Upper School Philosophy and Structure
Experience has taught us that relevant learning opportunities, high expectations, and respect for individual ability combine to produce graduates ready and eager to face the challenges of college, career, and life.
We have seen that when an accomplished faculty excites young minds and challenges students to achieve, those students very often soar far beyond their self-perceived limits. They also come to understand that the ultimate responsibility for their learning rests with them.
As they progress through Upper School, MPH students find that they are able to define a significant portion of their own education. Through independent studies in virtually all disciplines, an expansive choice of elective courses, abundant co-curricular opportunities, and the Senior Thesis Project, MPH empowers students to participate in shaping their own learning.
Students benefit from the flexibility and creativity that uniquely distinguish independent school curricula. A faculty member at MPH is able to adapt the course curriculum, perhaps to take advantage of a pertinent guest lecture at Syracuse University or to incorporate newly updated information – or to respond to students’ desires to more deeply investigate a portion of the material. The majority of teachers have written their own course curriculum. The teacher-created curriculum of a geology course, for example, takes advantage of opportunities for field visits to drumlins and other geologic formations in Central New York. Originated and co-taught by the chairs of the English and History Departments, the curriculum of a course entitled, "America in Black and White" examines issues revolving around race through the context provided by historical documents.
Through athletics, domestic and international travel, experiences in the arts, and innumerable club activities, students expand their universe and discover new interests. Whether through soccer or dance, musical theater or community service, Model United Nations or the student newspaper, students find opportunities not only to achieve, but to develop and demonstrate leadership.
The emphasis on character development that we see in Lower and Middle School continues in Upper School. Learning thrives in an atmosphere where respect for individuals and the differences among them is coupled with a genuine understanding of the notion of community. Believing firmly that one of the ultimate powers of education is the ability to use it to help others, MPH encourages and provides innumerable opportunities for student engagement in community service efforts. Those opportunities have ranged from fundraising for local nonprofit organizations to service learning trip – e.g., helping repair hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast or building roads and agricultural greenhouses in impoverished South American communities.
As graduation from MPH approaches, Twelfth Graders undertake a culminating project that lies at the intersection of character education and service learning. The Senior Thesis Project is intended to help students become agents of change within their own community, taking on projects that have deep personal meaning and that create a lasting impact on the community.
Senior Thesis Projects allow students to personalize their education while, at the same time, doing public good. The projects are wide ranging. One Senior with an interest in medicine organized an American Red Cross blood drive at MPH and succeeded by more than 40% her projected goal for donations from the MPH community. She hopes her effort, which coincided with an emergency call by the local Red Cross chapter for blood donations, will be replicated in the future by students interested in public health.
Through her position as a student representative on the MPH Board of Trustees' Green Committee, another Senior undertook a project whose goal was to eventually eliminate the use of plastic beverage bottles on campus. Her research and convincing communications about the environmental impact of unnecessary use of plastics led to removal of bottled water from the School's Campus Shop. Bottled water is also no longer provided at school events, including Board of Trustees meetings.
The Upper School experience is, by design, challenging and invigorating. The demanding curriculum asks students to engage in evaluative, higher-level thought. Seemingly limitless opportunities for learning beyond the classroom lead them on a discovery of their own interests, talents, and abilities. Students are expected to balance the increasing independence they are afforded with a heightened sense of responsibility. And as they further define who they are as individuals and identify their personal goals, they are asked to act also as part of a wider community, to think beyond themselves.