A Breadth of New Opportunities

New classes bring even more vibrancy to the Upper School experience

In the 2019-2020 school year, the Upper School is offering new electives to ensure our students are introduced to a breadth of opportunities to discover their passion and maintain a competitive edge as they prepare for college and life after CWA. These exciting new electives are being offered to stay committed to academic challenge, a well-rounded program, and the character development that will always be important as the world continues to change around us.


Creative Writing: Contemporary Narrative This course is a trimester long discussion-based and design thinking course that analyzes podcasting as contemporary narrative literature, presented orally.  The course will explore the rhetorical features and narrative structures of podcasting and will examine ethical questions this form poses, including what to share, and what not to share. Discussion and analysis of podcasts as contemporary narrative will include witten transcripts, and the course will culminate in students’ creation of an original podcast.

Chinese-American Literature This course will examine works by Chinese-American writers who explore the intersection of Chinese and American culture in the U.S.  The class will study fiction, nonfiction and poetry through the broad lens of American identity, making this very much an American Literature course. The literary works and course activities will address issues such as how Chinese culture and Chinese-Americans shape and impact American culture; how American culture impacts Chinese-Americans; how American culture is viewed as transformative (positively and negatively) for Chinese immigrants; and the cross-cultural challenges faced by first-generation children of Chinese immigrants in America.  

Other Heroes, Other Journeys Why do high schools still require students to read The Odyssey? The epic, with its focus on heroes, Fate, journeys, and transformational suffering, continues to inspire authors and shape the narratives and themes of contemporary American literature. American writers of all ethnicities draw on The Odyssey’s structure and archetypes, ponder similar broad human lessons, re-imagine both its peripheral and main characters, and borrow or re-examine its themes. Students in this course will analyze long and short-form works of diverse American literature that owe their structure and themes to The Odyssey.  

Wilderness and the American Mind In Wilderness and the American Mind, students will continue to develop analytical reading and writing skills through examination of texts that explore the changing perception of “Wilderness,” with emphasis on the literature of North America. From America’s first peoples and early immigrants from Europe, to Henry David Thoreau, to Rachel Carson and more, we will read and write about literature that reveals and reflects how people viewed nature and wilderness.  We will explore perceptions of nature as savage wilderness, as the source of the quintessential American character, as an ecosystem requiring protection, and as a reality existing outside an anthropocentric worldview. Students will respond to literary readings through in-class discussion, a series of essays and shorter writing assignments, and a final paper on a topic of the student’s choosing.


U.S. Women’s History This one trimester course is designed to encourage critical thinking about women’s history through close reading, interpretation and written analysis of both primary sources and analytical essays on important topics in U.S. history. While clearly not able to cover the entire scope of American History, the participants will work to determine a selection of eras and problems to focus on with the ultimate focus of the course being on the production of a significant research paper on a problem of interest to each student and a research presentation to an academic audience.

Native American History, Culture, and Literature In this course, we will dive into Native American culture and tradition throughout the span of North American history. This course will involve the study of tribes from coast to coast, focusing on cultural differences by region. We will study and discuss the historical conflicts starting with European Expansion trickling all the way down to modern fishing and hunting rights. In addition, we will focus on storytelling as a part of Native American culture, both traditional and modern. There will also be opportunities for field trips and guest speakers to incorporate Washington State’s and our own local community’s resources and rich heritage.

Global Conflict Since World War II This course would examine the role and development of the armed conflict since 1945 with a particular emphasis on the role of the United States military. It is intended to cover a series of global armed conflicts, the development of the military as an institution, the impact of military technology, and the changing role of the military and the use armed force around the world. Conflicts covered would include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars in Iraq, the Rwandan genocide, Afghanistan, and the Global War on Terror. The history of these conflicts would serve as a framework for further examining social and political issues from 1945 to the present.

Science demonstration


Avian Ecology The first part of the course will focus on the natural history of the vertebrate class Aves (Birds).  Physiology, anatomy, and evolution will be closely studied. A look at migration patterns through the Pacific Northwest and around the world will help students see the role bird observations/bird banding play in understanding climate change.  Another major focus will be on “citizen science.” Working in close connection with Cornell University’s All About Birds organization, students will collect and plot data of their own bird observations. At least 50% of the class will be spent in the field, learning how to ID birds by sight and sound, and becoming familiar with bird watching tools.  Frequent visits to the CWA forest, Kobayashi Park, Adriana Hess Audubon Center, Titlow Park, Point Defiance, Chambers Bay, Chambers Creek, and other places will help students appreciate these amazing flying creatures.

Environmental Science Environmental Science is interdisciplinary by nature, embracing topics such as geology, biology, chemistry, and geography. The goal of the course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, and the connection between science, technology, and society.   Students will apply prior scientific knowledge to understanding current environmental issues, both global and local, and will become a better-informed citizen and decision-maker. The course content will be organized thematically by trimester: Ecosystems & biodiversity; Population & Resource Management; Interconnected Systems – Water, land and air. Students will simultaneously be developing scientific skills such as engaging in argument from evidence, constructing explanations and designing solutions, planning and carrying out investigations & fieldwork. Students will be evaluated based on quizzes, case study responses, a mix of lab & fieldwork, and several collaborative projects.

Energy Science society, and students will gain the tools to talk about energy from a more informed perspective.  The course is designed to bridge the gap between the ongoing political and societal conversations about energy and the abstract concepts we study in our science classrooms.  Students will learn about various techniques for generating energy, storing and transporting energy, and examine current conversations in our society around energy use. Although some simple mathematics can be expected, the course will focus on qualitative aspects and students should be prepared to read and write. Evaluation will be based on homework, tests, a project and class participation in discussions.

Introduction to Engineering Computing This trimester course is designed as an introduction to using computers to solve problems in physics and engineering, and could be very helpful to any student considering pursuing a technical field in college.  Students will learn many advanced functions in Google Sheets and the basics of programming in MATLAB. Evaluation will be project-based, and the projects will revolve around classic physics problems such as estimating friction, predicting the path of projectiles and modeling air resistance experimentally.

Physics of Flight This course is a trimester physics elective that focuses on aircraft.  Students will explore the history of manned flight, and study the physics of lighter-than-air craft, subsonic and supersonic flight.  Students will analyze airflow patterns and calculate lift and drag forces on simple airfoils. Basic design elements for aircraft will be studied, including control surfaces, wing type and loading, and an introduction to static and dynamic stability.  Evaluation will be based on homework, tests, labs and short hands-on investigations. This will be the perfect course for a student with an interest in flight who didn’t get enough of it in their physics class, or took AP Physics 1 and did not study it!


Explorations in Discrete Mathematics This course starts by exploring different strategies for tackling interesting and obscure problems, and then covers discrete topics from the Math Modeling course.  Are voting systems as simple as we think?  How are representatives really apportioned (and is it fair)? How do you divide up property fairly? These and other topics will be explored. Concepts will be taken to a deeper level than the Math Modeling course but will start from scratch.

Personal Finance Understanding financial management concepts is an important life skill. A thorough understanding of financial concepts, with practical application through activities and projects, will enable students to leave this course with useful skills for life. This course emphasizes the basics of budgeting, saving, checking, investments, credit, insurance, and paying and preparing income tax returns. After high school, students face a world filled with possibilities, and the more knowledge they can acquire, the higher the probability that their financial future will be secure. Students taking this course will learn to better prepare for their financial futures.

Group Theory / Modern Algebra With Proof This course is designed for students with a strong interest in expanding their study of mathematics. Through a study of topics including set theory, modular arithmetic, group theory, and methods of proof, we will explore the truths on which standard mathematics is based. What happens if we change the rules? How can anything be proved in mathematics? When is proving the impossible useful or possible? How can an understanding of structure be used to solve otherwise intractable problems?

Advanced Problem Solving: Methods and Strategies Through a variety of challenging questions, students will develop strategies for solving problems from a wide range of mathematical fields. Students will develop and reinforce skills from previous math courses as they apply a variety of strategies that they devise and refine. Together we will consider how problem solving skills can best be improved, how common themes can be used to attempt problems in diverse contexts, and whether elegant mathematical solutions are always better than brute-force solutions. Students will have the opportunity to try out their newly refined problem solving skills by participating in the American Mathematics Competition in February.

Printmaking demonstration


Stained Glass This trimester we will create a number of glass art pieces. We will learn how to design, cut and solder a stained glass panel.  We will create mosaics through different techniques including glass on glass. We will visit a couple of local glass artists studios. We may experiment with painting on glass and glass fusing.

Artist Workshop We will bring in several established artists from within the local Tacoma community. Each artist will share their work and medium and a bit of information about their business as a professional artist. I am planning on bringing in a wide variety of artists to show multiple perspectives. The students will do a hands-on project, working directly with the artist for a few classes. The students will make responsive work in this new medium and the artist will rejoin the class for the final critique. We will potentially visit a few of the artists’ studios or art festivals for a field trip. There might be an opportunity to showcasing both the artist and the students’ responsive work together in the school gallery. No prior art experience needed.

Public Art We will create large-scale art installations for our school and for the broader Tacoma community. We will take on current topics and communicate information through community art projects.  Each student will be tasked with designing an educational art piece for different departments at school, this might be in the form of a bulletin board or poster. One teacher from each discipline will serve as the “client” and will direct the direction of the project. We will create work for an outside organization, potentially a coffee shop or a retirement home. We will design and create a mural for the campus. We will meet local artists who create public art and will talk with the local Tacoma Arts Commission.

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