Fieldston Upper, serving students in 9th through 12th Grades, exemplifies the best of progressive education and serves students who are highly engaged in both the School and the world around them. Our classes emphasize intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, ethics, and community involvement.
Fieldston Upper fosters skills, coursework, and values that prepare our students for higher education while simultaneously providing space and support for them to engage in community service, which is at the core of our mission. Our School features a robust arts program, extensive co‐curricular activities, and a dynamic athletics program.
Faculty and staff at Fieldston Upper come to know students well and offer broad and deep support for student growth, discipline, and development. The foundation students receive at ECFS prepares them to enter the world today and to see the world as it might be.
City Semester is a selective, interdisciplinary, experiential program offered to students in the spring semester of 11th Grade. The program integrates all disciplines (English, History, Languages, Science, Math, Ethics, Arts, and Physical Education) into a dynamic, cohesive whole with New York City — and the Bronx in particular — as its focus.
Students spend at least two days a week outside of school researching, exploring neighborhoods, interviewing residents, working with community organizations, collecting data, presenting in the field, and speaking to policymakers. The academic work is rigorous and challenging, with veteran teachers instructing in their own disciplines and collaborating across disciplines.
Taking inspiration from founder Felix Adler’s call to “develop individuals who will be competent to change their environment to greater conformity with moral ideals,” City Semester brings students out into the world to both construct their own learning experiences and address urban policy challenges. Through City Semester, our students engage with the urban ecosystem and become empowered to make it more sustainable, equitable, and fulfilling.
At Fieldston Upper, our students develop into independent thinkers, readers, and writers. English classes embody a student-centric, progressive ethos that encourages students to take ownership of their experiences. The program teaches and refines close reading, creating and sustaining expository arguments, and revising throughout the writing process. The English program is divided into two sequences: 9th and 10th Grade literature survey courses, and the two‐year elective program for 11th and 12th Graders.
The 9th Grade English course explores universal themes — such as the relationship between parent and progeny, the role of gods and fate, and the construction of the hero — through a skill- and inquiry-based approach. Students encounter these issues across a number of texts; by doing so, they are able to consider multiple textual implications, construct intertextual analyses, and examine how the archetypes created in the texts continue to have ramifications, for better or for worse, on our current culture. Writing is also a particular focus.
The 10th Grade English course uses various forms of literature to examine the tensions that define the American experience. By reading a set of central texts (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, selections from Thoreau and Emerson, Nella Larson’s Passing, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon) along with novels, short stories, poems, and plays selected by the teacher, students grapple with the complicated legacy that they, as Americans, have inherited.
11th and 12th Grade elective classes, which students select, cover a wide variety of topics. Some courses — such as Poetry, Comedy and Satire, and African American Literature — survey a single topic, providing students with an essential introduction to a literary arena. Other courses examine a specific subject — such as the Harlem Renaissance, Shakespeare, or The New Yorker — with greater depth, allowing students to experience sustained focus. Still other electives — such as Essay Writing and Creative Writing — focus on writing. Lastly, for students who have demonstrated their commitment to English, the Advanced Senior Seminar provides a platform to engage in high-level work examining literary theory and writing.
Fieldston Upper’s Ethics program is based on the personal, social, and intellectual development of students and responds to the moral issues that our students experience and witness in the world. In that context, we offer a course of study that identifies moral and social intersections, draws on ECFS’s ethical humanist traditions, and expands student understanding of the larger field of ethics.
Our unique approach to Ethics consists of a formalized program that builds critical inquiry and self-examination at each stage of development so that a student’s social, emotional, and academic growth occurs hand in hand with moral growth. Students take a series of foundational courses and then select from a range of electives in philosophy, social justice education, psychology, comparative religion, and social and political issues. Practice and theory come together in the action arm of the Ethics curriculum: our comprehensive Community Service Learning program. Service leadership opportunities within and outside the School contribute to a lived awareness of identity and identity contingencies.
Our goal at every stage is to challenge students to look at issues through multiple ethical lenses, excavate and develop their own belief systems, cultivate critical literacy, and grapple with questions they find relevant and engaging. We invite students to not only examine the content, but also interrogate their learning process, thereby developing intellectual agility and agency as reflective and engaged members of our communities. We emphasize multiple entry points for dialogue and consider how to engage with diverse perspectives. A classroom discussion might start with the basic premise that everyone is against poverty but deepen to ask how each student is specifically against it and how they will join with others whose answers may differ from theirs to create thoughtful and sustainable change.
As students develop these myriad skills and a deeper critical awareness, they become more sensitive to the moral dimension of the issues they encounter. Our curriculum fuels a foundational public purpose that is at the core of the School
History focuses specifically on the lens of time: how people in other periods and places have lived in ways that are recognizably similar to — and recognizably different from — our own. We want our students to understand that history is experienced and told from multiple perspectives and to develop curiosity about the world beyond the here and now. In every class, students work on effective research strategies, expanding their analytic capabilities and building strong writing skills. We seek to pique student interest in history through debates, simulations, field trips, and other experiential learning and to provide varied projects that tap into student creativity.
9th Graders study world civilizations with an emphasis on refining the study and writing skills they acquired in middle school, including conducting research, reading actively, and taking and reviewing notes. In 10th Grade, students continue to work on skills but begin to think historically in more sophisticated ways. 10th Graders travel together to Boston to learn about important historical moments in the places where these moments took place. Roughly one-third of our 10th Grade students take the Humanities course, which combines English, Ethics, and History under a conceptual umbrella of freedom — its meanings, conflicts, and changes.
11th and 12th Graders take electives that move away from a chronological coverage of the material to a more thematic approach. ECFS is committed to representing the heterogeneity of human life at home and abroad; as such, our robust elective program offers opportunities to dive more deeply into the various histories of people, places, and events. We offer courses on such topics as environmental history, the Middle East, and American radicalism, as well as courses that explore the ways in which race, class, gender, and sexuality impact people and societies inside and outside the US. As a department, we are committed to ensuring that our students leave Fieldston not only as capable thinkers and writers of history but also as engaged citizens with a clearer understanding of why they should care about the past and the future.
Interdisciplinary work is a key component of the Fieldston Upper experience. Many classes embody an interdisciplinary modality, such as a Spanish course that reads selections from Don Quixote, a Math class that examines the ethical implications of gerrymandering, or an Ethics class that engages in historical research.
Many elective courses are taught by multiple instructors in different departments. These courses include, but are not limited, to LP: 12 Albums That Changed the World (History/Music), Ethical Issues in Science (Science/Ethics), and The New Yorker: An Examination of Media and Culture (English/History). Students who take these courses choose which department credits the course.
Students also have the opportunity to take two immersive courses: Humanities and City Semester. Humanities is a year-long course for 10th Graders that combines English, History, and Ethics into a single class that meets eight times a week. The curriculum, assessments, and projects combine the three disciplines into a single, integrated learning experience, thereby enriching the student’s experience with all of them. City Semester, offered to 11th Graders, integrates all disciplines and is the most robust interdisciplinary program at ECFS.
Students entering 9th Grade have the option to continue their French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish studies or to begin a new language. Our modern language courses follow a communicative approach that develops fluency and accuracy by reinforcing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. By concentrating on universal themes such as human rights, technology, diversity, and interpersonal relationships as they pertain to the world and to the culture of the language being studied, language study at Fieldston Upper encourages students to embrace diversity and explore multiple perspectives. Students also have the opportunity to explore the diverse cultures and landmarks of New York City and to participate in foreign-language trips abroad.
The Math Department offers two programs: College Preparatory Mathematics and Advanced Mathematics. College Preparatory Mathematics courses offer all students a solid background in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. For most students, these courses lead to the study of calculus or statistics in the senior year. Advanced Mathematics courses unify the classical branches of mathematics so that students can integrate their studies of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability, and analysis. In their senior year, most students take courses in calculus or statistics.
Our work in mathematics emphasizes not only skill-building but also creative and independent approaches to problem-solving. In geometry, in addition to the traditional methods of deductive proofs, we explore situations dynamically by constructing figures by hand or by computer simulation and examining their features as they change. In algebra, precalculus, and calculus, we use mathematical ideas, graphing calculators, and computers to model situations based on real-world data.
Music at Fieldston Upper is a hands-on experience in which students are challenged to confront real technical and artistic issues unique to their own abilities in an effort to produce the best possible performances. Music classes are student-centered and goal-oriented, making them models of modern progressive education. Our teachers are active performers and composers who have firsthand knowledge of how to deal with a wide range of musical issues in the fields of performance and education.
Our students perform in a variety of concerts throughout the year — from the Holiday Concert, featuring all of our large ensembles, to the more intimate Chamber Music, Percussion, Opera, and Jazz Concerts. Students also have the opportunity to attend performances by well-known visiting guest artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Maria Schneider, Milt Hinton, and the Manhattan String Quartet; travel to jazz festivals; and participate in the NYSSMA solo and ensemble festivals.
In the first year of PE, students focus on developing personal fitness, personal safety, and community responsibility. Students participate in swimming, CPR training, a nutrition and exercise unit, and a course in health. As students enter 10th Grade, they have the option to fulfill their PE requirement in an elective program that includes seasonal intramurals, fitness room activities, yoga, tai-chi, and aerobics, or in dance classes or Alternative Gym Credit that exceed the regular two-days-per-week requirement. Ballet Hispanico, rowing, squash, and Alvin Ailey Dance are examples of programs for which students have received credit.
Athletics are a key aspect of student life at Fieldston Upper, and more than 65% of the student body participates in at least one sport. Our teams have enjoyed considerable success, winning league and state championships in basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, softball, and volleyball. The athletic complex features a double gym that allows for two simultaneous full-court basketball games, a fitness center and training rooms, and a multi-purpose room for team meetings, yoga, CPR, and aerobics. There is also a six-lane, competition-length pool.
All students acquire a strong foundation in science, including both biological and physical sciences. At ECFS, students typically study lab-based biology in 9th Grade, chemistry in 10th Grade, and physics in 11th Grade. These courses are offered at two levels, with approximately 30% in the intensive track. In addition, 12th Graders may take advanced lab courses in each of these subjects.
We also offer a rich array of science elective courses for 11th and 12th Graders. Examples include Neuroscience, Astronomy, Nuclear Science, Pharmacology, Chemistry of Food, Immunology, Mindfulness, and Ecology. Students interested in performing independent research can apply for our Science Research Program. This two-year course for 11th and 12th Graders includes a summer research component in which students develop their research skills in an independent laboratory setting.
Students use technology in a wide variety of ways throughout their school careers, and every department makes use of the internet and computers for their specialized purposes. We expect every ECFS graduate to be proficient with a range of tools and to adapt to new technological advances in the future.
Computer Science electives are available for students who wish to delve deeper, learn new techniques, and discover how and why different technologies work. Classes are designed to meet the needs of different interest levels. Fieldston Upper offers a four-year programming track for students with a strong interest in the inner workings of computer applications. Courses include Programming, Multimedia, and Web Page Design, all of which emphasize problem-solving, organizational skills, critical thinking, and collaboration. In the advanced courses, students are able to design their own independent programming projects.
Theatre at Fieldston Upper is rooted in identity development, social justice, empathy, and the construction of safe, creative spaces. Theatre artists work as thoughtful, collaborative storytellers to achieve the highest quality work through an even higher quality process. Students learn, grow, and collaborate as designers, writers, directors, interpreters, builders, actors and more in a program that keeps its work cutting-edge, alive within the greater community, and appropriately challenging for our students while being responsive to the needs and conversations happening in our world.
Fieldston Upper's Dance program offers a comprehensive study of the art of dance, with an emphasis on modern dance. Classes center on technique, improvisation, and composition, providing the creative and physical tools a dancer requires while exposing them to a variety of dance forms and cultural considerations throughout our curriculum. We foster original student choreography with a creative foundation that infuses the entire dance curriculum.
The Visual Arts program is rooted in hands-on learning, student-centered inquiry, and the development of a sensitive eye, a discerning mind, and a skillful hand. We believe that all individuals become more intelligent and compassionate, and can perceive the human condition more fully, through making and understanding visual art.
Our department offers a series of electives, including ceramics, architecture, sculpture, film production, life drawing, photography, painting and drawing, printmaking, and broadcast journalism. For students in 10th Grade and beyond who wish to pursue an intensive course of study, we offer an art major in 2D, 3D, or film production consisting of six hours of studio work each week. Students across 10th–12th Grade work together in the studios in electives, offering a chance for older students to mentor younger ones and for younger students to see exactly where three years of work can lead.