ESSEX STREET ACADEMY

Academics

We offer core and elective courses that challenge students to develop their own ideas.

We cultivate our students to be active learners, not passive, who will graduate from our school confident in their ability to tackle any problem they encounter.

The ESA Literature Department creates its own curriculum based on our experience with students, current research in the field, and the best elements of the Common Core Curriculum. We develop courses around the larger categories of Personal Narrative, Persuasive Writing, Response to Literature, and Creative Writing. Each semester students will learn and practice the techniques and elements important to  genres within one of these categories. For example, in a persuasive writing class, students may develop a speech and power point presentation to convince an audience that public housing is or is not a viable way to help people out of poverty. In a creative writing class, students may focus on stories that embody the magical realism techniques of Latin American writers, then create their own short stories reflecting these techniques and themes through their own cultural lens.

 

We believe students need to be able to read and write in multiple genres using fiction and non-fiction as texts to analyze as well as emulate. Projects within a semester challenge students to interpret, analyze, present, and create their own work, not simply respond to test questions. We develop projects and assignments that require students to develop their expressive language skills as well as many types of writing. We tailor our classes to the needs of our students to maximize engagement and practice using the literacy skills they will need in college and the world of work.

 

9th and 10th Grade Classes
Coming of Age (Jenny/Caitlin): In Jenny and Caitlin’s co-taught English class, 9th graders will explore a theme we are all very familiar with, “Coming Of Age”. Through a shared class novel, book clubs and analysis of a graphic novel, students will question, connect and draw conclusions about the joys and agonies of adolescence. Students will also use a variety of text mediums including “Moth” radio stories, film, poetry, nonfiction and even popular TV shows to hone their analysis and critical thinking skills. We hope after this semester that students taking this course will understand their own Coming of Age experience better, as well as developing a better understanding of the world around them.

 

The Journey (Greg): “The Journey” is a course focused on the adventures and trials of traveling from point A to point B. As much as each of the central literary texts of the course—Life of PiKindred, and The Road—deal with physical journeys, we will examine the simultaneous emotional, spiritual, interpersonal, and historical journeys the characters take. We will analyze the journey narrative to understand the relationship between literary works and themes of self-discovery, cultural identity, power-dynamics, and a search for meaning. Lastly, the class will focus on the journey of brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revising analytical texts. 

 

11th and 12th Grade Classes

Crimes (Jane): Who decides what a crime is? And a crime against what? Family? Community? Convention? According to the law? Religion? The heart? When is something a  justified crime? When is a crime okay? When is the law wrong? When is convection wrong? What motivates crime? Self interest? Poverty? Destitution? Desperation? Revenge? Infatuation? When is crime rational? When is crime irrational? What are the consequences of crime? Who gets harmed? Who persecutes/judges the criminal? In what context is something a crime that would not be in another? How does context contribute to our understanding of a crime? This course examines ideas about crime, punishment, and power in a society. We will read a variety of fictional texts that explore how the definition of a crime or a criminal changes depending on one’s role in society. This will obviously raise questions about abuses of power and the inequities inherent in any justice system. Students will also read weekly nonfiction texts (mostly articles and op eds) that address contemporary and global ideas about crime. Students will explore why some acts are considered crimes by some people but not by others, as well as question the legitimacy of something being labeled as a crime in certain situations. My hope is students will develop a critical and nuanced understanding of the impact language can have on real world policies and actions. Moreover, in the final project students should hone in on a specific topic of their interest and challenge current ideas about how we talk about said crimes in the world. This topic is meant to have a global perspective, and while we will certainly discuss issues pertaining to America, I want students to make connections across societies and human nature and not just within the United States bubble. 

 

Response to Literature (Jackson): This semester we will be studying many powerful texts that will challenge us to think about how humans engage with the norms of different societies. The course is a rigorous exploration of this theme, while emphasizing the importance of social and historical context when engaging in literary analysis. Students will be pushed to read a large amount of material outside of class, while investigating and exploring that material in the classroom. Students will also be pushed to extend their literary arguments throughout texts and ultimately across texts. In this course, we will be studying four powerful class texts that will challenge us to think about how authors critique the conventions of their respective societies while offering potential solutions for change (Baldwin, Larson, Satyal, Gyasi). It seems more critical than ever that we come to understand others’ experiences within their respective worlds to understand and improve the problems of our own.[/toggle]

The Social Studies department at ESA is committed to the idea that in order to participate as full members of society, students must know something about the forces that have shaped and continue to shape peoples’ lives. Students at ESA take global history in 9th and 10th grade, and US history, economics and government in 11th and 12th grade.

 

9th and 10th Grade Classes
Worlds Collide (Fall): Worlds Collide is an investigation of the cataclysmic encounter between Amerindian, African, and European peoples in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We will focus on using historical sources to question, complicate, and counter prevailing narratives of the development of colonial society in Latin America and the Caribbean. The course begins with an exploration of Taino, Aztec, and West African civilizations as they developed prior to the encounter with Europeans. Next, we will examine the process of colonization, the development of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the consequences thereof. To conclude the course, students will investigate how Amerindian, African, and European interactions in the early modern period still shape culture, identity, and power dynamics in today’s multi-racial society. 

We will answer such questions as: How can we construct a history of African, indigenous, and Latin American peoples that does not center European perspectives? Did colonized and enslaved people have any agency in the creation of this new Atlantic world, or were they simply passive victims? How is your own present-day life shaped by developments arising from this collision of cultures?

 

World Religions (Spring): World Religions is a course designed to allow students to explore and analyze trends that connect the World’s religions and conflicts in both historical and contemporary contexts. Unit One focuses on the three monotheistic religions; Islam, Judaism, and Christianity and some of the polytheistic religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Students will learn the basic tenants and compare, contrast and analyze the key tenants of the religions. Unit Two’s focus is on the historical, social, political, and economic effects of religious conflict during the 20th century. Unit Three will continue to focus on the social, political, and economic effects of religious conflict, but with a focus on the conflicts impacting the people of the world today.

 

11th and 12th Grade Classes

Economics and Climate Justice: Climate Justice explores the climate crisis and efforts to halt climate change. Students learn about the history of the fossil fuel industry, including the system of capitalism and the role of lobbyists in the formation of economic policies. Students investigate the history of the climate justice movement, including very recent history (aka current events). Students will learn about initiatives to address climate change and will develop their own policy recommendations.

US and Immigration: US Immigration Policy is a student-centered exploration of the history of immigration policy in the United States. Students will research their own or someone else’s immigration story and contextualize the events according to policy of the time. Later, students will determine what they believe the typical approach to immigration policy has been for the United States and what the explicit and implicit motivators were. Finally, students will determine, based on their own definition of typical immigration policy, whether current policy is representative or contradictory to historic trends.

Students will continue to develop their skills of thesis development and supporting arguments with evidence.  Students also will work to improve their ability to both read and construct charts and graphs.  Students will refine their research, writing, public speaking and presentation skills.

Constitutional Law: Constitutional Law is a course designed to get students thinking about some of the most important and enduring issues of U.S. Constitutional law.  Students are introduced to legal concepts such as federalism, separation of powers, executive power, due process, and equal protection, among others. The course begins with an overview of the U.S. system of government. Students will then focus on some of the most well-known individual rights (freedom of religious expression, freedom of speech, etc.) by reading the seminal Supreme Court cases and discussing the issues and legal doctrine related to these rights. Throughout the course, students examine the U.S. Constitution and dissect judicial opinions.  Students will practice critical thinking and develop their reading and writing skills. Activities include exploring real-life scenarios involving key issues, seminars on current events involving the courts and other branches, and moot courts in which students prepare legal briefs or judicial opinions based upon the case laws they have studied.  The central project is a research paper exploring the way in which (and extent to which) a Supreme Court decision or Constitutional amendment  is significant or successful.

he ESA mathematics department provides courses that are grounded in foundational mathematical content, but emphasize students’ critical thinking skills with respect to logical thinking and data analysis. All of the math courses at ESA focus on creating a classroom of students that can work independently, problem solve persistently, and use patterns they observe to make overarching connections. All courses require students to work in groups, complete homework assignments, and develop a portfolio of projects.

 

Integrated Math: In this course, we will be recognizing and developing patterns using tables, graphs and equations. Students will explore operations on algebraic expressions and apply mathematical properties to algebraic equations. They will collaborate to solve problems that investigate linear relationships. Technology will be used to introduce and expand upon the areas of study listed above. 

 

Geometry: By using an investigative approach, this course will introduce students to concepts of geometry while strengthening their algebra skills by integrating the two.  Students will become acclimated to the language, symbolism, and importance of Euclidean Geometry.  They will explore and conjecture about the properties of triangles, lines, and angles by attempting to defend their logical reasoning with verifiable statements. This course will endeavor to strengthen the student’s ability to reason, use visual thinking and models to problem solve, recognize patterns/relationships, and to clearly and effectively communicate their thought processes and solutions. 

 

Functions and Applications: This course will focus on the principles of Algebra, problem-solving, and function modeling to explain different patterns and phenomena.  In this course, students will continue learning the skills and procedures that they initially learned in Algebra 1 (such as factoring, graphing, using functions to turn inputs into outputs).  However, we will continue this trajectory by understanding the conceptual backbone to some of these procedures, such as the use of area models to support why factoring works, for example, or how we can use these functions to demonstrate characteristics of functions (such as maxima and minima).   This course will also make more explicit connections between Algebra and Geometry, and will tie in aspects of calculus, such as rates of change, instantaneous rates of change, and slope.

At ESA, we believe that students learn science by actually doing science! What that means is our classes are as hands-on as possible and ask students to design their own experiments and research projects. Through this inquiry-based approach, students gain expertise in the scientific method, which focuses on skills such as questioning, developing procedures, identifying variables, collecting and analyzing data and drawing conclusions.

We also focus heavily on the research portion of science, requiring students to read scientific articles, choose support for their stance, and properly cite sources. Students also learn to design controlled experiments, analyze data using mathematical and statistical calculations, and represent their data using Excel. While we are skill-focused, our 4 year scope and sequence includes a variety of content areas including genetics, earth science, ecology, anatomy, neuroscience, and more!

World Languages

The world languages department currently offers French and Spanish. We use an immersion method encouraging students to communicate in the target language from the very first day of class. Our two-year language sequence is designed to give students the necessary communicative and grammatical skills to prepare them for college coursework in foreign language.