Global learning weaves throughout the Belmont Hill curriculum:
(Mandarin Chinese, Spanish & French)
We strive to impress upon students the importance and enjoyment of acquiring a second language and learning about other cultures. To achieve this goal, our classes, beginning with the lowest levels, are conducted exclusively in the target language. Although Belmont Hill students are required to complete the third level of a language, most students opt to continue with their studies. Students begin in seventh grade and can pursue their language through the AP level. Finally, we actively encourage our students to immerse themselves firsthand in cultures where the target languages are spoken, through participation in our spring vacation trips, the School Year Abroad program in Spain, France and China, or through an array of summer programs.
World Issues-Case Studies in the Modern World: (Form III) In this required course, students explore the recent history and current issues in three countries. Unit I examines economic and social challenges in post-Apartheid South Africa, Unit II Modernization and reform in China, and Unit III ethnic and religious tension in India. Each unit traces the history of the issue from its roots to the present. Students then engage in an in-depth project focused on current events. For example, at the conclusion of Unit I, students participate in a multi-day, role-playing negotiation exercise. Cross-disciplinary learning is built into the course, taking special advantage of links to Environmental Science and English classes. Much attention is paid to basic skills: active reading, organization, class notes, public speaking, writing and research. Beyond gaining those skills, students are encouraged to analyze: to understand bias and multiple perspectives; to generalize about what sets the industrializing world apart; to form opinions about major issues of the day; and to understand the value of history in explaining their world.
Middle Eastern History
Latin America: (Form III) This course examines the development of Latin America from the pre-Columbian civilizations of the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas to the present day. Primary concentration is placed on analyzing the very different forces that have come to shape this rich and intriguing region of the world. The course is organized into four distinct chronological segments: the pre-Columbian era and the arrival of the Europeans; the Spanish colonial period; Independence; and the modern age. A basic text is supplemented by handouts, films, slides, and guest presenters. Emphasis is placed on developing the study skills acquired in earlier history classes, particularly critical reading and note taking. A longer research paper is written in the second half of the class.
Africa-Colonialism to Independence: (Form III) This course traces the history of Africa from 1750 to the present, examining closely the European exploration of the continent, the colonialism and imperialism of the late 19th Century, and the nationalist movements of the 20th Century. Particular focus is given to developments in South Africa. Readings are from texts and novels, and in written work, students are given an opportunity to develop their own assessments of the continent and its journey.
: (Form VI) An important crossroads from the beginning of history, the Middle East today is both a meeting place and flash point between East and West, Arab and Jew, OPEC and the industrialized world. This course focuses on three historical periods: Ancient Israel, the rise of Islam, and the Middle East in the 20th Century. Current news primary sources, both American and from the Middle East, and literary works are examined in addition to the normal text and lecture materials. A substantial research paper is required of each student.
AP Comparative Government: (Form VI) This is a year-long interdisciplinary course, employing tools from history, political science, international relations, and economics. Students will gain the conceptual tools and knowledge necessary to understand the world’s diverse political systems and examine seven of the world’s most important political entities: two durable democracies (United States and Great Britain), three developing democracies (Russia, Mexico, and Nigeria), and two non-democracies (Iran and China). In addition, the course will explore the political impact of supranational organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations. Students will take the AP Comparative Government exam in May.
Facing History: (fall) (Form VI) Through the study of events such as the Holocaust, American slavery, and the ethnic wars in what used to be Yugoslavia, students examine historical and current situations that involve decision making on a moral level. They are asked not just “What happened?” but also “How could it have been prevented?” and “How can it be avoided in the future?” The materials are books, readings, videos, guest speakers, and a daily reading of the New York Times. Students are expected to show a thorough knowledge of the events studied via tests, essays, class discussions, and reports. They also practice critical thinking and decision making through oral and written analysis of the questions “How could it have been prevented?” and “How can it be avoided in the future?” The submission of a written case study of a specific, individually chosen historical moral dilemma is required of each student.
The Global Economy: (fall) (Form VI) This semester course examines key issues in the international economic community. In the first part of the course, students will be exposed to an overview of major microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts. From there, we will branch out to explore an array of issues that face the global economy today: globalization, free trade, banking reform, the economic impact global warming, among others. During their studies, students will explore and assess divergent economic opinions. The readings will include a textbook, scholarly journals, newspaper articles, and chapters from recent books on economic issues. In the opening months, students will be graded on their understanding of micro and macroeconomic concepts. Later in the course, evaluation will consist of weekly position papers, two essays, and a final project. Each student should emerge as a well informed member of the global community who is able to take intelligent stands on key economic issues.
International Affairs: (fall) (Form VI) International Affairs is a semester-long senior elective exploring current world events. Students read the international articles and editorials from the New York Times on a daily basis and discuss them in class and on an online discussion board. There are regular quizzes on nightly readings. Several times during the semester, students engage in week-long projects: representing a group in a peace conference on a current world issue; devising and conducting a statistical study comparing coverage in the Times with another news source; developing a fundraising proposal for an internationally- focused charity to be presented to the school’s community service committee; and writing an editorial on world events for the school newspaper. In lieu of a final exam, each student writes his own roleplaying exercise on a country/region assigned at the start of the semester.
World Religions: (fall) (Form VI) This course blends a survey of religions with an inquiry into basic philosophical questions. Students examine five of the world’s major religious traditions— Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist—and secularism. This investigation then initiates conversations on the three essential themes of the course: the purpose of life, the idea of God, and the paradox of belief and action. Students experience guest speakers from different faiths, a range of historical and literary texts, and several trips off campus to see how these traditions live within our community. Boys electing the course should be prepared to think critically about the beliefs in our lives that we often hold to be true.
Environmental Science: (Form III) This course is dedicated to the exploration of the range of environmental problems facing humankind as it moves into the 21st century. From resource depletion to environmental degradation, the course exposes students to these complex issues and the myriad social, scientific, technological, and ecological challenges they pose for the future. Using a case study approach, a basic scientific understanding of each issue requires an interdisciplinary background – drawing upon geological, meteorological, atmospheric, biological, oceanographic, chemical, and ecological concepts and in establishing the connections between them. The conflicts between man and nature can then be considered and weighed as a holistic analysis of these complex issues is attempted. The course seeks to balance the study of problems with the search for new technologies and solutions and to promote a sense of optimism about the future. In the face of global challenges, the course is designed to put scientific information into a social context. While there is a lab component to the course, debates and discussions will also be held frequently so that students may share their perspectives. An ongoing environmental study performed in the local area or an analysis of data from a larger sampling collected over the Internet will allow students to share in the scientific assessment of several of these issues. A final project in the course can take one of a variety of public forms.
Marine Biology: (Form III) This course is designed to give students an introduction to organisms and processes in the marine environment. It also includes a consideration of environmental and economical issues as they relate to the biology of the ocean. Marine organisms are studied in the context of their ecosystems, including rocky intertidal zones, estuaries, coral reefs, and deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Class presentations are supplemented with laboratory activities and a field trip to coastal sites.
AP Environmental Science: (Forms V & VI) Designed to build upon the environmental science curriculum taught in the ninth grade, the AP Environmental Science course provides students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies necessary to solve environmental problems. This course will allow students to understand interrelationships in the natural world, identify and analyze environmental problems, evaluate the relative costs of environmental degradation, and develop solutions for these environmental issues. Environmental Science is interdisciplinary; it embraces and utilizes a variety of topics from different areas of study, including ecology, chemistry, geology and biology, economics, and politics. The course includes rigorous discussion and debate, laboratory investigations, inquiry based and student-centered experimentation, and the reading of environmental literature. Students are expected to take the AP exam in May.
The study of literature lends itself to perspective taking in many ways. Students may identify the different voices in a novel, write in the persona of a particular character, or, in one assignment, interview family members to consider their own cultural heritage and write their family tree. Although our focus is on the literary text as an artful rendering of human experience, along the way we explore the rich cultural/historical contexts of the books we read and include several multicultural works in various courses throughout the curriculum. Our required American Literature course asks our juniors to consider by way of their own literary inheritance the rights and responsibilities inherent in our language and culture. Then, through the rich experience of taking a range of junior/senior electives, students continue to grow, personally as well as globally, learning to accept ever-greater linguistic and cultural complexity.
God, Man & Myth: (Form V) This course blends a survey of all the major (and many of the minor) religions of the world with great world literature that deals with the relationship between god and man. We will compare and contrast important stories from particular faiths about creation, the flood, the apocalypse, and the afterlife. Additionally, we will experience guest speakers from within our community and beyond to talk about their relationships with religion and their search for meaning. Many of the greatest works of world literature deal with these themes, so we will examine parts of The Inferno, Paradise Lost, Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, The Tao Te Ching, 1001 Arabian Nights, and The Bhagavad Gita. We will also look at stories from more modern authors like Dostoyevsky, Camus, Joyce, and Kafka. Students will be asked to do a series of short reports and present them to the class: an account of religion’s influence on a historical event or a political conflict, an interview of a person about his/her personal relationship with a faith, and an examination of a piece of art inspired by religion. To broaden our perspectives we will also attempt to practice yoga, meditate in a Zen garden, and listen to popular music that deals with the themes of god, the devil, man, and myth..
Belmont Hill offers a myriad of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities in Visual Arts, Music, and Theater with exposure to world art and music. Students can explore the many ways learning at Belmont Hill extends far beyond the classroom.