Curriculum > Senior School

Sewickley Academy is committed to preparing young people

List of 1 items.

  • For a Lifetime of Discovery and Learning

    A rigorous educational program promotes academic excellence and teaches students to think and learn both independently and cooperatively. The curriculum is demanding, but flexible enough to accommodate individual learning styles and interests. Teachers are innovative and creative inside and outside the classroom, and students are encouraged to strive to reach their full potential in all that they do. 

List of 9 items.

  • Computer Science

    The Sewickley Academy Technology Department is dedicated to the school-wide integration of technology with student learning, consistent with the Academy’s core values.  Character: The school will educate students to use technology ethically and to accept responsibility for the impact of their actions.  Academic vigor: Students will communicate clearly, and solve problems with logic and creativity.  Diversity and Community: Our vision is that all students, as independent thinkers, will be able to select and use tools to understand and interact with the world in which they live.  The department is committed to prompt and competent support of faculty and staff, empowering faculty-driven initiatives, and offering opportunities for ongoing professional development.
  • English

    The Sewickley Academy English department seeks to inspire critical thinking through reading and writing, to cultivate the skills of effective communication in writing, listening, and multi-modal forms, to foster substantive growth by allowing each student to engage as a productive part of an academic community, and to recognize the value of empathy and the need for social justice through the study of diverse perspectives.

    The English Program
    Students who enter the Senior School in Grade 9 are required to take three fundamental and carefully designed English courses (English 9, 10, and 11) during their first three years. Students who enter the Senior School in Grades 10 or 11 will be enrolled in their respective grade-level course. Seniors may then select two electives for the first and second trimesters prior to enrolling in their final English course, Senior Seminar.

    All students are required to take English in each trimester of their Senior School years, and all upper-level English courses are taught at the Advanced Placement level so that students can prepare to take the AP English Language and Composition and the AP Literature and Composition exams.
  • Fine Arts

    The Sewickley Academy Fine and Performing Arts Department challenges students to find their creative spirit through discipline, collaboration, and reflection as they explore and develop skills in the arts.

    I.  Visual Arts
    Students who want to take art all year should be sure to indicate their top three choices for all three trimesters in the Senior School.  Students are encouraged to enroll in Art during their Grade 9 year. 
    Students who have completed Art I and Art II could take Drawing and Painting II, 2D Design I, or 3D and Sculpture I as their next course.

    II.  Performing Arts
    Students participating in any of the fall, winter, or spring drama/musical productions receive .33 Fine Arts credits. 

    Recent Performances:

    SS Musical - Fiddler on the Roof
    SS Play - Around the World in 80 Days
    SS Musical - 25 Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
    SS Play - War of the Worlds
    SS One-Acts - Leave a Light On, Retribution, & Who Killed Delia Emsworth
  • Health

    The Sewickley Academy health program is designed to build foundation for students to embody a healthy physical, mental, social, and emotional lifestyle.
  • History and Social Sciences

    The Senior School History & Social Sciences Department seeks to foster curiosity, empower engagement in historical and social scientific inquiry, cultivate evidence-based analysis, and advance effective communication in order to act as responsible citizens of the community and the world.

    World History

    All students in Grade 9 will take World History to fulfill their history requirement.  The Grade 9 history course will take a thematic approach to world history from the pre-agricultural era through 1200CE. World History will be framed by questions around global topics such as: migration, environment, development, worldviews, culture, security, and justice.  These questions will apply to the study of historical events and artifacts, as well as current events throughout the year that support unit topics. Through these questions, students will have the opportunity to examine the historical patterns of continuity and change over time. Specifically, students will analyze historic moments such as the Neolithic era, settlement of river valleys, development of major world religions, and the democratic foundation of Ancient Athens and the Roman Republic. This course relies upon the reading of primary and secondary sources in order to understand and interpret ancient history as it unfolded. Writing and research will also be emphasized, in addition to performance-based tasks that incorporate reading, writing, speaking, and multimedia. All Grade 9 students will complete a research project for World History in collaboration with the library. 

    Modern World History/AP optional

    All students in Grade 10 will take Modern World History to fulfill their history requirement.  In Modern World History, students will investigate significant events, individuals, developments, and processes from 1200 to the present. Specifically, students will investigate historical moments such as 13th and 14th century Global Empires, the Colombian Exchange, colonialism, the African Diaspora, the Industrial Revolution, WWI and WWII, environmental changes, and globalization. Students develop and use the same skills, practices, and methods employed by historians: analyzing primary and secondary sources; developing historical arguments; making historical connections; and utilizing reasoning about comparison, causation, and continuity and change over time. The course provides six themes that students explore throughout the course in order to make connections among historical developments in different times and places: humans and the environment, cultural developments and interactions, governance, economic systems, social interactions and organization, and technology and innovation. Students will demonstrate learning through  project-based learning, reading, writing, and research, as well as selected historical literature, which will supplement the textbook. 

    United States History (HSS1101)

    All students in Grade 11 will take either United States History or AP United States History to fulfill their history requirement.  This course takes a thematic approach to the history of the United States while also evaluating major turning points in their chronological context. Specifically, US history will examine cultural attitudes and historical patterns of continuity and change over time in American history. In this course, students will move beyond simply identifying “what happened ” throughout American history, and instead delve into the how, why, and ramifications of events. Accordingly, this course relies heavily upon the reading of primary and secondary sources in order to understand and interpret American history as it unfolded; several pieces of literature will be read as part of the course requirements. Writing and research will also be emphasized, in addition to performance-based tasks that incorporate reading, writing, speaking, and multi-media.

    AP United States History (HSS1160)

    All students in Grade 11 will either take United States History or AP United States History to fulfill their history requirement. Covering American history from 1491 to the present, the AP US History course is designed to help students continue to develop historical thinking, interpretation, and analysis skills, as well as gain an understanding of key concepts consistent with the curriculum of the College Board. The AP course is a survey course in which a textbook and supplemental resources in the form of documents, essays, podcasts, videos, and books on special themes provide substantive and thematic coverage.  Students learn to assess these historical materials, cultivate skills necessary to arrive at conclusions on the basis of informed judgment, and present reasons and evidence clearly and persuasively in essay format.  The course makes demands on students equivalent to those expected in a university-level introductory survey of American history. Full year.


    Electives are available for students across Grades 9-12, as indicated.  Students seeking exceptions may request department chair approval in consultation with their advisor. The following electives are offered in the 2021-2022 school year, but there is a wide selection of offerings that rotates electives from year-to-year depending on student interest and contemporary events.
    African American History

    Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  The African American History course will examine the African American experience from the beginning of the European Slave Trade through the Contemporary Era. This course will be framed by essential questions around topics such as: enslavement and resistance, Civil War and Reconstruction, Jim Crow to the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II, Civil Rights and the Black Power Movements, and African Americans in the contemporary era. This course will provide a foundational historical study and analysis that accounts for the ways that African Americans have influenced American culture and society. This course will utilize both primary and secondary sources to examine the essential questions for each topic, and emphasize critical thinking, writing, and research. One Trimester. 

    History of Medicine
    Open to juniors and seniors.  This course will introduce students to the history of medicine in the United States through the lens of disease.  From tuberculosis, smallpox, and influenza to sickle-cell anemia, polio, and HIV/AIDS, the course will examine medical understandings of and approaches to historically impactful diseases. Our examination of the medical establishment and its evolution in connection with selected maladies will give students additional insight into U.S. history. In addition to exploring how physicians made sense of and treated disease, we will consider how the medical establishment reflected and contributed to the making of systems of privilege and oppression in the U.S. The latter will provide students with the opportunity to examine how individuals’ and groups’ experiences of illness and its definition and treatment by physicians have been shaped, in fundamental ways, by race, gender, class, and sexuality. The course will be structured as a seminar, with emphasis on discussion of assigned content. We will draw on a range of sources, from historical monographs, journal articles, and primary documents to podcasts and films. One trimester. 

    World Religions

    Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  This class will be a survey and comparison of belief systems around the world, with an emphasis on the five major religions:  Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will examine the basic tenets of the different religions and will explore how those beliefs influence and are influenced by the cultures in which they exist. While an understanding of the principle elements of each tradition will be central to the course, students will also have an opportunity to explore both areas of commonality and areas of difference between and among the major religions. To accomplish this, we will study a variety of sources, including traditional religious texts, modern literature, and film. Specifically, we will read Coffinman: Diary of a Buddhist Mortician by Shinmon Aoki and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.  Students will create online content as well as participate in class discussions and write at least one paper.  One trimester.  
    Modern Africa (HSS0903) 3rd Trimester

    Open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  In this course, students will develop an understanding of the place of Africa in our global world.  The course will center primarily on post-colonial history in relationship to development and human rights today.  Events and topics from the 20th and 21st centuries will include apartheid, poverty, genocide, and current development efforts.  Emphasis will be placed on critical thinking skills, analytical discussion, and writing. Books used for the specific study of South Africa and Rwanda will be Kaffir Boy and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Die With Our Families.  Students will also be given a book choice related to a global issue of interest.  Students will participate in daily discussion, work in collaborative groups to present topics, and write three papers throughout the trimester. One trimester.

    Comparative Government and Politics (HSS) /AP Optional  (HSS)/ APcode

    Open to juniors and seniors. Comparative Government and Politics is an advanced-level survey that gives students an understanding of the political institutions and processes of six different countries—China, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the United Kingdom—and evaluates the ways they address problems. Throughout the year, students will compare international political structures, citizen engagement, party systems, and global impact by analyzing data and readings to draw conclusions about political systems. Students will be expected to stay current on international affairs and demonstrate learning through a variety of written, oral, and project-based learning.  Full Year 

    U.S. Government and Politics/AP optional

    Open to juniors and seniors only.  U.S. Government and Politics is an advanced-level survey that gives students an understanding of the structure, function, and policies of the United States government. This course is an intensive study of the formal and informal structures of government and the processes of the American political system, with emphasis on policy-making and implementation. This course includes both the study of the general concepts used to interpret U.S. government and politics and the analysis of specific examples. It also requires familiarity with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that constitute U.S. government and politics. Students will become acquainted with a variety of theoretical perspectives and explanations for various behaviors and outcomes in government and politics. Students will also be required to complete conduct original political science research or a civic engagement project. Full Year. 

    Psychology /AP optional

    Open to juniors and seniors. This Psychology course encourages students to explore human thinking and behavior through the study of science and theory. Students will examine the major thinkers and concepts that have shaped the field of psychology, while exploring the application of specific research methods to the study of psychological phenomena. Among other topics, students in AP Psychology will look in-depth at nature vs. nurture, the role of neurology in senses and perception, developmental milestones throughout the lifespan, clinical diagnosis and abnormal behavioral psychology, as well as social psychology. Most importantly, students will consider the ethical implications of the field of psychology, while applying the scientific method and effective communication of ideas. Full Year.
  • Mathematics

    The Mathematics Department seeks to engage students by fostering in them a self-reflective, collaborative, creative, and resilient spirit while inspiring students to make sense of the complex world around them by becoming critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and ethical mathematicians.


    Algebra I establishes the vocabulary and symbolism of algebra and includes evaluating expressions, properties of real numbers, rational and irrational numbers, square roots, function theory, solving and graphing linear equations and systems, solving and graphing linear inequalities and systems, applying exponent properties, scientific notation, simplifying polynomial expressions, solving polynomial equations, basic factoring, solving and graphing quadratic functions, exponential growth and decay, and word problems. Students are introduced to matrices, probability, data analysis, and simplifying and solving rational expressions and equations.

    Courses in Algebra II serve as a natural extension of topics covered in Algebra I. The content and pace of the course are rigorous and require students to develop higher-order thinking skills in preparation for precalculus. Topics include polynomial and rational expressions and functions, systems of equations and inequalities, functions, radicals, irrational numbers, complex numbers, synthetic substitution, graphing polynomial functions, composition of functions, inverses, exponential and logarithmic functions, and curve fitting.

    Honors Algebra II covers all topics, however, more difficult problems are explored with the expectation that students are highly proficient in Algebra I topics, can work at a very fast pace, will complete extensive assignments, and require minimal extra help from the instructor. Additional topics include advanced problem-solving along with an in-depth examination of functions.

    Geometry courses require mastery of the concepts of algebra including quadratics and radical expressions. Students explore both Euclidean and solid geometries with a particular emphasis on plane geometry. Topics of study include an introduction to logic and proofs, triangles, special quadrilaterals, polygons, perimeter and area of figures, surface area and volume of solids, similar shapes (ratio and proportion), circles, and trigonometry. Applications of these topics are incorporated into the lessons and assignments.

    Honors Geometry studies additional topics which may include: indirect proofs, sequences, pattern recognition, vectors, volumes of revolution, equations of lines in three space and planes. However, important differences lie in the pacing and emphasis of the course. Additionally, an emphasis is placed on independent learning and higher-level thinking skills. Students are routinely expected to successfully tackle the more challenging problems in planar and solid geometry.

    Students in Precalculus/Trig are expected to work at a rigorous pace and to spend a significant amount of time on homework assignments and related activities. Precalculus/Trig topics include conic sections, binomial theorem, sequences and series, counting principles, and introductory probability concepts, compositions of functions, inverse functions, exponential and logarithmic functions. Trigonometry is explored with the emphasis on the circular functions. Students will work extensively on graphing, identities, solutions of right and oblique triangles, and inverse functions and their graphs. Students also study proofs, parametric functions, and complex numbers.

    Honors Precalculus/Trig covers all of the topics covered in Precalculus/Trig as well as additional topics in vectors, complex numbers, graphing techniques, end-behavior models, applications, inequalities, parametric and polar equations, conic sections, partial fractions, combinatorics, probability, and sequences and series. Additionally, an emphasis is placed on independent learning and higher-level thinking skills.

    In Calculus and AP Calculus AB* courses, the theory of calculus, understanding why and how techniques work and when to use them, is a central focus each time a new topic is presented. The course follows closely, but is not limited to, the topics and techniques specified by The College Board. The differential calculus topics include limits, continuity, curve sketching, derivatives of polynomial functions, exponential/ logarithmic functions, trigonometric and inverse trigonometric functions, and optimization and related rates applications. The integral calculus topics include Riemann sums, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, methods of integration, area under a curve, volumes of revolution, differential equations, slope fields, and applications (such as exponential growth and decay).

    AP Calculus BC* is a challenging course that continues from where Calculus left off. Students need to have already mastered differentiation and basic integration. The course will review some of the concepts covered in AP Calculus AB but at a higher level. The course follows closely but is not limited to the topics and techniques specified by The College Board. Topics include L’Hopital’s Rule, advanced methods of integration, improper integrals, the calculus of polar functions, infinite sequences and series, Taylor and power series, vector functions, polar calculus, and first-order differential equations and slope fields. Applications will focus on area accumulation, volume, surface area, applied differential equations, growth models, approximation techniques, work, fluid force, center of mass, and business applications.

    Multivariable Calculus continues from where AP Calculus BC ended. Specific topics include: three-dimensional coordinate systems, lines, planes, and quadric surfaces; vector-valued functions, parametric equations, and curves in two- and three-dimensional space; arc length and curvature; differential calculus of functions of more than one variable with limits, continuity, partial derivatives differentials, tangent planes, the chain rule, directional derivatives and gradients; maximizing and Lagrange multipliers; integral change of variables; multiple integration in various coordinate systems; line integrals and surface integrals; curl and divergence; The Fundamental Theorem of Line Integrals, Green's Theorem, Stokes' Theorem and the Divergence Theorem.

    *Advanced Placement and honors-level courses cover material that is found in regular classes but at a much faster pace, depth, and breadth.


    Students in Statistics and AP Statistics* learn mathematical skepticism and rigorously controlled experimental design and analysis. Topics include counting principles, probability, sampling techniques, exploratory data analysis, probability, probability distributions, normal distributions, and hypothesis testing. Students also engage in a rich and varied experience with applied mathematical concepts including data analysis and interpretation, methods of data collection, and planning and conducting studies. Major topics include descriptive statistics, probability, normal, Chi-Square and t-distributions, confidence intervals and tests of significance. Data analysis requires the use of statistical graphing calculators and modern statistical software.

    *Advanced Placement and honors-level courses cover material that is found in regular classes but at a much faster pace, depth, and breadth.


    Students that take our Finance with Advanced Algebra course dive into college preparatory mathematics topics from Algebra II, Statistics, Probability, Precalculus, and Calculus under eight financial umbrellas: Discretionary Expenses, Banking, Investing, Credit, Employment and Income Taxes, Automobile Ownership, Independent Living, and Retirement Planning and Household Budgeting. The mathematics topics contained in this course are introduced, developed, and applied in an as-needed format in the financial settings covered. Students are encouraged to use a variety of problem-solving skills and strategies in real-world contexts and to question outcomes using mathematical analysis and data to support their findings. The course offers students multiple opportunities to use, construct, question, model, and interpret financial situations through symbolic algebraic, graphical, geometric, and verbal representations.
  • Physical Education

    The Sewickley Academy Physical Education Department promotes healthy lifestyles in young people, taking into account the physical, social, emotional, and mental development of students. Physical Education at Sewickley Academy strives to instill a foundation of skills, experiences and knowledge that will lead students to value lifetime fitness. The Physical Education program at Sewickley Academy is a developmentally appropriate, comprehensive, and sequential program, Grades PreK through 12.
    Required for Graduation.

    Please note that seniors must participate in one of the courses listed below for at least two of the three trimesters.  All other students must participate in all three trimesters each year to meet the Sewickley Academy graduation requirement for Physical Education.
    Course Options:
    1. After-School Physical Education: Students may sign up for one of the three after-school Physical Education courses: Strength Training, Advanced Strength Training, or Body Pump. Each course meets 2 days per week from 3:30-4:15 PM in the Fitness Center or Core Room. Students participating in the after-school program must attend both sessions every week in order to meet the physical education graduation requirement.
    1. Fitness Fundamentals/Fitness Fundamentals for the   Performing Arts: These two courses shift from the standard teacher-driven physical education course to a
    student-driven course. It takes a more in-depth look at the five components of physical fitness: muscular strength, endurance, cardiovascular health, flexibility, and body composition. This course allows students to discover new interests as they experiment with a variety of exercises in a non-competitive atmosphere. By targeting different areas of fitness, students increase their understanding of health habits and practices and improve their overall fitness level.
    Fitness Fundamentals for the Performing Arts will allow students to participate in the winter musical, while collectively meeting the requirement for a physical education credit. The course develops healthy habits for members of the performance while managing a rigorous schedule of classes and rehearsals.
    Students will not have a specific block in their schedule. The instructor will identify fitness goals, discuss the unit’s focus, evaluate their progress, and modify the fitness program when appropriate. In order to move from one level of Fitness Fundamentals to the next trimester level of the course, instructor approval is needed.
    1. Athletic Teams: Students who are participating in a Sewickley Academy athletic team meet their Physical Education requirement during that season/trimester. Sewickley Academy offers the following sports:
    Fall – soccer, cross country, golf, girls’ tennis, field
                    hockey, ice hockey
    Winter – basketball, ice hockey, squash, swimming/diving,
    Spring – softball, baseball, lacrosse, track & field, boys’
    1.  Dance/Stage Classes:
    All Three Trimesters:
    • Introduction to Dance (PE0904)
    • Dance I (PE0917)
    • Dance II (PE0918)
    • Dance III (PE0919)
    • Dance IV (PE0920)
    Only 2nd Trimester:
    • Senior School Musical Lab (PE0925)
    • Fitness Fundamentals for the Performing Arts
    Only 3rd Trimester:
    • Musical Theater Workshop (PE0907)
    Students that take any of these dance/stage classes will receive Physical Education credit for the trimester.
  • Science

    The Senior School Science Department seeks to develop engaged and well-informed citizens of the local and global community who apply scientific knowledge and evidence-based reasoning to explain complex natural phenomena and solve challenging, real-world problems.

    The science program introduces students to both the skills and knowledge necessary to make sense of the natural world.
    All major courses are year-long courses for one credit.  The Senior School program has three components.  The first is composed of three Core Courses: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, which introduce students to three major disciplines of science.  Biology, Chemistry, and a third year of science are graduation requirements.  A fourth-year is strongly recommended to all students, but is not required for graduation.  Courses are presented in a sequence that provides for the steady development of scientific thinking skills.  Completion of this sequence of courses gives students a scientific education commensurate with our increasingly technical world.  Honors courses, which cover the material at a greater depth and speed, are offered in each discipline.
    The second component of the Senior School program is the sequence of Advanced Placement courses.  These provide interested and able students with an opportunity to pursue a key aspect of science in a rigorous and sophisticated manner.  It should be noted that AP courses are rigorous and fast-paced.  Sewickley Academy encourages any student with a desire to explore his or her world in-depth to strongly consider taking one or more of these courses.
    The third component of the Senior School science program is a set of elective courses which are not AP level.  Several science electives are available and others are periodically introduced as student interest develops. 
    The science department does not accept summer coursework, camps, or workshops in science or mathematics for Sewickley Academy science credit or acceleration through the Senior School science program.  However, we strongly encourage students to engage in summer science programs that enrich their understanding of and interest in science.
    Juniors interested in taking an AP science course concurrent with Physics or Honors Physics may do so if the following criteria are met: 
    • AP Biology with Physics or Honors Physics – student must have earned an A in Biology or B+ in Honors Biology along with an A in Chemistry or B+ in Honors Chemistry
    • AP Chemistry with Physics or Honors Physics – student must have earned an A in Chemistry or B+ in Honors Chemistry
    • AP Environmental Science with Physics or Honors Physics – student must have earned an A in Biology or B+ in Honors Biology along with an A in Chemistry or B+ in Honors Chemistry
    Juniors must take the second science as an elective in addition to their five core courses.  Students must also have the approval of their academic advisor and parents AND approval of the Science Department Chair.
  • World Languages

    The Senior School World Language Department seeks to inspire and educate students to become linguistically and culturally-prepared global citizens. Through an interdisciplinary approach, educators aim to instill in students a variety of key qualities, including academic curiosity, open-mindedness, resiliency, and a desire to explore other cultures. Students gain language proficiency and explore literature and culture, enabling them to communicate effectively to make connections with new people and cultures.

    Three years of the same language are required to graduate.
    The World Languages department offers courses from beginning levels through Advanced Placement in Chinese, French, Italian, and Spanish.
    Chinese, French, Italian, and Spanish may be started by students of any grade.  Most students begin a language in Grade 9 and continue that language study throughout the four years in the Senior School.  Students are encouraged to pursue a second world language.

    The placement of new students is based on the previous school record and a written placement assessment. 
    All courses are year-long for 1 credit.
    Please see the Global Studies section of the Course Catalog for Language Study points for World Languages. 

Senior School

List of 1 items.

  • Take the Next Steps!