An Independent, Coed Junior Boarding (5-9) and Day School (K-9) in Washington, CT

Upper School Curriculum


Goals and Overview

The English Department aspires to four goals: to create a respectful environment in which learning and discussion can take place for the exploration of different ideas and shared experiences; to foster an enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of books and reading; to use and value language both oral and written; to give students knowledge of their own authority, allowing them to approach assignments critically and responsibly. Reading, writing and thinking are integral parts of the curriculum, which is based on literature and includes assigned and independent reading, expository and creative writing, public speaking, vocabulary and grammar.

IVth FORM (Grade 6)

IVth Form students examine short stories from various genres including comedy, drama and fantasy. Students implement their knowledge of tension, climax and resolution in their own short stories, generating two first drafts and two stronger, more deliberate, final drafts. Students read Lois Lowry’s The Giver, exploring the themes of love, sacrifice, and selflessness through group discussion. They also consider the ethical struggles in the text from various points of view, arguing for or against “sameness” during a mock trial. In the Spring, students read Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting. The themes of growing up and good versus evil are explored through class discussion and short expository writing assignments.

Vth FORM (Grade 7)

Vth Form students read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, examining the way the author develops the themes of exclusion, identity, and isolation through character development. To extend exploration of these themes, Vth Form students read Markus Zusak’s, The Book Thief, during the Winter Term. Journal entries provide the foundation as students craft formal responses to the following essential question: How does war affect the relationship between family, friends and communities? Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton is studied during the Spring Term. Students focus their intellectual pursuits on various themes through expository writing.

VIth FORM (Grade 8)

During the Fall Term, IVth Form English students read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. They learn to annotate the text and practice making inferences based on the clues identified in the text. Journal entries, class discussions and character analysis exercises serve as the foundation for a formal essay exploring the novel’s themes. Next, students read a Shakespearean play during the Winter Term, investigating Shakespeare’s wordplay and how the language comes alive through performance. Students use various acting techniques, such as pantomime, choral reading and inflection to examine scenes. During the Spring Term, students read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Again, emphasis is placed on annotating for character, setting, and symbolism and how they contribute to the text’s central themes; class discussions provide the foundation for a formal essay in response to the literature.

VIIth FORM (Grade 9)

VIIth Form students read a compilation of various short stories, exploring the genre through analysis of plot, theme and character development. Students respond to the reading through journal entries and then use these thoughts, along with those developed during class discussion, to construct formal essays. During the Winter Term students read Homer’s classic epic poem, The Odyssey and continue to develop reading skills necessary for comprehension, interpretation, analysis, evaluation and overall appreciation of the text. Students pay particular attention to the way Homer’s use of figurative language including simile, metaphor, personification, symbolism and allusion contribute toward meaning. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is then explored during the Spring Term. Students pay particular attention to Holden’s character, analyzing the cultural influences that contribute to his isolation from society. At the culmination of the term and their English careers at Rumsey, all students write valedictory speeches putting into words their experiences at the School.

VIIth FORM (Grade 9) Honors English

This is an enriched curriculum for students who take pleasure in learning, reading and exploring topics in greater depth. A select group of students who demonstrate writing talent and whose scholarship indicates a strong sense of responsibility are candidates for the program.


Goals and Overview

The math curriculum provides students with a strong foundation in arithmetic and algebra, focusing on fundamental concepts, operations and the laws and properties governing those operations. This cohesive sequence of courses solidifies students’ mathematical skills while introducing them to the analytical thinking required in later grades. Organizational and study skills, such as note taking and test preparation, are also integrated into the program while research papers, class projects and computer applications further enhance the learning experience.

Math Course I

The Upper School mathematics program begins with an arithmetic course that reviews and integrates previously learned basic skills and presents new, more complex numeric operations and concepts. Topics include: decimals, fractions, percentages, number theory, estimation, measurement, metric system, graphs and logical reasoning. This course also highlights effective class participation and study skills.

Math Course II

This course begins to engage middle school students in analytical and abstract thinking. Topics in Course II are interwoven with applied arithmetic in order to build operational and problem-solving skills. The language of algebra is introduced along with two-step equations, inequalities, factors, integers, exponents, proportions, geometric formulas, positive, negative, rational numbers and statistics. An emphasis on mastery of skills assures success in future math courses.

Algebra I/Part 1

The two-year algebra sequence opens with an introductory course examining algebraic operations, expressions and principles. Topics include: algebraic properties and notations, real numbers, inequalities, number lines, variables, equation-solving and an extensive examination of linear functions and their graphs. This first-year course presents abstract concepts, methods and problem-solving strategies so that students may successfully move on to more advanced concepts in Algebra I/Part 2.

Algebra I/Part 2

Algebraic reasoning and skills progress as students learn the language of algebra and apply its tools and methods in the second-year course. Topics include: systems of equations and inequalities, polynomials and factoring, exponential functions, quadratic functions and equations, rational and radical expressions and functions, and probability. Offered to students who have successfully completed Algebra I/Part 1 or to students who demonstrate competence by successfully passing a school-administered exam.

Algebra 1A
An accelerated course covering Algebra 1 Part 1 and Algebra 1 Part 2 in one year.


This Geometry Course is designed for motivated and talented math students. The course develops their logical and deductive reasoning skills through the study and application of postulates, theorems, and proofs for points, lines, angles, planes, polygons and solids. This course challenges students who are ready to expand their mathematical thinking and vocabulary through the introduction of two and three-dimensional spatial relationships and the integration of reasoning, logic and proofs. Students learn to think logically and present ideas in a logical order. Offered to students who have successfully completed Algebra I and have the recommendation of the department.

Algebra II

This Honors Course is offered to students who fully complete Algebra I in the Vth Form and the Geometry course in the VIth Form and builds upon the topics taught in these prerequisites. Students begin the year working with linear functions and systems and move quickly into quadratic equations and polynomial functions. Students also study exponential and logarithmic functions, quadratic relations, conic sections, periodic functions and trigonometric identities. Students who take this course must be exceptionally motivated and focused math students.


Goals and Overview

The goal of the Science Department is to instill in students an appreciation and respect for themselves, their environment and their place in the universe. Through a balance of earth, life, physical and biological science units, the students are exposed to learning experiences relating to their everyday environment. The program also provides opportunities for teachers to integrate language arts, mathematics, engineering and the arts into their science lessons. Hands-on lessons and lab activities encourage students to become involved in active learning and problem solving.

IVth FORM (Grade 6)

Earth Science

The goal of the IVth Form Earth Science Course is to excite a curiosity about the Earth. The course is divided into three main units: astronomy, plate tectonics and oceans. Each topic is highlighted with various projects including video productions, research assignments, lab experiments and field trips. The course also emphasizes organization and study skills.

Vth FORM (Grade 7)

Life Science

Life Science offers Vth Form students an introduction to biology, helping students gain an appreciation for the wonder of living things. Units on ecology, animal diversity and botany are explored. Each topic is enhanced by laboratory activities, outdoor research projects, video presentations and field trips. There is a concentrated focus on Student organization, study skills, note taking, writing lab reports, debate and participation.

VIth FORM (Grade 8)

Physical Science

The VIth Form Physical Science Course introduces students to the dynamic world of chemistry and physics. The course combines the study of scientific theory with weekly lab investigations. Students use the scientific method to solve problems, and they learn how to write detailed lab reports. A highlight of the winter is the annual Pasta Bridge Building Challenge. The goal of the course is to improve students’ understanding of the physical world and expand their scientific curiosity. Students continue to develop their study skills and class participation.

VIIth FORM (Grade 9)


The VIIth Form Biology Course delves into the study of life through cooperative work, laboratory investigations, outdoor experiences, and dissections. The curriculum explores topics in ecology, biochemistry, cell structure and DNA synthesis. The year culminates with a unit on the human body. Dissections are conducted as an opportunity for students to learn lab skills and observe the anatomical structure of various organisms. Students acquire a solid foundation of academic skills to prepare for the demands of secondary school.

Honors Biology

The Honors Course follows the same basic structure of VIIth Form Biology. However, the students in this course explore topics at a deeper level. Emphasis is placed on discussion, debate and research skills. Acceptance into the class is based on previous academic achievement, individual motivation and scientific curiosity as well as teacher recommendation.

Foreign Languages

Goals and Overview

The Foreign Language Department teaches global awareness and an appreciation for languages. Teachers employ the World-Readiness and National Standards for Language Learning, concentrating on communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. Instruction focuses on the thinking process and language production. Lessons are enhanced with authentic resources. Spanish classes use the eStudio platform which serves as an online supplement to the textbook. Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) techniques, La Phonétique and Français Langue Etrangère (FLE) materials are used in addition to the French textbook. Latin classes incorporate Greek language and culture to enrich the curriculum.

French I /Spanish I

In each of these introductory courses, students begin a structured study of foreign language. Both languages begin a first year secondary-level course. Emphasis on correct pronunciation, writing and reading are the focus of these courses. Cultural study is included when appropriate.

French II /Spanish II

Each of these courses continues and completes the first year of a secondary-level course. By the Spring Term, second year work is beginning and the classes are conducted primarily in the target language. Supplementary readings and other materials are introduced for reinforcement. Conversational language is emphasized.

French III /Spanish III

In third year courses, students begin a second year secondary-level course. Conversational language, advanced grammar and cultural-geographical study are emphasized. All aspects of language learning are guided with texts and supplemented with written and audio-visual materials. Courses are conducted primarily in the target language.

French IV/Spanish IV

These Honors Courses are equivalent to a second year secondary-level course. Advanced grammar, literature and cultural study and speaking are the emphasized aspects of these courses offered only to qualified students at the discretion of the department. Text and supplementary materials are selected according to class needs. Courses are conducted primarily in the target language.



Latin Alpha students learn the five declensions for nouns, adjectives and pronouns, four verb conjugations, six tenses, active and passive voices, prepositions, formation of adverbs, imperatives and vocatives. This introductory course follows a logical progression, which fosters an understanding of Latin’s function and its relevance to English as well as to other languages, particularly the Romance languages.


Latin Beta begins with a complete review of Alpha material, followed by a comparative study of adjectives and adverbs, infinitives and indirect statements, participles and ablative absolutes, formation of all four subjunctive tenses and uses of the subjunctive. Derivatives and Roman culture are continued, accompanied by cross-cultural studies.


Latin Gamma students continue their study of grammar and vocabulary through lessons built around a narrative that details the life of a Roman, following daily activities, concerns and habits. Students develop an understanding of Roman civilization during the time of Cicero and Augustus.


This Honors Course concentrates on Latin vocabulary, morphology and syntax. Students practice translation and reading skills, and they research Greek and Roman history. Students examine works by Caesar, Catullus, Cicero, Ovid and Virgil.

Social Studies

Goals and Overview

The History Department fosters an understanding of the world by using the events of the past to illuminate the present. Students investigate historical events from multiple perspectives, appreciating cultural diversity while developing understanding and empathy as citizens of the world. They become capable researchers as they are instructed to read for content, take notes, cite sources, think critically and write persuasively.

IVth FORM (Grade 6)


This course explores the earth’s physical and human geography, cultural dimensions and environmental diversity. Students develop an understanding of the core themes of geography: location, place, region, movement and human-environment interaction while learning that geography is more then just maps. The course looks at Earth through various lenses starting with its position in space and then concentrates on its many varied shapes and layers, examining the forces, both internal and external, which continuously shape its surface. Next, students investigate the intricate components of human geography including economics, use of natural resources, the many varied reasons for population shifts and the factors that drive cultures to change.

Vth FORM V (Grade 7)

United States History

This United States History course studies the Colonial Period and American Revolution through the US Constitution and the Civil War. The students begin the year learning about the world before and after Columbus and how the American colonies gained their independence. Next, they study the creation of the Constitution and the effects of that document today. The course follows the expansion of the nation, examining the similarities and differences between the northern and southern regions, which led to the Civil War.

VIth FORM (Grade 8)

History VI

This course explores American History from Reconstruction and the Wild West of the 1870s to the space age and Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Students study the period following the Civil War, when rebuilding the South was a priority, learning about the changes that helped the country increase its size, wealth and power. The United States’ expanding influence overseas and its involvement in both World Wars is studied as students learn that not all Americans experienced prosperity after these conflicts, thus leading to the struggle for civil rights.

VIIth FORM (Grade 9)

European History

This history course teaches writing skills and critical and analytical thinking through the study of European History. Using a chronological approach, students examine Ancient Greece and Rome through World War II. With history as the vehicle, students develop and defend a thesis, using primary sources to support their claims. They also read the novel, Night, to broaden their understanding of the personal cost of the Holocaust. This course makes extensive use of documentaries, websites, current events, art, and out-of-class resources to broaden students’ understanding of European affairs. Students are required to write several essays, culminating with a research project.

VIIth FORM (Grade 9)

The Citizen and the World

This course examines the constitutional framework of the United States, American economic and foreign policy, and the history of civil rights in the United States. Students are encouraged to think critically about the role of the individual citizen within these broader contexts. In addition to studying these themes from a historical perspective, the course also relies heavily on current events. Students are expected to analyze developing events in the world and to draw parallels with historical events where appropriate.

STEAM Programming

Goals and Overview

Rumsey Hall’s STEAM Lab gives students a special place to think critically and to creatively solve real world problems through project based learning. STEAM initiatives engage students in cross-curricular learning experiences. Using traditional materials like paper and glue alongside modern technological devices, students form creative questions and design innovative solutions.

Rumsey Hall School is committed to providing students and teachers with tools to encourage academic exploration by affording easy access to technological resources. The goal is to teach students responsible and ethical use of technology to support learning. Technology transcends all disciplines and grade levels and is integral in the daily work routines of students, faculty and staff.

Computer Skills
Introduction to Technology
Technology exists in nearly every aspect of day-to-day life. It can be fun, informative and unifying and increase productivity. But if not used with respect and utilized wisely, it can be dangerous, frustrating, distracting, and divisive.

The primary goal of the Introduction to Technology course is for students to build a basic understanding of the classic and emergent software and hardware used in secondary education, college and beyond. In addition, the following themes are examined:

• Responsible use of technology both inside and outside academic settings
• History of technology and its future
• Creative, innovative ways to use technology to problem solve and become better students.

The Robotics program uses Lego EV3 kits and MINDSTORMS software to introduce the students to basic programming and problem solving strategies. Students investigate principles of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). Topics covered include: motor control, gear ratios, torque, friction, sensors, timing, program loops, timing sequences and propulsion systems. The students work hands-on in small groups to design, build and program their own robots to complete a range of tasks.

Digital Imaging and Film Making
This course teaches students about digital cameras and software available to enhance digital images. Through the creation of a Photoshop project, students learn the fundamentals of digital image manipulation: painting and editing images, using brushes and pen tools, and rotating, scaling and distorting photographs.

Next, students create their own movies, complete with special effects, voice-overs, music scores, transitions, titles, credits, and more. Through a variety of hands-on activities, they learn how to work with digital video cameras and create and edit movies with iMovie, Apple’s digital video editing software.

The Innovation course incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) to encourage problem solving skills. Students create their own projects after they learn basic electrical engineering concepts. Recent projects included: an interactive Christmas decoration, an electric Magic 8 Ball, an art/light project using 3D-printed elements, a hand-warmer, an interactive surgery trainer and an ice hockey desktop game. Students enjoy the guided, but open-ended, nature of this project based class.

Health and Wellness

Goals and Overview

The Health Education Curriculum examines a wide variety of health issues to help students better understand their bodies and how they function. The consequences of certain choices on health and well-being are also discussed. The goal is to provide students with the skills necessary to respond thoughtfully and carefully to the demands of living in today’s complicated world. An informal atmosphere is fostered to promote student discussion and participation.

Topics include anatomy, physiology, nutrition, personal appearance, decision-making, drug and alcohol awareness and human sexuality.

Social Curriculum
Community Living Skills
The objective of this class, designed for IVth Form girls, is to investigate peer relationships and conflict resolution, develop leadership skills and honorable citizenship characteristics and build ‘team’ unity. Specific topics are explored through hands-on activities, lectures and group discussion. In addition, the students discuss social media and its communal effect and roles in individual and group friendships. Students become more aware of their roles in a community and learn the importance of using their voice to make Rumsey and the world a better place.

Girls’ World
This course for Vth Form girls teaches conflict resolution, communication and leadership skills. The students learn to encounter life with confidence preparing to be their best selves. They explore ways to handle important relationships by communicating their feelings honestly. They develop skills to resolve conflict gracefully and effectively, while staying true to themselves. The girls participate in a safe, interactive classroom environment where role-playing, hands-on activities and journal writing are important aspects of class participation.

Boys’ Atlas
Boys’ Atlas provides Vth Form boys with a platform for discussion and education about many social issues faced every day. They develop a strict set of rules to foster a safe, casual, inclusive environment where they can share thoughts and feelings while promoting fun and friendship. Topics covered include bullying, friendship, risk taking behavior, stress and the social pressure to be a ‘man.’ Activities, games and discussion foster mutual trust.

The Arts

Goals and Overview

The Art Department cultivates self-confidence, creative thinking, discovery and self-expression through instruction and the understanding and application of various art concepts and two and three-dimensional media.

Students are introduced to traditional skills and techniques in drawing, painting, and three-dimensional construction. Art History and contemporary happenings in the art world are studied through images and videos. Students are instructed to incorporate technology into their artwork using three-dimensional printing, digital photography, video and two and three-dimensional modeling and enhancement programs.

  • Artwork by students, faculty and outside artists is displayed around campus and in the Allen Finkelson Gallery in The Maxwell A. Sarofim ’05 Performing Arts Center.
  • Students are also encouraged to submit artwork to local contests thus connecting Rumsey’s young artistic talent with the broader community.
  • Rumsey’s annual Film Festival celebrates student and faculty video work.

Independent Study

Students interested in pursuing individualized art study may take Art as an Independent Study, using class studio time to develop a specific skill.


Students learn the basic principles and qualities of clay, glazes, and the firing process as they use the wheel and practice hand building to create expressive pieces.


In this beginner course students are exposed to tools and equipment for working with metal, including a drill press, handsaws, pliers, and a torch. They explore chain making, riveting, basic soldering and annealing while using hammers to manipulate metal and punches to create textural designs and lettering. Work is done mostly with copper sheet and wire. Silver clay is utilized to create small-scale sculpture or jewelry that is kiln-fired into pure silver. After firing, the pieces are finished with traditional metalworking tools and equipment.


This course introduces students to the blend between art, industrial design and the manufactured world. The class takes a close look at current artists, designers and methods used to formulate ideas. Recycled materials, found objects, cement, metal, wood and glass are employed to produce their creations.


Goals and Overview

The music curriculum exposes students to a variety of musical experiences aimed at encouraging creativity and self-confidence through participation. General music courses explore music history as well as modern music and media.


Students who come to Rumsey with background and proficiency on particular instruments are encouraged to continue their studies privately and in a chamber music setting and to share their talents with the student body during special performances.


Any student is welcome to join the Clef Club, the School’s vocal group which performs for the School audience several times a year. The a cappella singing group, Passing Notes, is a select group chosen from the Clef Club affording students further opportunities for solo singing and to develop their harmonizing talents.

Additional performing arts opportunities include and performances on Parents’ Day, Grandparents’ Day and Commencement.


Goals and Overview

Dramatic Arts education stimulates creativity and problem solving. It challenges students’ perceptions about their world and themselves. Dramatic exploration provides students with an outlet for emotions, thoughts, and dreams that they might not otherwise have the means to express. A student can, if only for a few moments, become another person, experimenting with various personal choices and solutions to real problems or issues faced by historical figures or characters in literature.

Theater Classes employ Narrative Pantomime Stories when the teacher tells a story and each student “acts out” the story and Improvisation Activities and Role Drama Activities when students relate to each other in their respective roles.

Theatrical Productions:

Fall Play

A one-act drama, usually a comedy, 30-45 minutes. Students audition for all roles. Open to Upper School Students in good academic standing.

Winter Musical

A musical production, usually in conjunction with Musical Theater International’s Broadway Jr. series. Upper School Students must audition for lead roles, but chorus members need only sign up.

Spring Talent Show

Open to all Upper School Students through audition.

Air Band is an additional performing arts opportunity during the Winter Term.
Students are involved in all aspects of the productions from set building to sound and lighting.
All shows and drama classes take place in The Maxwell A. Sarofim ’05 Performing Arts Center.

VIIth Form (9th Grade) Specials

4S—Senior School Search Seminar
The Senior School Search Seminar is a scheduled time for the Director of Secondary School Placement to meet with the VIIth Form (senior) class in small groups. Class meetings tackle much more than topics surrounding the school search, though that is the primary focus. During the fall term the class hosts admissions visitors from secondary schools and explores themes of leadership and responsibility while learning several employable frameworks which students can utilize in all aspects of their lives. For example, the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound) framework assists seniors in goal setting for the fall term. In addition, students learn effective interview and study skills as well as writing thank-you notes. While using the school search as the medium, the class explores life skills and themes that serve our seniors as they head toward the conclusion of the school year and look beyond to their next phase of education.

Challenge 20/20
Challenge 20/20 is a leadership and service learning elective that brings together 14 Rumsey Seniors to find local solutions to one of 20 global problems identified by the the Global Issues Network. Students first work through team-building activities that define community and the responsibilities of citizenship. The group then selects three global issues for which they can assess and develop practical solutions such as providing education for all, creating a massive step up against poverty, and improving our environmental impact through pollution reduction. The students collaborate with Rumsey Administration and Faculty, as well as schools in other countries, to develop action plans and execute their projects to improve life in the greater community.

Academic Support

English as a Second Language (ESL)

The ESL Program includes three courses designed to help students develop their conversational and academic English, reading comprehension, awareness of social and cultural differences and to introduce them to American History and the methods that are used in the US educational system.

The ESL Skills course intensively studies English grammar and writing. Students also investigate the social and cultural differences between their native countries and the US. Time is spent conversing about students’ experiences during the academic day, at sports or in the dorm to support them as they learn to navigate life at an American boarding school.

ESL Literature introduces students to American Literature. The small class size allows for discussion of literature commensurate with students’ reading abilities. The goals of this course are to improve the students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary and ability to think analytically and critically.

ESL History exposes students to American History at a level where students can comprehend the material and develop American History vocabulary. The students focus on writing and working to improve their critical and analytical thinking skills in English, as they apply to the history curriculum.

There is an additional free to participate in the ESL Program.

Language Skills

The Language Skills Department offers individualized programs designed to meet the needs of students with a moderate degree of dyslexia or mild to moderate learning differences. Language Skills is an academic support program that helps students to develop skills and learn strategies to become independent life-long learners. Scheduled during the academic day, the program offers one-on-one instruction five times a week by teachers trained in the use of the Orton-Gillingham method. Reading comprehension, reading fluency, vocabulary development, spelling, written expression, oral expression, study skills, organization and executive functions are stressed.

The course includes the study of sound/symbol equivalents, spelling rules and generalizations, syllabication, prefixes and suffixes. These tools help students to improve sequencing in spelling and word attack skills in reading and auditory discrimination. and sequencing in spelling. Sentence and paragraph analysis, basic principles of outlining, and study skills are emphasized to improve reading comprehension and written expression. Wherever possible, content-courses, texts and materials are incorporated. Diagnostic testing is administered to identify progress.

Entrance into this course is based on previous diagnosis, educational testing or faculty recommendation, followed by our own diagnostic testing. Generally, students in this program carry a regular course load with the exception of a foreign language.

Available to Lower and Upper School Students. There is an additional charge to participate in this course.