Teaching & Learning
An MA education is designed to prepare students to lead and thrive in a world where everything is connected and challenges are rarely solved alone or through a single discipline.
We provide a challenging academic program based on experiential education that focuses on the critical and creative thinking our students need to chart their course in the world. We encourage students to explore complex ideas and diverse perspectives, to test their values and judgments, to make their own discoveries, and to make mistakes. We focus our curriculum on problems, projects, and questions that, by design, spur students to think deeply about issues. And we empower students by putting them at the center of their education, requiring them to lean into creative thinking and problem solving as they play an active role in their quest for meaning and purpose.
See our course catalog for a complete listing of courses offered:
- World Languages
- Visual & Performing Arts
- Human Development
- Physical Education
The Marin Academy English department strives to create astute and sophisticated critical thinkers through the development of sound reading and writing skills. Our curriculum is student-centered and thematically based to cultivate critical habits of mind around collaboration, risk-taking and interdisciplinary thinking. Our curriculum asks students to see the world in a multi-dimensional way, stretching them to understand and value difference while simultaneously encouraging them to develop individualism and authenticity in voice. Within and beyond the English classroom, our students articulately and creatively express their individual views. They are open to perspectives that are not their own and are culturally-conscious and self-aware Americans and world citizens. They think, question, and create with a critical eye.
Our three-year core curriculum explores the themes of identity formation and otherness—at the individual, cultural, and global level. In the freshman and sophomore years, students examine the importance of their relationships to each other, their communities, and their broader world, and ask questions about identity, community, and conflict. In the junior year, students use the core texts to address questions about the American Identity through various lenses (gender, race, religion, and class) and explore the American experience by way of various themes (rebellion, independence, and freedom). The first three years of English at Marin Academy are intensive writing and reading courses, centered on effective critical thinking and both analytical and personal writing. Students practice close reading and study the conventional and evolving uses of language. Our elective courses (open to juniors and seniors) enable students to explore areas of specialty in the field of English. These courses demand consistent practice of advanced writing and sophisticated reading assignments.
After four years of English at MA, graduates will have mastered the skills of close reading, critical thinking, and process writing. They will honor multiple perspectives and collaborate well in teams. MA graduates will think critically across texts and disciplines; reflect and cultivate self-awareness in their thinking and processing; and push intellectual boundaries and take risks.
Four years of English are required. English I (required in the ninth grade), English II (required in the tenth grade) and English III Honors (required in the eleventh grade) are mandatory. During senior year, two semester-long courses must be taken from the various electives offered.
The mission of Marin Academy asks us to “prepare students for the responsibilities posed by education in a democratic society.” That charge shapes not only the content of the courses we teach in the history department, but also the strategies and methods we use to guide our students in the exploration of the past and its connections to the present. At MA, students don’t just study history; they do the work of historians every day. Thoughtful historians know that active citizenship in the 21st century depends upon understanding prior centuries in depth and detail. They see history not as a fixed set of truths to be memorized, but rather as a conversation between perspectives. They know that their task is not to judge historical actors from a contemporary standpoint, but rather to empathize with them in an effort to understand the choices those actors made in their context. This will allow them to compare points of view from primary and secondary sources and use this evidence to construct an informed interpretation of the past and then apply this information to guide their actions as they work to create change in the present and beyond.
Because our block schedule provides 75 minute class periods—and because we are not bound by AP tests or any other standardized curricula—we are able to focus on the content that we think is most central to developing an understanding of our world and the development of critical reading, writing, and analysis skills in a deep, student-centered way on a daily basis. Our classrooms are dynamic places where teachers challenge students with big ideas and facilitate discussions, debates, and structured collaborative exploration as students develop the critical faculties of engaged citizenship. Our experience is that our approach not only prepares students for success in high school, during college, and well beyond, but also fosters the habits of self-driven inquiry, a deep passion for ideas, and a life-long love of history.
Our curriculum is designed to provide a global perspective of our world and the opportunities and challenges we face as we navigate the 21st century. In the first two years—9th and 10th grade—students will take Modern World History I and II. In 11th grade, all students will take U.S. History Honors. In the junior and senior years, students can choose from a series of electives, which can be explored in depth in our course catalog.
Three years of history are required, including Modern World History I, Modern World History II, and United States History. Four years are recommended.
The MA science department cultivates excitement, curiosity, and an appreciation of the scientific endeavor in our students so that they are empowered to create a positive impact in a diverse, democratic society. We challenge each student to view science as an interdisciplinary study applicable to contemporary society and an ever-shifting global community. To achieve this mission, students use scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills to identify, analyze and solve problems, to communicate effectively, to work both individually and collaboratively, and to use the tools of science to become lifelong learners and responsible members of their communities.
We provide students with a rigorous, forward-looking curriculum employing engaging pedagogy and cutting-edge experimental techniques. We integrate the use of technology into the exploration of both innovative and traditional scientific topics. Science classes at MA are student-centered and experiential. Through carefully crafted lessons, fieldwork, and immersive experiences, students actively contribute to professional research projects. They carry out both individual and collaborative group inquiries and are challenged to understand and address complex, authentic, and relevant issues in contemporary society. While challenged to empathetically consider multiple perspectives, students problem-solve in a real-world context. In freshman biology and sophomore chemistry, students develop a strong foundation of key scientific concepts and skills to apply to the natural and physical world around them. During junior and senior years, students may choose from a wide variety of unique electives based on their interest to delve deeper into a specific discipline. Students also have the opportunity to present the results of their own projects at our annual Science Symposium—a community facing showcase of student-designed investigations. One program that distinguishes MA is our Marin Academy Research Collaborative (MARC); a multidisciplinary program that provides the opportunity for interested students to partner with the broader scientific community to carry out independent science and engineering research during the course of two years.
After completing our science curriculum, MA graduates will have developed the skills necessary to become confident, compassionate, and resilient scientists and leaders. Graduates will be able to ask testable questions about the natural and human-built world and identify meaningful problems that can be addressed by using the tools of science. They will be able to identify their personal biases and the origins and assumptions of an argument and refine their thinking accordingly. They will be able to use empirical models to explain, predict, and describe relationships within and between systems. Through inquiry, graduates will be able to design and execute investigations and analyze data to make valid and reliable scientific claims or design solutions. They will have the skills to thoughtfully evaluate the written work of others and effectively express scientific and technical information in multiple formats. It is through these competencies that MA graduates will be able to view science as an interdisciplinary study applicable to contemporary society and an ever-shifting global community.
To graduate, students must complete three years of a laboratory science course, which includes Biology, Chemistry, and one of our physics courses (Physics, Advanced Physics with Calculus, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, or Astrophysics). Physics courses may be taken either junior or senior year. Four years of science are recommended.
If you walk into a math classroom at MA, you are likely to see students engaged in collaborative work; exploring concepts together in small groups by listening, asking questions, and building off of the ideas of others, understanding that there are often many different ways of approaching a problem. In our math classes, we ask students to take intellectual risks, use feedback to revise their approaches, and develop a repertoire of strategies they can flexibly apply to new or unfamiliar problems. Our courses emphasize depth of understanding, treating math as a process of discovery and exploration while allowing students to build a strong foundation with key mathematical topics and fluency in expressing their mathematical ideas. The math department at Marin Academy works to develop all students’ mathematical understanding and problem-solving skills in a supportive, student-centered environment.
At MA, three years of mathematics and the completion of Algebra II are required. Four years and the completion of Precalculus are recommended, and we offer Calculus and Advanced Calculus courses. We also offer several elective courses that students may choose to take after completion of Algebra II, including Statistics and Applied Mathematics. The math department strives to help each student find the best course for them each year, meeting students where they are on entry to the school and offering flexible pathways through our standard and honors-level courses as students progress mathematically.
The MA math department is proud to provide a variety of opportunities for interested students to engage more deeply with math outside of the classroom. Our annual keystone event is Math Night, where MA students, faculty, and the broader community come together for an evening of student presentations on mathematical topics of interest and a longer talk by a visiting mathematician. We also host math contests on campus throughout the year, including California Math League and AMC 10/12 contests. Through all of our programming both in and outside the classroom, the MA math department strives to provoke students’ curiosity and nurture their mathematical growth, leaving them well-prepared for whatever they might choose to take on after they graduate.
Three years of mathematics are required. Four years are recommended.
In an increasingly interconnected world, the world languages department strives to develop students' global perspective through the teaching of language and culture. We challenge students to see language not only as a tool to communicate but also as a representation of diverse experiences. We seek to foster a deep understanding of the complex connections between cultures. In this process, students will reflect upon their own identity, language, and culture.
From the beginning levels, language classes are conducted as an immersion experience in Spanish, French, and Mandarin, with daily practice of the core skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing in the target language. We encourage students to embrace a growth mindset and persistence to develop language proficiency and cultural competency beyond their comfort zone. Students analyze and synthesize information from across disciplines to form their arguments and opinions, and offer solutions to local and global issues. Students ask significant questions and explore a variety of authentic content in the language through multiple resources and technologies.
After completing our world language curriculum, MA graduates will be able to navigate cross-cultural interactions as informed and opened-minded global citizens. They will be able to skillfully engage in meaningful and culturally appropriate conversations—both verbally and written—in target languages with diverse audiences. Graduates will be able to demonstrate cross-cultural understanding, an ability to see multiple perspectives, and appreciate difference, privilege, and their global connections to others. They will also have developed the skills needed to function in diverse cultural contexts and strive to connect with local and global communities with integrity and gratitude.
Completion of three years of the same world language is required regardless of starting point. (For example, students who begin in Level I must complete at least Level III, students who begin in Level II must complete at least Level IV, etc.) Four years of world language are recommended. Most students will place at an intermediate level in college (or place out of college requirements) after three or four years of their language studies at MA.
Students will be placed in Level I in all languages unless they take and successfully pass a placement test to enter into a level II or level III course (the highest level of placement for a 9th-grade student).
Visual & Performing Arts
The visual and performing arts program at Marin Academy is designed to cultivate the imagination, creativity, passion, and aesthetic sensibility of each student, balancing theory and practice, process and product, structure and free exploration.
Across the broad diversity of arts disciplines offered at MA our approach is the same: we view the student first as an emerging artist and creator. All arts courses are strongly experiential. All arts disciplines include a component of composition and the opportunity for the creation of original work. Lessons in history and theory are integrated into the practice of the art form.
Learn more about the visual and performing arts at Marin Academy.
Two years of visual and/or performing arts are required.
Human Development classes are a place of social-emotional learning for our 9th and 10th grade students. The teachers, TA’s and students work together to foster an environment where learning takes place through the sharing and study of personal experience and educational resources. Our goal is for students to develop three primary skills:
Healthy decision making: Through the exploration of topics relevant to the teen years, students cultivate the tools necessary to practice making decisions that align with their own ethical framework, support healthy relationships, and encourage self-care. Students will understand how to evaluate risks to their personal safety and navigate their choices with confidence.
Effective communication: Students are asked to clarify their values and assess their relationships and communication style in order to cultivate self-advocacy skills. As students navigate the multiple communities they are a part of, they will use these skills to understand the impact of their actions on themselves and others.
Dynamic self awareness: Through self-reflection and interactive activities, students develop an understanding of the influence of social institutions and systems and how difference, privilege, and cultural norms shape their identity. Students will communicate effectively across differences and connect to others in their community with empathy and integrity.
The Hum Dev TA Program
An integral part of the Human Development curriculum is peer-to-peer education. Juniors and seniors are selected to act as TA’s and actively lead discussions with their younger peers. The TA program creates an important opportunity for leadership on campus. It requires rigorous training, regular meetings, and giving up a free block. But regardless of the commitment and demand, students love being TAs and have found that the experience allows them to deeply connect not only with their peers but also the ideas being discussed in the classroom.
Two semesters are required: fall semester of 9th grade and spring semester of 10th grade.
To complete their physical education requirements, students must accumulate a minimum of 3.5 physical education “points” by the end of their senior year. Students may earn PE points in a variety of ways including interscholastic team sports, outings, independent study, Minicourse, and dance electives. The Mind, Body, Brain course (required for all freshman students in the spring semester) counts for 2 points of this requirement.
You may earn one independent study PE point during one summer only during your time at MA. Summer activity must take place while a student is taking classes at Marin Academy. Download Independent Study Proposal Form.
You must designate if you are taking dance to fulfill the art requirement or if it is being taken to earn PE points. It cannot fulfill both.
A total of 23 credits are required for graduation; 19.5 of these credits are required courses or courses elected from among designated departmental offerings.