Upper School Curriculum

The development of intellectual independence, personal responsibility, and leadership skills is an important piece of the four-year Upper School sequence. In 9th-12th grades, students pursue a challenging and interdisciplinary program of studies, consisting of an integrated Humanities program, hands-on laboratory science, applied mathematics, foreign language, visual and performing arts experiences and physical education.

Upper School Curriculum 11Th Grade

Eleventh Graders Debate Thorny World Issues

Eleventh graders learn how to view the world from a global perspective and what it means to understand both sides of complicated issues through the 11th Grade Debates. International and domestic students team up to research the pros and cons of current issues, such as using drones to combat terrorism, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants, a national $15 minimum wage, and dealing with the refugee crisis.

Many of our students choose careers in journalism and political science. Click here to read more about Nick Eaton '03, Digital Audience Editor, The Seattle Times.

Action-Oriented Learning

Upper School Curriculum 12Th Grade

Twelfth Graders Dive into Civic Engagement

Our seniors learn how to be participatory citizens through pro-active engagement in democratic processes. Seniors have the opportunity to volunteer their time to an electoral campaign, social justice project, nonprofit, or other approved political project of their choosing. Additionally, every senior engages in critical study of the Constitution. This study is connected to the major themes of the specific course, allowing for deeper connections with real-world issues.

Upper School Curriculum 10Th Grade

Tenth Graders Manipulate DNA

Biology students engage in real life science by manipulating DNA, thanks to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Science Education Partnership. Students compare DNA samples using the electrophoresis process, one of the methods used in DNA matching for criminal investigations. The lab allows students to experience DNA fingerprinting with equipment not commonly seen in a biology classroom, such as a centrifuge and electrophoresis chamber.

Many Northwest School alumni enter the field of science. Click here to read more about Kate Rozen-Gagnon '06 combating mosquito borne viruses.

Upper School Curriculum 9Th Grade

Ninth Graders Design and Test Catapults

Physical Science students work with chop saws, hammers, and drills to construct group-designed catapults. The annual catapult project submerges students in the design process and provides opportunities for creative problem solving when things go awry. Once the catapults are completed, the students spend a week or more in the hallways of the school testing their machines and making adjustments based on the results. The project culminates with the annual catapult competition, in which student teams advance by consistently hitting the target.

At Northwest, we’re challenged on a daily basis to question the world around us, to look past the surface and find the hidden truths. Because of all that critical thinking and analysis, I have a stronger sense of my own voice and my own values.

Northwest School 12th Grader, 2017


The Northwest School requires the following minimum course of study in the Upper School:

  • Math: 3-4 years *
  • Science: 3-4 years *
  • Humanities: 4 years (English & History)
  • Foreign Language: 3-4 years *
  • Visual and Performing Arts: 4 years
  • Physical Education: 2 years
  • Environment: 4 years

* Seniors must take a minimum of a fourth year of study in any two of the language, math and science departments.

Where Our Graduates Go

Members of The Northwest School's Class of 2022 plan to matriculate at:

Bard College Parsons School of Design at The New School
Belmont University Pitzer College
Bentley University Pomona College
Boston University Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Carleton College Santa Clara University
Case Western Reserve University Scripps College
Chapman University Seattle University
Colorado State University (Fort Collins) Temple University
Connecticut College The New School
Cornell University The University of Texas at Austin
DigiPen Institute of Technology Tufts University
Emerson College University of California (Davis)
Emory University University of California (Los Angeles)
George Washington University University of California (Riverside)
Georgetown University University of Colorado Boulder
Gonzaga University University of Massachusetts (Amherst)
Haverford College University of Miami
Lewis & Clark College University of Richmond
Loyola Marymount University University of Southern California
Marymount Manhattan College University of Toronto
McDaniel College University of Virginia
McGill University University of Washington
Middlebury College University of Wisconsin (Madison)
Millsaps College Washington University in St. Louis
New York University Wesleyan University
New York University (Shanghai) Western Washington University
Occidental College Whitman College
Oregon State University Willamette University

Recent Matriculations

This PDF lists the institutions at which Northwest School graduates matriculated from 2017-2021:

College Matriculations List