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Academic Vision

Over fifty years of leading lives of passion and purpose.

A 21st Century Education

    • Vision for the Future

As part of a three-year process, the Derryfield faculty and staff have engaged in a focused review of our teaching practice, program and schedule. Building upon the best of who are, we have explored 21st  Century skills, researched ideas from other independent schools, and developed departmental visions. We are excited to share the Derryfield Academic Vision, which is now being implemented on a daily basis.

Your Questions Answered:

List of 7 frequently asked questions.

  • How does the new Academic Vision develop 21st Century Learning?

    Emphasizing  21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, curation of information and problem solving in current and new courses,  the innovation begins in the Middle School, where every 6th grade student studies Design Thinking in STEM X, every 7th grade student explores Computer Science in Coder X, and our new LEAD program takes root in the 6th-8th grades.   

    In the Upper School, our updated graduation requirements enhance the traditional fundamental liberal arts course of study, introducing new requirements in the 2019-20 school year in Computer Science, Visual Foundations, and LEAD (Leadership, Ethics and Development).  New Advanced Topic courses will replace the AP curriculum with a top-level, custom designed set of courses that will integrate rich content with innovative problem solving, student research and real world application.  

    In addition, this year, departments will be reviewing every course - considering whether to integrate qualitative and quantitative problem-solving, design thinking, or visual communication.
  • What will replace AP courses?

    Advanced Topics (AT) courses will replace the AP curriculum with top level, custom-designed courses that will integrate rich content with innovative problem solving, student research and real world application. 

    For example, the Advanced Topics in Biology course is a capstone course for the biology curriculum at Derryfield. This course is comparable to a first-year biology course at the college level. This course is open to all students who did high quality work in Biology and Chemistry (honors and non-honors), and have outstanding motivation and interest in biology and the field of science. Successful students in this class will be those who have developed responsibility for their own learning.
    As part of the biotechnology component of AT Biology, students will isolate, sequence, and characterize a pivotal gene involved in cellular respiration from a plant species. In addition to lab techniques (DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction, ligation, transformation, and restriction digestion), students will gain experience with bioinformatic analysis of their unique clones. The final results of this course may be publishable in the NCBI GenBank database.  

    In AT American Public History, as students develop conclusions about complex and often contentious issues in the American past, they will consider how the public remembers these issues and how they should be remembered in modes varying from museum exhibit designs to public speeches. 

    Advanced Topic courses include: 

    Advanced Topics Computer Science: Software Design with Java (year)
    Advanced Topics English (Grade 11): Exploring Effective Civil Discourse in American Literature and Culture
    Advanced Topics English (Grade 12): The Literature and History of Consumer Culture
    Advanced Topics History (Grade 11): American Public History
    Advanced Topics History (Grade 12): US Since 1960
    Advanced Topics Latin: Survey of Roman Prose Authors 
    Advanced Topics Latin: Poetry in the Golden Age of Rome
    Advanced Topics Mathematics: Calculus
    Advanced Topics Mathematics: Investment Math
    Advanced Topics Science: Biology (Grades 11−12)
    Advanced Topics Science: Chemistry (Grades 11–12)
    Advanced Topics Science: Physics (Grade 12)
    Advanced Topics STEM: Research, Entrepreneurship and Design for X - Competition Track (F, W) (Grades 10-12)
    Advanced Topics Language: Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture

    Please see the Derryfield Upper School Curriculum Guide 2019-20 for more information about the courses.
  • What are Exploration Courses?

    Explorations courses are designed to immerse students and faculty in experiences and pursuits that inspire new interests, broaden skills, and sharpen awareness of the community outside of the classroom.  Rooted in academic and real world skills, they are designed on a pass/fail basis to encourage students and faculty to risk, to be playful, to venture into new territory such as the art of Beekeeping, forensics, sports casting, personal finance, podcasting and more.  

    Now a number of major activities--such as Robotics, Model UN, and Lamplighter, the student newspaper, yearbook and Math Team-- will be offered as Exploration courses, giving students reliable, ample time to research, design and compete. During Explorations, Middle School students can take Band and Strings or Chorus without having to choose between the arts and study hall, and Explorations will now give MS and US students more opportunities to participate in community service.

    In the Upper School, Explorations will “share” the eighth block with the new Leadership, Ethics, and Development program on an alternating basis (Exploration courses will take place on Days 2 and 6; LEAD will take place on Days 4 and 8) and students can participate in one Exploration offering per term. In the Middle School, Explorations will take place during the 7th and 8th blocks and students can participate in up to two Exploration courses per term.
  • Is there a senior capstone experience?

    In the senior year, every student develops an Independent Study Project (ISP). During the winter LEAD class, students create concrete plans for their ISP experience, developing networking skills and learning to be self-advocates. During the five week projects, which range from shadowing health providers and teachers, to building a Tiny House, to interning with local technology partners such as DEKA, students meet with onsite and Derryfield advisors to reflect on their learning. Students exhibit their projects at the ISPalooza, an evening of performance and project presentation.
  • Why a new schedule?

    The new schedule gives time for what we value: relationships, community, exploration, health, and excellent teaching and learning. The schedule includes: 
    • 4 class blocks each day instead of 6, providing more time to engage in the learning of a specific subject, fewer transitions between each class and fewer tasks to prepare for the next day. 
    • Longer 75-minute classes promote collaboration and student-centered learning. As Tracy Blaisdell, a 6th and 7th grade math teacher, remarked as she experimented in the longer block: “Students had more time to ask questions, share their progress, do hands-on activities and apply and extend their understanding before the class ended. They had time to work collaboratively and individually which is important considering the differentiated nature of the class. Having more time to practice in class and get their final questions answered had the added benefit, for many of my students, of helping them approach the homework more confidently.” 
    • Exploration mini-courses will enable students to choose new endeavors on a pass/fail basis - for example, The Art of Beekeeping, Writing a Mystery Novel, Personal Finance, Podcasting and Textile Crafts.
    • A break between each class: Community Block (when students participate in All School Community Meeting, Advisory, Activities, Class Meetings), lunch and Collaborative Time for extra help or to work with classmates on team assignments. 
    • A new homework policy will enhance focus and flexibility, because rested students are ready to learn. Although there are two nights between classes in the new schedule, teachers will assign only a “night’s worth” of homework.
  • How does Derryfield cultivate the skills and character of each child?

    As an independent school, we have the remarkable opportunity to strike a balance: we ensure that every child has access to critical experiences that develop their skills and knowledge and we ensure that each individual can choose from diverse opportunities to forge their own path.  
    • The Middle School Learner’s Portrait is a skills program that develops each middle schooler into a strong community member, presenter and performer, self-directed learner, healthy person, composer and designer, problem-solver, reader and researcher, and writer.
    • The Portrait of the Derryfield Graduate is a skills program that develops each upper school student into an engaged community member who embraces leadership, the Core Values of the school, and physical, mental and spiritual well being; self-directed learning; creative, collaborative problem solving;  critical thinking, reading and research; effective communication; and lifelong curiosity and learning 
    • The Pathway Program provides 1-to-1 personal coaching to upper school students, identifying their strengths and interests and connecting them to the School’s offerings in curriculum, clubs, service, global programs, independent study projects, and internships.
  • How did the faculty prepare for these innovations?

    First, research: Over the last three years, we have been researching: visiting excellent schools, visiting with alumni about their workplace experiences, and learning from our local and national partners, those who invite Derryfield students to join them for internships, senior Independent Study Projects and first jobs out of college to discover how we can best prepare our students for the world around them.  Here is what we learned: students learn best when they can apply while learning and 21st work places need people who identify needs and solutions and are capable of converting ideas into action. 

    Second, training: In 2019 alone, the entire faculty completed workshops in project-based learning with the Buck Institute and in teaching methods for longer classes. In addition, many of our teachers have participated in and/or presented on 21st Century skills at national conferences.  

    Third, collaboration: The new schedule offers a delayed opening every Wednesday: this is time for professional development and for teachers to collaborate on best practices.

The Derryfield School

2108 River Road, Manchester, NH 03104     p: 603.669.4524     f: 603.625.9715