Thayer Academy's signature academic programs at the Upper School are varied in nature but singular in purpose: to meaningfully engage students in deeper learning that will prepare them with the skills and experiences to become exceptional learners and leaders.
Thayer’s Scholars-in-Residence program brings thought leaders, practitioners, and artists from academia and a range of professional disciplines to campus to enrich student learning experiences in sustained and meaningful ways. Resident scholars teach classes/seminars, participate in project or research work with students, lead discussion groups, hold office hours, design events that enrich the entire Thayer community, and serve as a resource to students and teachers. This program elevates the intellectual discourse and course of study at Thayer and supports the teaching of key leadership skills, namely: effective communication, collaborative problem-solving, ethical decision-making, and relationship-building across lines of difference.
Scholars for the 2023-24 school year include:
- Timothy Patrick McCarthy, PhD, a Harvard University professor and an award-winning historian, educator, and social activist whose focus is public leadership and human rights
- Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Music Director Jin Kim, who is developing the Charles Castleman ‘57 Orchestral Program and the Thayer Academy Choral Ensemble
- Kimberly Boucher, from the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, and Dipul Patel, a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, both of whom will support Thayer's Entrepreneurship Program
- A team of researchers from Beneath The Waves (a nonprofit dedicated to marine science and conservation) led by founder and CEO Dr. Austin Gallagher '04
Thayer offers a sequenced array of curricular opportunities focusing on the development of effective communication skills across a variety of modalities and media. Students are taught not only effective public presentation skills but also the important art of storytelling, connecting with multiple audiences, and articulating ideas and values in ways that are impactful. The curriculum includes the development and presentation of “sTAnds” speeches (leadership and values-based personal narratives), recitations of Shakespearean and other famous works, original TED-type talks, Moth-style story slams, “Talking Pictures” speeches, and a “Words that Changed the World” competition. “The Art of Communication” seminar provides seniors a stand-alone semester elective focusing on developing and then filming personal/public narratives and issues-based TED-type presentations.
The Global Scholars Capstone Program offers students greater awareness of and greater engagement in global public policy issues. Combining interdisciplinary classroom learning with real-world problem-solving and experiences, the program provides scholarly context for active global citizenship, including participation in a variety of curricular and co-curricular activities that promote student initiative, civic responsibility, and meaningful collaboration. Global Scholars themselves bring a spirit of inquiry, deliver on the Academy’s promise to “contribute to the common good,” and serve as drivers for global citizenship efforts on Thayer’s campus and beyond. Travel opportunities complement the program as does a monthly lecture series on global public policy matters which brings experts, thought leaders, and action leaders to the Thayer community and co-curricular seminars (such as on the topic of human rights) led by Thayer faculty and resident scholars. Students who successfully complete the program requirements are recognized as Thayer Academy Global Scholars at graduation.
The Independent Science Research (ISR) program introduces students to primary research opportunities in scientific laboratories in the Boston area with the goal of preparing students for summer internships in lab settings. Students meet twice weekly in classes to review and present current research from published works and to develop their own research projects. Throughout the program, students visit Boston-area facilities to gain greater insight into a variety of studies and settings to increase familiarity with the operations and protocols of area labs. Students are supported through the internship application process and participate in an extensive summer internship between eleventh and twelfth grades to fulfill the course requirement.
Seniors complete their Thayer careers by devising and then executing a learning project that examines questions or problems while promoting student voice and choice, sustained inquiry, critique and revision, reflection, and public presentation. Seniors work with faculty supervisors and off-site mentors in projects as diverse as music composition for area conservatories; astrophotography taken on campus and in the field; internships with Boston-area legislators; and service and cultural immersion trips across the world (including to France, Peru, Greece, Italy, and the Galapagos Islands). Students complete their senior projects with a culminating public presentation and/or artifact to demonstrate meeting their learning objectives.
The Peter J. Benelli Writing Center (BWC) is a peer-led writing lab which offers students coaching and feedback at any stage of the writing process across all disciplines. Under the supervision of English and history department faculty, dedicated BWC fellows are trained to assist student writers in any class and for any project (literary essays, poetry, nonfiction, fiction, history research papers, college essays, lab reports, contest entries, etc.). The program amplifies classroom learning; nurtures a cross-curricular, whole-school approach to writing as a process; and celebrates that writing process for all students. BWC fellows assume key peer leadership roles in the academic life of the community and contribute to students’ confidence and facility in writing.
An expanding array of technology and computer science courses are offered at these Upper School academic centers. A four-year sequence of computer science courses, including AP Computer Science and Data Structures, complement Robotics and other offerings in the recently renovated and reimagined Computer Science and Robotics Center. Robust student teams bring their passion for the subject to national American Computer Science League (ACSL) competitions, and advanced students further serve as teaching assistants in computer science classes. This work is amplified through the digital technology tools and offerings of the Hanflig Technology Center (HTC). Collaborative design classes offer students the opportunity to develop problem-solving and design thinking skills as well as a deeper understanding of engineering and other STEAM concepts.
Thayer offers a scholarly introduction to and examination of racism and social justice more broadly through unique courses developed by faculty and consulting experts. These courses further Thayer’s commitment to being an anti-racist learning institution that prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging across the curriculum and the student experience. “Anti-racism” is a required one-semester 9th grade course which explores the ways racism has contributed to American society, how and why it persists, and how anti-racism can empower each of us to take steps to end racism in ourselves, in our school, in our communities, and in our country. “The Common Good” is a required one-semester course for 10th graders which focuses on empowering students to better develop their understanding of equality, opportunity, environmental sustainability, and social justice. This discussion-based course identifies and examines public policy problems, acknowledges those who promote solutions, and engages in problem-solving activities in our school and our communities. The course concludes with a service/learning project with a focus on ethical leadership and community engagement.