In Upper School, there are many educational opportunities beyond the expected—one-of-a-kind learning experiences that are there for the taking.
- Directed Independent Study
- Global Online Academy
- January Term
- Junior Projects
- Junior/Senior Seminar + Additional Offerings
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.
SEM300 The Underground Railroad: Telling the Story
major elective | grades: 11, 12
The Underground Railroad—in fiction and in history, in the South and in the North, in Germantown history and in the American imagination—has been explored across three centuries of American writing. This seminar will study the Underground Railroad and Abolition Movement, beginning with two classic works of autobiography from the 19th century: Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in The Life of A Slave Girl. Our emphasis will then shift to three novels by contemporary Black authors who confront these issues in their writing. Toni Morrison’s novel, A Mercy, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, and finally, Colson Whitehead’s much-discussed postmodern novel, The Underground Railroad, which won the National Book Award in 2016. Further, we will study how GFS and the Germantown Monthly Meeting were involved in the Abolition Movement and learn how Germantown was not only an important site for the Underground Railroad, but also notable in the lettered culture of abolitionism. Many vitally important Black intellectuals worked, wrote, and advocated in Philadelphia and in Germantown. The course will connect the local public sphere to the literature studied, with a larger mapping and charting of the Abolition Movement that will provide students an enhanced understanding of the intersection between literature and historical scholarship.
SEM320 Comic Studies: The Sequence and Synergy of Text and Image
major elective | grades: 11, 12
This class provides an introduction to the political and aesthetic history of comics and to the academic discipline of Comics Studies. Students will explore a spectrum of comic-art forms (the newspaper strip, the comic book, the graphic novel) and a variety of modes and genres (fiction, memoir, journalism, and so on). Blending contemporary literary criticism with artistic practice, this seminar will mix theoretical and hands-on explorations of the sequential art form. We will examine visual storytelling and, by the course’s end, create an anthology of our work. We’ll look at the history of the medium and its permutations resulting from geography (manga) and technology (webcomics). Students will analyze comics through four different lenses: form, genre, activism, and impact. The work of Sousanis and McCloud will lay a foundation for our studies while the pedagogical practices of MacArthur Genius Lynda Barry will guide our journey, connecting the mind and body. This content-rich, interdisciplinary seminar will have regular readings, response papers, presentations, research reports, and group/individual projects. Comics Studies is open to Juniors and Seniors interested in the neurological synergy caused by images and words arranged in sequence. This course will stretch your critical thinking and visual analysis skills. No drawing experience is required for this course but students will be asked to take creative risks and communicate with image and text.
SEM340 Research Methods in Neuroscience
major elective | grades: 11, 12
Research Methods in Neuroscience will be a course that links neuroscience topics to the methodologies used by scientists in the field. Students will embark on a process of discovery that will allow them to explore how their brains create their world. Our work will have various interconnected components: a survey of neuroscience content, an exploration of research methodologies, a focus on technical writing, and laboratory investigations dedicated to understanding the brain. Throughout the year, lessons dedicated to topics in neuroscience will allow students to understand the cognitive processes that shape their worlds and connect these processes to the anatomy and physiology of the brain. Moreover, these topics will inspire students to further explore ideas which resonate with them as they design their own research project. The research phase of the course will engage students in methodologies used by scientists in the field. Furthermore, we will create a “journal club” where the students will present neuroscience journal articles to the rest of the class and lead discussions on these articles. We will also use these “journal club” classes to explore statistical methods used by neuroscientists. Lastly, we will conduct neuroscience labs so that students can connect the topics and methods we explore in the laboratory to their own work. The course will culminate with a formal research project, with both a write-up and a presentation of work.
SEM950 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 using different techniques such as the SEED model.
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.