Interdisciplinary Studies

AP Seminar: Cross-Curricular Research

Wealth & Poverty, Immigration, Education, Diversity, Food, Identity ... Investigate real-world topics of your choosing from multiple perspectives. AP Seminar is a foundational research course that engages students in cross-curricular conversations that explore the complexities of real-world topics and issues by analyzing divergent perspectives. Students will consider a theme or issue of choice through a variety of lenses and from multiple perspectives, many of which are competing. Themes are selected based on student and teacher interest, and will be decided at the onset of the course. Students practice reading and analyzing articles, research studies, and foundational literary and philosophical texts; listening to and viewing speeches, broadcasts, and personal accounts; and experiencing artistic works and performances. Students learn to synthesize information from multiple sources, develop their own perspectives in written essays, and design and deliver oral and visual presentations, both individually and as part of a team. Ultimately, you will learn to collect and analyze information with accuracy and precision, develop arguments based on facts and effectively communicate them. 

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. Paired with digital media, the course will also involve learning about challenges and dilemmas encountered in the publishing experience. An introduction to the course begins with a short unit on media literacy to provide sensitivity to the use of Media as a means of persuasion. Basic journalism including note- taking, interviewing, and achieving a writing style while understanding such concepts as libel and slander provide the foundation for the writing portion of the course. But journalism is more than writing. It is also page design, photo and art direction, construction of the publication and an understanding of the publishing business. The students will learn programs such as InDesign, Photoshop, IMovie and Final Cut LE. Initially, the instructor will provide the groundwork for the understanding of InDesign and Photoshop. As the year progresses, students will be expected to become proficient in one area of the programs and be responsible for conveying that information to the rest of the class. Students will also be in involved in all aspects of the publishing process including maintaining deadline schedules, editing, and class support while reworking articles. Assessments will include student’s proficiency with the programs, quality of copy, digital imaging and overall layout design. 

Senior Elective – Teaching Literacy Skills (Augustine Tutoring)

This course is a collaboration among DA Upper School, The Augustine Literacy Project® (ALP) and Durham Public Schools. It combines three focus areas: A rigorous, systematic, multi-sensory, phonetic teaching approach to address language-related learning difficulties; a year-long, one-to-one tutoring relationship with a child at Hope Valley or Creekside 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. DA seniors will be taught how to tutor second graders using the Orton-Gillingham approach and the five essential components of research-based reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Tutors will develop an ongoing relationship during the academic year with their assigned Augustine child (to qualify as an Augustine child, students must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and below grade level in literacy skills). DA tutors will be expected to teach approximately three lessons a week at Hope Valley or Creekside, under the supervision of Augustine Project staff. In the remaining class periods at DA, students will construct lesson plans, reflect on their tutorial experiences, and discuss articles addressing child development, literacy, poverty and related topics. Students signing up for this course will represent Durham Academy to the larger Durham community through this direct and sustained tutoring/mentoring program. The course is taught by Augustine Project Executive Director, Lori Easterlin, and DA faculty member, Kelly Teagarden. Students are encouraged to consult with Ms. Easterlin and Ms. Teagarden concerning course availability and logistics. An application is required. Please note the class meets during “E” period to allow time for tutors to teach a 45 minute lesson and to drive to and from Hope Valley or Creekside Elementary School. 

Senior Elective – Peer Educators

Seniors taking this course will be trained to lead class discussions that seek to help ninth graders define themselves and their network of relationships and activities in the Durham Academy Upper School community. Seniors will be expected to develop an ongoing mentoring relationship during the academic year with their assigned Self and Community class. They will be expected to meet three times per 7-day rotation with their assigned class. During the remaining three class periods, seniors will meet with their teaching peers and the supervising teacher(s) to construct lesson plans on health and wellness issues, reflect on their teaching styles, and discuss leadership and personal development. 

Cavalier Capstone: The Mission-Driven Life

Durham Academy’s mission compels us to prepare young people for “moral, happy, productive lives.”

This course explores the contributing factors, competing theories and necessary interdependence of morality, happiness and productivity.

The ideas of Aristotle, Martin Luther King, Pauli Murray, David Brooks, and others will frame our study of morality. Readings and research from philosophy, religion and positive psychology will inform our next unit. Ben Franklin, Carol Dweck, and Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) will help us identify new paths to productivity.

Through videoconferencing and recorded speeches, we will enrich several discussions by sharing them with students from The American School in Switzerland (Lugano), The Experimental High School Affiliated with Beijing Normal University (China) and Student U (Durham).

In addition to those cross-cultural conversations and the lessons drawn from books, articles, films, guest speakers, TED talks and podcasts, we will activate our learning through debates, field trips and shared meals. Each student will leave this course with a coherent and personalized mission statement. 

Peer Tutoring

Juniors and seniors taking this course will work with faculty to develop lesson plans and teach the ninth-grade Student Skills course.

The students taking this course will be expected to develop an ongoing mentoring relationship during the semester with their assigned Student Skills classes. They will be expected to meet three times per seven-day rotation with their assigned classes and at least once per rotation with faculty to review lesson plans and outlines. 

Engaging with Durham - Creating Solutions for Complex Issues

DA prides itself on its deep connections to the Durham community. This course considers some of the complex, hard-to-solve issues in this area DA calls home. Who is Durham? For whom does Durham work? Where is Durham headed? What obstacles does it face on that journey, and can they be overcome? Topics continue beyond "History of Durham" into current events impacting Durham.

Students will explore these questions through readings, discussions, field trips and speakers. We will visit Durham as a class, engaging in community service and learning about the nuances of taking action in your community. Students will learn how to conduct a sensitive and effective interview, and apply these skills during class presentations and site visits. Throughout the semester, students will work on independent research projects that will culminate with a presentation or work submitted for publication. (Documentary, poster session, journal / newspaper / magazine submission, oral presentation, etc. ...) Topics may include, but are certainly not limited to: literacy, education, public policy, gerrymandering, gentrification, legal justice, public health, and immigration issues within the Triangle. 

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