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Upper School Interdisciplinary Studies

Interdisciplinary Studies courses are at the core of Durham Academy’s mission to prepare students to live moral, happy and productive lives. Through these courses, students can become expert researchers, entrepreneurs, leaders and teachers — while honing the soft skills that are so critical for life beyond Durham Academy and beyond college.

In interdisciplinary courses, students develop skills for understanding the world and solving problems by applying tools from multiple academic disciplines. This experience prepares them for the many pursuits outside academia that do not fall into disciplinary categories.

Many of these courses are project-based, empowering students to put their knowledge into action in meaningful ways — from leading seminars on sustainability topics and crafting personal mission statements, to helping real businesses solve problems and developing deep, one-to-one tutoring relationships with local elementary students.

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Upper School Interdisciplinary Studies Offerings

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Grade 9 Life Skills

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 day dedicated to physical activity.

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Problem-Solving for Real Businesses

Students work in teams to identify and solve REAL problems presented to them by a REAL local or global business. This is a great opportunity for résumé building, networking and gaining important life skills.

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The Mission-Driven Life

This course explores the contributing factors, competing theories and necessary interdependence of morality, happiness and productivity. It challenges students to reconsider, refine and recommit to personal values that matter. The ideas of Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Pauli Murray, Carol Gilligan and David Brooks will frame our study of morality.

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Developing Effective Leadership

This course is designed to equip future leaders with a fundamental understanding of what leadership is and how an individual can develop the necessary skills to become an effective leader as a key component of both individual and community growth.

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Digital Media and Publishing

This course is centered on the use of a variety of software for the purpose of creating a student-centered publication, the annual edition of the Evergreen. The goal of the Evergreen is to tell the story of the school year through pictures and text.

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ADV Community-Based Research

This course will provide students with the requisite foundation in research skills and community engagement. Students will learn the principles of service learning and design thinking as they deepen their critical consciousness about our local and global communities and partner with community leaders and organizations.

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ADV Pathway Scholars

This course will provide a structure for students to build and implement the projects they began in ADV Community-Based Research. Projects will be grounded in research, problem-solving, creative thinking, scholarship, and real-world application.

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Independent Study

“What do you want to learn?” When the answer falls outside of Durham Academy’s curriculum, an independent study opportunity provides support for student exploration. The student-designed course is comparable to standard courses in rigor, daily attention and volume of time invested (5-7 hours/week).

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Introduction to Sustainability: A Positive Future

Every day, we breathe, eat, drink and move about on Planet Earth. What natural systems and resources enable these essential functions of life? How are they being protected for future generations, and how are they being threatened? Which groups are most affected due to geography, race or poverty?

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ADV Sustainability

How can we identify actions that will truly improve sustainability? Why are communities of color disproportionately affected by climate change? Can student research propel institutional change? In this inquiry-based course, students expand their foundational knowledge of key aspects of climate change, environmental justice and biodiversity loss.

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In a course designed to prepare students for success in college economics courses, Economics introduces students to essential concepts with concise readings and video lessons.

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ADV Research

ADV Research is a fast-paced course that explores the complexities of real-world topics and issues by analyzing divergent perspectives. The goal is to provide students with the tools to evaluate information accurately and make compelling, evidence-based arguments.

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ADV Thesis

In Advanced Thesis, students cultivate the skills and discipline necessary to conduct academic, independent research of choice in order to produce and defend a scholarly academic paper.

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ADV Psychology

Psychology is a young and ever-evolving science. This course will cover a variety of psychology’s fundamental concepts and theories while also considering how our understanding changes with emerging data and recognition of individual differences; cultural, biological and social influences; and our perceptual biases.

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Senior Elective – Teaching Literacy Skills (Augustine Tutoring)

This course is a collaboration among Durham Academy Upper School, The Children’s Literacy Project (CLP) and Durham Public Schools. It combines three focus areas: a rigorous, systematic, multi-sensory, phonetic teaching approach to address language-related learning difficulties; a full-year, one-to-one tutoring relationship with a child at a local Durham elementary school; and outreach into the Durham community to address the needs of low-income, “at-risk” children who struggle with reading, writing and spelling.

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Jack Linger Explorer Grants (Summer Opportunity)

Current or rising 11th- or 12th-graders who wish to pursue unique, enriching, out-of-the-box learning experiences may apply for financial support in the form of a grant from the Jack Linger Explorers Fund. This fund was established by the Linger family in 2020 in memory of Jack Linger ’20, who rode his bicycle across the United States in search of new perspectives on the major issues facing our country, particularly climate change and the environment. He sought to cross literal and figurative divides as he listened to his fellow citizens. His goal was to develop informed opinions as he prepared to cast his first vote.

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