The Program | Academics

W20 Academics OV Rv1Our students win many team and individual state and national competitions, and they attend some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the country. But what we are most proud of is the wide range of passions our students explore and pursue, and how they carry those interests forward in their lives. Students matriculate from Seattle Academy with a breadth and depth of learning and a complete set of 21st century skills, and that preparation and confidence leads them into successes in all career fields.  We’re proud to have a learning environment in which students try many new things and often excel in areas in which they had no prior experience or perhaps even interest before they entered Seattle Academy.

Adolescents have inquiring minds, and this an exciting time when they are testing their limits and forging their identities. That’s why we provide a curriculum that—in addition to a traditional college preparatory education—includes classes such as Innovations, Micro and Macro Economics, Mandarin Chinese, Computer Programming, Speech and Debate, and countless other engaging subjects. Students try new things, building upon and integrating the knowledge they’ve already gained, and all students explore Visual and Performing Arts by earning credits in dance, music, theatre, visual, and media arts. Our graduation requirements are as rigorous as they are diverse and experimental…and fun.

Our forward-looking library is a “Learning Commons,” a multi-functional space that facilitates studying, researching, meeting, creating, collaborating, and sharing of final student projects. It offers a physical and virtual access point to all formats of information and digital resources. We see our Learning Commons as a Knowledge Makerspace—a place in which students compile and assimilate information into new knowledge—and our librarian assists students and faculty with those activities.

For more information regarding course requirements, after-school activities, or sample schedules, please click here.

Curriculum by Grade Level

Curriculum by Department

W20 Academics OV2 Rv2College advising begins for students and families in ninth grade and builds appropriately to the junior and senior years. In all grades, full-time learning specialists, language and study skills tutors, and counselors are available to help students succeed. Seattle Academy’s student-teacher ratio is 6 to 1, which allows us to emphasize taking academic and creative risks. We believe this gives our students the self-confidence, initiative, and responsibility to be successful in the 21st century.

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The Program | Academics

Seattle Academy’s English courses focus on developing a student’s core communication skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. We teach the art of reading, both as an analytical skill and as a way to appreciate the artistry of the world’s great literature. In our writing instruction for all modes of writing—whether personal or expository essays, poetry, or critical analysis—we teach students to take a position, communicate an idea, and engage the reader. Finally, “performing knowledge” is vital to developing confidence and character, so presentations are an important component of our program.

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While our Middle School program lays the foundation for English skills, Upper School English stresses writing. Clear writing is clear thinking, and students hone their skills and develop their voices through a variety of assignments and courses, including dedicated poetry and playwriting classes. Students routinely write personal essays, position papers, online forum discussion entries, and extended critical essays. The writing goals of understanding one’s audience and crafting a persuasive argument are also integrated and reinforced in many other subject areas at Seattle Academy, from Rhetoric and the Arts to scientific writing. (Writing from recent alumni has been featured in The Atlantic, The New York Times, GQ, as speechwriting for a major political figure, on National Public Radio, and in many other publications.)

Senior-year English classes are all single-term elective choices. Recent course topics include: Poetry Writing; Young Playwrights (in association with ACT Theater); Everyone’s a Critic; Loving the Alien: Science Fiction and Dystopic Literature; Shakespeare; The Wisdom of the Exile; Magical Realism; American Poetry Seminar; Love and its Vicissitudes; Satire and Popular Culture; Urban Landscapes; Business & Social Innovations; and others (classes offered at honors and regular levels).

The Program | Academics

A fundamental belief of the history department is that individual values are created by and exist in an historical context. To understand both the past and the present, one needs to understand the history that has shaped the individual, national, and cultural values.

History courses emphasize research and analysis, and the ability to develop, articulate, and defend a thesis. These tools enable students to develop an understanding of major historical causes and effects, and enable them to understand their place as active members of their own society. The goals of the history department are reinforced by other school programs, such as Youth In Government, Mock Trial, and several clubs and civic programs.

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Senior-year history classes are all single-term elective choices. Course topics include: Economics (Micro & Macro). Modern European History, World Religions, Cultural Anthropology, American Government, Contemporary European History, Modern Russia, Ethics, Comparative Philosophy, Business Innovations & Social Innovations, and others (classes offered at honors and regular levels).

6th Grade – Ancient Civilizations
7th Grade – American Studies
8th Grade – Global Systems
9th Grade – Roots of Western Civilization
10th Grade – Modern World History
11th Grade – Survey of American History / American Studies
12th Grade – Multiple Elective Classes

The Program | Academics

The Mathematics Department strives to ensure that all students are well prepared for college and beyond by providing the knowledge and skills to understand and function well in our world from a quantitative perspective. Specific skills include problem-solving processes, synthesizing concepts, understanding math concepts in other disciplines, and communicating solutions using the language of mathematics. Students in all math classes apply their knowledge in computer programming challenges and through hands-on activities.

Middle School: The 6th grade curriculum uses multiple problem-solving activities and technologies to engage students in building a solid understanding of number skills and number theory. Students in 7th and 8th grades continue to develop their quantitative literacy with the essential concepts of Algebra and Geometry, which will be cornerstones of the Upper School math courses.

Upper School: Most students take four years of high school math; many take Calculus I and Calculus II. Electives include courses in Statistics, Computer Programming, and others. Real-world and hands-on applications are included in the curriculum, and students integrate their math skills into their other school subjects.

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The Program | Academics

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At Seattle Academy, students engage in active scientific inquiry in labs, using lab and field equipment and materials, and using the resources of computer technology. Students demonstrate their learning in ways modeled on professional science such as lab notebooks (physical and/or electronic), formal science papers, poster sessions, and presentations of experiments and engineering designs before an audience of peers and/or professionals.

Foundational skills for all classes include key scientific practices such as asking testable questions, data presentation and analysis, developing and using models, and engaging in argument from evidence.

In their courses, all students:

  • use scientific reasoning
  • communicate their scientific work
  • learn and apply technology skills to science
  • demonstrate an understanding of scientific ethics and integrity

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Junior and Seniors can take single-term elective classes, in addition to the year-long Biology and Physics courses. Elective topics include: Advanced Chemistry, Biotechnology, Robotics, Marine Science, Materials Science, Field Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Evolution, and others (classes offered at honors and regular level).

6th Grade – Science Matters: Physical Science
7th Grade – Environmental Sciences
8th Grade – Human Biology
9th Grade – Scientific Investigations
10th Grade – Chemistry
11th Grade – Biology & Electives
12th Grade – Physics & Electives

The Program | Academics
Foreign Language

W25 ForLang1 Rv2The Foreign Language department is committed to preparing students to participate effectively in modern society through a demanding college preparatory foreign language sequence that emphasized communication and a global perspective.

  • In 6thand 7th grade, Latin fosters discipline, attention to nuances, and linguistic awareness, invaluable for both for foreign language study and a better understanding of the grammatical and lexical nature of English.
  • In grades 8-12, we offer French, Spanish, and Mandarin, from beginning to advanced levels.

In our immersion-style curriculum, students are expected to speak exclusively in the target language, with the ultimate goal of gaining proficiency in speaking, writing, listening and writing.  The study of Foreign Language, while facilitating the acquisition of a communicative tool, fosters intellectual curiosity, multicultural awareness, and a global perspective through literature, art, film, newspapers and other media.

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Our academic classes are enhanced by clubs and by regular foreign travel trips. Countries include France, China, Greece, India, Italy, Vietnam, and Zambia.


The Program | Academics
Physical Education

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PE electives in the Upper School include Yoga, Strength and Conditioning, Cardio Training, and Games. Student can also earn their PE credits through athletics and outside team or class activities.

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The Physical Education Department assists all students in becoming physically fit for life, developing pro-social behavior, improving decision-making skills, developing creative problem-solving skills, learning the joy of physical activity and fitness, and learning how and where to access a wide variety of physical activities in and around Seattle. Through a variety of fun and challenging daily activities and games, students develop and maintain a high level of fitness.

Middle School students have a fun and fully-active PE class every day! At Seattle Academy, we believe that Physical Education is a key part of a good daily Education for all adolescents.

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The Program | Academics
Learning Support

Seattle Academy’s Learning Support program seeks to prepare students with diverse learning needs for college and life. The program promotes assistance that is structured to teach students to succeed in a rigorous academic environment and that also helps them achieve independence. Students are coached to generalize and transfer skills and concepts in multiple disciplines. Support is structured to help students learn to build on strengths and compensate for deficits so that they can compete and contribute both in and out of the classroom.W20 Academics OV

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Learning Support exists in many forms at Seattle Academy. First of all, support exists for all students, for we believe that if you never need support from an expert teacher, coach, or artistic director, then you are not really being stretched! Students may also enroll in small-group classes that offer more intensive study skills instruction.

Learning is a collaborative process. The Learning Support program helps students overcome difficulties and develop the skills and concepts they need in any subject area, through their own efforts and in collaboration with teachers, peers, parents, and support resources.

The Program | Academics

Seattle Academy’s Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship answers the question, “What’s the best way to prepare students for college and for life?” We offer courses in Business Innovation, Social Innovation, and Arts Innovation; and Innovation is integrated as a theme throughout the curriculum in Robotics, Programming, and in many other courses (Middle and Upper School) that challenge students to design class assignments to target specific needs and audiences.

In our Innovations courses, students are handed specific problems brought into the classroom by leaders of local non-profit and for-profit businesses. Teams of students then employ Design-Thinking skills, Prototype an array of options in a Project-Based environment, and formally present their solutions to the business leaders who return to gather the creative output.

Our Innovations partnerships advance the true purpose of education: preparing students to solve the real problems of the world by giving them real-world problems to solve.

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The Program | Academics
Programming & Computational Thinking

In 1998, Seattle Academy was one of the first schools in the nation to institute a one-to-one high school laptop program. We always have been and continue to be fully committed to exploring and utilizing the full benefits of teaching and learning with technology.

All SAAS students develop “LITERACY” with programming languages in their classes, and those with curiosity or passion can progress towards “MASTERY” in classes, clubs, and guided independent study projects.

Students seeking mastery in the Middle School can: take a Programming/Computational Thinking class; join the Middle School Robotics Club; join the Maker Club; take an after-school programming class at SAAS. In the Upper School, students can: take Software Development elective classes (108 students enrolled in 8 sections in 2014-15); take a Design & Technology coding classes; join Upper School Robotics, both as a class and as clubs (3 teams); arrange Independent Studies with faculty or the five-person Technology Department. New options are always emerging!


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Meanwhile, all students learn the fundamentals of Computational Thinking and Programming skills. In the Middle School that includes Hour(s) of Code; course units on computer science history and designing the ideal laptop for the classroom; and the reinforcement of computational thinking in various subjects. In the Upper School: Hour(s) of Code; 9th Science curriculum includes programming with emphasis on modeling and experimental design; Spreadsheet use (computational thinking and graphic expression)

We have found, in this field as in others, students can be introduced to Programming in a standard class, catch “a bug” for it, and then launch into one of the many pathways at school to pursue mastery and preparation for a college major and/or career.

Over 15 teachers (plus all math teachers) and 250+ students are currently involved in Designing and Building Things. We compete, collaborate, and have lots of fun creatively learning and doing—preparing for the present and the future!

The Program | Academics
College Advising

Seattle Academy’s College Advising department provides a structured, highly-individualized college search process. As a result, 100% of Seattle Academy’s college applicants gain admission to colleges and universities around the country and the world.

Ninth and tenth grade families are welcome to attend college-related information sessions (on college financing, college athletics, and so on), while our messages to 9th and 10th grade students emphasize the balance between attention to curricular and extra-curricular pursuits and receiving accurate information about the process that lies ahead. College advising naturally becomes highly formalized for students during their junior and senior years.

The school’s four-person College Advising staff provides students and families with both an informed perspective and a clear and humane college-advising process that helps students find the right destinations for them. Ultimately, the Seattle Academy program—especially its Culture of Performance, its four Program Areas, and its engagement with communities beyond our campus—equips all students with considerable academic and extra-curricular strengths that are highly appealing to colleges.