Upper Schoolers get to know themselves by making connections with one another, with their advisors, with teachers and with staff, by caring about others, and by being challenged and being held accountable by others.
Our Upper School program embodies a healthy balance between academic rigor and personal development. As we like to say: we focus equally on head and heart.
The Upper School begins with foundational studies and expands to meet the ambitions of our students. The core experience in humanities and STEM emphasizes collaboration, student-led discovery, and original research — as well as the skills and habits of mind that allow for more advanced study. Our “physics-first” science program and our math curriculum encourage shared inquiry; our 10th Grade American Experience sequence brings together English and history. Our Advanced Topics (AT) Program is Packer’s intensive and intentional alternative to Advanced Placement; the 19 AT courses cover a wide range of subjects, including computer science, Chinese conversation and culture, and original research at the Brooklyn Historical Society, where Packer’s archives are housed. Our 40+ upper-level electives allow students to pursue specialized interests, from astronomy to choreography, journalism to mobile app programming.
Beyond the Classroom
We also provide learning experiences that can only take place beyond our classrooms. In our two-week Symposium program, each grade embarks on an intellectual journey (or a literal one: every 10th Grader travels internationally at no additional cost). Our independent, student-driven study opportunities include the Independent Study Program, the Senior Thesis Program, and the Independent Science Research Program, in which students design and conduct a three-year project under the guidance of mentor-professors in college and university research labs across the city.
Upper School students can choose from over two dozen clubs and affinity groups.
At Packer, the college application process is a highly individualized experience that puts students at the center of decision-making.
- World Languages
- Computer Science
- Health Education
- Physical Education
Believing that literature is a window to the world and a mirror to humanity, Packer English teachers use literature as a springboard for deep and meaningful reflection about the human experience. Age-appropriate texts are selected with an eye toward racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender diversity, and students are encouraged to make connections between literature and their own lives. The English curriculum seeks to instill in students an appreciation and facility for the written and spoken word. In accordance with Packer’s mission statement, English teachers encourage students to “think deeply” about the world around them, guiding them to become “empathetic, responsible, globally-minded individuals.” A student who has explored the breadth of the Packer English Department curriculum should be an adept reader, a compelling writer, a skilled speaker, and an active listener who is reflective and knowledgeable about the English language’s myriad forms of expression and capacity to inspire.
The History Department believes that the study of history is an ongoing process of interaction between students, traces of the past, and perspectives of scholars, all of which help to contextualize and interpret both the past and themselves in the world today. Our goal is to enable students to practice the historical thinking skills and the habits of mind that will empower them to engage in conversations with the past, to develop evidence-based arguments, and to make connections to the present. We prepare our students for civic engagement with genuine local, national, and global issues, and to value diverse experiences and perspectives. To that end, we emphasize a variety of core reading, writing, researching, and thinking skills and utilize a range of pedagogies to give students opportunities to gain knowledge, practice core competencies, and to take action based on thoughtful, ethical, and empathetic consideration of historical and contemporary issues.
The primary goal of the mathematics program at Packer is for students to think as and to see themselves as mathematicians. Fundamentally, this involves allowing students to generate mathematical ideas through investigative problems that can be collaboratively approached using multiple strategies. Teachers cultivate an appreciation for the beauty, creativity, and power of mathematics and the confidence to engage in its study. To this end, the Math Department helps students develop habits of mind, including critical thinking, perseverance, risk-taking, and problem-solving, that make them not only better mathematicians, but also enhanced thinkers across many disciplines. Along with this conceptual understanding, Packer students attain computational fluency and number sense as they move through the program. This threefold foundation allows them to see the prevalence of mathematics in their lives and provides a lens for understanding and engaging with the world. Ultimately, the Math Department hopes that students will look at mathematics and think not only of answers but also of questions and connections.
The science department promotes a curriculum that is designed to provide the information and skills necessary to understand the discoveries and principles of science in an increasingly scientific and technological society. There are three primary goals of the science program: to promote scientific literacy for all students, to develop critical thinking and inquiry skills that help students understand the basic nature of science, and to teach students how to apply their knowledge to solve scientific problems. What is critical is not the amount of material covered, but rather the conceptual depth of understanding reached. The use of the laboratory is essential to learning science at Packer. Students conduct hands-on investigations as integral components of each unit, with an emphasis on prediction alongside qualitative and quantitative analysis. Writing skills, mathematics, and technology are organically embedded within the laboratory program.
The primary goal of Packer’s World Language Program is to develop student’s confidence in languages, linguistic competence, compassion for cultural understanding, and devotion to the pursuit of learning a language beyond the walls of the school. The World Language faculty believes that languages should be taught in the context of literature, history, and culture with the aim of helping students make personal connections, acquire a foundation of empathy for understanding the diversity of the human experience, and developing a strong sense of the relevance of learning languages. Packer students who have participated in our World Language curriculum will develop advanced grammatical, sociolinguistic, and conversational competency, which will enable them to express dynamic interpersonal communication and acquire sophisticated language skills for their personal and professional development.
Computer Science offers a new lens to view the world, by solving problems, designing solutions, and envisioning the future. Our faculty work to support all members of the Packer community, including leadership, faculty, administrators, students, and families, by embracing computer science and design. We provide support in this effort through knowledge, practices, perspectives and digital tools. Our goal is for students and adults to leverage technology and engage experiences that are relevant, challenging, and personally meaningful. Computer Science plays a vital role in our community thinking deeply, speaking confidently, and acting with purpose and heart.
The Arts Department believes that a fully rounded education must include sustained attention to the Arts, which provide opportunities for students on many levels and in multiple ways. The Arts encourage students to think creatively and to take imaginative leaps in assembling the elements of their art in new unexpected ways. The Arts, especially the Performing Arts, offer opportunities to work collaboratively and in the process to develop empathy. The Arts see risk-taking as a necessary part of the creative process and that mastering challenges underscores the joy of creating. The Arts Department is committed to the belief that artistic expression has the capacity to challenge and push the boundaries of our thinking, to renew and invigorate the spirit of learning, and to inspire a deeper appreciation of oneself, of others and of the world.
In and outside of the classroom, Packer’s Health Education program is designed to meet community needs and prompt critical thinking. First and foremost, the classroom environment is intended to be low-stress, comfortable, and cooperative such that students, of all perspectives, can deeply explore personal values, self-esteem, interdependence, and the impact of personal decisions. Questions of equity, social justice, and diversity are interwoven throughout the scope of the curriculum.
The goal of the Physical Education program is to develop students’ appreciation of and commitment to lifelong personal health and fitness. Through a wide variety of activities, students are encouraged to move with confidence and competence, as they experience, develop and master a range of physical skills. A fun and challenging environment is created, which supports students to take risks and push their comfort zone physically, socially, and emotionally. With an emphasis on respect for self and others, cooperation, resilience and good sportsmanship, it is the aim of the physical education program to support both the physical and academic development of our students.
The Upper School comes together for a wide range of activities, including talks by renowned guests, such as #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, renowned artist Tim Okamura, and National Geographic photographer Andrew Evans. At weekly meetings in our non-denominational Chapel, students and teachers share news, stories, and inspiration, such as an update from the student-run Feminist Alliance, a report of student awards in the National Latin exam, and appeals to join the Kids’ Walk for Kids with Cancer (founded in 2001 by Packer students). At Packer, student leadership takes many forms, from Student Council to student-led discussions, workshops, and other peer-to-peer initiatives that give voice to a diverse range of interests, commitments, and experiences. Our Student Leadership Council is an incubator whose goal is to empower and train students who want to help their peers succeed. Our annual schoolwide Packer in Action program is just one of many opportunities for Upper Schoolers to plan and lead conversations and action toward greater social justice in our community and our world.
We view extracurricular activities as a valuable extension of our students’ learning. Dozens of student-led clubs organize service projects. Affinity groups provide important spaces for students to come together around shared identifiers. Students attend the National Association of Independent Schools’ Student Diversity Leadership Conference. Our faculty-led global travel programs offer service-learning experiences in Cambodia and South Africa. Our programs in the arts are a major force on campus, with theater, music, and dance performances, the senior art show, the Dance Concert, and the Packer Film Festival. Our athletics program — which earned 23 championships in 2017-18 — instills character, discipline, teamwork, and leadership.
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