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Upper School Curriculum

  • Interdisciplinary Studies
Grade 9 Life Skills
Grade: 9

Grade 9 Life Skills is not a diploma requirement, but all ninth-grade students will automatically be enrolled in the Grade 9 Life Skills course, which consists of four components: a Technology and Sustainability rotation; a Self and Community module; the Health, Wellness and First Aid seminar; and an optional component dedicated to physical activity.

Self and Community: The goal of Self and Community is to help ninth graders consider and discuss topics that are often encountered during their high school experience. Topics include: values, identity, decision-making, stress awareness and management, resilience, body image, social media, drugs and alcohol, healthy relationships, sexual health, mental health and wellness. The course is taught by 12th-grade Peer Educator mentors who work closely with the Upper School counselor, Dean of Students and additional faculty mentors to develop and execute research-based lesson plans.

Technology Seminar (first semester): Students will gain an exposure to the many digital tools used by teachers, administrators, coaches,and staff at DA, including but not limited to cloud technology, collaborative document sharing, digital multimedia presentation and collaborative presentation tools, school and student information systems (currently Veracross) and others. The course also focuses on the ever-emerging ethical and social issues that are increasingly becoming an inherent part of students’ lives, specifically information privacy and protection, big data and artificial intelligence. The course aspires to provide students with the skills to remain engaged and competitive in emerging models of a digital classroom. The course is structured as a portfolio exercise and concludes with a test. Successful completion of technology seminar exempts students from the required technology course half credit for graduation and allows students to earn administrative privileges on their DA-issued laptop.

Living Sustainably (second semester): This class prepares students for active membership in a community that is working to reduce its carbon footprint and become more sustainable. The class explores the grounds, buildings and practices of Durham Academy as an institution and leads the school-wide Earth Day observance. Individually, students learn to recognize the choices that contribute to their own carbon footprint and expand their repertoire of ways to reduce it.

Health & Wellness Seminar: This course will focus on the physical, social, emotional, spiritual and psychological well-being of our students to best prepare for life in the Upper School and beyond. It is important for students to learn how to balance their academics, athletics and social commitments using appropriate tools to manage their mental health, nutrition and physical fitness. The content learned in this course — which includes topics in sexual health education — will often coincide with the Peer Education/Self and Community course curriculum for practical application of the material. The content covered in this course will come from factual and anecdotal information.

Physical Activity: The optional physical education component of this course provides students with an understanding of fitness as it relates to physical well-being. Emphasis is placed on refining motor skills and developing healthy habits. Students will participate in individual fitness testing programs and learn the skills, strategies and rules necessary to participate in and enjoy a variety of leisure and physical activities in order to maintain lifelong health and well-being.

  • Grade 9