The High School Program

Foreign Languages

French or Spanish: Levels I, II, III

Our small language classes of 3 to 7 students encourage active participation and help learners build confidence. Hillside students meet every day with their foreign language teacher for a challenging, yet approachable immersion experience. Classes are taught almost entirely in the target language. We offer a variety of class activities to accommodate different learning styles, and the material we provide aims at developing multicultural awareness. Courses increase in complexity from basic communication to reading, writing, and advanced conversation. Students may continue in their chosen language through Washington State’s Running Start program and master up to the 300 college level in their senior year.


Placement in our 9 – 12th grade math program is determined by student mastery of concepts, rather than by grade level. We offer Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus on site. Teachers emphasize why an algorithm or approach works rather than merely how to apply a formula.

Literature & Composition

English Courses

Each English course incorporates reading, study, and analysis of literature and literary theory, development of critical skills through expository papers, and exploration of personal voice through creative writing (both poetry and prose).  A thorough grounding in grammar and style strengthens the student’s literary abilities.

Ancient and Medieval Classics and Mythology

Among others, the concept of the mythic journey as an approach to literary criticism is studied in this course. Students write original stories patterned after the mythic journey.

Works studied include:
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey,
Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and The Eumenides
Euripides’ Iphigenia (as filmed by Kakoyannis)
Aristophanes’ Clouds
Sephardic love poetry
Courtly Love literature
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
and early developments of the novel.

Shakespeare shapes our language and thinking.  We quote him daily without even knowing it. Exposure to and familiarity with his resonant speeches and poetry, his engaging plots and vivid characters deepen one’s literary and cultural background and expand one’s awareness of the complex possibilities of metaphor and symbol.  Class readings, literary studies and expository papers are based on themes inherent in various Shakespeare plays.  Students learn and perform scenes of their choice in order to explore the theatrical element of Shakespeare.  Creative writing evolves from freestyle poetry to Elizabethan style sonnets as well as other forms.

We read, analyze, and watch plays such as:
The Tempest
King Lear
Richard II
Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
As You Like It
and others.

Independent reading of American literature supplements these classics.

World Literature

In this course, students read and analyze a large selection of neo-classic, romantic, realistic, symbolist and impressionist, modernist, and post-modernist works, and base three expository papers on them. Focus is given to identifying various moods and structures from the literature studied and developing poetry and prose in each of these styles.

Authors studied have included:
and many others.

Literary Criticism

In this course, students study literary texts from a variety of different influential approaches: from Historical/Biographical or Moral/Philosophical approaches to Psychological, Sociological, Formalist, Archetypal, and Structuralist ones.  They delve into the general literary theories developed over the centuries by such figures as Aristotle, Dante, Sidney, Wordsworth, Poe, Arnold, and Derrida. Examining high level criticism exposes students to the various points of view from which one can look at a work. This study encourages them to evaluate these approaches for themselves, to determine the value and limitations of each, and to begin to find writings and philosophies that speak to them in their own search for meaning.

While initially a stand-alone course, elements of it are, at times, integrated into the other high school English courses.

Works studied or used as reference include the following and many more:
Sophocles’ Oedipus the King
Aristotle’s Poetics
The Gospel of Colonus (a film based on Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus)
Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Birthmark
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and other works
A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature by Wilfred Guerin et al
and Critical Theory Since Plato edited by Hazard Adams.


Advanced Math Based Physics(with Algebra II, Trigonometry, Analytical Geometry)

Hillside’s Lab Physics is a rigorous approach to physics with a heavy emphasis on the mathematics involved. Vector algebra, analytic geometry and trigonometry are all used to reinforce the students’ understanding of both the science and math. The calculus concepts of limits and derivatives are introduced and related to various topics in physics, paving the way for more technical treatments in future calculus courses. Topics studied include vector algebra, Newton’s laws of motion, reference frames and their relative motion, rotational motion, conservation of momentum and energy, lab procedures and the proper use of lab notebooks and lab reports. Problem solving strategies are introduced early in the course and emphasized by the instructor in the discussion of almost every example problem or question asked in class.

The course involves a substantial amount of daily practice problems which the students have time to master under the guidance of the instructor during class before finishing the rest at home. Labs are a significant challenge, not only reinforcing physics concepts but time management, teamwork in an academic setting, trouble shooting, technical writing, tenacity and patient attention to detail.

We utilize computer linked motion and force sensors combined with data analysis software in a variety of demonstrations and lab projects. This sophisticated approach provides students with the background and understanding needed to pursue future studies in science and mathematics.

To keep things appropriately interesting (this is physics after all, it should be interesting), new topics are introduced alongside original audio-visual presentations including video clips and photos of rockets, rock climbers, students performing experiments, the instructor walking a tight-rope, ballistics pendulums, “high-brow” web comics, the instructor creating carefully controlled explosions in his metal fabrication shop and more.


During Hillside’s high school biology course we cover the major topics of cellular biology, genetics, and evolution.  As we study cellular biology, students learn about photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and cell division. Then we move into Mendelian genetics, more complex inheritance patterns, DNA structure and function, protein synthesis, and genetic engineering.  Finally we learn about the process of natural selection, theories on the origin of life on earth, human evolution, and classification.  We learn through class discussions, hands-on labs and activities, and debates on relevant and current topics.  In addition to the shorter term lab experiments that we do, students also design and conduct their own experiments on any biology topic of interest over several months.  Students then present their research findings in a scientific paper and/or presentation and/or poster similar to those that scientists prepare for peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.

Chemistry and other sciences

Hillside students take Chemistry (as well as any of the sciences listed below) through the Washington State Running Start program, in which seniors attend community college courses and simultaneously earn both high school and college credit for their work.

Participation in this program in their 12th grade gives our students access to college level laboratories, curriculum and resources, and prepares them for their transition to colleges and universities the following year. Sciences available to Hillside students through Running Start include 100 level survey courses (which do not require advanced mathematics) through courses at the 200 level in the following areas:Astronomy, Botany, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Geology.

Because the student takes a full academic year (three quarters) of college coursework (up to 15 credits per trimester) through Running Start, s/he has the time to fulfill the prerequisites needed for most 200 science level courses, and can take them in the second or third trimester (depending on the course).

Social Studies

Through study of primary sources including art, music, literature, politics, and philosophy, students are challenged to analyze, to think critically, to look beneath the surface of a work, to find and evaluate the ideas and point of view it expresses—as well as to develop an understanding of the perspectives of others.  Students explore the frames of reference of cultures and individuals and are encouraged to look beyond simple answers to explore the complexity of character and motive in history.  Geographical study, both historical and modern, gives context for cultural developments and historical events.  Preparation, writing and revision of two research papers help to train students for comparable college work.  A culminating project—based on each student’s research of an historical character—is the scripting and dramatization of a meeting of minds where students engage each other’s chosen historical characters in conversation and respond to questions from an audience.

An additional component of these courses throughout the year is study, analysis, and debate of contemporary world problems related to such general topics as human rights, environmental issues, globalization and the economy, civic action and responsibility, checks and balances, constitutional issues, cultural interactions, government revenue & responsibility, and international conflict and its resolution.  Topics will be presented through a variety of means. Students will be expected not only to learn background, history and major points of view regarding these issues, but to determine and defend their own stand related to them—at the same time learning and listening respectfully to those of others with a mind open to persuasion by the facts and by strong reasoning.  As one prompt for class discussion and further study, individual students will alternate presenting reports based on analysis of articles from major newspapers from around the world as well as on a variety of background materials both assigned and from their own research.  The class will then debate these issues and events.

Western Civilization: Ancient through Renaissance
A survey of ancient, medieval, and renaissance history, this course traces the roots and development of civilization’s ideas, creations, and problems.  Using original source materials such as art, music, and texts, we look at the evolution of western attitudes toward the individual, religion, government, and the nation-state, as well as at the clash and merging of diverse cultures and values and the resulting inner tensions.

We examine sources such as:
Neolithic art and artifacts
early epics of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis
the Neo-Sumerian statue of Gudea of Lagash
Babylonian law codes
Egyptian mythology
the Classical Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman architecture and sculpture
Meno, The Apology of Socrates, and The Republic by Plato
the Bible,
the Book of Kells,
Icelandic sagas,
Old English poetry,
the Bayeux Tapestry,
the Magna Carta,
medieval cathedrals,
Marie de France,
Geoffrey Chaucer,
paintings by Michelangelo,
Utopia by More,
The Prince by Machiavelli,
madrigals by John Dowland,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare,
and many others.

We delight in the mystery, appreciate the beauty, and marvel at the power and absurdity of human creation and striving.

Western Civilization: Modern World

A survey of the history of the modern world, this course traces scientific and political revolutions and their practical and philosophical backgrounds as well as their expression in the contrasting styles of classical and romantic art, music and literature.  We explore nationalism as both an ideal and a source of conflict.  We study the Industrial Revolution, the economic systems of capitalism and socialism and their consequences and critics.  We debate colonialism, 20th Century conflicts, the Cold War, and current problems.  We discuss the possibilities of conflict resolution through alternatives such as those adopted by Gandhi or the village of Le Chambon.

Sources have included the following works (or excerpts from them):
Shakespeare, Macbeth,
James I, “The Trew Law of Free Monarchies”
Molière, Tartuffe
René Descartes, Discourse on Method
John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Second Treatise on Government
“An Agreement of the People”
English Bill of Rights
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Baron de Montesquieu, On the Spirit of the Laws
Voltaire, Candide
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
W. A. Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder, The Magic Flute
“The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”
Danton (film by Andrzej Wajda)
Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus
Giuseppe Mazzini, The Duties of Man
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
Erich Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front
Elie Wiesel, Night
Philip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed
Great Decisions
What If? 2, ed. Robert Cowley

United States History

We discuss and debate themes of independence, both personal and political, the ongoing tension between freedom and security in government, and the meaning of America.  Diverse roots of American political ideas and archetypes are reviewed through sources from the Bible to John Locke and the Iroquois Confederacy.  Students learn to apply methods of historical inquiry.  After studying primary sources, they take roles and debate Independence, the Constitution, the causes of the Civil War, and US policy in Vietnam.  Moreover, by examining our conceptions (both valid and invalid) about them, we humanize our historical icons.  Music history becomes another avenue for understanding.  In one unit, we examine how Rock ‘n’ Roll is a unique American amalgam of African and European traditions arising from a creative response to tragedy and loss.  We trace its roots back from the Beatles, to Muddy Waters, Elvis, “Big Mama” Thornton, Ray Charles, and Robert Johnson, to blues, swing, jazz, gospel, country, work songs, spirituals, African drumming and pentatonic scale, and Irish folk music.

Sources range from:
Cherokee and Zuni creation stories,
to Bartolome de las Casas,
William Bradford,
Thomas Paine,
Alexander Hamilton,
Supreme Court Cases,
Slavery Remembered,
Upton Sinclair,
John Steinbeck,
and many others.


Visual Arts Media/Techniques I, II, & III (Grades 9-11)

Visual Arts Media/Techniques I, II, & III is a series of studio courses which develop concepts of art and design to which students were introduced in Fundamentals of Visual Art, again using a wide range of media and techniques. Class time is spent on assignments falling roughly into three (often overlapping) areas of study:

  • Drawing, transitioning into painting, including gesture drawing from life, landscape, linear perspective, still life, and portraiture, using charcoal, pastels, watercolor, and finally acrylic paint. A survey of art history provides the framework for exploring both direct painting and a series of underpainting techniques

  • Design/composition, including color theory exercises, as well as applied design work in reduction printmaking, and graphic design projects in Photoshop/Gimp and Sketchup

  • Personal projects which allow students to choose to work in three-dimensional crafts/sculpture, such as ceramics, bookbinding, weaving, paper crafts, or jewelry making, or to explore further in a medium we’re using in class. Personal projects should represent a minimum of 2-3 hours of effort, but are often a student’s major focus in a given block, particularly in the eleventh grade.

Ninth-eleventh grade artists also keep a sketchbook, and develop the discipline of daily practice in life drawing.

Creative Dramatics

Students gather once a week for drama games, improvisation and acting exercises. This proves to be a cabinet of wonders – exploring issues of ethics and morality, studying relations from the interpersonal to the international – learning to tell original stories with imagination and wit. The lessons learned here are varied – the freedom and courage to risk, the power of the spoken word, emotional resilience and stability, and the ability to extemporize without fear.

Physical Education

Includes four periods a week of supervised, non-competitive physical activity. Hillside Student Community School offers a fencing club after school as a competitive sport open to the broader community.


Taken in the month of September and again from May to June, elective courses are determined by the students and teachers each year, and draw upon community artists and resources. Mostly ungraded, these courses encourage student participation in a wide range of experiences. These have included, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abstract Algebra
  • Appropriate Technology
  • Astronomy
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Classical Greek
  • Community Service
  • Cooking/Sewing
  • Computer Keyboarding
  • Creative Writing
  • Drama
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Animated Filmmaking
  • Linear Algebra
  • Pottery
  • Rock Climbing
  • Woodcarving

Drama Elective

Hillside drama teaches students a true discipline of self control and teamwork combined with profoundly creative self expression. Through classic plays, students are immersed in natural sciences, history, dance, music, literature, language and philosophical discussion. In the process of finding and developing a character, each student discovers his or her own motives and learns to delve beneath the surfaces of human communication.

Recent productions include:

  • Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle
  • Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicist
  • Nicolai Gogol’s Inspector General
  • Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth
  • Mikhael Bulgakov’s Black Snow
  • Tim Supple’s Grimm Tales
  • Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot
  • William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It