The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Upper School

Grade Nine

Grade Nine Overview

Ninth graders at Fay experience a challenging and stimulating high school-level curriculum that thoroughly prepares them for tenth grade in a secondary school. In English, students delve into classics, develop a more sophisticated style of writing, and hone their public speaking skills. Most ninth graders take biology, and multiple math courses are offered, including algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus. Students may choose to study Spanish, French, Mandarin, or Latin, and they have regular opportunities to practice language skills with Fay classmates from around the world. Two electives, Topics in Modern American History and American Prose in History (an interdisciplinary history/science course), are also available to ninth graders. Students can apply to take Advanced Design Portfolio, taking advantage of Fay’s Center for Creativity & Design for hands-on learning across all subjects, or Advanced Studio Art. By virtue of their seniority in the School and intellectual maturity, ninth graders take an active role in their learning and enjoy a collegial rapport with teachers. Alumni of Fay’s Ninth Grade Program cite this unique teacher-student dynamic as a key feature of their ninth grade experience.

List of 11 items.

  • Mathematics

    Students are placed into one of our Upper School math courses based on their ability to work independently and persevere with problems, along with their past mathematical performance. We recognize that students at this age develop at different rates and appreciate that there is more than one path through the math curriculum; for that reason, we conduct careful student placement in the spring of each year to ensure that each student is appropriately challenged.

    Click here to see detailed descriptions for all Upper School math course offerings.
  • English 9

    In ninth grade English, students focus on the advanced study of literature, including more complex literary devices and the identification of major literary movements, as well as grammar, writing, and vocabulary. Students develop a more sophisticated style of writing as they incorporate a variety of sentence structures and verbal phrases, and they explore different types of writing, including expository essays, restaurant and movie reviews, obituaries, poetry, and short stories.  

    Students explore a range of texts, including Modernist poetry and work by Thomas Hardy, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Amy Lowell, and HD. They also participate in major units on the Harlem Renaissance, Shakespeare, and Gothic literature.  Ninth graders also read a required summer book that connects to the first units of the year. Recent required summer reading selections include The Light of Luna Park by Addison Armstrong, Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon, and Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Stephen Shenkin. The summer reading selection is the focus of our first discussions as well as a reference point for students in other disciplines such as history or science.

    By the end of ninth grade, students are expected to have a sound knowledge of figurative language, especially metaphors and similes, symbols, allusions, image patterns, and personification. Students develop an understanding of how authors use these devices to convey the deeper meaning behind the writing, as well as how they can use figurative language to enhance their own personal and analytical writing. Students learn how to craft a thesis statement and support it with thorough analysis and specific textual references. Students study vocabulary and grammar in order to develop a more sophisticated written and spoken command of English. As with all grades in the Upper School, ninth graders participate in the Upper School Speech Contest and the Scull Essay contest.

  • History

    Ninth graders have the option of choosing from one of the following courses:

    Topics of Modern America (TMA)

    In Topics of Modern America (TMA), ninth graders explore the cultural, socio-economic, political, and foreign policy development of the United States from the end of World War II through the end of the Cold War. Focusing on specific time periods 1945-1960, 1960-1975, 1975-1990, students explore the questions, events, and individuals that shaped the actions, attitudes, expectations, and ideologies of modern America. Among the topics students examine over the course of the year are the rise of the United States as a global superpower and the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union, the Civil Rights movement, the 1960s counterculture, and the impacts of Reaganomics and the War on Drugs in the 1980s.
    In TMA, students continue to develop their critical and analytical thinking skills, using the historical concepts of significance, context, perspective, cause and effect, continuity, and agency to examine primary and secondary source material. Class discussion, writing, and projects allow students to demonstrate mastery of the content and apply their understanding skills in creative ways.

    American Prose in History (APH)

    In American Prose in History (APH), ninth graders explore the second half of the twentieth century through the literature, film, and stories created during that time period. Focusing on McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the modern technological revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam conflict, and the rise of Reagan’s America, this course interrogates the multitude of stories written in these eras. Students consider fictional works such as The Crucible, Fahrenheit 451, A Raisin in the Sun, The Nickel Boys, and The Things They Carried; students also read nonfiction literature, such as letters, essays, speeches, articles, and biographies, and watch movies related to each unit of study. 

    In APH, students continue to improve their critical and analytical thinking abilities, using a co-curricular approach to comprehending the past. They practice the tools needed to be successful independent learners through informed discussion and debate, collaboration, creating and defending a written argument, and displaying mastery of content across a range of assessments. Ultimately, students will examine how the history of America’s prose informs the present state of the nation.
  • Biology 9

    Upper School science practices have been adopted from the National Resource Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas  and build on the practices from the Lower School. Students who demonstrate success in upper school science courses will be able to:
    • Ask questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering)
    • Construct explanations (for science) and design solutions (for engineering)
    • Plan and carry out investigations
    • Analyze and interpret data
    • Use mathematics and computational thinking to solve problems
    • Develop and use models
    • Participate in evidence-based arguments
    • Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information

    Biology 9 is a full-year, laboratory-intensive high school course based on the Next Generation Science Standards. Students focus on broad themes and develop deep conceptual understanding of foundational ideas in biology, including organismal structure and function, heredity, evolution, and ecology. Through student-led research, digital texts, collaborative learning teams, and exposure to primary sources, students participate in experimental design, scientific writing, data analysis and interpretation, and research. Students develop skills to prepare for future secondary level school work, such as note taking, study strategies, and learning in a digital classroom environment.
    Throughout the year, biological concepts and unifying themes come to life as pressing real-world issues are brought into the classroom, such as genetic engineering, stem cell technology, climate change, intelligent design, and science denialism. Students learn to observe the world from a scientific perspective, using scientific methodology to produce reliable data. As they study biochemistry, students learn why organismal structure and function is essential to understanding organismal survival. Cell biology introduces students to the cell as the basic unit of life, and investigations focus on how cell structure enables life processes to occur. Students also study genetics and evolutionary biology, focusing on the mechanisms of inheritance, the process of evolution, and the unity and diversity of life on Earth. Students investigate organismal diversity and how interconnected systems work together to sustain life. To finish the year, students delve into ecology, exploring organismal interactions with the physical environment around Fay.

    During the winter term, ninth grade biology students design their own course of study for the term. They work in small groups or alone to plan, iterate, and execute a scientific research project while learning valuable research and project management skills along the way. Connections with people in the “field” include scientists, doctors, and designers.
  • World Languages

    Upon entering the Upper School, students select a world language to study. Students choose from French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin. Placement in all levels is based upon the student’s prior experience in the language, teacher recommendations, and a placement test.

    Click here to see a detailed list of all Upper School foreign language course offerings.
  • Music

    The music faculty is committed to the concept of "learning by doing" and recognizes the value of performance in every student’s experience. Each year, Upper School students choose a music course from options that include Bass or Treble Chorale, Bells, String Ensemble, Band, and Music Exploration. The courses extend the theory and performance skills developed in the Lower School, but students new to Fay will also find that they can succeed in a beginning-level ensemble with little or no previous musical experience.

    Click here to see a complete list of music offerings.
  • Art

    The Upper School visual arts curriculum encourages personal expression and fosters the development of cognitive, motor, and social skills. Interdisciplinary and multicultural projects, art history, and resources within the school and community are integrated through the program.
    Students learn basic art skills as well as the elements and principles of design. In all grades, students have regular opportunities to draw from life and imagination; they also work in a range of media that includes paint, collage, ceramics, cut paper, sculpture, printmaking, origami, digital media, and other two- and three-dimensional media. Eighth and ninth graders have the option to participate in art electives that allow them to focus on specific areas of interest. Ninth grade students have the option to apply for Advanced Studio Art, a full-year immersion in the art studio that is graded as a full academic course on par with math, English, history, science, and world languages. Students are selected for Advanced Studio Art based on portfolio review by the visual arts faculty. Students complete work in two-dimensional media, including drawing, pastels, drypoint etching, mixed media, and acrylic painting.

    Click here for a complete list of course descriptions.
  • Drama

    Acting is an elective open to eighth and ninth grade students with a strong interest in performing arts. In this course, students explore the importance of taking risks, embracing vulnerabilities, and exploring one’s authentic self as a way of strengthening their work on stage. Through improvisation, playmaking, monologue exploration, and script analysis, students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of acting methodology and theatrical works. 
  • Creativity and Design

    Ninth grade students may explore Advanced Design Portfolio, a year-long elective designed to build each student’s design skills and understanding of professional design tracks through the creation of design objects and systems. Coding for Apps and Games and Robotics are elective courses available to eighth and ninth grade students. Click here for detailed course descriptions.
  • Wellness 9

    Leadership is an important component of the ninth grade Wellness experience, and students participate in a leadership development trip at the beginning of the year to set students up for success. Each student learns about their own specific leadership style and how this style interfaces with other leadership styles. Wellness class is the place where ninth graders begin to process the many conflicting emotions associated with leaving Fay School and starting anew. Ninth graders address a number of other important topics including gender stereotypes, drug and alcohol education (including drinking and driving, responsible decision making, and the dangers of prescription misuse), consent, understanding teen mental health, and bullying of various forms. The year ends with a second ninth grade trip which focuses on transitions as students prepare to graduate from Fay.

  • Athletics

    The athletics program takes place every day following academic classes. All students in grades seven through nine are required to participate daily in all three terms. Students choose from an array of interscholastic sports and intramural activities (one per term). Students may try out for competitive interscholastic teams or join an intramural team or activity. However, all students are required to participate in at least one interscholastic sports team each year.

    Click here for the complete list of athletic options.
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