(Grades 10 - 12)
As students enter the Upper School, they are prepared to dive into more advanced courses and to follow their passions. Their strength as learners allows their choices to multiply.
Students can choose from an array of electives in all areas of study. Those with a passion for science can pursue advanced, second-year courses in biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as organic chemistry, ecosystem dynamics, and advanced anatomy and physiology. Math offerings include calculus, statistics, computer science, and an advanced topics course, which includes Euclidean Geometry and linear algebra. An abundance of choices beckons in the humanities as well: English courses are organized according to topics, such as “The Comedic Tradition” and “Literature of the American West.” Options in history include international relations, Latin American history, and introduction to world religions. Modern language courses can be pursued through a fifth year of study, and artists can explore studio art, sculpture, art history, and film.
The Honor System shapes open, trusting relationships that create an environment where learning flourishes. The Upper School’s advisory system bolsters the sense of a close-knit community.
The Senior Speech is the culmination of a journey in learning to speak with poise and confidence. Every senior experiences a sense of accomplishment in completing this rite of passage, one that offers preparation for college and beyond.
International travel is about much more than seeing the world. Our programs offer opportunities to learn languages, provide service (with our community partners), and understand the nuances of leadership.
An innovative, three-week program that caps the sophomore and junior year, Maymester offers an expansive array of experiential learning, internships, and international travel opportunities. Through exploration, students discover new interests.
This pioneering program prepares students to become principled civic leaders through a combination of research and experiential learning in five areas of study. Students gain critical skills necessary to effect real change in the world.
Students and young alumni pursue genuine interests through a wide array of summer internships, offering professional experience that prepares students for college and careers.
Wins by students in the annual Student-Faculty Joy Fund Basketball game.
Outside speakers who spoke to Upper School last year
Animals in Dr. Affronti's classroom
Annual consumption of donuts during Senior Donuts (every Thursday)
Representatives on the Honor Council
Upper School courses
The Senior Speech, a final challenge before each senior heads to college, is a tradition that is at once a capstone and a celebration of each student’s accomplishment at public speaking. Senior speeches are delivered at Chapel, a 15-minute mid-morning assembly. While the creative process echoes the 9th grade speech, seniors take the helm as the stages unfold, leaning on their faculty advisors mainly for advice and encouragement, rather than for direction. For seniors, delivery of the Senior Speech is a highlight of the year, one that gives them an enduring sense of assurance.
Traditions are part of the fun at a school founded in 1728. Some of our favorites in the Upper School include the buddy program matching seniors with first graders; they share reading time, ice cream socials, and more. The Joy Fund basketball game, a charitable fundraiser of faculty vs. student teams, brings everyone out to cheer. Seniors, as the oldest in the school, have an array of traditions just for them, including donuts every Thursday and a trip to Washington DC. Spirit week, Homecoming, dances, the Tunstall Olympiad...the list goes on!
Upper School students pursue courses in a 90-minute block schedule, with eight periods rotating over two days. This approach has tremendous benefits for in-depth investigation; science labs and projects can be pursued at a pace that allows for authentic exploration, and discussions unfold with time for reflection. Many students include a 90-minute study hall as part of their schedule. They may also choose to participate in band, orchestra, or chorus--which rehearse during the academic day--or decide to take an elective course.
Norfolk Academy students are busy, so many preserve a period in the eight-period rotation as a time for academic work, where they can head to the Batten Library for a quiet place to study, research, and write; meet with a teacher for individual help; or collaborate with classmates on a group project. Other students use the time for artistic expression, such as taking a music lesson, taking photos for the yearbook, or completing a painting or sculpture. Students may opt to take an elective course during this time. Every student has that choice!
The Upper School’s activities bell, known in Upper School as “H” bell due to its place in the eight-period rotation, is a time of high energy, idea generation, and plenty of laughter. Students organize meetings of clubs, academic teams, and literary publications.
At NA, clubs are proposed by students who are passionate about a cause. While many clubs have a long history at the school, such as The Happy Club (supporting Operation Smile) and NA Monogram, the array of clubs varies each year. Competitive academic teams, such as NA Robotics, Worldquest, and TEAMS (Engineering), often gather during H Bell to prep for upcoming events. Writers and editors work on publications like The Belfry (Upper School newspaper), and Rings, Strings, & Other Things (literary magazine).
Every Upper School student gets to choose an advisor--a faculty member who serves as a mentor, academic counselor, and cheerleader. The group of students advised by the faculty member form a unique kind of team, as the “advisory group” serves a supportive group of friends. In addition to regular meetings, students and their faculty advisor sit together at lunch 2-3 times a week, sharing stories, jokes, and even lunchtime traditions.
The Batten Library, which serves both Middle and Upper School, is a hub of activity. Students research their 9th Grade and Seniors speeches or class projects; anchors themselves at tables for some intense studying; peruse the shelves for a free reading selection; or gather for a chat with friends. The College Counseling Center is downstairs.
The school calendar features an array of days where upbeat, community-building activities create a fresh environment for learning. The Tunstall Olympiad starts the year with entire Upper School involved in team competitions, from Quiz Bowl to Karaoke. The annual Multicultural Day, organized by students in the UNITID Club, offers learning that shapes empathetic students who are prepared to be global citizens. Fine Arts Festival Day is an explosion of arts activities, involving every student in workshops covering music, art, dance, and more.
For most Upper School students, the school day doesn’t end at 3:15. Nearly all students choose to stay on campus until hours later, as they participate in the school’s abundant array of athletic teams and arts opportunities. The sound of game announcers at Wynne-Darden stadium wafts across the fields, and students on the NA-TV team are providing minute-by-minute commentary for hundreds of fans who stream the games on laptops and phones. The dance team is working up a sweat in the dance studios, and students are rehearsing for plays or the Winter Musical in the Johnson Theater. Across the campus, everyone is in action!