Upper School Program

Thaden’s upper school program challenges and supports students at each stage of their development as they move from the mastery of foundational knowledge toward increasingly independent and self-directed modes of inquiry. Our upper school faculty encourage students to share, question, and dissent as they acquire the skills and confidence needed to think critically and creatively. Our trimester schedule and longer class periods encourage intellectual independence by allowing students to design and undertake focused, immersive projects that take advantage of Northwest Arkansas’ abundant natural and cultural resources. Our co-curricular offerings also invite self-expression and present opportunities for students to develop as campus and community leaders. By teaching students to ask the right questions and empowering them to pursue the right answers, Thaden’s upper school program provides a foundation for success in college and a life of integrity, purpose, and responsible global citizenship.

List of 6 items.

  • Curriculum

    The upper school curriculum respects the boundaries of the core academic disciplines so that students learn to distinguish the ways in which scientists, artists, mathematicians, historians, and others create knowledge and understand the world. The program of study in each discipline, however, also intersects across fields so that students may recognize patterns and illuminate big questions.

    Thaden requires a minimum of 22 credits for high school graduation, distributed across the curriculum. One credit is equivalent to a year-long course. Students will exceed the minimum requirements by taking additional electives and advanced courses. Many of our courses have distinctive features that set them apart as particularly challenging and comparable to college level work.

    At many schools, especially those serving students with an extremely broad range of academic trajectories and needs, courses that are specifically designed to prepare students for college often carry the Advanced Placement (AP) designation in order to signal their academic rigor. Thaden has not adopted an AP designation because our entire curriculum, as a whole, is challenging and designed to prepare all students for admission to even the most selective colleges and universities in the world. Thaden students will in the natural course of their studies develop all of the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to excel on AP examinations should they choose to take them. Any student graduating from Thaden School will also have met or exceeded Arkansas state graduation requirements.

    Summary of Upper School Requirements (22 Credits)
    English:4 credits
    Visual & Performing Arts:2 credits
    Mathematics & Computer Science:3 credits
    Integrated Science:3 credits
    History & Civics:3 credits
    World Languages:3 credits
    Advanced Coursework & Intensives:4 or more additional credits
  • Grade 9

    Students in Grade 9 will pursue courses in English, Mathematics, History, Visual & Performing Arts, Integrated Science, and World Languages. In addition, students may take elective classes such as Chamber Orchestra, Cycle Lab, Community Theater, or Slow Food. They also have the option to participate in physical activity classes or study halls during their elective period.

    Sample Curriculum for Grade 9
    EnglishWriting OneselfWriting NatureWriting Home, Writing the World
    Math & Computer Science

    Integrated Algebra
    & Geometry

    Mapping the Earth
    Geometric Perspectives
    & Proofs

    Dynamic Geometry & Computing
    Area & Volume

    In the World: Interdisciplinary Projects

    HistoryAncient World HistoryModern World HistoryNew World History
    Visual & Performing ArtsTheater in the StreetNaturalist's NotebookArt of the Plate
    Integrated Science

    Chemistry of Life on Earth

    Darwin's Atolls

    The Cell

    Disease, War
    & Human Settlement
    Genes, Inheritance
    & Human Development

    Urban Archaeology
    World Languages
    (by placement)







    Signature Programs & ElectivesCycle LabStory CorpsSlow Food

    Illustrative Course Descriptions for Grade 9

    With a foundation in some of the most enduring literature suited to ninth grade minds, the English curriculum at Thaden introduces students to various genres by which writers have come to know themselves, nature, home, and the world. Ninth grade English uses drama, poetry, short-stories, and creative non-fiction to hone critical reading and writing skills within and across the disciplines. Frequent analytical essays and opportunities for revision help students to develop clear and effective expression of their own ideas and to master grammar and vocabulary. Writing assignments draw wherever possible on topics relevant to work elsewhere in the integrated curriculum such as in History, Arts, or Integrated Science. Major texts might include Homer’s The Odyssey, Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, or Barrett’s Voyage of the Narwhal.

    Mathematics & Computer Science

    Ninth grade mathematics is the first step in a balanced program drawing from both traditional and contemporary approaches and content. Combining rigor and skill-building with discovery, the goal is to inspire students to think creatively and confidently about mathematics within and beyond the discipline. Ninth grade mathematics will also integrate the study of geometry and algebra to ensure the retention of algebraic skills learned in middle school needed for higher mathematics in tenth grade and beyond. Special projects may include using geometry to calculate ideal grade and elevation for mountain biking trails and jumps, laying out a school garden plot according to the Golden Ratio, calculating the volume of an irregular geometric structure at Crystal Bridges Museum, or hitting the “Math Trail” in and around Bentonville.

    Students in Grade 9 take a year-long course in World History that is organized thematically as well as chronologically. The aim is to engage critical questions taken up in other areas of the Thaden curriculum by tracing the development of cultures through the lens of interactions between people, the land, art and technology. Students in the first semester explore what life was like for the first human beings on Earth and how and why humans began to settle, farm, and build civilizations. In the second trimester, students travel the highways and water routes of antiquity to understand the experience of migrants in the ancient world, whether aspiring tradespeople or invading armies. The third trimester takes students to the Atlantic World to explore how an ocean system produced encounters between Europeans, Africans, and indigenous Americans, and how the land and its existing inhabitants – human, animal and plant – impacted the history of the “New World.” Students will study artifacts as well as texts, and learn to interpret history through the work of makers from past millennia, from Paleolithic cave paintings to Islamic tableware to 18th century sextants.

    Visual & Performing Arts

    Students in ninth grade will take Visual & Performing Arts courses in each of the three trimesters, including visual art, music appreciation, and theater. Thaden will make use of the resources of Northwest Arkansas to define and enrich its Arts program. As Thaden continues to grow, so too will the offerings of the Arts program. For the founding year, we have developed partnerships with institutions such as Compton Gardens, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Trike Theater, Brightwater Culinary Institute, TheaterSquared and Storybrook Strings. Throughout their high school years, Thaden students will be able to take basic courses in the visual and performing arts, as well as advanced courses in their area of interest and expertise.

    Integrated Science

    Ninth grade integrated science brings biology, chemistry and geoscience together in a year-long sequence to demonstrate the relevance of each of these disciplines to each other and to ecology, evolution, disease, and the environment. Students will investigate how chemical changes in the atmosphere and land made life possible on earth; what anatomical, behavioral, and genetic changes shaped the development of human individuals and populations; and how and why humans began to change the environment. Laboratory work is an essential part of the course and will bring students into the communities, gardens, streams, and mountains of Northwest Arkansas.

    World Languages

    Our World Languages program will begin by offering instruction in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin for all students. The study of Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, two of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, will provide ample opportunities for students to weave history, literature, and art together as our teachers bring these languages and cultures to life. Latin instruction adds a distinctive and valuable dimension to our curriculum. Students who study Latin come to appreciate word roots in ways that enhance their overall command of English and many other languages, their sense of wordplay, and their understanding of legal and scientific terms.
  • Feedback and Advising

    Thaden’s advising and evaluation practices are designed to support and challenge Upper School students in equal measure. Each Thaden student is assigned a faculty advisor who is the liaison between student, school, and family. Students meet with their advisors in weekly group advising sessions and in individual meetings to plan and monitor academic progress. Combining the best of innovative and traditional approaches, Thaden’s assessment practices include cycles of comprehensive teacher feedback and student self-evaluation. Students — and their advisors and families — receive written evaluations from teachers at regular intervals during the academic year that offer a complete picture of work, achievement, and areas for improvement. In addition, students work closely with their teachers to guide their own progress, including leading parent-teacher conferences and developing their own feedback mechanisms.

    We want Thaden students to embrace academic challenges and discover new interests as they embark upon their upper school journey. For that reason, while grades are assigned in ninth-grade, only courses taken after the ninth-grade year are included in a student’s grade-point average (GPA).

    Likewise, at Thaden, choosing a college is viewed as a process of self-discovery. Faculty and other advisors support students in approaching the college admission process as a long-term project requiring deep research into programs that match their interests. Each college advisor writes an individualized recommendation letter that offers a holistic analysis of the ways in which a given student has embraced a challenging course of study and that provides additional context to measures such as GPA or test scores. Our faculty members also bring a wide range of educational backgrounds to our campus and, in this respect, serve as important role models as we encourage students to think carefully and expansively about their college and career aspirations.
  • Athletics and Co-Curricular Programs

    Critical to the balance of our education program are the co-curricular programs that provide students with opportunities to challenge themselves, collaborate with one another, and advance their capacities to learn in several modes.

    In the founding years, we intend to field one interscholastic athletic team each season that includes both boys and girls, is flexible in terms of number of student participants needed in order to compete, and that promotes individual leadership as well as teamwork. In selecting our initial athletic offerings, we balance our desire to be distinctive with the need for a critical mass of regional teams against which to compete.

    Students in the founding years also have the opportunity to establish and lead a number of clubs and other organizations.
  • Faculty

    The quality of our educational program resides in the expertise of our teaching staff. All of our educators, recruited from the region, state, and across the country, bring to our campus a passion for and mastery of the subjects they teach and demonstrated ability to inspire and mentor young people, both inside and outside of the classroom. This commitment to students and to the classroom experience, coupled with ongoing opportunities for professional development, is a distinguishing feature of the Thaden faculty.
  • Calendar

    Thaden’s academic calendar runs on a trimester rather than a semester system. Twelve-week trimesters allow middle and upper school students to take a greater number of courses in a given year, enabling them to explore more disciplines and subjects. Our trimester calendar also gives teachers more opportunities to diversify their offerings and innovate with new subjects and teaching methods. Of course, a subject that cannot be effectively covered within a single trimester can still be offered across multiple trimesters in much the same way that certain subjects are offered for two consecutive semesters.

    For two weeks during the academic year, Thaden students alter their routine to work with faculty, fellow students, and community members (artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, etc.) to apply what they’ve learned to various projects of local and global significance. For example, a history teacher might partner with an environmental scientist to design an immersive study of the Battle of Pea Ridge. What would soldiers have relied on for sustenance in the field? What landscape features and weather conditions might have influenced the staging of the battle? The possibilities for collaboration and immersive learning in Northwest Arkansas are endless, and these capstone projects – what we are calling Intensives — will allow teachers to model the investigative habits of mind essential to critical thinking.

    Although the trimester system has not been widely adopted in the region, our academic calendar begins on or near the same date as most public and charter schools in Northwest Arkansas and is aligned with sports seasons, national holidays, and traditional breaks. The Thaden year has two-week winter and spring breaks, as well as celebrations for special occasions such as Louise Thaden Day.

    See the Thaden School Calendar

Thaden School

| 410 SE Staggerwing Lane | Bentonville, AR 72712 |