Ask Pine Crest Upper School students about what it is like here, and they will often say "it is cool to be smart at Pine Crest." Students and faculty thrive in an academically rigorous, supportive environment where they have the freedom to explore their academic and extracurricular interests on a deep level.
Beginning in ninth grade, students may choose from regular and honors courses, more than 30 Advanced Placement (AP), and several Post-AP Seminar courses. As students progress through to the twelfth grade, they have increasing opportunities to create a schedule that best matches their ability and interests, with room to explore new courses and activities as well.
Academics are complemented by clubs, Fine Arts, and Athletics, with many students going on to pursue extracurricular, artistic, and athletic interests at the collegiate level.
Upper School students graduate from Pine Crest intellectually curious and stimulated, emotionally intelligent, and prepared to change the world.
The Pine Crest Upper School English curriculum fosters the development of accomplished readers, writers, and thinkers in collaborative settings that encourage student-centered learning. Throughout their career at Pine Crest, students read both fiction and non-fiction from a variety of world cultures and are encouraged to consider ideas and issues from a global perspective.
Department offerings provide an environment for lively discussions in which students analyze challenging literature and articulate their thoughts with confidence. All classes incorporate the use of technology and project-based learning including internet-based research, PowerPoint and Google Slides for presentations, podcasts, Google Docs, production of live TEDx Talks, and PSAT, SAT, and Advanced Placement (AP) preparations. Students who satisfy department prerequisites may elect to take honors, AP, or post-AP courses.
The student-centered nature of Pine Crest’s English classrooms is most evident during Harkness discussions, which are Socratic circles led by students and moderated by the teacher. These discussions are given structure through procedural rules that require each student to ask an essential question about a text, explicate a textual passage, and make text-to-self as well as text-to-world connections.
At its core, mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships. Its elegance stems from fundamental arithmetic principles and extends logically to more complex investigations of real-world phenomena. The department aims to inspire its students with an appreciation for mathematical analysis. The curriculum builds both vertically in terms of skills, and horizontally in terms of applications. Using a variety of pedagogical approaches that merge time-tested methods with modern technological enhancements, Pine Crest Upper School math faculty provide an effective learning experience. Students gradually acquire the skills and intuition necessary to solve problems, analyze data, manipulate graphs, and reason abstractly. Ultimately, students graduate from the math program with proficiency, creativity, and confidence that extend far beyond the boundaries of mathematics. Math teachers at Pine Crest intentionally foster a safe, encouraging, and supportive environment for student exploration and inquiry, where students are encouraged to persist and embrace challenge and develop their ability to solve novel problems.
Computer science courses in the Upper School are sequential in design, allowing students to progress from fundamentals to advanced theory-based topics. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through the study of data abstraction and organization, algorithms, and object-oriented programming. Computer science offerings at Pine Crest include: Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles, AP Computer Science A, Data Structures and Algorithms (Post-AP), and Operating Systems (Post-AP).
Three years of laboratory sciences — physics, chemistry, and biology — are required for graduation from the Upper School. Physics provides the basis for understanding the laws of nature. At Pine Crest, the physics requirement is fulfilled in the eighth grade. Chemistry explains how those laws influence matter. Biology, the third course in the sequence, provides the context for applying acquired understanding of the core concepts of physics and chemistry to life processes.
Unique to the Pine Crest Upper School is the Science Research program. The program offers selected Upper School students an opportunity to pursue group and independent science research projects over the course of three years. Science research students spend one dedicated class period daily, guided by Pine Crest's Science Department Chair, which is often supplemented with university-based laboratory work and summer science research programs. Over the past several years, students have focused their research on a variety of topics, including biology, chemistry, engineering, math, medicine, psychology, and more.
Pine Crest's Social Science and Humanities Department promotes an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society and challenges students to understand economic, geographical, political, and social themes of the world in which they will become leaders.
Three and one-half (3.5) social science credits at the Upper School level are required for graduation: Great Decisions is a one-half (.5) credit course, which is required for all freshmen or students who transfer to upper classes. A global history, United States history, and one other social science elective make up the remaining three required credits.
In an age of global interdependence, the World Languages Department believes that proficiency in another language is the initial step in learning about other cultures and acquiring a broader world view. In acquiring another language, students learn to be accurate, apply self-discipline, and use memory and reasoning, all of which will help them to think logically and analytically throughout their lives. All language courses offered by the Department embrace the four areas of language learning: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking (RWLS). Pine Crest offers Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish. Three world language credits, taken in the same language at the Upper School level, are required for graduation.
Students who are new to Pine Crest are required to take a language placement test. Based upon this evaluation and teacher recommendations, the academic dean and members of the World Languages Department will advise students on appropriate course selection.
The cornerstone of the Pine Crest academic experience is that within a challenging curriculum, an infusion of the arts is inherent throughout. This difference makes a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every student, placing a high value on learning through fun, imagination, and inspiration. Beyond aesthetic appreciation, the arts teach students to be open-minded, allow for creative self-expression, promote individuality, bolster self-confidence, and instill a drive for excellence — all skills needed to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
DANCE The dance department at Pine Crest complements the School’s mission by providing an opportunity to study dance for pleasure and to satisfy either the physical education or the Fine Arts requirement for graduation. In our daily technique classes in ballet and contemporary dance, students practice various types of dance. Academically, students are assessed on various criteria, including vocabulary, choreography, dance history, kinesiology, and dance theory.
DIGITAL MEDIA Students learn hands-on skills that transcend the typical classroom experience. All work is completed in a state-of-the-art, high definition, digital broadcast studio and post-production facility. This elective course focuses on the basics of broadcast journalism and film production: camera operation, editing, writing, journalistic ethics and studio equipment operation. In addition, the curriculum includes components of publishing with digital portfolios, developing a resume, use of professional websites, content management systems, and social media development.
The Pine Crest Upper School music program offers students a variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles and courses. Interested students are encouraged to participate in large ensemble groups such as Upper School chorus, honors chorus, women’s chorus, men’s chorus, symphonic band, honors jazz ensemble, orchestra, and honors orchestra. In addition to these large collaborative performing groups, students may enroll in private music lessons or classes such as music theory and Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory.
Theater offerings instill the confidence that comes with being able to present oneself effectively to any audience. In class, students practice the basics of movement and vocal production, pantomime and improvisation, theatre terminology, script elements, technical theater and design, and theater production.
VISUAL ARTS Pine Crest Upper School offers a strong college preparatory program in 2- and 3-dimensional art. Our program models traditional visual arts instruction based on the elements and principles of design. Students are exposed to a variety of technique and media. Through hands-on learning, students are introduced to tools and equipment on a continuum from basic to complex. We value traditional art forms such as drawing, painting, sculpting, and ceramics and equip our students with a solid foundation in the basics, as well as advanced technological applications.
Physical education provides opportunities for instruction and participation in physical activity, and opportunities to integrate related knowledge impacting health and human performance.
One half-credit (.5) of performance training with a health component is required in the freshman year. In the health component, students will address major health concerns facing teenagers. Instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of the automated external defibrillator (AED) may be included. Coursework will include written assessments and presentations.
In all performance training classes, students are introduced to proper weight training techniques in personal fitness and strength training programs. Students without experience in this area are introduced to the development and maintenance of muscular strength and muscular endurance. Safety rules are reviewed, which include students' dress, machine use, free weight use, and spotting techniques. Students learn how progressive exercise encourages more efficient and effective movement, how common injuries may be prevented, and illnesses, such as osteoporosis, may be avoided.
Pine Crest Upper School students Danna Martinez ’20 and Josh Vlessing ’20 entered the APA PsycShort Video Festival and Competition with a short film titled "Flow Theory." Twelve videos were selected as contest winners, including “Flow Theory!”