Upper School Course Catalog
The Tunstall Division features more than 120 semester and yearlong courses, offering each student the opportunity to be the architect of their academic journey through the Upper School. Committed to the principles of academic freedom, and in accordance with our philosophy and objectives, our faculty develop course content so that students and teachers alike will be stimulated to continue to teach, learn and explore, to think practically and creatively, and to move toward understanding and wisdom. Though not noted as such, all core curriculum offerings are designed to be of Honors quality (or higher) in content and rigor. While we choose not to offer an Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum, our Upper School students take nearly 300 exams each May, and more than 80% earn a score of 3 or higher. Norfolk Academy’s demanding curriculum and high standards ensure that students are well-prepared for the academic demands of the nation’s most selective institutions of higher learning. Following graduation, 100% of our seniors matriculate at a four-year college or university, continuing Norfolk Academy’s tradition of academic excellence both on campus and beyond.
- Fine Arts
- History and Social Science
- World Languages
- Graduation Requirements
In their sophomore year of English, students delve into seminal works from the British and American literary traditions. The course introduces students to great works and examines major authors from a range of periods: Medieval, Renaissance, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Romantic, and Modern. Core texts include British works such as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as well as American works such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The curriculum includes a substantial amount of writing, primarily critical essays designed to focus perceptions of the literature, including a research paper that explores the thematic connections between Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and either Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein. The course promotes intellectual and moral growth by fostering growing sophistication in abilities to explore material, read perceptively, and to think, write, and speak clearly.
- American Drama
- American Gothic: From Poe to King
- Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Literature: A New Tradition Takes Shape (Advanced)
- Asian and Middle Eastern Literature
- The Comedic Tradition
- Contemporary American Poetry
- Creative Writing: Native American and African Writers (Advanced)
- Literature of the American West (Advanced)
- Narrative Journalism (Advanced)
- Philosophical Literature (Advanced)
- "Self/Service": Edges of Obligation in Literature (Advanced)
- Shakespeare and Leadership (Advanced)
- Short Fiction
In order to understand American theater history as a significant part of modern American cultural history, we will explore the ways in which theater and performance have contributed to the construction and deconstruction of an American identity. Through plays such as The Crucible, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Angels in America, this course will examine the broad social, political, religious, and cultural contexts in which American theater and performance takes place. Students will develop a vocabulary of key terms for viewing, reading, and reviewing performances and learn to identify and analyze theatrical and literary devices employed in plays and productions.
This course will survey American horror literature, exploring in particular the religious, psychological, philosophical, socio-political, and environmental forces that shaped the particular preoccupations of American writers in this genre. Students will analyze a variety of important horror texts to include works by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, Cormac McCarthy, and Stephen King with an eye toward close analysis of the texts and assessment of the past and present significance of this literature to American culture.
This course will explore several early works from the first 600 years of what eventually will become “The English Tradition.” Starting with the most significant work from the Anglo-Saxon Period, Beowulf, the course will trace the development of a distinctly British perspective on the craft of story-telling as we discuss how the stories we tell reflect the culture of the times, and the heroes we are compelled to yearn for demonstrate all that is good and, unfortunately, bad in human nature throughout the ages. Considerable time will be spent exploring the most significant story-cycle in British literature, the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. We will explore life and culture in the Middle Ages with the first major poet in the English language, Geoffrey Chaucer, as we engage with his thirty pilgrims on their journey to Canterbury. Along the way, we will also have the opportunity to observe the growth and development of a new language that will eventually have significant influence on the world stage. The course will also devote some time to examining Dante’s The Inferno, though not of the English tradition, a medieval work that greatly influenced writers throughout Western Civilization to this very day.
This course will examine the complexities of what it means to “exit the Western tradition” (borrowing phrasing from Mohsin Hamid) and explore mostly contemporary texts from the Middle East and from Asia including works such as Night by Eli Wiesel, the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Herman Hesse’s Siddartha. Some of these works contemplate how characters and their authors have tried to negotiate an American identity with a history in either the Middle East or Asia, and some of these works more completely engage other regions and identities. Our analysis of these texts will be informed by historical and cultural scholarship, and we will read and write a great deal in a variety of forms.
Audiences and readers gravitate to comedy for the joy that laughter provides. But playwrights, authors, and comedians from ancient times to modernity have employed comedy for social and political purposes as well: to subvert power structures, to assert independence, and to explore issues of identity, both personal and collective. This class will incorporate works such as Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in order to study humor in its various forms, including slapstick, farce, satire, mistaken identity, wit, tragicomedy, observation, and self-deprecation. Students will come to understand how what makes us laugh can also make us rethink our lives and the world we inhabit.
In this course we will study the movements, trends, schools, and themes present in contemporary American poetry of the last 50 years. Through the close reading of individual poems, students will explore the preoccupations, methods, and innovations of practicing poets and will consider how their works situate themselves in relation to larger critical concerns: biographical, cultural, and political. Readings will reflect the diversity of writers working in today’s market and will include in-depth study of recent publications by Charles Wright, Dave Smith, Sharon Olds, and Ellen Bryant Voigt. Work will consist of both creative and traditional critical responses to poems as well as reflective and speculative journaling on the current and future state of the poetic landscape in America.
Do you love to write and feel like moving your writing off the beaten path? This creative writing course allows you to take a detour from analysis and wander along the curving byways of the imagination, writing (and revising) personal essays, short stories, and poetry. We will start with exercises and move to full-length creative pieces, so you don’t need to fancy yourself a budding author to take this course. We will study (and use as models) works of literature written by Native American and African American authors, two groups that had to fight their way into the American literary mainstream, despite being integral to shaping our nation. How did the arrival of “colonists” disrupt, even shatter, the culture of Native Americans? How do modern (20th century onward) African American writers use the suffering of slavery and segregation to shape a powerful, explosive narrative? These questions, and others, will frame our discussion of writers that may be new to you, like James Baldwin, Sherman Alexie, Claudia Rankine, and August Wilson. With their fresh and provocative perspective on America, these writers will inspire you to find your own distinctive voice to tell your stories!
Go West, young Bulldogs! This course examines the literary tradition of the American West and its contemporary manifestations. Core to the course is the belief that the West is characterized by frontier mythology, vast distances, marked aridity, and unique political and economic characteristics. To this end, we will examine themes fundamental to understanding the region, such as: time, geography, water, peoples, and boom and bust cycles through works including Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon.
In the 1960s, several American journalists—Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe most notably—pioneered what became a new style of nonfiction writing for newspapers and magazines; literary journalism, now also called narrative journalism, combined the factual reporting with the storytelling techniques of fiction to create absolutely riveting articles and books. Participants in this course will read works of some of these pioneering writers, including John McPhee, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Rachel Carson, as well as more contemporary writers like Samantha Power and Nicholas Kristof. Students will also gain experience in reporting, researching, and writing nonfiction; they will learn creative techniques that make nonfiction compelling, even as writers adhere to factual accuracy; and they will explore the ethical issues facing journalists today in a rapidly changing media landscape.
In this course we will consider the ways that literature has registered and furthered some of the most inviting and challenging questions ever posed by philosophers. Our course will begin with a study of ethics, the most applied and perhaps most practical branch of philosophy, and then continue to think about issues of justice, consciousness, metaphysics, and truth. Major thinkers to be considered alongside our readings will be Plato, Kant, Spinoza, Hume, Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre, Arendt, and many others. Shorter works by writers such as Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Borges, Beckett, and others will supplement our literary works. If time allows, films such as Waking Life and The Examined Life will also further illuminate our work with these complex ideas. Many written assignments will help students grapple with our literary texts as well as with the profound questions of philosophy.
At the center of this course is a question that’s both practical and philosophical: What is our obligation to serve the society we inhabit, and what should be the limits of that obligation? Students will soon discover fundamental differences in how members of disparate cultures regard a person’s place in society and the relative significance of a human life. This course will expand students’ historical and cultural understanding of values like purpose and duty, freedom and country and will include works such as The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Prima Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz (If This is a Man). If history teaches that human existence should not merely be a means of serving institutions with their own agendas, and independence matters more than conformity, what are the dangers of seeking personal fulfillment, and how should collective needs factor into a person’s life decisions?
Leadership is an elusive, even vexing concept, yet through literature and the examination of dramatic characters we will attempt to elucidate it. The centerpiece of the course will be Aeschylus’s Oresteia and three Shakespeare plays – Henry IV (Part One); Hamlet; and King Lear – four plays we will study and use to explore dimensions of leadership:
1) Preparing, forming, and readying leaders;
2) Imitating, emulating, and creating leadership styles;
3) Consensus building – cultivating and building trust;
4) Managing opposition, change, and reconciliation;
5) Interior of a leader – self-knowledge, success, and failure;
6) Irony in leadership – public appearances and private realities.
During the course, we will also read lyric verse, memorize poems, and discuss grammatical/syntactical constructions to deepen appreciation and understanding not only of poetry but also of our native tongue.
This course will focus on the short story as a literary form that, on the one hand, can present plot and characterization at the simplest and most realistic of levels, yet on the other hand, powerfully convey truths about the human condition. Our primary source will be the anthology The Art of the Short Story, which contains works by 52 recognized masters of the genre from countries all over the world, but we will focus much of our attention on American writers of the past century. As we explore the short fiction of the past 100 years in a roughly chronological fashion, we will also be tracing the development of the culture and consciousness of our country and contemporary society as it has been shaped by the accelerating change of the modern era. In addition to the primary texts, we will supplement our study with additional stories from such masters of the genre as Ambrose Bierce, Shirley Jackson, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, Langston Hughes, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, John Updike, Eudora Welty, and numerous others. We will also use critical writings from Norfolk Academy’s rich store of electronic and print resources to enhance our understanding of and appreciation for the impressionistic power of the short story.
- Drama - Fall/Spring Play
- Drama - Winter Musical
- Jazz Band
- Art History I
- Art History II
- Athletic Broadcasting
- Broadcasting & Communications
- Film Studies I
- Film Studies II
- Film Studies III
- Studio Art I
- Studio Art 2A and 2B
- Studio Art III
Dance Team is a performing ensemble for students in grades 7–12 that challenges the novice and the experienced dancer in the idioms of classical ballet, modern dance, jazz, hip-hop, pointe, musical theatre, and tap. Pilates, conditioning, and the opportunities to work with guest choreographers are also features of the dance program. During the winter, the Dance Team is an integral part of the Winter Musical. Students may enroll in each season as an after-school opportunity.
Theater Arts (fall and spring seasons) are open to student actors—with or without previous experience—as well as those interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of drama. The stage crafts include lighting, sound, set design, costume design, special effects, and stage management. Students may enroll in each season as an after-school opportunity. Recent Norfolk Academy productions include The Miracle Worker, Our Town, and The Crucible.
Open tryouts are offered for all students interested in participating in the creation of the Winter Musical. Students participate in all aspects of creating, developing, rehearsing and performing in a large Broadway-style musical. Recent Norfolk Academy productions include The Wizard of Oz, Seussical, and The Addams Family. Students may enroll in the musical as an after-school opportunity.
Make harmony with others! The yearlong course in choral music is for singers at all levels of experience interested in making music in classical and popular styles. Students will perform at the winter and spring concerts and have the opportunity to audition for District 2 Chorus, a selective group comprised of students from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and the Eastern Shore. With the directors consent, singers with ability and the desire for a challenge may form small groups and work a cappella! (Note: Choral music and instrumental music classes meet during the same bell. Students may select one or both.)
Jazz Band allows brass, wind, piano, guitar, and bass students a chance to study and perform different styles of jazz as well as the opportunity to improvise! Students will perform at the winter and spring concerts and have opportunities to perform at school functions throughout the year. Participation in the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association competitions and festivals are options for playing outside of school. (Note: Choral music and instrumental music classes meet during the same bell. Students may select one or both.)
String musicians will have the opportunity to develop and hone their technique through studying music of all styles. Improvisation and alternative bowing techniques can be studied as well! Students will perform at the winter and spring concerts and have opportunities to perform at school functions throughout the year. Participation in the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association events are open to qualified string players interested in performing outside of school. For musicians interested in a greater challenge, chamber music ensembles may be formed with the consent of the director. (Note: Choral music and instrumental music classes meet during the same bell. Students may select one or both.)
Art History I surveys a selection of sculpture, painting, and architecture in the Western tradition, from prehistoric caves to Early Renaissance masterpieces. Students participate each day in guided discussions of artworks. Various assessments gauge recognition and recall of artworks and vocabulary while fostering critical thinking and sound writing skills. Qualified students are encouraged to prepare outside of class, with the teacher’s guidance, for the Art History Advanced Placement Examination.
Art History II surveys a selection of sculpture, painting, and architecture in the Western tradition, from Romanesque Art to contemporary masterpieces. Students participate each day in guided discussions of artworks. Various assessments gauge recognition and recall of artworks and vocabulary while fostering critical thinking and sound writing skills. Qualified students are encouraged to prepare outside of class, with the teacher’s guidance, for the Art History Advanced Placement Examination.
Are you the next great sportscaster, or do you just enjoy watching your classmates score that winning goal? Either way, athletic broadcasting is a great way for you to make a big impact on the school. You will learn how to film sporting events, the correct way to commentate, and how to operate the computer or audio mixer to control our live-streaming coverage of varsity sports. The NA-TV team works at most home varsity games to provide coverage and a public face for Norfolk Academy to the community, our parents, grandparents, friends, and potential college coaches. Each week there is a scheduling meeting where broadcast assignments are made; usually students can pick and choose the games they want to cover unless the team is extremely busy on a particular day. The broadcasting team is open to all students in grades 9–12 and runs for each athletic season, after school, as a separate team. If students complete the requirements for working on NA-TV for two seasons, they will earn a ½ arts credit towards graduation.
This course engulfs students in contemporary journalism including social media, and it asks that students truly examine their own media consumption. Students learn communications theory, history, and broadcasting history as well as social media and the impact of media on society. Students will read and write critiques of contemporary news stories, as well as monitor their media consumption in addition to writing news stories for a short-form newscast. The class will develop a television podcast to demonstrate their understanding of social media and its impact on their everyday lives.
In Film Studies I, students trace the evolution of the moving image from the earliest shadow shows to contemporary film. Students explore the critical elements and the seminal innovators who have contributed to the artistic and technical developments of film. Offering hands-on experience in filmmaking with an emphasis on writing, editing, and directing, this course aims to present students with a broad introduction to the world of film.
Film Studies II is designed for the student who has completed Film Studies I and seeks to develop more advanced filmmaking and editing techniques with a stronger emphasis on writing, camera techniques, and photography. Students enjoy greater access to technology and have the opportunity to explore special effects and cinema techniques in the areas of lighting design, props, green screen projection, composition, and public service announcements (PSA).
This course is designed for the accomplished student who has completed Film Studies II and who seeks to develop more advanced filmmaking and editing techniques with a stronger emphasis on writing. Students enjoy greater access to technology and have the opportunity to explore special effects and cinema techniques in the areas of lighting design, props, rear-screen and blue-screen projection, composition, and stop-motion animation.
Studio I is for students who are interested in the practical experience of art. Designed as a yearlong survey of the basic disciplines of a studio artist, the course is organized into the four traditional artistic disciplines of drawing, printmaking, painting, and sculpture. In addition to these disciplines, students will also be exposed to the cultural, historical, and stylistic traditions in art. Students will learn through studio work and through critical analysis during class critiques. Periodically students will have to perform a formal written critical analysis utilizing lessons in aesthetics and critical theory. By the end of this course, a student will have the foundation necessary to begin an individual line of artistic exploration in subsequent art courses.
Offered as two semester-long courses, Studio 2A and 2B are designed to be an ongoing investigation of the student’s choice, with the instructor assisting the students to continue developing their technical skills in relationship to their own creative voice. It can be taken as a one-semester course, but for students who are interested in Studio III, it is strongly recommended to take both semesters in order to fully develop ideas. Both of these semester courses expand on the skills and knowledge acquired during Studio I and are aimed at introducing students to the methods of a working artist and to the development of independent artistic practice. Each student will be challenged to find his or her own artistic voice with the help of three studio classrooms, curated group critiques, and individualized attention. By the conclusion of the course, each student should be prepared to create a college-level portfolio that demonstrates a high degree of artistic excellence and an ability to pursue individual artistic ideas.
Studio III is designed for students who are seriously interested in the practical experience of art. This yearlong course is not based on a written exam; instead, students submit portfolios for evaluation periodically throughout the school year. The course is organized into two distinct lines of exploration: that of teacher-driven assignments (the breadth) and that of independent practice (the concentration). Students are encouraged to explore a personal, central interest as intensely as possible; they are free to work with any idea in any medium that addresses design issues. Critiques, a common structure in the college classroom, are important in this course as well. Group and individual critiques enable students to analyze their own work and help to bring new perspectives to their peers’ work. Ongoing critical analysis, through individual critiques, facilitates student and teacher assessments of strengths and weaknesses in the studio. In addition, art books, web resources, and various forms of investigation, interaction, and gallery visits provide important examples for the serious study of art.
The school’s yearbook is a scheduled activity, carried out over two years, for which students may earn a fine arts credit. Yearbook staff not only exercise creative control over the yearbook’s theme, layout, and 300+ pages, but they also learn lessons in photography, graphic arts, copy editing, and publications production, skills which are applicable to the professional world after high school. Each staff member is assigned to multiple spreads throughout the publication which cover the most traditional and popular events at Norfolk Academy. Students also have the ability to learn some skills in Photoshop and to hone in on page design which includes spacing, template design, and journalism. Many students obtain editorial positions as upperclassmen. The production of the yearbook is a two-year commitment.
- Alternate History
- Contemporary U.S. Foreign Policy
- Introduction to World Religions
- Latin American History
- Political Science Grade 12 (Two semesters required)
- American Government (Required)
- American Political Foundations
- Constitutional Law
- Twentieth-Century United States: Politics, Society, and Culture
- Western Political Philosophy from Plato to the Present
- Principles of Economics
- The U.S. and the Middle East, 1979-Present
- U.S. History (Required)
- Western Civilization
This semester-long elective course for juniors and seniors investigates the nature of causality in history. Students learn how random elements interrelate with broad trends to produce the world in which we live and the future that we will confront. The course also addresses the plasticity of historical interpretation and the role the past plays in influencing subsequent events. Students examine a number of fictional alternate histories and historical interpretations of "real" events in European and American history. For their final project, each student chooses a turning-point historical event and imagines an alternate scenario; the student then researches and writes a formal paper on the event and its impact. To enroll, students must have completed Western Civilization.
This is a semester-long, political science elective focusing on the formulation and execution of contemporary American national security strategy. The course focuses first on policy formulation at the National Security Council level and within the legislative branch. The second theme is diplomacy, with special attention paid to the Foreign Service and how an embassy’s Country Team functions on a practical level. The third theme is intelligence; we discuss not only the “human intelligence” so beloved in movies, but also lesser known but vital aspects such as signals and image intelligence. The course culminates in a detailed discussion of the largest component of the U.S. national security bureaucracy: the Department of Defense. In addition to this material, students in the course also follow contemporary world politics closely. To enroll, students must have completed or be concurrently enrolled in Western Civilization.
Introduction to World Religions is a semester-long, elective course that seeks to expose students to the histories, varieties, and value systems of the major world religions. Included for special attention are Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Significant, although smaller, faiths (e.g. Sikhism, Baha’i, and primitive or indigenous religions) receive proportionate attention. This course seeks not to compare or judge religious faiths, but rather to familiarize students with different belief and faith systems. Students complete a semester project that involves either authoring a critical response to a controversial book, researching an answer to a prosposed question, or creating artwork that reflects an aspect of the religions studied in class.
This semester-long, jointly-taught course for juniors and seniors explores the history of the Americas from the cosmological beginnings of the Andean and Mesoamerican cultures to present day. We will examine the indigenous societies of the hemisphere, the sources and patterns of European overseas expansion, and the developing connections between Europe, West Africa, and the Americas. Topics for discussion will include the following: demographic and ecological changes brought on by migration, disease, and conquest; the transformation of indigenous societies and the development of the new “settler” societies and economies; the rise of the slave trade and the plantation complex; the development of hybrid religious cultures; the growth and expansion of European empires; independence movements in the Americas; and postcolonial strife and progress. The course also explores neocolonialism, nationalism, revolution, capitalism, narcoculture, and immigration.
“We aim to prepare students to become useful and responsible citizens of a democracy.” ~Norfolk Academy Statement of Philosophy
These semester courses for seniors occupy a very important place not only in the History and Social Sciences curriculum, but also within the pedagogical philosophy of the school as a whole, which aims to produce the citizen-scholars necessary to maintain the health of our American democracy. Equally, if not more importantly, these courses will provide students with opportunities to further cultivate the habits of mind requisite to the exercise of responsible citizenship and civic engagement. We hope that this study of political theory and practice will kindle a life-long dedication to serving our communities—local, national, and global. Finally, these courses challenge seniors to continue developing their abilities to exercise responsible rhetoric in both the spoken and written word, to engage in respectful and productive dialogue with others, to work cooperatively to achieve goals, and other critical thinking skills necessary to succeed at the college level.
All seniors must choose one of four, first-semester courses—American Political Foundations, Constitutional Law, Twentieth Century United States: Politics, Society, and Culture, or Western Political Philosophy from Plato to the Present—before completing the capstone course in American Government during the second semester.
The following five semester courses make up the Political Science course selections.
This second-semester, required capstone course for seniors will introduce the fundamental principles of American government, political processes, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Proceeding from an understanding of the Constitution, we will examine the key institutions, roles, and behaviors through which our American democracy operates, including Congress, the Presidency, the federal bureaucracy, and the courts; political parties and elections; public policy; and civil rights and civil liberties. By developing greater fluency in political language and concepts, students will develop a better understanding of the different perspectives that shape the American political landscape and prepare themselves to take part in it.
This first-semester course for seniors guides students to discover the philosophical underpinnings that helped build a fledgling nation into the strongest, democratic republic in modern history. Students will sample philosophy, psychology, history, and political science as they discover their own political selves and how they fit into the American political system. Topics include the meaning and function of politics; philosophical understandings of human nature; political socialization and public opinion; American political culture and beliefs; and constitutional foundations. An in-depth study of the Constitution will lay the groundwork for the required, second-semester course in American Government.
This first-semester course for seniors is an in-depth study of the Supreme Court’s rules on speech, press, privacy, searches, and much more. The course covers how our Constitution operates, laying the foundation for the required, second-semester course in American Government, and how the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 14th Amendments are protections for everyone. In the end, students will understand how the decisions of the nation’s highest court impact their own lives. In Constitutional Law, students will learn to understand our nation’s founding documents, explore precedent-setting Supreme Court cases, and tackle difficult questions about what the Founding Fathers really intended. Students will also build a foundation for evaluating future judicial decisions based on Supreme Court precedent.
This first-semester course for seniors uses the mediums of film and popular music to examine the social history of the United States from the Cold War until today. Over the course of the last century, both film and popular music have emerged as two of the preeminent avenues for American cultural expression. Together these mediums have time and time again been used to explore the fundamental question of what it means to be an American, and when viewed as historical resources, they can give us unparalleled access to our collective past and our historical memory. We will use film and music to examine themes of war, social justice, and the distance between the American dream and the American reality. As we dissect both screenplays and song lyrics, students will develop their analytical reasoning, analytical writing, research, and public speaking skills. The class will culminate in a final project which will enable students to demonstrate depth of inquiry as they wrestle with the music and movies of today and what these works say about our greatest fears and desires as Americans. A unit on the Constitution will also help transition the class to the required, second-semester course, American Government.
This first-semester course for seniors examines some of the most important philosophical influences on the formation and continuing evolution of our American democracy. We will survey works by important thinkers in the Western tradition, from the emergence of democratic models in the classical period, to the development of social contract theory and constitutional government during the Enlightenment, to liberal democratic thought (and its critics) in the modern period. Using these texts as a starting point, we will wrestle with some of the most compelling questions that have occupied political theorists for centuries - Who should govern, and to what ends? What is the proper balance between state power and individual liberty? How can we protect liberty without sacrificing equality? The course culminates with a consideration of how these ideas informed the framing of the U.S. Constitution, thus laying the groundwork for the required course on American Government in the second semester.
This course is designed to introduce students to all of the basic concepts of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Students will learn how markets operate and interact by exploring supply, demand, factors and costs of production, and competition. They will also gain insight into aggregate economic issues and how those issues influence fiscal, monetary, and governmental policy and action on a national and international level. Guest speakers will share their knowledge on topics including investment, entrepreneurship, international trade, and historical interpretations of economic philosophy. Opportunities will be provided for students to participate in semester-long and single-day stock market competitions.
This is a full-year, elective course for juniors and seniors interested in studying introductory psychology at the college level, and for those preparing to take the Psychology Advanced Placement Examination. The course provides an overview of psychology from both the social science and natural science perspectives. First-semester lectures, readings, and films will focus on the history of, and approaches to, the study of psychology, research methods, biological bases of behavior, sensation and perception, states of consciousness, learning, cognition, motivation, and emotion. Second semester topics include issues in human development, personality theory, testing and individual differences, abnormal behavior, treatment of abnormal behavior, and social psychology.
This is a semester-long, history elective on U.S. involvement in the Middle East broadly defined (from Arab North Africa stretching across to South Asia). Special focus is given to the Persian Gulf region. The course opens with the tumultuous events of 1979–1980 such as the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein’s seizure of power in Iraq, and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia. From each of these a course theme emerges: the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iranian-American conflict, Afghanistan’s civil wars, the series of wars between the United States and Iraq, and the rise of modern terrorism. In addition to this material, students in the course also follow contemporary world politics closely. To enroll, students must have completed or be concurrently enrolled in Western Civilization.
This required course for eleventh-grade students covers the nation’s political, social, and economic history from initial European expansion to the present day. Interpretations of primary and secondary readings and class discussions comprise key components of the course. Students develop and sharpen analytical and writing skills through the strategic use of available technology and through a culminating term paper or project devoted to solving an American historical problem using extensive research and formal citations. Accomplished students may elect to take the U. S. History Advanced Placement Examination, but the syllabus does not adhere to the AP curriculum.
This elective course for tenth-grade students takes a largely chronological approach to Western Civilization from the origins of Greek Humanism and Christianity through the present. Areas of emphasis include political developments and theories, economic patterns, social trends, cultural trends, and Western interactions with the wider world. Through readings, lectures, and discussions, students are exposed to a variety of historical interpretations and primary sources. This course emphasizes the acquisition of fundamental historical thinking skills that are the foundation for further historical study in the Upper School.
- Advanced Statistics
- Advanced Topics in Math
- Algebra II (Required)
- Algebra II BC
- Calculus AB
- Calculus BC
- Computer Science
- Pre-Calculus (Required)
- Pre-Calculus BC
This one-semester course is open to those students who have completed or are currently taking Calculus AB or BC. This course adheres to the AP Statistics syllabus and is designed to prepare students to sit for the Statistics Advanced Placement Examination which can garner them credit for a university-level, one-semester, statistics course, depending on the score earned.
This course provides a continuation and extension of the basic algebraic concepts from Algebra I and geometry. Students discuss, represent, and solve increasingly sophisticated real-world problems using advanced algebraic and graphing techniques. Incorporating appropriate technology (a graphing calculator or computer), they study the properties and the algebra of functions, systems of equations and inequalities, as well as applied trigonometry. Algebra II provides a sound understanding of all elementary functions from linear through trigonometric, and explores sequences, series and matrices, determinants, and conics.
Algebra II BC is an intensive, accelerated course intended for the accomplished student with the proven motivation to prepare for advanced mathematics courses. This course provides students with a sound understanding of all elementary functions, from linear functions through the trigonometric and circular functions, and explores sequences, series, limits, matrices and determinants, data analysis, and probability. Students are recommended for this course based on their previous performance in Algebra I, Geometry, the best PSAT on record, and their teacher’s recommendation.
This twelfth-grade course is for students who have successfully completed Pre-Calculus and would like to explore the major concepts of calculus in high school. Students review essential pre-calculus topics before progressing to the study of limits, the derivative, and the foundations of differential and integral calculus, and apply these topics to business, economics, and the biological sciences. Preparing students for the Advanced Placement Examination is not a goal of this course.
Calculus AB is a course in single variable calculus that includes techniques and applications of the derivative, the definite integral, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. This senior-level course is equivalent to at least a semester of calculus at most colleges and universities. Students master algebraic, numerical, and graphical representations throughout the course. To shift the emphasis from mere computation to a deeper understanding of concepts, students use a graphing calculator. Students must exhibit a willingness to work both in and out of class, a willingness to collaborate with classmates to foster mutual understanding, and a sincere intent to place out of first-semester college calculus by scoring well on the Advanced Placement Examination. A Pre-Calculus grade of at least 95 and a Math SAT of at least 630 are required to take Calculus AB.
Calculus BC is a course in single variable calculus that includes all the topics of Calculus AB plus additional content in differential and integral calculus (including parametric, polar, and vector functions) and series. This course is equivalent to at least a year of calculus at most colleges and universities. Students master algebraic, numerical, and graphical representations throughout the course. A graphing calculator is used so that students might identify and elaborate upon the connections among various representations of functions. In the second semester, students make extensive use of an elementary Computer Algebra System (CAS) to deepen their understanding of the calculus of vector and polar functions. Students must exhibit a willingness to work both in and out of class, a willingness to collaborate with classmates to foster mutual understanding, and a sincere intent to place out of first-year college calculus by scoring well on the Advanced Placement Examination.
This is an introductory course in computer science for students hoping to take the Computer Science A Advanced Placement Examination. Topics include computer systems, object-oriented program design concepts and implementation, classes, strings, arrays, recursion, data structures, and analysis of algorithms. Standard Java classes and methods will be used as students develop Java applications.
The Pre-Calculus course completes the formal study of the elementary functions begun in Algebra I and continued in Algebra II, including polynomial, power, rational, exponential and logarithmic functions. Students use mathematical modeling skills to study and apply trigonometric functions and rely on technology for units that cover data analysis, the natural exponential and natural logarithmic function, circular functions, and trigonometric inverses and identities. Concepts of trigonometry extend to the study of complex numbers. Additional content includes parametric equations, limits, and continuity.
Pre-calculus BC is designed to prepare students who have a passion for math high achievement in previous math classes for integral calculus. This rigorous course extends the concepts of intermediate algebra and introduces various topics of college algebra and calculus. Pre-calculus BC topics include a detailed study of functions and their graphs, a review of polynomial, power and rational functions, a look at the theory of equations, and an investigation of the exponential, logarithmic, and logistic functions. Additional content includes trigonometric functions and analytic trigonometry, analytic geometry, parametric equations, discrete mathematics, limits, continuity, and differential calculus.
This course develops educated producers and consumers of statistics. Students explore basic descriptive and inferential statistics, engage in the exploratory analysis of data, and make use of graphical and numerical techniques to study patterns and departures from patterns. They test mathematical conjectures about relationships among variables by using published data sets or data sets collected through means of statistical inference. Students use models to draw conclusions from data, and then test the durability of particular mathematical models through the use of inferential statistics. This course is non-calculus based and may be taken after or concurrently with Pre-Calculus.
- Advanced Anatomy & Physiology
- Advanced Biology
- Advanced Physics - C
- Chemistry (Required)
- Ecosystem Dynamics
- Inorganic Chemistry II
- Organic Chemistry
- Physics 1B
- Physics 2B
Advanced Anatomy & Physiology employs a systemic approach to the study of anatomy and physiology and is intended for high-achieving students interested in pre-health fields. Students will learn both gross and microscopic anatomy of major body systems: skeletal, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, and reproductive. Students will engage in lectures, laboratories, dissections, and gain exposure to medical connections within each unit. Laboratories will explore sports physiology, nutritional impacts on the body, and employ engineering and design principles in the construction of support braces. Successful completion of Advanced Biology, Inorganic Chemistry II, or Organic Chemistry is required for this course.
This course explores the fundamental concepts of living systems from a molecular point of view. A goal of this course is to convey the importance of science (specifically biological research) to everyday life. Students master the many facets of DNA, including current research techniques and related ethical issues. Laboratory work heightens creative and problem-solving abilities. Accomplished students are encouraged to take the Biology Advanced Placement Examination at the end of the year. Successful completion of Chemistry or Inorganic Chemistry I and completion of or concurrent enrollment in Physics is required to take Advanced Biology as a junior.
Advanced Physics – C is a calculus-based, second-year, physics course. It provides a quantitative look at the concepts covered in Physics 1B along with magnetism. Students will use calculus and extended laboratory investigations to develop their understanding of forces, energy, waves, and circuits. As needed, students will be introduced to basic concepts of multivariable calculus, vector calculus, and differential equations. Students will have the opportunity to create their own lab twice during the year to investigate concepts of particular interest to them. This course prepares students for the Physics C Mechanics and the Physics C Electromagnetism Advanced Placement Examinations. Students must have completed or be concurrently enrolled in Calculus BC in addition to completing Physics 1B with an average of 92 or higher to enroll in this course.
As the central science, chemistry provides students with an understanding of the why of biology and the what of physics. Each sophomore will take either Chemistry or Inorganic Chemistry I.
In this course students will observe natural phenomena through qualitative and quantitative data to draw conclusions about the world around them. Class time will be divided into lecture, problem-solving, and laboratory exploration. Students will practice their measurement and analytical skills while looking at the following topics: molecular structure, chemical nomenclature, states of matter, and reaction chemistry.
In this course students will perform a variety of experimental procedures to collect qualitative and quantitative data. From the data, students will draw conclusions and synthesize data analysis through formalized laboratory reports. Students will also be required to apply challenging mathematical concepts to course content and laboratory conclusions. Collectively students will apply mathematical and conceptual ideas to the following topics: scientific measurement and error calculation, modern view of atomic and molecular structure and function, states of matter, reaction types, thermochemistry, kinetics, equilibrium, acid/base, and redox.
Ecosystem Dynamics will explore the physical, chemical, and biological components of a variety of ecosystems with emphasis on the Chesapeake Bay. Through an intense, hands-on approach, students will develop an appreciation for the complexity and interconnectedness of ecosystem structures and how human activities influence ecosystems. Emphasis will be interdisciplinary and focus on scientific methodology, research studies, and primary literature reviews of essential topics. The main goal of this course is for the student to be more responsible for their natural environs and be able to recognize and properly respond to current environmental issues that influence their community.
This course for juniors and seniors begins by reviewing the content explored in the tenth-grade chemistry curriculum. The primary goal of Inorganic Chemistry II is to help students prepare for their university experience; therefore, this course explores many areas of chemistry including atomic structure, states of matter, solution chemistry, thermochemistry, kinetics, equilibrium, acid/base, and redox. Inorganic Chemistry II is a problem-based learning environment where students will use a variety of presentation tools to explain and solve problems in today’s society. Students will perform a variety of labs that will introduce them to basic laboratory procedures and equipment that will be central to a science experience in a college laboratory. Students will also read and evaluate professional scientific journals. This course is offered every other year, alternating with Organic Chemistry. Students should be well prepared to take the SAT Subject Test and Advanced Placement Examination if they elect to do so.
Organic Chemistry is designed for select juniors and seniors who plan to pursue an area of college study in the medical, biomedical engineering, or chemical engineering fields. In the first semester, the course will provide a rigorous introduction to the basic concepts of a college-level, introductory organic chemistry course, including drawing bond line diagrams, structure and function of major functional groups, chemical nomenclature, reaction mechanisms, and instrumental analysis. The second semester will take a hands-on approach to understanding how the structure and function of nutrition, medicine, and drugs impact the major systems of the human body. This course is offered every other year, alternating with Inorganic Chemistry II.
The physics course provides an introduction to the main principles of physics, which is modeled on the College Board’s Physics 1 curriculum: “an algebra-based, introductory college-level physics course that explores topics such as Newtonian mechanics (including rotational motion); work, energy, and power; mechanical waves and sound; and introductory, simple circuits.” Through inquiry-based learning, students will develop scientific critical thinking and reasoning skills. We will also explore the history of natural philosophy, astronomy, cosmology, and other topics as time allows, and emphasize the development of problem-solving ability. Knowledge of algebra and basic trigonometry is necessary.
Physics 1B is an algebra-based course, equivalent to a first-semester college physics course. It provides a qualitative understanding of physics fundamentals for the humanities-oriented student and a foundation for students interested in the applied sciences, medicine, engineering and the more mathematically rigorous courses offered at the college level. It is conducted using an inquiry-based strategy that focuses on experimentation to develop a student’s conceptual understanding of the fundamental principles and theories of general physics. The course covers Newtonian mechanics (including rotational dynamics and angular momentum); work, energy, and power; and mechanical waves and sound. It will also provide an introduction to electrostatics and electric circuits. This course prepares students for the Physics 1 Advanced Placement Examination.
Physics 2B is a second-year, algebra-based course equivalent to a second-semester college course for students interested in the applied sciences, engineering, medicine and the more mathematically rigorous courses offered at the college level. It too is conducted using an inquiry-based strategy that focuses on experimentation to further develop a student’s conceptual understanding of the fundamental principles and theories of general physics. The course covers fluid mechanics; thermodynamics; electricity and magnetism; optics; and atomic and nuclear physics. The course is designed for students enrolled in Calculus AB or BC as seniors.
- Modern Language I (Required)
- Modern Language II (Required)
- Modern Language III (Required)
- Modern Language IV
- Modern Language V
- Latin IV/V
- Latin VI
Level I students begin acquiring and using the 200 most frequently used words and basic sentence structures (Subject-Verb-Object and Subject-Verb-Verb-Object). The present tense and infinitive are the primary verb forms used. Basic pronouns and their placement (subject and object) are of paramount importance. And while the target language is used between the teacher and student for interpersonal interactions and classroom directions, grammar and culture lectures are mostly taught in English with important proper names given in the target language.
Students are expected to achieve the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) A1 level of competency. The equivalent American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) level is Novice Mid/High. The expectation is that the student will be able to interact on a very basic level with native speakers when the context is known in advance and when given time to prepare.
Level II students build upon the vocabulary, verb forms, and structures learned in Level I by adding more sophisticated words on home and family life, school life, and leisure activities. Past tenses and the imperative (commands) are introduced, as well as other pronouns (relative, demonstrative, possessive) towards the end of the year. Also, there is a greater emphasis placed on prepositions. The target language is used for the majority of the instruction as well as during lectures on culture and geography.
Most students, but not all, attain the CEFR level of A2 by the end of the course. The equivalent ACTFL level is Intermediate Low. The expectation is that students can read most street signs and short messages, and be able to carry on a very short conversation (ordering food, meeting someone new, etc.).
Level III students review all the vocabulary and grammar learned in the first two years, and a greater focus is given to reading and listening comprehension of authentic but short passages, and to interpersonal speaking. Some classes read longer texts (children’s novellas, etc.). Vocabulary about health, sports, and daily activities feature prominently. The future tense and subjunctive mood are the new verb forms learned, and complex structures with conjunctions are introduced. Idiomatic expressions and transitional terms begin to be incorporated into students’ prose.
A majority of the students find themselves halfway to the CEFR level of B1 by the end of the course. The equivalent ACTFL level is Intermediate Mid/High. The expectation is that students will be able to answer questions asked of them without any preparation, and will be able to talk for a minute on a topic that they’ve prepared. Newspaper articles are understood with some confidence. Following the third year, students are well prepared to participate in Norfolk Academy’s reciprocal international exchange programs.
Level IV students move from mere competency to proficiency as a greater focus is made on presentational speaking. In small groups, students must read newspaper articles and present a 4-minute talk to their peers. Consequently, vocabulary on larger social concerns like the media, the environment, and politics is acquired. The conditional and conditional past are learned, as well as a review of the subjunctive mood. Longer, more complex works may be read in class (novel, play, short story, poetry).
Almost all students attain the CEFR B1 level by the end of the course. The equivalent ACTFL level is Intermediate High/Advanced Low. The expectation is that students should be able to comprehend native speakers in a conversation and should be able to gather the gist of television and radio programs. Newspaper articles are understood. Writing with some sophistication and precision is expected.
High performing Level III students as well as those continuing from Level IV compose the Level V class. The focus is purely on proficiency, both in oral and written expression. Current events and 20th-century history are a few of the topics covered. Textbook use is surpassed by more authentic items from all media. Developing one’s lexicon becomes an emphasis.
Most students find themselves mid-way to the CEFR B2 level by the end of the course. The equivalent ACTFL level is Advanced Low/Mid. The expectation is that students are able to take notes in the target language on a lecture given in the target language. Students read a novel independently and can understand feature-length films with target language subtitles. As a culminating experience of their modern language instruction, students are expected to sit for the Advanced Placement Examination which tests all four language skills (speaking, listening, writing, and reading) and is a proper assessment for their level of proficiency in that language.
In Latin IV/V, students study the authors whose works are required for the Advanced Placement Examination. Those authors, Julius Caesar and Vergil, are taught in alternating years. This course moves beyond the basic mechanics of the Latin language into the realm of literary analysis. In the process, students will study the vocabulary, grammar, rhetoric, history, and cultural background necessary to understand, critically analyze, and write about the text.
In Latin IV/V Caesar, students read many selections from Julius Caesar’s Commentarii De Bello Gallico in Latin and then read additional selections in English. With Caesar's text as a basis, students will examine topics including Caesar's role as narrator, the rationale behind Roman expansion into Gaul, the military strategies used to achieve this, the lives of Roman soldiers and their adversaries, and examples of leadership on both sides of the conflict. In doing so, students will gain a greater understanding of Julius Caesar as a literary figure, a military leader, a politician, and eventually a catalyst for the political upheaval that led to Rome's shift from Republic to Empire in the 1st century BCE.
In Latin IV/V Vergil, students will read selections from Vergil’s Aeneid in Latin and then read the entire work in English. While students spend the majority of the year reading, translating, and discussing Vergil, students will also read authors of Rome’s Golden Age, a time during which the Emperor Augustus cultivated support for literature and art, and the Roman Empire largely enjoyed a period of peace (the so-called pax romana). In doing so, students will gain a deeper understanding of the literary milieu and socio-historical context in which Vergil composed his epic about Aeneas' legendary journey from Troy to found Rome.
Latin VI is a seminar course, and true to its etymological roots—a seminarium is a bed for growing seeds—the course is a place to plant and nourish new seeds of scholarly thought. Students spend the first semester with the poetry of Ovid, reading from his epic masterpiece, the Metamorphoses, as they translate, discuss, analyze, and orate. They work towards a comprehension of Latin that is based in understanding the Latin itself, rather than filtering it through English. In the second semester, students go from reading Latin to writing it, and from literary discussions to philosophical ones. They study ancient philosophers from Pythagoras to Plato to culminate in the study of Stocism, the philosophy that most found a home in Rome. Students read excerpts of the Enchiridion, a Stoic handbook in its original Latin, and also read the entirety of emperor Marcus Aurelius’ great work, the Meditations. Then, having reached the final philosophical epoch of the Roman empire, the age of early Christianity, they read bits of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy and contrast their historical settings with those of Ovid and Aurelius. All along the way, they hone their Latin skills—and therefore their thinking, arranging, analyzing, and appreciating skills—by writing their reactions and ideas in their own original Latin.
Maymester International Programs include traditional language exchanges, service-learning experiences, and global classroom programs developed to inspire and inform students, equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively engage with local and global communities and become culturally competent citizens. Whether practicing German with a host family, teaching English in the Dominican Republic, or learning about climate change through the experience of indigenous farmers in Peru, our students expand their minds and their horizons in ways that will both challenge and inform them about the world and their place in it.
Examples of Maymester International Programs include:
- Global Classrooms: Chinese Cultural Exchange, Moroccan Voices, Understanding Climate Change in Bolivia or Peru
- Language Exchanges: NA in Colombia, NA in France, NA in Germany
- Service Learning Experience: Education for Social Change: A Hands-On Teaching Experience (in partnership with Outreach360)
Interdisciplinary and experiential in nature, these three-week courses offer students the opportunity to take a deep dive into specific content areas and learn through experience and reflection. During these faculty-designed courses, students can extend their learning beyond the classroom or explore disciplines that are entirely new to them, discovering new knowledge and new intellectual interests along the way.
Examples of Maymester courses include:
- Civil War History While Biking the Underground Railroad
- Forensic Science: A Brief History of Crime
- Go Big or Go Home: The Influence of Science, Architecture and Art in Major Metropolitan Areas
- Introduction to Prehospital Emergency Medicine
- Issues in Sports
- Nature Writing and Hiking the Appalachian Trail
- So You Want to be a Millionaire: Financial Literacy and Job Skills
- Tales from Tidewater: Podcast Storytelling and Creation
Through the Alumni Career Connection, rising seniors will be able to undertake an immersive and multifaceted exploration of the professional world through a variety of classroom, campus, and community-based activities. From resume writing to interview skills, students will prepare themselves to engage in six days of hands-on work experience alongside experts in fields such as advertising, engineering, health, law, medicine, business, and education.
Examples of Maymester internship partners include:
- Adult and Pediatric Medical Associates
- The Dragas Companies
- College Hunks Hauling Junk
- The Katsias Company
- Colliers International
- Hanbury Architects
- Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office, City of Norfolk
- Virginia Oncology Associates
All students must complete 20.5 credits in grades 9–12 in order to graduate. Upper School students must enroll in five academic courses each year. The minimum graduation requirements from ninth grade forward are enumerated below.
- ACADEMIC ELECTIVES (3 YEARS)
Students must enroll in three, full-credit, academic elective courses as an Upper School student. These courses can be taken in any academic department.
- ENGLISH (4 YEARS)
Students must complete the following required courses: English 9, English 10, and four semesters of English 11–12.
- FINE ARTS (TWO CLASSES)
Students must complete their first 1/2 arts credit in grade 9 and an additional 1/2 arts credit during their time in the Upper School (grades 10–12).
- HISTORY AND SOCIAL SCIENCES (3 YEARS)
Students must complete the following required courses: World Cultures (taken in grade 9), U.S. History (taken in grade 11), and Political Science (taken in grade 12; seniors must enroll in one of four political science electives first semester and American Government second semester).
- MATHEMATICS (4 YEARS)
Students must complete the following required courses: Fundamental Geometry or Geometry or Integrated Mathematics; Algebra II or Algebra II BC; and Pre-Calculus or Pre-Calculus BC.
- MAYMESTER (2 YEARS)
Students must participate in two different Maymester experiences at the conclusion of their sophomore and junior years. Students can choose from faculty-designed courses, international programs, or competitive, professional internships for each of their Maymesters, all of which will provide a unique, intensive, experiential learning opportunity.
- PHYSICAL EDUCATION (1/2 CREDIT)
Students complete this requirement in grade 9.
- SCIENCE (2 YEARS)
Students must complete two laboratory sciences: Biology and Chemistry or Inorganic Chemistry I. Nearly all students complete three years or more of science.
- WORLD LANGUAGES (3 YEARS)
Students must complete through the third level of a single modern language (French, German, or Spanish).