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Academic Vision

Over fifty years of leading lives of passion and purpose.
The Derryfield Academic Vision, implemented in the fall of 2019, cultivates agile, resilient problem solvers. During a three-year process, the School planned this academic redesign to better equip students for the 21st century’s complex problems. Building upon the best of who we are, the faculty and staff drew upon stellar neuroscience and education research, visited other independent schools, and developed departmental visions. The resulting Academic Vision strives to prepare Derryfield students to tackle challenges with a resilient, entrepreneurial spirit.

Your Questions Answered:

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • How does the academic vision develop 21st Century Learning?

    Emphasizing 21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, curation of information, and problem-solving, the innovation begins in Middle School, where every student studies Design Thinking, Coding, and Financial Literacy and where the LEAD program (Leadership, Ethics, and Development) takes root in the 6th-8th grades. 

    In the Upper School, our education requirements enhance the traditional fundamental liberal arts course of study, including requirements in Computer Science, Visual Foundations, and LEAD (Leadership, Ethics, and Development).  Advanced Topic courses have replaced the AP curriculum with top-level, custom-designed courses that integrate rich content with innovative problem solving, student research, and real-world application. In many classes, students partner with local, national, and international organizations for expertise and to resolve community challenges.  
  • Does Derryfield offer AP courses?

    Advanced Topic (AT) courses replaced an AP curriculum with top-level, custom-designed courses that integrate rich content with innovative problem solving, student research, and real-world application. Our college counseling office and independent research confirms that AT courses effectively distinguish Derryfield students from other college applicants, due to the unique stories that DS students have to tell about their project-based learning. 

    For example, the AT chemistry course serves as a capstone for the chemistry curriculum at Derryfield. In this course, students explore selected chemistry topics, including reaction kinetics, acid base chemistry, and electrochemistry at a level comparable to a first-year course at the college level. Laboratory work is a significant component of the course, and students learn advanced techniques of titration and spectroscopy. Additionally, students create and record a podcast that aims to educate their audience on an aspect of nuclear chemistry. Past projects included the pros and cons of nuclear fission as an energy source, a discussion of the use of radiation in medical imaging, and the future of nuclear fusion as a sustainable energy source.

    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.

    Some recent 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 for more information about the courses.
  • What are Exploration Courses?

    Exploration 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 take risks, to be playful, to venture into new territories such as the art of Beekeeping, forensics, sportscasting, personal finance, podcasting, and more. 

    Activities--such as Robotics, Model UN, and Lamplighter, 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 give MS and US students more opportunities to participate in community service.

    In the Upper School, Explorations “share” the eighth block with the Leadership, Ethics, and Development program on an alternating basis, and students can participate in one Exploration offering per term. In the Middle School, Explorations 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.
  • What is the school schedule?

    The Derryfield School follows a schedule that 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, “Students have more time to ask questions, share their progress, do hands-on activities and apply and extend their understanding before classes end. They have 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 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. 
    • Wednesday Morning Delayed Openings give students time for rest or collaboration and teachers time for professional development.
  • 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.

The Derryfield School

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