BASIS Curriculum Overview
Creativity, innovation, and disciplined experimentation that is powered by traditional content knowledge is the signature of our worldwide learning community and the BASIS Diploma.
Traditional 20th century education at its best gave students deep content knowledge and disciplinary skills in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences.
The BASIS Curriculum School learning culture is grounded in this tradition. But we also recognize that the traditional no longer suffices to ensure our students are prepared to navigate the digitally connected, globalized, technologically explosive lives and international careers that await them.
Our curriculum is well-rounded and robust, with coursework in Math and Science, Humanities, Interdisciplinary Studies, Language, Fine Arts, Physical Education.
Math and Science
Our Math and Science program is internationally acclaimed for its rigor, depth and breadth. Following our tenet that all children can achieve more than they have commonly been told, we require all students to take high school math earlier than is commonly offered, and to begin taking Chemistry, Physics and Biology as separate courses in grade 6. Every student who graduates from one of our schools will have taken all three Sciences at the Honors level, and at least one AP science course, one AP math course, and AP exams in each.
A Special Note about Saxon Mathematics
All BASIS Curriculum Schools use the Saxon Math Curriculum as the foundation for math instruction through Calculus. Our philosophy is that students learn best when broader topics are introduced in smaller segments with ample time to practice new additions. Saxon’s spiraling topics and homework problems allow students to get the practice they need, but also strengthen fundamental skills. It is important to note, though, that we use the Saxon curriculum in a unique manner.
First, we do not follow the grade-level sequence suggested by Saxon. Beginning with Saxon Math Grade 1 in Kindergarten, the curriculum pushes students to master material that is at least one grade level ahead of the Saxon standard sequence in order to introduce students to more abstract math earlier than students in a more traditional school. Lessons and homework problems build upon topics taught in previous lessons and courses, progressively increasing in complexity and difficulty. Second, we insist that teachers follow the system laid out in the Saxon series, without modification. Although we accelerate the Saxon sequence in the early years, we do not skip topics or alter homework assignments within the texts. Third, we provide a broader mathematical context for the explanations in Saxon texts: teachers ensure that students learn multiple terms and explanations for concepts as they are introduced in the series. Finally, we cultivate a classroom environment that is student-centered: the majority of class time is devoted to correcting and completing homework under the guidance of our expert teachers.
The Kindergarten Math Foundation block uses Saxon Math Grade 1, which focuses on number writing, number recognition, word problems, word sentences, patterns, geometry, money, tallies, graphing, time, fractions, skip counting, number grouping, addition, subtraction, fact families, one-to-one correspondence, and problem solving. Science instruction is included the Civics, History & Science Foundation block, and is expanded upon in an afternoon block focused specifically on Engineering & Technology, which explicitly synthesizes and augments the material taught in the morning Math and Science blocks.
In Grades 1-3, Math and Science are intertwined in a course called “Math & Science.” As in the rest of the BASIS curriculum, the material spirals as students progress, and the connections students are asked to make across subjects cultivate critical thinking skills.
The purpose of the combined “Math & Science” course is to convey relevant connections between the two subjects. This cross-disciplinary approach teaches our students that math is a powerful tool to understand and change the world. While significant time is devoted to the instruction of Mathematics, the connections between the two are highlighted during science labs in which students may be asked to collect, record, and interpret data; apply measurement skills; and use graphs to organize and present information. Practical, hands-on applications of math concepts and skills increase topic retention and comprehension. Critical thinking skills are also improved as students are asked to integrate concepts from varied disciplines.
The Engineering and Technology courses provided at BASIS Curriculum schools for Grades K-4 introduce students to a variety of engineering discourses and techniques through a focus on the engineering design process. Students develop problem solving, logic and relationships skills through unique and meaningful projects that incorporate mathematics skills. Solutions created by the students are analyzed, reported and communicated using a variety of media. Students engage in hands-on, real-world projects, to gain an appreciation for social and political needs and technologies.
In Grades 4-12, Science and Mathematics are separate courses.
- Mathematics in the Bridge, Intermediate and High School YearsIn the BASIS K-12 Program, students begin to take math as a separate course starting in grade 4, during which they complete the Saxon Course 1 textbook. In 5th-8th grade all our students study algebra and geometry topics in courses from Math 8/7 and Pre-Algebra to Algebra 2. During grades 9-11, students move from Pre-Calculus through AP Calculus, mastering applications of functions, differentiation, integration, and topics that extend past those required for the AP Calculus exams. Following Calculus, students take a variety of rigorous Post-AP courses that are equivalent to University level math classes.The BASIS Curriculum Mathematics sequence in grades 4/5-12 is designed to facilitate success in the Science curriculum, and to prepare students for success at the University level.
- Science in the Bridge YearsThe 4th grade “Introduction to Science” courses are focused on building the fundamental skills necessary for being successful in the rigorous science curriculum that follows. Specific attention is given to understanding and properly using the scientific method and developing individual scientific inquiry. Because the course includes study of the basic principles of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, students that succeed in the “Introduction to Science” course are well prepared for success in those three sciences, which are taught as separate courses as the program progresses. Skills practiced throughout the course include: critical thinking, data collection, data analysis, collaboration, and communication.Students continue on to “Intermediate Science” in grade 5. The “Intermediate Science” course deepens students’ knowledge and understanding of foundational concepts in Chemistry, Physics and Biology, and introduces concepts from the content of 6th grade courses in these subjects offered in the Concise Program.Physical Geography is taught in 5th grade. In this course, students both apply the skills learned in their Introduction to Science or Intermediate Science courses and learn the processes of the Earth system and of the interactions between humans and the Earth in order to build a greater understanding of the world around them. Included are studies of the four spheres of Earth- geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere — as well as studies of maps and the people, places, and cultures embodied on the map.
Science in the Intermediate and High School Years
Our students begin taking Biology, Chemistry and Physics as separate courses in the Intermediate years. Instructors who specialize in these specific fields teach these courses. Students are prepared to enroll in an AP science course in 9th grade.
Once in High School, all BASIS Curriculum Science courses are College Board-approved Advanced Placement Courses or post-AP courses. All students graduating from a BASIS Curriculum school must take and pass all three Sciences at the Honors (or Pre-AP) level, and, in addition, must take at least one Science to the AP Level. The most advanced students are given the option of completing one of those Honors science requirements in 8th grade.
BASIS Curriculum Biology courses focus on the overarching themes of evolution, maintenance of homeostasis and interactions of organisms in order to make sense of the living world. We emphasize the most basic unit of life, the cell, and progress to the level of organismal processes, structures and interactions. Throughout the sequence of courses, students gain an understanding of the principles of evolution that have ultimately led to the diversity of organisms that populate the earth today. To reach these objectives and to ultimately prepare students for the AP biology exam and beyond, each course communicates foundational knowledge, encouraging application and conceptual synthesis, with the goal of promoting critical thinking, experimental design and data analysis.
The ultimate goal is, of course, to move beyond the AP curriculum into coursework that explores subtopics within the field of Biology.
Post-AP Biology classes focus on a variety of topics within the larger discipline, including, but not limited to Marine Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Genetic, and Bio-Ethics.
The purpose of the study of Chemistry at BASIS Curriculum Schools is to teach students that the work of the chemist has an impact on every aspect of contemporary life and is fundamental to the understanding of matter. In chemistry students study the nature of atoms and molecules and the way they react together to produce useful products. They will also study both organic and inorganic materials, looking at their properties, synthesis, reactions, analysis and uses.
Students learn, experiment and develop an in-depth knowledge of the discipline through hands-on work in the laboratory, focused in particular in the areas of matter, stoichiometry, types of reactions, gas laws, bonding, kinetics, equilibrium and nuclear chemistry.
Students who continue on to Post-AP Chemistry classes encounter such topics as Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Catalase.
Physics courses at BASIS Curriculum Schools are designed to bring students an understanding of the physical world around them. Our coursework introduces students to conceptual ideas surrounding mechanics, energy and electromagnetism. As students progress through the program, these conceptual ideas are tied to the mathematical language of physics and students are taught to communicate and share these ideas. By the time students reach AP coursework, they are prepared to independently apply these conceptual ideas and learn to ask questions in a guided inquiry laboratory environment.
HUMANITIES: History and English
At BASIS Curriculum Schools, the study of Humanities begins with a strong foundation in reading, writing, and historical awareness, but goes far beyond mere literacy as the program progresses. Our graduates leave with a deep and broad understanding of historical periods and cultural differences, as well as with the skills to analyze and critique any and all types of representational media.
Kindergarten contains two foundational Humanities blocks: “Language and Literacy” and “Civics, History and Science Foundation.” The “Language and Literacy” block follows a rigorous program of teaching phonics, whole language, writing, grammar, reading strategies, and reading. The “Civics, History and Science Foundation” extends this instruction and introduces topics that will be reintroduced at a deeper level later in their journey.
In Grades 1-3 English and History are intertwined in a course called “Humanities.”
BASIS Curriculum Humanities courses, students grow from learning to read to reading to learn. The main focus of Humanities courses is literacy, with a secondary focus on social studies, which determines the themes around which literacy instruction is based. This course includes 20 minutes per day devoted entirely to reading. Students develop and strengthen the essential tools for reading and writing, which include reading comprehension strategies, vocabulary enrichment, and phonics and grammar skills. In addition, they learn to compare historical events, connect those events with their geographic locations, and compare the aspects of various forms of government to gain a more complete perspective of the world in which we live.
In Grades 4-12, English and History are separate courses.
All BASIS Curriculum English courses are designed to engage students in the careful reading and critical analysis of all types of textual media (classic literature, contemporary and regional literature, non-fiction, journalism, films and television productions). Students read, discuss, analyze, and write about influential literary and non-literary texts to determine how meaning is created through the interplay of language and form — both in the work of the authors they read and in their own writing. Our goal is to inspire students to learn to love literature and to value it for the access it provides to a deeper knowledge of themselves and their world. The skills necessary for passing an AP English exam are treated as foundational, with the ultimate goal that our students will graduate completely at ease with college-level reading, analysis, and writing.
English study begins in Grade 4 with a foundational education in grammar, which serves to support a complex approach to reading and writing as essential tools for effective communication.
Instruction in grammatical conventions and fundamental reading and writing skills is explicit in grades 4-8, but becomes incorporated into a more holistic approach to higher level literacy as students mature and gain the skills to succeed in AP and post-AP English courses in grades 9 and above.
In keeping with our commitment to fostering critical thinking skills, BASIS Curriculum Schools incorporate interdisciplinary coursework throughout our Program. We believe that teaching students to make connections across disciplines, to ask questions and seek solutions and answers across traditional disciplinary boundaries, produces creative and independent thinkers and prepares our students for life and work in the 21st century.
While all our coursework includes some level of instruction in interdisciplinary thinking, the Program also includes some specific classes in which time is devoted explicitly to the instruction in this area.
In Grades 1-4, our students take a project-based course called Connections. The Connections class meets once per week and gives students the opportunity to demonstrate ingenuity, teamwork and mental agility. In this class, students work together to complete highly challenging projects that help them understand the relationships between all of the different subjects they are studying.
As they collaborate to complete their challenge, students foster interpersonal relationships in a fun and self-driven environment. The challenges are all linked to narrative scenarios that help the students understand how the content connects to the world around them.
p>In the Intermediate Years, our students take two Interdisciplinary courses: Logic (7th grade) and Economics (8th grade).
The aim of the 7th grade Logic course is to develop metacognitive abilities so that students are empowered to govern their lives and engage effectively in their classrooms and communities. The pedagogy of our Logic course is focused on multi-modal, project-based, student-centered learning. This focus helps student academic maturation by developing the intellectual and interpersonal skills needed to succeed in the upper school.
Logic students become familiar with the basic features of classical logic, receive an orientation to the fundamentals of argumentation, and learn effective methods for resolving disagreements. Furthermore, they examine and practice the principles of symbolic logic, evaluate and construct different types of arguments focusing primarily on Aristotelian syllogisms, discern the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning, and realize the proper use of logic as a reasonable way of resolving real-world issues and problems.
In 8th Grade, our students take an introductory course in Economics. The goal of this course is to present the economic system in which we live in such a way that students understand both its power and its limitations. In order to help them reach this understanding, the course is primarily focused on economic theory: students are introduced to theories of supply and demand, market behavior, and the ways in which monetary tools and prices function. The course prepares students for later success in the AP Micro and Macro Economics class, as well as the array of AP History and Government classes offered in the High School Years.
The High School Program offers students a variety of courses that are explicitly Interdisciplinary, including Post-AP courses, the AP Capstone Program, Senior Capstone courses, and the Senior Project.
Students who successfully complete an AP Course are eligible to enroll in post-AP coursework in the same subject. These courses, which are topic-based, mirror upper-level college courses that draw from current scholarship. They range from Organic Chemistry to Film Theory to Bio Ethics, and introduce students to the debates and discussions in Academia that cross disciplinary lines.
Similarly, students who successfully complete all 9-11th grade course and exam requirements (minimum of 6 AP exams, passing at least one with a 3) are eligible to take Senior Capstone Courses in 4 subject areas: Humanities, Science, Foreign Language, and Math. These courses are seminar-style courses modeled on upper level college courses. In preparation for a rigorous post-secondary curriculum, Senior Capstone Courses provide instruction in independent subject-specific research skills, extended writing assignments, and group presentations. Like post-AP courses, specific thematic foci are determined by the instructor’s area of specialty. Past Senior Capstone course titles include: Literary Theory, The History of Food, Latin Epigraphy, Game Theory, and Differential Equations.
BASIS Curriculum Schools is also a participant in the College Board AP Capstone Program (not to be confused with our Senior Capstone Courses). This program, which was specifically designed by the College Board to respond to a need for a more rigorous measure of high school instruction in scholarly inquiry, research, collaboration and writing. The AP Capstone program is comprised of two classes — AP Seminar and AP Research — which must be taken sequentially. The AP Seminar Course is focused on a yearlong theme that forms the basis for interdisciplinary research projects, discussion, and written reports. In AP Research, students apply what they have learned in AP Seminar to conduct an independent interdisciplinary research project that may or may not take them off campus.
Finally, our seniors may also choose to complete a Senior Project that is not related to the AP Capstone Program. This is an independent project that takes students off campus to combine personal interests with an internship. Through the Senior Project, BASIS supports its seniors’ nascent sense of investigation and research. Projects are usually interdisciplinary in nature, ranging from combinations of Chemistry and Culinary Arts to Physics and Biology.
BASIS Curriculum Fine Arts courses inspire students to explore and develop creative and innovative ideas, preparing them for a variety of future interests, as well as encouraging a love for the arts. In all Fine Arts courses, students explore diverse themes of historical and contemporary significance. Courses are taught thematically, exploring how artists and learners respond to the concepts of Communication, Community, Movement, Technology, and Self. The Fine Arts teach students to develop critical thinking skills, to explore different modes of self-expression, and to make meaningful aesthetic connections between their own experiences and the world.
In Early and Primary Years, all students take Music, Visual Arts, and Performance Arts. The purpose of the Fine Arts during these years is to expose the students to new ways of seeing the world, help them gain appreciation for the arts, and to develop critical thinking skills. In addition, the Fine Arts courses explore themes of cultural and historical relevance. These themes are connected to civic engagement and support the student’s social and emotional development.
The goal for Fine Arts in the Bridge Years is to provide a broad understanding of Fine Arts history and to explore the connections between Visual Arts, Music, and Performing Arts. Students will identify and experience how art functions as language and documentation in the lives of people across generations and locations. Ultimately, the study of the Fine Arts in these years seeks to help students experience the historical and contemporary relevance of the fine arts.
Students in 5th grade take both Music and Visual Arts three times a week. This course prepares them for the choice they will make in the 6th grade Fine Arts Elective between a concentration in Visual Arts, Music, or Performing Arts. The 6th grade Fine Arts Elective is thematically focused on the interplay between Art History and Practice.
BASIS Curriculum Fine Arts courses during these years teach visual literacy through a historical and contemporary lens that focuses on how art plays an essential part in politics, value systems, society and culture. Students learn the craft, techniques and processes of art making, laying the foundation for lifelong creative work and aesthetic appreciation.
In 7-12th grade, Fine Arts is an elective course. The students in these courses explore advanced concepts focused on history, craft, and self-expression. These courses are addressed to students who have both academic and aesthetic interests in the arts. Students develop their knowledge of the theory, practice and history of their chosen medium and deepen their ability to be imaginative and resourceful problem solvers and creators. Advanced students have the opportunity to enroll in a variety of AP and post-AP Fine Arts courses.
In our Sports and Physical Education courses, students learn the skills necessary to develop healthy bodies, lifestyles, and attitudes through physical activity, organized sports, fitness, and dance.
All our students are required to take Physical Education in the Early, Primary, and Bridge Years; in Grades 7-12, Physical Education is offered as an elective. Many schools offer Martial Arts courses in the lower grades.