19 AP Courses
26 Arts Electives
Student/Teacher ratio: 8:1
Average Class Size: 14-16
The Upper School academic/intellectual/ethical experience includes (but is in no way limited to):
- The World Perspectives Symposium, a conference featuring a renowned keynote speaker and presentation sessions in which students share original research.
- Travel courses to Spain, China, Peru, Rwanda, and more, most of which involve research and service (studying spider predation at a field station on the Amazon River; working with teachers in Kigali to explore new classroom practices).
- Full integration of the arts into the curriculum, including required coursework in digital design, photography, and fine arts.
- Membership in Global Online Academy allowing students to take innovative online courses with peers from around the world.
- Access to adventurous off-campus programs like the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C., the High Mountain Institute, and School Year Abroad.
In and out of class, on and off campus, our students go into every experience with their hearts and minds open and their hands ready for work.
The Upper School social/emotional/physical experience includes (but is in no way limited to):
- Class retreats at the beginning of every school year — a chance to bond in a fabulously unfamiliar setting.
- An always-evolving list of student-supported clubs.
- Performances and gatherings sponsored by student groups, including coffee houses, a cappella throw-downs, and Harmony for the Homeless, a musical talent show benefiting local shelters.
- An accomplished athletics program that in one recent fall season recorded four Fairchester Athletic Association semifinal appearances, one league championship appearance, four New England tournament berths, and a New England girls cross country championship.
This is an experience — and a community — where everything is connected, where every part belongs to a greater whole, each for all.
The soccer team has been on an incredible streak, but there is still more to build on. It’s a little like my Design Thinking class where there’s no textbook, and the teacher gives us complex problems to solve. She expects us to get stuck. She expects us to be totally wrong sometimes; she expects us to work through it together. We’re learning how to teach ourselves. There’s no need to be afraid. There’s just growing.
We're learning how to teach ourselves. There's no need to be afraid, there's just growing.
A lot of different moments pushed me to pursue the World Perspectives track. The biggest moment was spending a month in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. The media tends to portray refugees as helpless, immobilized, and vulnerable. The people I met were innovative and persistent. Now, when I think about going to college and beyond, I’m gravitating towards service. I want my work to make an impact.
When I think about college and beyond ... I want my work to make an impact.
We see learning — and life! — differently. We want you to discover what you love to do,
what you care about, who you really are. We prepare you to succeed — and to fail. To be resilient. To solve problems. To take ownership of your education. Mastery of content gets you only so far. We cultivate curiosity, creativity, and intrinsic motivation— the qualities that help you go further.
We want you to discover what you love to do, what you care about, and who you really are.
I had attended only one school before I came to GFA. The thought of leaving a place that felt like home was, to be honest, terrifying. But GFA is such a welcoming place. There are smiles everywhere. My friends gave me the motivation to reach higher. That’s how it works here.
My friends gave me the motivation to reach higher.
The Upper School curriculum provides the foundational skills and understanding that students will need in college and beyond, while leaving room for them to develop and pursue their individual interests. We meet with students individually to help them design an academic program that will present reasonable challenges to instill confidence and foster a passion for learning.
In the spring, Upper School students are immersed in May Terms. These seven-day courses are taught at the end of the second semester and enrich the student experience beyond the core GFA curriculum. Designed by our faculty, these non-traditional courses allow students to engage deeply in dynamic topics while exploring personal interests, connecting with different teachers, and collaborating with peers across the division. Learn more
Become a creator in the digital world by exploring the field of Computer Science from bits to apps. Projects and courses teach students about big ideas in computing related to coding, robotics, history, ethics, privacy, big data, security, and the Internet.
Upper school students can explore myriad voices in literature, spanning centuries and representing several literary genres. Their journey explores the written word, from politics to poetry to prose, from history's great works of literature, to mastering creative writing.
GFA’s World Perspectives Program links the curriculum of the school’s divisions and academic departments around the broad topic of global studies. The academic program exposes students to broad and diverse ideas from the field, and provides them the intellectual skills to critique, synthesize, and communicate effectively.
From the origins of man to the development of agriculture and the first civilizations, from ancient to contemporary cultures in the U.S. and around the world, these courses lay the historical foundation for global societies, still very much at the heart of the world today.
The math curriculum focuses on the content itself as much as on problem-solving and collaborative strategies, and the tenacity and persistence students need to solve different problems. These are the skills that our students can use anywhere, not just the classroom.
Through a variety of inquiry-based labs, hands-on activities and project work, students will investigate the major themes that connect all living things. Courses include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science, Oceanography, Marine Bio, Research and Engineering, among many others.
Offering French, Mandarin, and Spanish, the language programs not only explore communication, but culture and collaboration. World Languages span the curriculum to incorporate literature, history, art/film, and current events.
Global Online Academy
Students may also take online courses offered by Global Online Academy, a consortium of more than 65 independent schools from around the world. GOA replicates — in online classrooms — the rigorous programs and excellent teaching that are hallmarks of its member schools.
Service Learning in the Upper School means working with a group of peers, partnering with a local organization, and making connections through service to others. Each advisory group plans and executes a project alongside one of our community partners, many of which of which have longstanding relationships with GFA.
In the Upper School, a variety of clubs and activities provide opportunities for students to develop and pursue passions, and more importantly, to step into leadership roles. Opportunities range from serious to silly, and vary somewhat from year to year based on student interest. For a list of Upper School clubs, click here.
School Participatory Action Research Collaborative (SPARC, formerly The Center for the Study of Boys and Girls Lives) is a consortium of independent schools based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, which gives students the opportunity to study and improve their school’s culture through Youth Participatory Action Research. To learn about this year's work in the Upper School Qualitative Research Class, click here.