Fieldston Upper

Fieldston Upper is a progressive high school that emphasizes intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, ethics, and community involvement.

Our school fosters skills and offers coursework that prepares our students well for higher education while at the same time providing space and support for them to engage in community service, which is at the core of our mission. The high school features a robust arts program, extensive co‐curricular activities, and athletics.

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 Fieldston prepares them for the world today, and to see the world as it might be.


In the upper school, our students continue to develop into independent thinkers, readers, and writers. Like most classes in the upper school, English classes embody a student-centric, progressive ethos that encourages them 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—ninth- and tenth-grade literature survey courses and the two‐year elective program for juniors and seniors. The ninth-grade curriculum introduces students to Western classics, including The Odyssey, Oedipus, Macbeth, the Bible, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Tenth grade is dedicated to American literature and complements the tenth-grade history curriculum. Upper-class elective classes focus on exploring specific issues, covering a wide variety of topics including journalism, social and political issues, African-American literature, comedy and satire, modern British literature, and a creative-writing workshop.


Our 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 Fieldston’s ethical humanist traditions, and expands student understanding of the larger field of ethics. What school wouldn’t want to address moral development? At Fieldston, however, our unique approach consists of a formalized program and pedagogy that builds skills of critical inquiry and self-examination at each stage of development so that a student’s social, emotional, and academic development is addressed hand in hand with moral development. Students take a series of foundational courses and are then offered a range of electives in philosophy, social justice education, psychology, comparative religion, social and political issues, and the like. 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 examine not only the content but to interrogate their learning process, thereby developing intellectual agility and agency as reflective and engaged members of our communities. Again, 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 students how each one is specifically against it and how they will join with others whose answers may be different from theirs in order to create thoughtful and sustainable change. As students develop these myriad skills and a deeper critical awareness, it increases their sensitivity to the moral dimension of the issues they encounter. Our curriculum fuels a very foundational public purpose that is at the core of the school. As Adler would say, “The mind guides the hand.”


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 told from multiple perspectives and to develop curiosity about the world beyond the here and now. Ninth-grade students study world civilizations with an emphasis on the refinement of study and writing skills, including conducting research, active reading strategies, note‐taking, and tools for reviewing notes. In tenth grade, students think historically and learn how to convey their interpretation of material in less traditional ways, such as the annual History Fair, in which they present multimedia projects. Trips to New York City and New England allow for more experiential learning during this year. About one-third of tenth-grade students take the Humanities course, which combines English, ethics, and history under a conceptual umbrella of freedom: its meanings, conflicts, and changes. Juniors and seniors 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 an example, every year our students develop a postwar political and social movements museum, with group projects that compare and contrast the African-American freedom movement with subsequent struggles.


Students entering ninth grade have the option of continuing their Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish study as well as beginning or adding a new language. Our modern language courses follow a communicative approach, with students developing fluency and accuracy through the reinforcement of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Our classical languages program advances Latin students from the study of grammar to the study of literature and offers students the option of adding ancient Greek to their academic portfolios. Language study at Fieldston is a vehicle through which to embrace diversity and explore multiple perspectives via class discussion and reading by concentrating on universal themes such as human rights, technology, diversity, and interpersonal relationships as they pertain to the world and culture of the language being studied. Students also have the opportunity to explore the diverse cultures and landmarks of New York City as well as participate in foreign- language trips abroad.


The Fieldston Upper mathematics department offers two programs: the College Preparatory Mathematics program and the Advanced Mathematics program. The College Preparatory 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. The Advanced Mathematics courses unify the classical branches of mathematics so that students can integrate their study 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 just skills-building but also creative and independent approaches to problem-solving. In our geometry classes, for example, 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 changes are made. In our algebra and precalculus classes, we use mathematical ideas, graphing calculators, and computers to model problem situations based on real-world data to make predictions.


At Fieldston Upper, our music teachers are active performers and composers who facilitate hands-on classes in which students confront real technical and artistic challenges in order to produce great music. Music classes are student-centered and goal-oriented, making them models of modern progressive education. Students perform in concerts throughout the year, including the Holiday Concert, featuring all of our large ensembles, to the more intimate Chamber Music, Opera, and Jazz Concerts.

Physical Education & Athletics

In the first year of upper school physical education (PE), our students focus on developing personal fitness, personal safety, and community responsibility. In PE they must participate in swimming, CPR training, a nutrition and exercise unit, and a course in health. As students enter tenth grade, they are allowed to fulfill their PE requirement in an elective program that includes seasonal intramurals, fitness room activities, yoga, tai-chi, and aerobics. Students may also fulfill their graduation requirement by taking dance classes or Alternative Gym Credit. In order to receive credit for dance and/or Alternate Gym Credit, the activities must be of such vigor that they surpass the regular two day 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.

Science & Computer Science

Science courses in the upper school are offered at two levels. Students typically study lab-based biology (ninth grade), chemistry (tenth grade), and physics (eleventh grade), with earth science offered as an alternative to either chemistry or physics. Advanced courses also are available for these subjects once students have completed the lab courses. A significant number of science electives, including a research course and an independent studies course, are available.

Computer Science: As technology touches virtually everything that we do as a society, in the upper school computer science is an integral part of the curriculum. Courses include programming, multimedia, and web page design, all of which emphasize problem-solving, organizational skills, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students are able to design their own independent programming projects in the advanced courses.

Theatre & Dance

The Fieldston theatre and dance department is the place where innovation and collaboration meet. From studios to scene shop, black box to main stage, Fieldston performing artists are part of a close-knit artistic community, inspired by the collective enthusiasm and talent each student and faculty member brings to every pursuit. At Fieldston, the performing artist is integral to the fabric of the entire community, providing a public, artistic face and forum to the many themes studied across campus. The theatre and dance program reaches beyond the expectations of traditional school theatre and dance in the material we present, the ways in which it is created, and the techniques studied. There is a place for all artists to thrive in the theatre and dance department, where collaboration and inclusivity are always paramount.

Visual Arts

The visual arts program is rooted in Felix Adler’s vision of progressive education: 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. A series of electives is offered throughout the high school years, including ceramics, architecture, sculpture, film production, life drawing, photography, painting and drawing, printmaking, and broadcast journalism. For students in the tenth 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 in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades work in the studios together in electives, offering a chance for older students to be mentors to younger ones, and for the younger students see where three years of work can lead.