Upper School Curriculum

Program of Study

Grade 9
Grade 10
Grade 11
Grade 12
Computer Science
Computer Science electives
Western Literature
World Literature
American Literature
Literature and the Individual, Poetics of Social Justice, or AP British Literature
World History I
World History II
American History
Optional History elective including AP courses
Integrated Studies
Voice & Vision and
Foundations of Integrated Studies: Digital Studio
Arts in Society and Culture in Context
Introduction to Engineering Design and Junior Seminar (SAT and ACT test prep included)
Senior Seminar
Health and Wellness and Public Speaking
Health and Wellness and Public Speaking II
Health and Wellness
Financial Literacy
Two sequences: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II or
Geometry, Algebra II, and Precalculus;
optional math electives available in grade 12 including AP courses
Physical Education
One Physical Education course per year
Concepts of Physics
Biology or Biology and AP Chemistry
Optional Science elective including AP courses
Visual and/or Performing Arts

At least one elective in either visual or performing arts
World Language
Successful completion of level 3 in one language and optional world language elective
Senior Project

Highlights in Upper School

List of 4 items.

  • Voice & Vision | Grade 9

    In Voice & Vision, students develop habits of advocacy and citizenship. Making use of a diverse range of digital media and creative tools, students are encouraged to construct project-based initiatives addressing water-related issues on both local and global scales. Partnerships with organizations such as Powdermill Nature Reserve in the Laurel Highlands and the Kamalnayan Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation in Wardha, India provide experiential opportunities for students to explore and investigate real-world questions and problems, and pose solutions to them. Within this process, students inform themselves and others about these issues’ relevance as they develop skills and tools of research, self-expression, design, collaboration, and persistence.
  • Culture in Context | Grade 10

    This course explores the role of visual culture in our world. With a strong grounding in the history of Western art, students explore interdisciplinary relationships between a variety of art forms and the ideas that shape them across history and place. Working in a collaborative setting, students interact with faculty from throughout the School and partners from the wider community to understand the connections between expression, power, religion, philosophy, and technology. Varied forms of assessment allow students to discover commonalities with other disciplines and explore aesthetics in a broad context.
  • Introduction to Engineering | Grade 11

    This course will expose students to major concepts encountered in university engineering courses. Students develop problem-solving skills and apply their knowledge of research and design to create solutions to various real-world challenges, as well as document their work and communicate solutions. Students focus on producing ideas, crafting and testing models, and communicating results, all while fulfilling a real client’s objectives and requirements. This course emphasizes group work, as engineering is inherently a collaborative process. Students apply concepts and practices from math, lab science, and computer science courses and experience to their projects. This course is project-based and includes community-oriented projects.
  • Senior Project | Grade 12

    All members of the senior class are required to complete projects that encourage investigation in areas of interest outside of regular classes and—in most cases—off campus. Common projects include workplace shadowing, internships, art projects, community service, and research into particular topics of interest. These projects are meant to prepare graduates for college-level independent learning and research. Most importantly, they are experiences that challenge and energize, ensuring students emerge confident in their abilities and seasoned as academic researchers, writers, and presenters who are prepared to succeed in college-level academic pursuits.

Upper School AP Courses

List of 14 items.

  • AP Biology

  • AP Calculus AB

  • AP Calculus BC

  • AP Chemistry

  • AP Comparative Government & Politics

  • AP Computer Science Principles

  • AP European History

  • AP French

  • AP Latin

  • AP Physics

  • AP Spanish

  • AP Studio Art

  • AP Survey of Art

  • AP United States History

Fifteen additional AP courses are offered online through One Schoolhouse.

Upper School Elective Examples

List of 21 items.

  • Advanced Photography

  • Art Now

  • Clayworks

  • Computer Science II

  • Digital Video

  • Economics

  • Glee Club

  • History Seminar: Gender and Power

  • Honors String Ensemble

  • Introduction to Anatomy and Organic Chemistry

  • Introduction to Computer Science

  • Introduction to Engineering Design

  • Media Journalism

  • Modern Family: Domestic Structure in Short Fiction

  • Musical Theater

  • Musicianship

  • Orchestra

  • Photography

  • Senior Studio Art

  • Studio Art

  • Visual Art Independent Study


Mini-courses are a time for Ellis girls to embrace new ideas, unwind, and have fun. A pressure-free experience, mini-courses give the Ellis Upper School community the opportunity to collaborate, reflect, and innovate together in a joyful environment before summer break.
Following final exams in mid-May, the Upper School puts a pause on traditional academic courses and transitions into mini-courses for the final weeks of the school year. This spirited trimester offers a curriculum of non-academic courses across grade levels taught by Ellis teachers, outside experts, alumnae, and the occasional student. In mini-courses, students have time to complete individual projects, travel, and explore potential passions in courses designed to be experiential, interdisciplinary, and community-based. In recent years, students have taken study trips to Russia, England, France, Italy, Crow Canyon, Spain, and New York City.

Explore the Upper School Curriculum

Lauren Laschon

Head of Upper School

In the Ellis Upper School, the most significant advantage we provide is the all-girls environment, which fosters confidence in girls ages 14 to 18. The emphasis we place on leadership, voice, and intellectual risk-taking means that Ellis graduates walk out into the world as confident young women who are fully prepared for the challenges of college and careers. As students progress through the Upper School, their intellectual and social growth is fostered through exposure to a diverse curriculum, elective offerings in both the visual and performing arts, a highly successful athletic program, and a thriving activities program. Community engagement is a hallmark of the Ellis Upper School. Through partnerships with nonprofit, for-profit, and research institutions, our girls are engaged in meaningful hands-on, project-based experiences that help them discover what they love. Joyfulness, balance, and wellness are among our core community values. Our beloved mini-course program encourages lifelong curiosity and learning in topics such as yoga, self-defense, the history of women and the law, introduction to philosophy, and financial literacy. Through social activities, dances, talent shows, music events, and plays, we develop deep friendships and celebrate each girl's unique contributions to our community.

Upper School Faculty Directory