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Academic Life

Winterim Rube Goldberg Class

Deep, inquiry-based study for the 21st century. Trinity's Upper School teaches skills important for success in the 21st century “idea” economy. Collaborative, problem-based courses like robotics or Model UN global studies embody this kind of learning. Other courses embed such experiences in their curriculum—for instance, designing a museum exhibit or researching a year-long “big question” for an honors humanities class, building a Rube Goldberg machine for a physics class, or directing a one-act play for a Capstone project.

Throughout, Trinity’s Upper School engages students in a rich liberal arts and STEM curriculum that values 21st century habits of thought: depth and understanding, Socratic discussion, inquiry and self-discovery, self-reflection, eloquent expression, critical and creative thinking, and the classical tools of learning. This study, grounded in Christian faith and practice, helps cultivate transformative personal and intellectual growth.

High academic expectations, but not an AP school. Our distinctive learning environment would not be possible if we were an AP school. Advanced Placement courses often necessitate a pace of study that emphasizes coverage, not depth, and hijacks the other programs and opportunities that, we believe, offer high schoolers important opportunities for growth. Students who have transferred into our Upper School talk about their new freedom to choose from our many electives, where before they would have worried that such classes would cause them to fall behind in the race for college admission.

College admission offices assess applicants according to the courses available to them at their secondary schools; in other words, our students are not penalized for not taking AP courses. Nonetheless, a handful of AP exams align with our program, and students with B+ or higher honors grades in related Trinity classes regularly do well on them. In the past three years, 84% of our students' scores were 3 or higher, and 64% were 4 or 5.

The absence of AP courses at Trinity does not mean a lack of scholarly challenge and rigor, and our upper-level studies culminate in classes such as advanced physics, calculus I and II, Spanish or Latin V, and senior-level honors seminars in English and history. It’s helpful to know, too, that other schools have charted the same no-AP-courses path, among them some fine day and boarding schools like Exeter.

Independent schools don't always offer separate college prep and honors levels of core classes. But our Upper School does. This kind of differentiation helps engage students at the levels appropriate to them and meets the academic needs of a broader, more diverse range of learners. All 90 of our courses are taught at least at a challenging college-prep level, and about 30 are offered at an advanced, honors level.

Formation in a community of learners. Teenagers yearn for purpose and place, and the high school years are ones of identity-building. The learning environment in which this occurs can make a big difference. Trinity’s Upper School, anchored by a superior faculty, provides students a rare combination of high academic and personal expectations, unhurried reflection and playfulness, and loving, prayerful Christian faith. At Trinity, the variety and depth of curricular and cocurricular opportunities for exploration, challenge, service, and leadership help ignite the transformations that characterize these years.

Our Upper School has embraced the truth that a highly successful college-prep program needn't be a grueling, enervating race—that, on the contrary, a thoughtfully paced course of rich study and cocurricular involvements can and should be joyful and life-giving. We believe that these four years, if occurring in a break-neck school culture of product-based achievement, impede this growth, encourage academic shortcuts, and short-circuit creativity, complex problem solving, and collaboration.

Distinctives of the Upper School