In Beacon’s academic program, small classes create an environment similar to competitive independent high schools and provide the opportunity to hone the skills our students will need to be successful. Beacon students read a number of novels, master the fundamentals of grammar, and dramatically increase their functional vocabulary. Our students learn to read for theme rather than plot, gain an understanding of narrative tools, and present their opinions in an articulate and convincing manner by reading books such as:
- The Old Man and the Sea
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Lightning Thief
They learn to read, interpret, and analyze poetry and understand the use of poetic devices. Additionally, our students develop an understanding of grammar and master nearly 500 vocabulary words, preparing them well for both the SSAT and their future writing assignments.
Using the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum, students deepen their understanding of democracy. Typically, the course examines three historical periods that posed unique challenges to democracy: the Holocaust, Reconstruction, and past and present issues around Immigration and Migration.
Students begin to understand the fragility of democracy as they go beyond the when and where of historical events to consider how the choices of individuals and groups contributed, for better or worse, to the making of history. As students explore the complexities of history and identify connections to current events, they reflect on the choices they confront today and how their own decisions and actions play an important role in building and preserving our own democracy.
On a technical level, students learn how to read primary and secondary historical texts; expand their knowledge of geography and why it matters; and study and prepare for tests and writing in history.
Beacon’s math program is designed to provide students with the mathematical skills and academic habits necessary for success in a rigorous independent high school. The academic program begins in the summer with a thorough review of foundational arithmetic topics, such as operations with fractions and decimals. In the fall, students generally review early algebra with a focus on the topics that are the most conceptually difficult, such as ratios and proportions. Beginning in winter and continuing through the spring, students aim to complete a thorough and comprehensive algebra course, including but not limited to linear, exponential, and quadratic functions. Students then learn to construct, compare, and analyze functions through multiple representations. After successfully completing Beacon’s academic program, students are prepared to enroll in a Geometry or Algebra class at the high school to which they matriculate.
Pedagogically, the class is designed to align with teaching methods used at top independent schools. Math class is heavily discussion and homework-based. Students are expected to be active contributors and develop the ability to articulate and defend their solutions through frequent practice and feedback from their peers and teacher. Students also learn to construct their own understanding of the concepts through problem-based and exploratory activities. Additionally, students use a variety of technologies to develop and demonstrate their understanding of the concepts, such as graphing calculators, Desmos, and Google Classroom.
Research and Advocacy
This course is designed to help students learn the important skill of advocating for personal convictions, as well as the technical skill of writing a research paper. The course includes instruction in selecting a meaningful topic, identifying sources, organizing information, writing a formal paper with a clear thesis statement, using proper citations, and making a final presentation (with a visual aid).
Before selecting a topic, students are required to read newspapers and magazine articles, browse the web, and watch the news. In addition, the class also visits the Boston Public Library and meets with the reference librarian to learn how to identify sources and check out books. The goal is for students to identify issues they are passionate about and want to explore in greater depth. From this process and through direct instruction, students learn to advocate effectively for their topic, as demonstrated through their written work and a formal presentation to an audience.
Research topics in recent years have included:
- The Effects of World Hunger and Strategies to Make a Difference
- The Treatment of Black Men vs. White Men in Cases of Sexual Assault
- Advertising and Its Effects on Children
This course inspires scientific curiosity and prepares our students for their first high school science class. Through hands-on lab work, discussions, and textbook readings, students become familiar with reading scientific literature, collecting and analyzing experimental data, and presenting their results in concise lab reports. Students enter high school with a solid foundation of scientific knowledge and the confidence to tackle whichever class their school recommends in the first year.
Study Skills and Time Management
In this weekly class, students practice and master skills that will be helpful when navigating life in independent high schools, college, and beyond.
- General organizational skills, including the use of a planner
- Technology skills, including typing, Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive
- The art of the thank-you note
- Resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews
- Personal finance
- Health and nutrition
This course provides students with a comprehensive introduction to the writing process with a focus on personal and analytical writing. This academic program prepares Beacon students to write compelling essays for their high school applications, with one of the first units of the year focusing on developing skills for personal writing. Students are pushed to capture their own stories and communicate them powerfully through drafting and revising. They also read, analyze, and learn from published essays by both professional and student writers.
To help students revise their own writing effectively, they workshop essays in class to learn from one another and develop their ability to offer feedback constructively. Throughout the term, students gain confidence in their own voices on the page and discover new ways of expressing their ideas and experiences.
To prepare Beacon students for rigorous high school English classes, this course also teaches students to write strong analytical essays about literature they read in English class. This writing class covers the fundamental elements of a five-paragraph essay and teaches students to view the analytical essay as a vehicle for expressing their insights and interpretations of literature.
For some of the texts, students go through the entire writing process: brainstorming, outlining, writing a rough draft, and revising with extensive teacher feedback to produce a polished final draft. During the analytical writing process, students develop the ability to think critically as they transform their annotations and ideas into essays. Students also apply their new knowledge of grammar and vocabulary from English class to their work. When Beacon students enter high school, they already possess the essential skill of using precise language and a variety of sentence structures to express their ideas clearly and powerfully.