiring a familiarity with their respective scriptures, beliefs, and ritual practices. A special feature of this seminar will be field trips, when practicable, to local religious sites where followers of these three belief traditions gather. Such visits will allow us to observe the different forms of prayer and worship and to hear and talk with the spiritual leaders of each religion first hand.
SEM140 You Can Hear the Whistle Blow: The Literature of Slavery, The Abolition Movement, and the Underground Railroad
major elective | grades: 11, 12
This seminar will focus on works of literature that explore slavery, the abolition movement, and the Underground Railroad in the antebellum United States. We will explore both works written during the time of slavery and post-bellum works, from the personal testimony of Frederick Douglass to Colson Whitehead’s brilliant postmodern novel, The Underground Railroad. This seminar will also provide the opportunity to study how Germantown Friends School and the Germantown Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends were involved in the history of the abolition movement, originating with the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery. We will also learn how Germantown was an important site, both on the Underground Railroad and also in the lettered culture of abolitionism. Many vitally important black intellectuals, writers, journalists and spiritual leaders worked, wrote, and advocated in Philadelphia and in Germantown. The course will thus connect the local public sphere to a larger mapping and charting of the abolition movement, giving students an enhanced understanding of their own relationship to this history, particularly the intersection between literature and historical scholarship.
SEM960 Applied Economics
major elective | grades: 11, 12
Demand has an inverse relationship to price and quantity. How does this important concept as well as myriad other micro and macroeconomic metrics play out in the real world? This course seeks to see identify, synthesize and evaluate the microeconomic concepts in and around Philadelphia. Students will work in teams to identify problems in our community that can serve as economic opportunities and also fulfill the needs of our neighbors. They will develop and test their solutions to these problems to determine the feasibility and growth potential. Students will also compete in a simulated global economy, using the Virtual Enterprise International global business simulation, which is project-based collaborative learning that develops such 21st-century skills as entrepreneurship, problem solving, communication, and using technology to explore macroeconomic concepts. Students will develop and practice job skills, refining their resume and cover letter and experiencing traditional and performance-based interviews. Students will create a personal budget, deal with virtual “unexpected life issues” and pay their bills throughout the year utilizing their virtual bank accounts. Students will have an opportunity to lead a department (marketing, sales, accounting, communications, art and human resources) or the firm, as well as work as an associate.
Students will compete in the following national online competitions over the course of the year: Elevator Pitch, Product Branding, Human Resource Manual, Business Plan, Company Website, Commercial, Newsletter, and Annual Plan. Students will compete in regional trade show with the opportunity to qualify for the national trade show.
SEM150 Common Spark
required minor (one semester) | grade: 9
Public speaking through personal narrative. Everyone has a story. In Common Spark, we work to grow as confident public speakers by telling stories inspired by our lives. Using techniques devised by the popular live podcast, The Moth, we will build a supportive creative space for sharing stories while learning tools and strategies for public speaking. The Moth believes that processing experience through narrative can provide insight and agency; that listening to stories can both widen our perspective and create common ground; that through sharing stories, a community is strengthened. In Common Spark we seek to strengthen our students as individuals within their school community. The course will culminate with each student presenting a five-minute story.
SEM950 Exploring Differences and Common Ground: Social Justice Dialogue
minor elective | grades: 9, 10, 11, 12
The Intergroup Dialogue minor offers students a supportive environment where they engage in “real talk” about issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, social identity and power. Intergroup dialogue involves an exploration of the personal-interactional-reflective dynamics among individuals who analyze their social contexts and share their experiences. Students in this class lean into the work of building a learning community comprised of people of different backgrounds and social identities, they commit to sustained, face-to-face, facilitated and confidential conversations, and they engage in analysis and reflection about some of the most troubling issues facing U.S. society and the world in the 21st century. Through the process, students learn about possibilities for transformation and social change, they become leaders in diversity and social justice, and they learn how to design and facilitate Intergroup Dialogue.
SEM990 Peer Writing Advisor Training Part 2: Theory into Practice
minor elective | grades: 11, 12
prerequisite: Peer Writing Advisor Training (Essentially English course)
Peer Writing Advisors are students trained to work with other students one-on-one on writing assignments. They believe that writing is communicating. This course expands on the content of the spring training of the Peer Writing Advisors, and translates much of the theory covered in that course into the practical work of being a PWA. During the fall portion of a Peer Writing Advisor’s work, more specific questions arise, as well as a desire for deeper knowledge and expertise that would bolster their one-on-one sessions with students. Throughout this yearlong minor, topics will include: how to “read” a school culture to offer a relevant service, the politics of teaching grammar, and how to lead a writing workshop to a group. Relative to the spring training, students receive more direct observation and feedback; students receive more feedback on their own writing from both the teacher and their fellow cohort members; and students learn how to support various types of learners, such as ESL students and students with learning differences. Assessments include committee work, self-assessments, presentations, and publicly available blog entries and writing assignments.