Grades 5-9
The Experience
Upper School: Grades 7-9

Academics: Grades 7-9

Fessenden’s Upper School is a place where boys grow and expand their minds, finding passions and interests to pique and satisfy their fervent intellectual curiosity. Whether they have completed the earlier grades at Fessenden or elsewhere, boys enter the Upper School with strong academic skills and habits, and are comfortably self-reliant in their own unique learning processes.

Intellectually, they take greater risks, exploring their passions through student-led projects, collaborative work, and a wide variety of electives. Classes move beyond concrete concepts to abstract learning. Boys unearth information, evaluate and process their findings, and share crafted conclusions with peers using verbal and written communication skills. Regardless of subject or activity, we emphasize process as much as the product—and, as a result, we witness the development of independent learners who are innovative, collaborative, creative, and respectful.

We continue to offer resources to help boys master their full Upper School life, which includes independently organizing their day, meeting deadlines, and balancing academic and extracurricular activities. Upon graduating from the Upper School, boys are equipped with the knowledge, study skills, and leadership experience they need to smoothly transition and thrive at the secondary school of their choice.

Upper School Curriculum at a Glance

List of 10 items.

  • English

    English classes in the Upper School inspire boys to think creatively, read analytically, and communicate effectively in writing and speaking. Boys read novels, poetry, short stories, plays, or nonfiction; write personal narratives; and conduct research on topics related to literature or culture. In all of these tasks, boys embrace collaboration and multi-model expression as part of their learning experience.
  • Math

    Within the math classroom, teachers pose purposeful questions to extend students’ reasoning to a higher level of understanding. They incorporate problems that reflect reality to help students learn through real-world applications. Boys are placed into discrete courses and levels of math beginning with Pre-Algebra and ending with Algebra II. A student’s ability, rather than grade level, determines course placement.
  • History

    Making historical events relevant is the key to the study of American and world history. We explore themes and important moments in history from various perspectives through student-centered projects, the study of primary sources, and forms of expression, such as literature and art. Teachers encourage students to be more than onlookers of major historical events and people; instead, they help them become well-informed students and active global citizens. Students learn to understand and appreciate these roles as global citizens, and to develop the 21st century skills to support their effort to challenge moral, societal, and political assumptions.
  • Science

    The mission of science at Fessenden is “science by doing.” As emerging scientists, students develop scientific research and laboratory skills and engage in project-based learning, citizen science, and design investigations that allow them to solve complex real-world problems. Students make use of advanced technology and software, such as Vernier probes and interfaces, models and simulations, and laboratory kits to understand their scientific findings and their natural, physical, and biological world.
  • Foreign Language

    Upper School boys may study Spanish or Latin. The goal of the foreign language program is to develop students’ abilities to effortlessly write and speak in the target language, and learn about the cultural and history of native speaking peoples. Mastery of grammar, speaking skills, and written expression is the objective for each student, from the introductory class to the third-year honors section.
  • Health and Wellness

    This part of the curriculum focuses on health, human development, social and familial dynamics, character development, safety, and decision-making. In addition to the classes offered at each grade level (Introduction to Health in Grade 7, Making Healthy Decisions in Grade 8, and Contemporary Issues in Grade 9), health and wellness themes are embedded into students’ classes, assemblies, and community time.
  • Academic Support

    The Lappin Skills Center
    Skills Center tutoring provides individualized, remedial instruction in reading, writing, phonics, spelling, study skills and mathematics. Each student’s program is designed to meet his individual objectives based on classroom performance assessments and standardized test scores. On-site assistance allows frequent communication between a student’s tutor and teachers. 

    Skills Center tutors have advanced degrees or equivalent experience in reading or special education and are qualified to administer educational evaluations to assess a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Structured, multisensory programs that require specialized training, like Orton-Gillingham, Wisnia-Kapp, Project Read and Reading Recovery are routinely used.

    Academic Tutoring
    Academic tutoring provides instruction for support in specific academic subjects. The student receives focused instruction to improve identified area(s) of weakness. The tutor pre-teaches, reviews and reinforces concepts as well as strategies. The tutor also works closely with the student’s classroom teachers to coordinate support. Periodic written updates on the student’s progress are submitted.

    Study Support Tutoring
    Study support tutoring provides individualized strategies for developing effective study skills which include the organization of work and materials, planning and time management. It provides support for the completion of homework, long term projects and written reports. The tutor also works closely with the student’s classroom teachers to coordinate support. Periodic written updates on the student’s progress are submitted.

    Help and Work
    Help and Work is available to all students in Grades 5-9. Help and Work provides a daily opportunity for boys to acquire help with lessons or make up work. Students may schedule time with faculty using a daily sign-up or teachers may schedule time with individual students if they think students need extra help. Help and Work is held during the last period of the day for all students. Boys who are not involved in Help and Work attend study hall or early sports during this time.
  • Advisor Meetings

    Boys meet with their advisor weekly for support in navigating any academic, social/emotional, or life challenges he might be facing. The advisor serves as the primary communications conduit for the family, and a great deal of time is spent matching students with the appropriate advisory group. The advisor/advisee relationship is structured to ensure that every boy has a trusted adult who is there to celebrate his successes and help him get back on track when needed.
  • Electives

    Upper School boys have a list of nearly 20 visual and performing arts and technology electives from which to choose. This breadth of offerings gives boys the opportunity to develop new passions and build upon existing talents.
  • Clubs

    The Upper School Club program offers students more than 20 options a year, ranging from debate club, to treehouse design, to Model United Nations. The diverse offerings of the program allow boys to further pursue academic, athletic, or social interests. We also encourage students to develop their own ideas for clubs and to pursue faculty mentorship.

View Our Full Curriculum

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The Fessenden School
250 Waltham Street
West Newton, MA 02465
(617) 964-5350

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