Maybeck Courses

Some of the courses below are not offered every semester. Courses being taught currently (Spring 2019) are indicated with an *

History / Social Science

There cannot be a philosophy, there cannot even be a decent science, without humanity.
—  Jacob Bronowski

Three years required of history/social science, including one year of World History, Cultures or Geography; one year of US History; and one additional year (two semesters) of Advanced electives.

Some of the courses below are not offered every semester. Courses being taught currently (Spring 2019) are indicated with an *

World History *
10 units

The world’s history from the European Renaissance to the present is the subject of this year-long course. To better understand ourselves and our own time, the present state of our world and how it came to be will be an ongoing focus of our study. We will examine the multicultural history of humanity as “the West” came to dominant power. We will engage with changing and often clashing ideas. We will encounter the powers and resistance that shape humanity and the world we are a part of.

United States History *
10 Units

After a whirlwind review of early American history, this course intensively studies the United States in the 20th century. Proceeding chronologically, decade by decade, we consider presidents and their political visions; the changing role of the U.S. on the world stage and its international conflicts; the period's astounding economic growth; the controversies of race, gender, and class; cultural issues and tensions; and the enormous impact of the 1960s. Students are required to take lecture notes, learn American geography, read historical essays, and conduct independent research.

Psychology (Elective)
5 Units

This course is a general introduction to psychology. In addition to a history of the field, it includes the study of human physiology, psychopharmacology, personality theory, and abnormal psychology. The course is designed to provide the student with a sense of one of the 20th century's most unusual explorations: the charting of the human psyche. We examine where the field stands today and how its insights relate to us all. Psychology is not considered an advanced course; therefore, US History is not a prerequisite, and it does not count towards the 10 units of Advanced Social Studies required for graduation.

The following advanced social studies classes require a US History prerequisite:

Ancient World History
5 Units

Introduction to Eastern Philosophy intends to present students with a variety of important philosophical systems of thought and practice over the past three thousand years of Asian history. We will encounter and examine the philosophic worldviews of Shamanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shinto, both in historical development and in our present world. The significant questions of what is reality, life, death, human nature and ethics in each system will be explored. Students will be analyzing and gaining an understanding of these philosophies through the analytic close-reading of primary texts and through investigations of the art, the music, the meditative practices and the social life of these related though divergent systems of perceiving and acting in the world. Students will express their insights in reflective and expository writing, discussion and through furthering their own interests and understanding through research.

Asian Philosophy
5 Units

An understanding of the history and culture of China is crucial to comprehension of both world history and contemporary affairs. This course will examine the history and culture that have created present-day China, from the Paleolithic to the profound economic, political, and social changes taking place today. Change and continuity will be a theme investigated throughout the course. We will consider long-standing controversial issues of social order, relations to nature, statecraft, resource allocation, and imperialism. We will end with a critical inquiry into China’s emergence as the world’s most populous economic superpower.

Cultural Anthropology
5 Units

The world’s cultures are the focus of this course. How do people in different cultures connect with their environment and with each other? What roles do belief, behavior, power, conflict, family, gender, age, class, race, language, and art play in these relationships? Traditional cultures that have sustained themselves for many thousands of years and cultures changing in the current era of aggressive globalization will be considered, including contemporary culture in the USA. We will study several cultures as examples and learn to use the conceptual tools of anthropology to better understand diverse cultures as they understand themselves and as anthropologists see them.

5 Units

The course is divided into three parts. As in any traditional American introductory economics course, we will explore the capitalist economic structure and its evolution. In the second and briefest part of the course, we will look at other economic systems such as socialism. The third part of the course will be an exploration of the current upsurge in green economic initiatives. This is where ecology and social justice are becoming prime considerations in transforming economic systems. This course will be a vital study to help us understand what is going on right now, how we got here and where we can go from here in our future.

Film History *
5 Units

This course traces the major developments in world cinema from its earliest beginnings in the 1890s to the present. The course is structured roughly chronologically and focuses on moments in cinema’s development that are particularly relevant from a historical perspective, be it aesthetic, political, technological, cultural and/or economic. The course will acquaint you with the events, causes and consequences of film history and to foster the critical skills necessary for you to assess and advance your own arguments about that history. By the end of the semester, you should be able to identify and critically examine the primary texts and contexts of major film movements and trends, to describe the aesthetic, political, cultural, economic and technological catalysts that distinguished and helped to shape those movements and trends, and to compose your own credible, original historical discourse about film history.

History & Art
5 Units

The world’s visual art is the focus of this course. How do people in different cultures and different times visually relate to their world? What is art? We will explore this. This includes looking at art, understanding art and maybe even making some of our own.

History & Social Justice
5 Units

The course will address the history relevant to multicultural, diversity and social justice issues and the role of racial, ethnic and cultural heritage, nationality, socioeconomic status, family structure, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious and spiritual beliefs, occupation, physical and mental status, local, regional, national and international perspective, and issues of equity such as oppression, power and privilege in American society. Starting with the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights and amendments, we will explore, discuss, question, research, present, and examine the struggles by native (American Indians) and immigrant populations of color (Africans, Latinos, Asians) as well as the unique struggle of women, Jews and homosexuals. We will look at local, state and national efforts by the judicial system to effect changes when legislative efforts have proved insufficient or ineffective. Considerable reading, research, writing and discussion are key components of this exciting course.

LGBTQ History
5 Units

This course focuses on the history of gay men and lesbians since the coining of the word homosexuality in an anonymous German pamphlet in 1869 to the present. Students will learn about this history as it has unfolded over the past 140 years with each era and its events examined and discussed. The course will include Native American, African American, Latino, Asian American, and European American narratives, with relevant texts from history, film, anthropology and fiction serving as source material. The course is designed to prepare students to be knowledgeable of same-sex desire, heterosexuality, homosexuality, and the regulation of sexual identities across different racial/ethnic and class/regional communities.

Middle East Studies *
5 Units

An understanding of the history and cultures of the Middle East is crucial to comprehension of both world history and contemporary affairs. This course will examine the geography, history, cultures, religions, and economics that have created the present day Middle East. We will consider how oil, Islam, Zionism, diaspora, right of return, fundamentalism, imperialism, occupation, and nuclear proliferation have shaped the region and our world today. Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf States, Iran, Israel and Palestine are examples of key nations to be examined. Recent and on-going conflicts and issues will be analyzed in depth from the viewpoints of differing groups, along with all their various proposed solutions.

Music History
5 Units

A course for musician and non-musician alike, the class traces the history of music from the late 17th century to the present. Attention centers on the various "schools" of composition: the rebirth or Renaissance of music following the Middle Ages; the Baroque sounds of Bach and Handel; the Classic forms of Haydn and Mozart; the Romantic compositions of Beethoven and his later nationalistic disciples; and the rich diversity in musical works created by the “modern" composers of the 20th century. We also look at the role personality plays in the creative process as well as the larger role music plays in society as a whole. Considerable emphasis is placed on listening to recorded music, video, and live performance. There is ample opportunity for reading, thinking and writing about music.

Origins of the Holocaust
5 Units

A more exact title for this class would be "Nationalism, Identity, Fascism, and the Holocaust." Europe went berserk in the mid-20th century, deeply compromising its Humanistic traditions. The optimism and tolerance generated by the 18th century Enlightenment led to a century of expanding freedoms. People began to have choices. One choice that became increasingly common was selecting ethnic identity as one's basic identity. This class explores the impact of nationalism on modern identity as it unfolded in the period of 1789 to 1945. Emphasis is placed on the dissolution of the multi-cultural Hapsburg state and the rise of ethnic national exclusivity — factors that helped create Nazism. The larger phenomenon of anti-Semitism, the construction of European racism, and the Holocaust itself are central topics of study.

5 Units

Introduction to Philosophy intends to introduce students to a variety of important philosophical texts and authors, but also to introduce them to the process of analyzing philosophical writing and in turn of writing about philosophy. In addition to these goals, students will be exposed to the life-altering questions about the nature of their own lives, meaning, existence, purposiveness, and what constitutes the good life in the framework of their own experience. Students will learn to outline and write abstracts of the primary texts we study and to use these preliminary analyses in stages to produce independent writing of their own in response to the assigned primary texts. Students will engage in close reading, discussion, and verbal and written analysis of primary material by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Berkeley, and Nietzsche. We will supplement our readings with readings and discussions from a secondary text: Archetypes of Wisdom: an Introduction to Philosophy, by Douglas J. Soccio.

Revolution & Theater
5 Units

An exploration of revolutionary events as reflected in the theatre. The focus of the course is the industrialization of society, and the various national, class, gender, and ethnic conflicts, and their cultural and ideological aspects. The course begins with the French Revolution, characterized by rational mastery of nature and society, and ends with the Second World War, characterized by total chaos and mass destruction. These events, and investigations, will provide a context for examining the works of Buchner, Bond, Brecht, Ibsen, O’Neill, Shaw, and Stoppard, among others. Significant reading, discussion and writing are required.

5 Units

This course examines the history of socialism from its theoretical and practical application as a critique of modernization to the recent collapse of many communist governments worldwide. The focus is on socialism's relationship to other political discourses, including liberalism, capitalism, anarchism, nationalism, fundamentalism, and, of course, Marxism.

World Religions
5 Units

The origin of all cultures is a religious as well as a social and political question. This class explores the world's major spiritual traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity; it also looks at the primal religious traditions of the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Oceania. Through a comparative look at religion, through readings and meetings with guest speakers, the class considers the question of human and social origins as well as human nature; good and evil, and the relevance of social ethics; birth and death and the afterlife. In addition to religious dogma, the class looks at the living spiritual traditions as reflected in art, music, and social life in their historical and contemporary dimensions. Because we live in a multi-cultural society that operates under the legal notion of freedom of religion, understanding our religious differences and common ground is a necessary part of maintaining a free and diverse society. Students write three essays, complete a major research paper, and present oral reports to the class.


The pen, like the sword, grows rusty with disuse.
— Czeslaw Milosz (1980 Nobel Prize for Literature)

Students are required to take four years of college preparatory English. Courses are sequential and based on skills. Composition is a prerequisite for Literature, and Literature is a prerequisite for Advanced English semester electives.

Composition *
10 Units

This course provides the foundation for student writing and reading at Maybeck. Students develop and hone their skills while working with many forms and genres. Writing assignments range from short exercises to more extensive essays and creative pieces. The pre-write/draft/revision process of writing is emphasized. Students’ work receives detailed individual attention from the instructor in addition to opportunities for peer response. Frequent opportunities to read work aloud encourage students to learn from each other and to gain confidence while in a small, supportive class. Students learn about a variety of literary techniques, both through analyzing them in readings and through using them in their own writing.

Intermediate Composition *
10 Units

This course surveys a variety of genres and authors, giving you the opportunity to practice and improve your skills in critical thinking, literary analysis, and writing. You will learn different approaches to literary analysis and questions to ask yourself while reading, and you will work through all stages of the writing process (brainstorming, outlining, rough draft, revision, and the final draft). A great deal of class time will be spent discussing assigned readings. In addition, we will study grammar and vocabulary on a weekly basis.

Literature *
10 Units

Maybeck's Literature course seeks to provide students with a solid mastery of literary analysis, both in discussion and in writing. Extensive class time is spent analyzing assigned readings. There are frequent writing assignments: essays or revisions of essays due every two to three weeks, and shorter responses to the readings due several times each week. The course builds towards the completion of a 12-15 page research paper due in the spring semester. The Literature course also includes exercises to build students' vocabularies and refine their grammar skills. Past classes have read The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, The English Patient, The Great Gatsby, Othello, Oedipus the King, and selections of short stories and poetry.

Literature is a prerequisite to the following advanced English classes. These classes are offered on a rotating basis:

20th Century Experimental Novels
5 Units

A major part of the history of the novel in the twentieth century is one of experiment and innovation. This course will focus on some of the more extreme cases among the wide variety of experimental forms that were developed in this century. These are works that flirt with incoherence and challenge the reader’s understanding of the very purpose of fiction, often with wild and unexpected humor. They are also often works that reach ambitiously towards powerful insights into the human condition. In each case we will read enough of the author’s own assessments of her or his work to give us some insight into the motivations behind the experiments they have undertaken. Overall, the course seeks to provide an informed understanding of the nature of literary experiment and its place in twentieth-century literary history as well as the history of the novel.

20th Century Irish Literature
5 Units

This course will explore the literature and culture of Ireland in the turbulent first two decades of the 20th century. Students will examine canonical and non-canonical authors in relation to the culture that produced the works of James Joyce, W.B.Yeats, and Samuel Beckett. Our readings will start out in the last years of the Irish literary revival, moving past the day of Ulysses, in 1904, past the memorable Easter of 1916, and culminating in the war of independence that led to the founding of an independent Irish nation and national government as well as to the fateful partitioning of Ireland. We will use the literary texts in tandem with an investigation of the cultural history of Ireland in this crucial period in order to arrive at a deepened understanding of the period and culture of early 20th century Ireland so formative to the constellations of power and conflict in contemporary Ireland.

Advanced Composition
10 Units

This class concentrates on writing: practice, process, practice in order to sharpen our pens and our pleasure with words. It is both for students who like to write and for those who think they do not. We explore a variety of forms, including the letter, the essay, poetry, the short story, and the journal and its uses. Be prepared for in-class writing exercises, many short papers, and a few long ones. Also be prepared to share your work and to attend to others'. Readings include short stories, essays, poetry, and writers' writings about writing.

African-American Literature
5 Units

This class focuses on recent writings by African-Americans. We examine works by authors such as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Ishmael Reed, Gloria Naylor, and Charles Johnson. We also examine recent critiques by African-American literary scholars, including Barbara Christian and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. As in all advanced level courses, students can expect to write 20 pages of formal essays throughout the semester, as well as many less formal assignments.

American Drama
5 Units

This course is a survey of 20th-century American drama written by American playwrights. Using Aristotle’s treatise on tragedy as a foundation, we will explore the development of realism in the American drama as well as its transformation throughout the century. A range of dramatic styles will be covered, with a balanced emphasis on analysis of the text and the historical, social and cultural context for the work. Plays by Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Wendy Wasserstein and Tony Kushner, among others will be read. Significant reading, discussion and writing are required.

Gothic Literature
5 Units

Prepare to be terrified, captivated, angered, challenged, and amused. Though the Gothic novel originated in the later eighteenth-century as part of the Romantic period, it is by no means limited to that literary period. Our major texts will include The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764), Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1818), Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847), Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (1872), The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891), The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892), The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898). We will also read selected stories and poems by Edgar Allen Poe (1831-1845) and short excerpts from other prominent works, and to complement our study of literature, we will watch a few horror films to better understand the influence the Gothic has on our culture, and how it has shaped what we consider to be frightening.

Greek Classics
5 Units

Incest, kidnapping, war, passion, sex, patricide, and matricide: from Homer to Plato, Greek culture has produced the most fundamental yet outrageous literature the world has ever seen. We begin with Homer by reading both The Iliad and The Odyssey in their entirety. Then we consider Greek tragedy by reading aloud in class as many as ten of the great dramas of Athens by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Finally we read selected works of Plato, including The Apology, The Symposium, and the Republic. Careful consideration is also given to modern criticisms and reflections of Greek literature.

Immigrant Writers
5 Units

In the 20th century large waves of immigrants changed the American landscape forever. Our cities and rural towns are now more racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse than ever before. With each wave of newcomers, new identities are formed and cultures transformed. The immigrant experience remains one of American literature's most compelling subjects. In this course we explore the stories behind the statistics by reading works of fiction and biography by and about immigrants from various parts of the world. Themes we explore include physical and psychological journeys, initiation, isolation, cultural heritage, assimilation, border theories, and language.

Literary Adaptation
5 Units

In this course we will study literary works and their film adaptations. We will look at a variety of genres, from children’s stories and fairytales to family dramas and science fiction. We will first discuss the writing on its own (narrative techniques, themes, etc.) before examining how the novels and short stories have been interpreted for the screen. After viewing each film, we will compare the narrative strategies of each form, consider the relationship between word and image, and explore the artistic possibilities as well as the limitations of adaptation. In addition, we will consider the question of adaptability in terms of genre. Our main texts include Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” from Different Seasons by Stephen King, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Literature of New York City
5 Units

In the Literature of New York course, we will study the integral role New York City plays as a setting for a number of important literary works. We will read short stories, poems, and novels in chronological order (not of their publication, but of the time periods they depict) studying the ways in which New York has evolved from the 1800’s to present, and considering the many reasons why the city has inspired so many writers and artists. We will examine a range of topics including the role of social class, economic development, sports, and immigration in shaping the culture of New York City. In addition, we will study literary movements such as the Harlem Renaissance and Post- 9/11 Literature, and we will supplement our reading with films shot in New York.

5 Units

The first half of the 20th century witnessed a series of revolutions in the arts, which have come to be known collectively as "Modernism." In this course we read a selection of texts from 1889 to 1940, focusing on avant-garde movements in the arts and literature in Germany, France, Italy, and England. Close attention is paid to the effects of political ideologies such as fascism and socialism on the arts; we also explore parallels between movements in the visual arts (Cubism, Surrealism, the advent of film technology) and literature. We read two novels: Kafka's The Trialand Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front; one play: Brecht's Drums in the Night; and works of numerous poets, including W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and Jean Toomer.

Native American Literature
5 Units

In this course, we will explore Native American Literature from early folklore and oral tradition to contemporary novels and poetry. After studying the myths and coyote tales central to the culture of many tribes, we will move to works from the Native American Renaissance (late 1960s-early 1970s) which reflects the dramatic changes and struggles faced by Native Americans post-colonization. The course will conclude with works from contemporary authors, and we will continue to examine the effects of a changing cultural landscape as reflected in the literature. We will examine the issues surrounding forced relocation and assimilation while also looking at aspects of Native American culture that have survived.

Poetry *
5 Units

This course casts a sensitive and analytic eye on the most personal literary form, the poem. Using a broad sample of British and American poems, from a few works in Middle English down to our contemporary poets, we carefully explore what a poem is and how it functions. We examine the basic poetic tools — image and sound, form and sense, metaphor and symbol. We treat the poem as a personal means of communication and as a center for historical and literary focus. The course includes attending poetry readings.

5 Units

In this course we want to contextualize German romanticism(s)in two different ways: first, by investigating its geographical and historical parameters, and second, by comparing works in literature, art, and music. In the course of our discussions (in German when the works are in German, otherwise in English), we will compare writers/artists and their creations in terms of their "Romantic-ness," in order to push the traditional, historical boundaries of the concept. Some of the subjects that will reappear in various guises: the importance of music (Kleist, Novalis, Hoffmann, Wagner); revolution (the American and French Revolutions, the Greek war of liberation, human rights, individualism); the role of the artist in society and the artist’s relationship to her/his audience or reader (Tieck, Hoffmann, Novalis, Goya); multiple frame/tale constructions (all, including Friedrich and Runge); uses of irony, parody, and Romantic irony (Tieck, Kleist, Heine, Eichendorff); mysticism and the supernatural (Novalis, Hoffmann, Kleist, Friedrich); social critique (Mme de Staël, Caroline Schlegel-Schelling, Goya, Tieck, Heine); changing concepts of heroism (Merimée, Eichendorff, Delacroix); and relations between women and men (Mme de Staël, Schlegel-Schelling, Merimée; the Carmen theme).

Russian Literature
5 Units

This course has two primary goals: (1) for you to become better readers, speakers, and essay writers and (2) for you to become acquainted with Russian literature. We will cover prose works written by the great Russian writers of 19th and 20th centuries, reading them in chronological order. The reading list includes short stories by Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Babel; one play by Anton Chekhov; and short novels by Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Nabokov and Solzhenitsyn. In addition to focusing on important themes and characters, we will explore the distinctive style and structure of each work and will place texts in their cultural and historical contexts. We will also discuss the literary movements of Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism as well as compare the works we read and make connections between them.

Shakespeare *
5 Units

William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language; his plays and poetry have intrigued audiences and readers for nearly four hundred years. Here we do close readings of a number of his works — exactly which ones and how many will be determined by the class. Focusing on the themes, methods, and language of his plays and poetry, we try to understand Shakespeare in the context of his day and age and attempt to determine his relevance to our own.

The Epic
5 Units

This class introduces the student to three of the major epic poems in the western tradition: Homer's Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, and Dante's Inferno. Students are introduced to Greek, Roman, and Medieval Italian culture and history; learn how to read closely and critically for thematic content, formal and generic issues, and stylistic concerns; and study how literary traditions use, complement, and diverge from one another. Students write and revise three major papers and several shorter ones. The course provides students with historical and cultural background. Practice in analytical writing prepares them for college-level writing.

The Essay
5 Units

This class focuses solely on developing students' writing for college. As such, it is modeled after both U.C. Berkeley's English 1A/1B and Stanford's Freshman English courses. There are some readings, usually representing and/or explaining effective essay writing. The assignments include four 5-6 page papers, as well as several rewrites. The assignments develop different areas of essay writing by requiring the student to complete each essay using a different format, such as expository, argumentative, persuasive, analytical, and cause-and-effect. Additionally, there is a short research paper (10-12 pages long). Each student must complete at least 35 pages of finished writing, including rewrites, to pass this course.

Women Writers
5 Units

This course surveys some of the important women writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The thematic focus is on how women represent the unique issues that stem from their experiences and identities as women and as writers, as well as on how they challenge their identification. We examine how women, in particular, come to terms with contradicted and/or alienated experiences. We also explore the representation of the multi-cultural experiences of women writers as they have moved into the mainstream of world literature and as they have met the demands of maintaining diverse ethnic and cultural heritages.


When we cannot use the compass of mathematics or the torch of is certain we cannot take a single step forward.
— Voltaire

Three years of college preparatory mathematics that includes the topics covered in Elementary Algebra/Algebra I, Geometry and Advanced Algebra/Algebra II are required; four is strongly recommended. Maybeck’s mathematics program is designed to give all students a strong foundation in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; we encourage students to continue in Pre-Calculus and A.P. Calculus. Entering students must be prepared to handle first-year algebra. Mathematics should help students develop a logical approach to solving all kinds of problems as well as introduce them to challenging ideas.

Algebra *
10 Units

Algebra II *
10 Units

Algebra is the language of science. While many problems that can be solved by algebra can be worked out by common sense, their translation into algebraic form generally makes them easier to deal with. The goal of this course is to develop fluency in algebra as the language of mathematics, science, engineering, and many other fields.

Pre-Calculus *
10 Units

Calculus *
10 Units

Geometry *
10 Units

Geometry was the first system of ideas to be developed in which a few simple statements were assumed and then used to derive a rich and attractive array of results. This course combines the logic of deductive reasoning, the visual aspects of figures and constructions, and the more abstract area of algebra.

Laboratory Sciences

Maybeck requires three years of science for graduation. All students must have one year of Biology and one year of a physical science.

Scientific Investigations in Forensics
10 Units

Reconstructing events of the past through the interpretation of physical evidence, with topics including Human Osteology, Entomology, Fingerprint evidence, Hair and Fiber, Density of Plastics, Blood Spatter Analysis, Crash Reconstruction “Skid Forensics” and DNA Analysis.

Biology *
10 Units

This is a year-long course introducing the biological sciences. Beginning with the physical and chemical foundations of the natural sciences, we move on to discuss the basic unit of life, the cell. We examine the structure of cells, the fundamental processes that cycle energy through the biological world (photosynthesis and respiration), and cell reproduction. This leads to a discussion of the importance of DNA in genetics and evolution, and now, in genetic engineering. Finally, we examine the systems of the human body so that we can better understand ourselves as biological beings.

Chemistry *
10 Units

The Chemistry class examines the world around us from a submicroscopic viewpoint. The course includes discussion of atomic and molecular structure, energy changes in chemical reactions, the chemistry of aqueous solutions, solids and gases, chemical equilibria, acids and bases, nuclear chemistry, and a glimpse into organic chemistry and biochemistry. Laboratory work includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The course prepares students for the SAT II in Chemistry.

Conceptual Physics (Elective) *
10 Units

This course is a non-mathematical survey of classical and modern physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, and relativity. Intended as an introduction to the laboratory sciences, it includes lab procedures, lab write-ups, and a foundation in the sciences to prepare students for Biology and Chemistry. Entering freshmen or sophomores take this course as a prerequisite for the laboratory sciences.

Advanced Physics *
10 Units

Physics is the gateway into the fields of astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, engineering, and technology. Since our general curriculum uses Conceptual Physics as our introduction to science, this course expands into the quantification and measurement that trigonometry allows in the examination of the physical world. The course begins with Newtonian Mechanics and relativity. It continues through atomic structure, nuclear structure, wave theory, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism. Students in Advanced Physics must be concurrently enrolled in or have completed Pre-Calculus. Though this is not an AP course, many Maybeck students, with some extra personal work, sit and do well on the AP Physics B exam.

Anatomy & Physiology *
10 Units

This course provides an advanced elective for students that have completed a year of biology and chemistry. The major focus of the course will be on relating structure of organs to their functions and on understanding the major mechanisms of regulation of bodily functions. The class will provide students with the basic biochemistry, cell biology, histology, embryology and pathology of organs and organ systems of the body. This is an integrated platform of study involving various concepts from chemistry and biology especially in the physiology area. Labs and hands on activities will cover at least 30% of total class time and will consist of histological, and gross organ observation, as well as hypothesis driven experiments for physiology. The class will cover basic biochemistry, cell biology, histology, integument, bones, muscle, nerves, cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, digestive, excretory, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

Environmental Science
10 Units

The aim of the Environmental Science course is “to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions to resolving or preventing them.” This course is designed to acquaint students with the physical, ecological, social, and political principles of environmental science. The scientific method is used to analyze and understand the inter-relationships between humans and the natural environment. The course shows how ecological realities and the material desires of humans often clash, leading to environmental degradation and pollution. Laboratory and field study are an essential component to this course. The goal is for students to master the scientific techniques and methodologies that will enable them to become independent learners, capable of gathering and evaluating information and making rational and informed judgments that they will be able to communicate to others. This will enable them to function effectively as responsible citizens in a society that is increasingly shaped by science and technology.

5 Units

This course covers the basic concepts in Geology, emphasizing those in our geographical area. The foundation is Plate Tectonics, followed by earthquakes, vulcanology, landslides, hydrology, and then units on identification of minerals and rocks. Each student completes a 10-page research paper on a topic of his or her choice. Field trips have included visits to the UC Berkeley geology building and the UC Berkeley earthquake research station in Richmond. The course is offered in conjunction with Paleontology as a year-long course that satisfies the UC and CSU laboratory science requirement, though the two semesters can be taken independently.

5 Units

This course is an introduction to the science of Paleontology. We explore a few selected topics in depth to develop an understanding of the science. The semester begins with the origin of the earth in its solar system. We discuss evidence for the origin of life on earth. We then follow the development of life as a cell, prokaryote, eukaryote, and metazoan “animal.” We study the roles of evolution, sex, and genetics in this development; we look at how the evolution of our planet directs the diversity of life. We study the role extinction plays in developing diversity and change in the history of life and conclude with human evolution. Class time includes practical lab explorations comparable to work done by paleontologists in their search for evidence of life on earth. Successful completion of Biology is a prerequisite for this class. Paleontology is offered in conjunction with Geology as a year-long course that satisfies the UC and CSU laboratory requirement, though the two semesters can be taken independently.


The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein

Three years of the same language other than English are required.

French I *
10 Units

French II *
10 Units

French III *
10 Units

French IV *
10 Units

French V Honors
10 Units

Studying French has many rewards for the scholar, the tourist, the college applicant, and anyone who finds joy in communicating effectively with others and developing self-awareness. All courses emphasize grammar and oral expression, and introduce students to cultural aspects of the French-speaking world. The French for Mastery series is used throughout the first three years, along with additional materials. During the fourth and fifth years, students refine their understanding of grammar points and read a selection of materials, including literature.

Spanish I *
10 Units

Spanish II *
10 Units

Spanish III *
10 Units

Spanish IV *
10 Units

Spanish V Honors *
10 Units

These are thorough introduction and continuation courses, emphasizing both grammar and conversation. Language is not an exercise in futility, but a living, breathing bridge between peoples and cultures. The course strives to make the language spoken by millions of our neighbors a matter of understanding and importance not only as a means of communication, but as a means of appreciating kindred cultural heritages and concerns. Throughout the levels, the classes use video materials (such as the series La Catrina or Destinos) to supplement the textbook. Middle- and upper-level classes include documentaries and films, as well as readings from Spanish journals and short stories. Students in Spanish V pursue in depth studies of literature and specific authors.

Visual & Performing Arts

One year (two semesters) in an approved sequence is required (i.e. Acting and Theatre Production I, Theatre Production I and Theatre Production II, Drawing and Painting, Figure Drawing and Painting, Methods and Materials (year-long), or Music Appreciation I/II (year-long).) The following classes are offered on a rotating basis:

Acting *
5 Units

Acting is a course designed to teach the basic skills, concepts, and methods of modern realistic acting technique: essentially the why and how of stage performance. Beyond that, however, the class also provides students the opportunity to strengthen those powers of concentration, focus, analysis, imagination, creativity and empathy that are critical to this art form. There are also opportunities to analyze and critique professional and student productions and scripts in essays, annotations, and discussions.

5 Units

The course begins with exercises that help the student learn to see analytically. The emphasis is on working from life: still life, landscape, live models, and perspective. Although the approach is structured, each assignment encourages personal expression. Discussions and critiques of student work are an important part of every session. The course also includes discussion and writing about contemporary art based on gallery and studio visits. Drawing is offered in conjunction with Painting as a year-long course that meets the UC visual and performing arts requirement.

Figure Drawing
5 Units

This class introduces basic drawing techniques. Once students achieve a satisfactory skill level, the figure itself becomes the focal point. Students take turns posing for each other in the study of gesture, proportion, composition, light/shadow, drapery, and limited three-dimensional figure sculpture in clay. Materials include pencils, charcoal, pastel, and clay. Visits to museums, galleries, and artists' studios are often included. Students write about their exposure to contemporary art. Figure Drawing is offered in conjunction with Painting as a year-long course that meets the UC visual and performing arts requirement.

Film Studies
5 Units

In this course we will focus on the development of 20th century film, the fundamentals of screenwriting, and the creation of a short film. Through viewing, discussing and reading about a variety of film genres and styles, the student will discover his/her own style; by studying screenplays and writing one of his/her own, the student will give voice to a compelling discussion or idea; and by developing directing and technical skills, the student will bring his/her vision to life for an audience. Each student film is presented in the spring film festival. In addition, each student will have the opportunity to research a director and review several of that artist’s films.

Methods & Materials *
5 Units

Designed to introduce the student to the tools, techniques, and processes of creating two-dimensional art, this class covers multiple topics. Theory and criticism, art history, vocabulary, museum and gallery visits, critical writing, and discussion are integral parts of the course. The bulk of class time is devoted to the physical act of making works of art. Students experiment with various media, producing works in which more than one process is required. For example, egg tempera requires priming and sanding a panel, mixing pigment with egg, painting, gilding, and framing. Other media may include encaustic on panel, mask making, ceramic paintings, mounted tile compositions, and scratch board. Students learn to write analytically about their own work and about art historical and contemporary issues. Representatives from universities and art schools present educational opportunities and career options.

Music Appreciation & Performance *
5 Units

This course is about experiencing music: listening to it, reading about it, talking about it, rehearsing it, creating it and ultimately performing it for a live audience. Topics for the semester include reading music and understanding its basic elements; an overview of jazz and its performers; the world of musical theatre from 19th century operetta to the 21st century Òjuke-boxÓ musicals; an overview of the history of rock music from the 1950s to the present; and a brief look and listen to film music and its important contributors. You will also have the opportunity to attend two or more live performances/concerts to observe how music is performed in the real world.

Music Appreciation & Performance II
5 Units

This course is about experiencing music: listening to it, reading about it, talking about it, rehearsing it, creating it and ultimately performing it for a live audience. Topics for the semester include reading music and understanding its basic elements; chants and folk music from the Middle Ages; motets and madrigals from the Renaissance; the rise of opera and instrumental forms during the Baroque era; the development of the sonata, concerto, symphony and chamber music forms of the late 18th century; the development of nationalistic music and styles of individual composers in the 19th century; and how technologies of the 20th century affected composing and performing. You will also have the opportunity to attend two or more live performances/concerts to observe how music is performed in the real world.

Painting *
5 Units

In Painting the student learns how to stretch and prepare a canvas, mix colors, organize a composition, and decide on subject matter. Acrylic techniques are presented, but a personal style and individual ideas are encouraged. Critique, discussion, and writing about student work are an important part of the class. We also visit museums and write about contemporary works of art. At the end of the semester we mount an exhibition of each student's best work. Painting is offered in conjunction with Drawing or Figure Drawing as the second half of a year-long course that meets the UC visual and performing arts requirement.

Theatre Production I
5 Units

This year-long course is about experiencing theatre: creating it, reading about it, thinking about it, talking about it, rehearsing it, writing about it and ultimately performing it for a live audience. Throughout this course students will examine and utilize the historical and cultural dimensions of theatre to inform and enrich their work. Students will also attend live performances each semester to observe how theatre is presented in the real world by professional actors, writers and designers.

The first semester is designed to build upon principles learned in the Acting class and explores the nature of theatre and its spaces; the interaction of author, actor and audience; the contributions of directors and designers; and culminates in the performance of two full productions, generally a comedy and a drama. Students will also have the opportunity to attend professional productions at ACT in San Francisco and Berkeley Rep in Berkeley.

Theatre Production II
5 Units

The second semester explores the nature of historical theatre and acting styles including Greek tragedy, Roman comedy, the medieval mystery plays and the classic works of Shakespeare and Moliere; the various contributions and styles of world theatre from Asia, Africa and the Americas; and culminates in the performance of two full productions, generally a musical theatre work and an evening of one-act plays, by both established and contemporary playwrights. Students will also have the opportunity to attend professional productions at ACT in San Francisco and Berkeley Rep in Berkeley.

Physical Education

Don’t count the days.
Make the days count.
— Muhammad Ali

The school's Physical Education program offers a variety of 5-unit semester courses. By emphasizing one activity, classes work to build skill, confidence, and cooperation. P.E. classes meet in gyms and fields in the school neighborhood. On a rotating basis, two of the following courses are offered each semester:

  • Softball

  • Swimming

  • Ultimate Frisbee

  • Volleyball

  • Weight Training

  • Yoga *

  • Ballroom Dancing

  • Basketball

  • Cardio Training

  • Fencing

  • Hiking

  • Soccer

Health *
10 Units

Born out of a student forum in 1990, this class investigates the health issues of greatest concern to today's young people: sex and sexuality, drugs, death and suicide, peer influence, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. . Students themselves choose the topics of most interest to them. The course includes visits by speakers from several community organizations, readings, discussions, and daily journal writing.

Commute Biking
10 Units

In recognition of independence from the internal combustion engine and of individual commitment to fitness, Maybeck offers up to 5 units of P.E. credit for cycling to and from school. This class may be taken only once and requires the approval of a parent and the Academic Counselor.