Upper School Academics

Search for Understanding, Rather Than Just the Right Answer.

The purpose of Derryfield’s Upper School is twofold: to guide a student’s academic growth through the acquisition of sound study habits and the development of analytical, independent thinking skills; and to foster each child’s social, emotional, and ethical growth. We aim to offer a well-balanced program that provides individual attention to every student, and strives to create an informal yet structured environment that offers challenge and support where students can expand perspectives and deepen experiences in numerous interest areas.

Portrait of A Derryfield Graduate

From the moment 6th graders sit down in their first Middle School Skills class to that far-off day when seniors ring the Lockwood Bell signaling their graduation from Derryfield, each experience at Derryfield is designed to cultivate this Portrait of a Derryfield Graduate. Along the way, students consistently engage with real-world learning in a project-based curriculum that emphasizes not just the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but their application in authentic experiences.

Students and faculty embrace the Core Value of Aiming High as they pursue the Portrait of a Derryfield Graduate as partners in learning, but the Derryfield values of Balance and Individuality are just as important in the Academic Program. The School encourages students to seek a balance of challenge and support in their Academic pursuits and to discover and nurture their passions. Student voice and choice from choosing from a wide range of course offerings to exploring individual passions in a project-based curriculum help transform the Portrait of a Derryfield Graduate into the Portrait of this Derryfield Graduate.


Upper School Curriculum

Advanced Topics Program

The Derryfield Advanced Topics (AT) program represents the pinnacle of skill development in each of our core academic disciplines.  When the School stepped away from the AP program in the 2019-2020 school year, this choice represented the culmination of a multi-year process to redesign the Academic Program to reflect the Portrait of a Derryfield Graduate and the real world skills those graduates need in each discipline.  Teachers in the AT program don’t teach to a test, but to real world outcomes.  Designed around college-level work and the mastery of key skills and concepts unique to each discipline, all AT courses include a “Gold Standard Project”–which involves an authentic question, deep research and a real, public product–along with the most rigorous academic experiences offered at Derryfield.

The AT program is not designed for every student to pursue AT courses in every discipline, but instead allows students to specialize in and pursue their passions.  Student voice and choice in the course selection process means that students can craft the overall academic program that serves their goals, interests and abilities, while prioritizing the essential balance of a healthy academic life.

Malone School Online Network

The Malone School Online Network (MSON) is a consortium of independent schools across the country that have been recognized by the Malone Foundation as providing rigorous academic programming and have banded together to share their advanced curricula. As an MSON school, Derryfield’s upper level students (generally juniors and seniors) have access to a variety of top-level courses taught by experts in their fields including past offerings such as Multivariable Calculus, Data Structures and Analysis, Arabic, and even Crime Scene Investigation. 

Each MSON course takes a blended approach, combining synchronous instruction—real-time video conferencing seminars—with asynchronous instruction—recorded lectures and exercises students complete outside of the class. The result is a virtual discussion seminar that is delivered in high-definition classrooms. In short, MSON provides a unique opportunity for advanced students to gain experience and knowledge on their journey toward college. Derryfield is proud to be the only MSON school in New Hampshire.

Independent Senior Projects

During the final four weeks of the spring term, all seniors are required to complete an Independent Senior Project. While seniors develop their proposals for ISPs in LEAD during the winter term of senior year, advanced planning in preceding years is recommended to assure all graduation requirements are completed and to consider possible ISP topics. The nature of the project is completely up to the student, although the program philosophy encourages “real world” structured experiences. The Alumni Coordinator, who serves as a liaison with alumni and the Derryfield community at large, can suggest possibilities for internships and apprenticing.

Seniors can also refer to the documentation of earlier projects undertaken since the program’s inception in 1985. These projects have been as diverse as the individuals who participate: interning in hospitals and law firms, acting as teachers’ aides, doing site work in archeology, studying ecology in Costa Rica, or interning at radio and T.V. stations.

Nuts & Bolts

Leadership, Ethics, and Development

The LEAD program is designed to foster each student’s social, emotional, physical, and ethical growth. Through intentional and age appropriate curricula, students develop skills to confidently navigate adolescence and prepare them to be purposeful citizens in any community.

Changing the Pace

Derryfield’s block schedule makes time for what we value: relationships, community, exploration, and excellent teaching and learning. The eight-day schedule offers predictability and consistency: a student will have the same courses and experience each Even or Odd Day. This schedule creates longer classes of 75 minutes, time for student centered learning, applying knowledge as you learn, innovative problem solving, and time to develop new strategies and experiences in collaboration, communication, media literacy, creativity and critical thinking.

The Support You Need

Faculty have embedded coordinated skills instruction through the upper school curriculum and our Academic Foundations course is offered free of charge to all upper school students. Additional academic support courses and services are available; families are encouraged to connect with our Academic Support team to discuss how we may meet your child’s unique needs.


Because Derryfield believes that engagement with the latest technology and facility with design thinking are essential to life in the 21st-Century, all Upper School students take an introductory course on the principles of Computer Science in 10th grade.  Students may also choose to pursue a wide range of elective courses in STEAM covering everything from hands-on construction of wind tunnels to an Advanced Topics offering in JAVA programming.

Exploring Passion Pursuits

Students are able to engage with the community through various activities and clubs offered on campus, including Red Cross Club, Green Club, Multicultural Student Union, and more!

Explorations 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, and to venture into new territory.

Upcoming Events

Upper School Faces

Bill Westenberg