Upper School Curriculum

"Now I see it as one of the first in a long list of times at Sayre when our teachers let us be ourselves in the best way.  It wasn’t about what exactly we were reading and writing, what mattered was our interest in it, and the push our teachers gave us to dive deep into whatever that was."
Greg Kimmerer '18, attending Emory University

The Upper School curriculum is divided into seven disciplines, each with a department chair who oversees the development of curriculum in conjunction with the Director of the Upper School. Guided by an active, enthusiastic and knowledgeable faculty, students develop an enthusiasm for learning and discovery while developing critical thinking skills, and establishing a moral framework to guide their decision making. Over time, students acquire self discipline and independence, experience working cooperatively in small group settings, and learn to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. During their four years in the Upper School, students complete a core curriculum as well as choose from a wide range of electives as they develop their interests, talents and skills in preparation for higher education. Woven throughout the curriculum is the objective of developing character, including honorable behavior and personal accountability in an atmosphere where community matters.


Sayre creates an environment in which students are immersed in literature and writing; encouraging students to become accurate, life-long readers and sound writers, aware of their own voice, while deepening students' awareness of themselves, others, and the world. 

Students read a variety of literature not only to enhance ability but also to broaden and deepen awareness of self and the world. Several titles each year highlight personal, social, and diversity issues including those of gender and race. Students write personal and creative pieces as well as conventional essays in order to promote comfort and facility with the blank page. Rewriting, including the use of peer editors, encourages a focus on articulating theme, creating a well supported argument, analyzing character, as well as focusing on tone, style, word choice, and syntax. Students are encouraged to explore connections between literature and other disciplines and are provided with additional opportunities for reading, public speaking, creative writing, and writing assistance.

Fine Arts

Sayre incorporates creativity, aesthetics, criticism, and history into a flexible and evolving curriculum which emphasizes the development of increasingly sophisticated skills and concepts through students' experiences in the arts.


Students are challenged to explore and learn new techniques and ideas; are guided through an understanding of the arts in relation to history and cultures, and are introduced to the formal and informal elements and principles of music, visual art, and drama. Students are encouraged to develop confidence in expressing their own ideas, to demonstrate increasingly complex skills, to recognize the diversity of the artistic experience, and to become knowledgeable patrons of the arts. Students work cooperatively and are provided opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills.


Sayre prepares students to comprehend the past and to identify and understand the challenges facing our diverse nation in an increasingly interdependent world.


Students will develop and maintain the knowledge and appreciation of heritage and diversity; experience the cultural and physical world; develop a clear commitment to democratic beliefs and values; develop and refine communication skills through writing and speaking; incorporate critical thinking skills and interpersonal skills at all levels; apply the use of technology as appropriate to the study of social studies/history; learn to relate knowledge and skills to daily life experiences.


Sayre communicates mathematical concepts through independent reasoning and cooperative exploration using comprehensive mathematical knowledge.


Students will value mathematics and develop mathematical literacy while making  connections with other disciplines. Through active participation, students will incorporate mathematical concepts using manipulatives and technology. Students will be able to analyze information and arrive at reasonable solutions through individual learning styles.

World Languages

Sayre empowers students to explore, comprehend and appreciate cultures and languages as curious and empathetic world citizens.

Students are engaged in an active learning process in developing cultural competency and language proficiency for interpersonal, interpretive and presentational communication. The thoughtful use of authentic materials, the target language, and existing and emerging technologies, guides students towards building both language and general literacy skills.


Sayre students understand science as a method of inquiry capable of answering many questions about the world and beyond, through analytical thinking, hands-on activities, investigations, and formalized laboratories. 


Students will become curious, creative, and responsible learners. Students will explore and develop processes, hypotheses, concepts, and scientific skills through laboratory practices and writing. They will understand science as a body of knowledge that is dynamic and changing, that can explain and predict many phenomena in our Universe. Students will relate science to mathematics, technology, social sciences, and other disciplines and will realize that advancements in science have an impact on our society, requiring moral and ethical choices.

Computer Science

Sayre students use technology to communicate, acquire information, increase productivity, and stimulate creativity as well as increase technological proficiency and promote flexible, lifelong learning.


Students will acquire and critique information efficiently, present content  effectively, and creatively apply their knowledge to new situations encountered within the academic curriculum through the progressive development of  technology skills.

Physical Education

Sayre gives students the opportunity to participate in team and individual activities designed to promote the physical, social and cognitive domains.


Students will be given the opportunity to develop physically, promoting expressive and effective movements. The concept of fitness for a lifetime will be introduced and emphasized. Participation and self-management in all activities is encouraged and expected. Student potential is challenged, leadership qualities are refined, and social behaviors are developed. Basic team concepts and individual skills are introduced, practiced and ideally mastered.

Global Studies Initiative

Sayre’s Global Studies Initiative encourages students...

  • to pursue their interest in world cultures and international relations.
  • to engage in diverse academic, social and cultural opportunities.

We challenge students...

to acquire a global perspective, while developing their intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, proficiency in world languages.

to grapple meaningfully with international issues – cultural, historical, political and ecological. Ultimately, we hope to inspire students to be responsive to the challenges and benefits of living in an interconnected world. Visit the Global Studies page.

Distinction in Sustainability

Sayre’s Distinction in Sustainability provides a framework for students to gain an understanding of economic, social, and environmental responsibility on a regional, national, and global scale, and demonstrate that knowledge through practical means by getting involved in school and community organizations or through academic research. Course work and community involvement will integrate critical-thinking and appropriate scientific techniques while providing opportunities to conduct research and implement projects that advance sustainability on campus and in the local community. Students involved in this program will demonstrate leadership in these principles in both our school and larger community.

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