Upper School Curriculum

Saddle River High School Students


In English courses throughout the Upper School, certain goals remain constant as students develop and progress. All English courses help students to read intelligently, write well, speak effectively, and listen attentively. Students are taught to analyze, criticize, judge—with eye, ear, mind, voice, and pen to express these skills in an appropriate fashion. Since students make use of their analytical, critical, evaluative, and judging capacities in all disciplines, the English Department coordinates with other Departments to provide students with many opportunities for practical application of their knowledge and skills throughout their courses.  

Activities that train students to analyze, criticize, evaluate, and judge are the mainstays of the language arts: reading, writing, speaking and listening. In our English courses, students develop a sense of the chronology of literature and of one’s heritage, which includes elements of Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian civilizations, as well as the diverse cultures that constitute aspects of both our diverse student population and our American experience. Through the use of essential questions, the English Department seeks to provoke deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understandings within its students, as well as spark meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experiences. At the heart of all the English Department’s activities is the conviction that reading, writing, speaking, and listening demand a high degree of intellectual sophistication, emotional conviction, and personal discipline, which we address in developmentally appropriate ways as the students progress throughout their years at SRDS.

In the English program each course builds on the skills and experiences students acquire in previous grades. Throughout the Upper School English courses, students learn vocabulary and grammar; explore the reading and writing of major literary genres including poetry, short story, drama, essay, memoir, graphic novels and traditional novels; and hone their oral presentation skills with presentations to their classmates and larger audiences. Every Saddle River Day School student takes at least one English course every year. A robust selection of electives are also offered in the upper grades. Advanced Placement Literature and Language are offered in Grades 11 and 12 for students of demonstrated ability and superior motivation.


All students are required to complete the following three courses of mathematics for graduation: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, and it is highly recommended that students continue their study of mathematics beyond Algebra II.  Enrollment in a mathematics course during all four years of high school is strongly encouraged.  


The science department's courses are designed to be comprehensive as well as diverse in order to meet the needs of every student. In the Upper School, three years of laboratory science are required for graduation. In all cases, biology, and chemistry are required for graduation, and physics is strongly recommended as the third lab science. Three advanced placement science courses are offered for those students who demonstrate an extremely high aptitude in science.

Social Sciences

The purpose of the study of history and the social sciences is to help students understand themselves and their relationships to history and culture through an investigation of the varieties of the human experience. The History and Social Sciences Department curriculum emphasizes a world perspective, which asks students to appreciate the global connectedness that has existed for most of human history. The curriculum in the upper school provides opportunities for students to investigate many areas of this experience: intellectual, aesthetic, religious, philosophical, political, economic, social, and psychological.

In the history and social sciences program, each course builds on certain skills students have acquired in previous grades. For example, students learn to analyze critically both primary and secondary sources. There is a strong emphasis in all courses on developing students’ abilities to express themselves clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Many courses use art, literature, and music to enrich understanding.

In the Upper School, students are required to complete three year-long courses: Big History, Modern World History or AP European History, and United States History. In addition to these required courses, the department offers a number of electives in history and the social sciences. Qualified students may also enroll in various Advanced Placement courses. In addition, students interested in contemporary domestic and international issues can become involved in related extracurricular activities often supported by the department.

World Languages

The principal goal of the World Language Department is to instill a love of language and an appreciation of the cultures beyond these languages. We encourage our students to achieve an excellent level of communication in speaking and in writing at the end of their third-year requirement.  Students may continue their study of language beyond the Advanced Placement level.  Listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing are the traditional skills that are stressed throughout the world language experience. Field trips and trips abroad may be offered as further enrichment.
In Upper School, students need to complete through level III of one language: Spanish, French or Arabic.  Courses are offered at the college preparatory and honors levels, and AP classes are offered in each language. The World Languages Department encourages students to pursue their studies beyond the three-year requirement and/or to start another language.

Visual Arts - Studio and Graphic Arts

The visual arts are a means to gain personal satisfaction through individual accomplishment in the creation of images and forms.  The program is solidly based on a respect and understanding of where students are creatively, what they require from their work, and the means to move them from one developmental stage to another as they become more expressive, inventive, and perceptive.  The program focuses on artistic creation as the central component throughout, with perceptual and reflective elements growing out of the students’ active involvement with materials and processes.  Through expressive/creative experiences, students become familiar with such facets of artistic thinking as; the ability to formulate problems and create multiple solutions, the ability to pursue a project over time, the willingness to solve problems inventively, the ability to take risks, and finally to reflect critically on one’s own work.  Students develop a way of thinking that functions beyond the studio into other areas of the curriculum.
The program focuses primarily on the uniqueness of the individual, fostering and valuing the specific expressive qualities and interests of each student as she/he progresses through K - 12.  Collaborative work exists, but its goals are secondary to the individual.


Performing Arts - Theater, Instrumental and Choral Music

SRDS has a dynamic and diverse instrumental music program that provides a solid foundation of the skills needed to play an instrument and to perform with it in an ensemble.  Instruction begins in the Lower School, continues through the Middle School, and culminates with our students participating in our Upper School Band, Jazz Ensemble, String Ensemble, and Guitar Ensemble.  

The choral program is designed to provide the opportunity for each student in grades pK-12 to learn the proper vocal techniques and skills needed to perform various vocal repertoire.  Special emphasis is placed on learning rudimentary skills such as proper air support, proper resonance, sight-reading, audible acuity, blending, style, and showmanship.  Participation in an SRDS choir provides opportunities for the students to express their personal creativity, build their self-esteem, learn self-discipline, and master a variety of skills which can be applied to their lives both on and off the stage.  


Core Enrichment Courses