Cool, curious classes

It's not all reading, writing and arithmetic.

Notre Dame students have access to one of the most rigorous and comprehensive academic curriculums available in an independent school — including the renowned International Baccalaureate program. But there's no reason that students cannot dive into an occasional quirky and fun course if it suits their fancy. 

In the upper school, students are offered a number of somewhat unconventional high school courses — a few of the courses are required, many are electives, but most are simply perfect for the high school student who may delight in learning about mythological monsters or maybe U.S history through film. Or how about one for students who may wonder about how many colors you need to create a map so that every state borders a state with a different color. And then there's the one that asks as its basic premise, "How do we know?" followed by, "How do we know what we know is true?" Truly a mind bender!

Take a look below at some of those "curious" classes. And ultimately take a look at Notre Dame, where you will find that it's not only cool to be smart, it's also fun!

Investigating History: Culture through Myth (Social Studies)
The purpose of this course is to examine universal themes of life such as birth, marriage, death and family through world mythology. Through the study of mythology, students will examine how the ancients viewed their place in the world and how these themes are prevalent today. Topics will include gods and creation myths, heroes, the journey to the underworld, and the study of monsters in Greek, Egyptian and multiple mythologies.

Advanced Digital Photography (Visual Arts)
Students in this course will explore advanced issues of composition, lighting and storytelling through various assignments and guided projects. Students will develop and refine their technical and conceptual practices digitally throughout an expanded use of Photoshop and other editing software. Students will be able to develop a body of work that reflects a range of problem solving and ideation, and develops versatility with techniques to demonstrate their abilities. Students will research, keep art journals, have class critiques and artistic dialogs that will inspire them as they create. Topics will include but are not limited to street scenes, portraiture, visual metaphors, social-documentary and the history of photography.

Introduction to Theatre (Performing Arts)
This class is designed for students to explore theatrical skills and techniques. Course activities encourage students to move beyond readings and lectures to an active participation in the learning process through individual research presentations, performance and class discussions.  Additional studies will include technical theatre and critiquing live stage productions.

20th-Century Conflicts (Social Studies)
This course will cover the causes and effects of various 20th-century conflicts including, but not limited to, World War I, the Russian Revolution, World War II, African Independence movements, Middle Eastern wars and Cold War battles. Topics discussed include economic, political and social factors influencing conflicts in the 20th century. Students will view films, examine primary and secondary sources, and discuss contemporary effects of conflicts.

Investigating History through Film (Social Studies)
Films transport us to other places, other cultures, other periods. Since their inception at the turn of the 20th century, motion pictures have been one of the most crucial and universal mediums of mass entertainment and culture. For this very reason, movies have also become one of the most vital and widespread means of interpreting the past. This course is officially titled "U.S. History Through Film," not to be confused with the "History of Film," meaning this is not a study of motion picture history so much as a study through film itself of history. We will do a bit of both: studying movies that attempt to revive and recapture history and using films to understand the history of the eras in which they were created and shown. On one hand, we will examine ways in which "historical" films and filmmakers portray the past; on the other, we will analyze films that only later become historical in passing, as artifacts of the society and period in which they were created. In this class, we will attempt to play the part of the historian, critic, detective and moviegoer. In these roles, we will be entertained, yet we will learn to train a critical eye on what we see with the power of hindsight often deprived of contemporary audiences. In order to do this, students will use debates, essays, and projects to gain a full understanding of how the film relates to the time period. 

Science of Technology (Computer Science)
Introduction to microcontrollers, robotics and automation through hands-on training using a small-scale robot. Students will program robots for specific tasks, using RobotC, a C+ based programming language. Topics will include the role of the robot and programming, pseudocode, project management, if/else statements, variables, parameters and functions. Robot tasks build on programming skills developed in class.

Honors Discrete Mathematics (Mathematics)
Have you ever wondered how you secure information across a public network? Or wondered how many colors you need to color a map so that every state borders a state with a different color? Or what has more numbers, the integers or the rational numbers? The answers to these questions and many more can be answered using "Discrete Mathematics!" In honors discrete mathematics, students will explore some the most interesting branches of discrete mathematics such as algebra (no, not that algebra!), number theory and graph theory. In addition, the students will learn a variety of proof techniques such as direct proof, proof by contradiction, proof by contrapositive, proof by induction, etc.

IB/AP Chinese (World Language)
The IB/AP Chinese language course is designed to provide students with various opportunities to further improve their proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing skills as well as the appreciation of Chinese culture, history and literature. The general flow of a unit comprises vocabulary, sentence patterns, text analysis, application of vocabulary and patterns, supplementary reading, writing assignments and tests. As this is a combined International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement in Chinese, time will be spent familiarizing the students with the various sections of the IB/AP Chinese Language Examinations.

Entrepreneurship/Marketing (Business)
Students will be introduced to the many facets of business including human resources, management, accounting, advertising, sales and marketing. In addition, students will learn the basics of starting and running their own successful small business.

Social Justice (Religion)
This course will take an in-depth look at the Church’s teaching on issues that involve our moral and biological relationship. By using the Catechism and recent encyclicals as a base, the course will help to ensure understanding of the Church’s teachings and lead to a Christian response to global problems.

Officiating (Health and Physical Education)
Students will be introduced to and trained in the field of sports officiating. Rules in sports are intended to promote and preserve the sound traditions of the sport and the safety of participants. Students will learn the rules of the games covered, positioning of the officials on the field/court, hand signals for making calls and how to eventually become a registered M.H.S.A.A. official. Sports currently covered include: basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball.

Theory of Knowledge (Social Studies)
Theory of Knowledge is a course that examines the origins, methods and validity of various areas of knowledge and ways of knowing: How do we know? How do we know what we know is true? It is a thoughtful reflection on what students claim to know and believe and what others profess as knowledge. There is no single prescribed TOK curriculum, but there is a subject guide with suggested questions for each part of the course. Because TOK is inquiry-based, information is not conveyed as it might be in other courses, but new terms may be introduced such as deduction, paradigm, correlation, objectivity, etc. In TOK, there may not be right or wrong answers, but there are standards for judgment in the defense of knowledge claims. Critical thinking can only take place where there is a substantive core of ideas to explore and criteria for the evaluation of their expression. In sum, TOK has an aim, i.e., to engage students in reflection on, and in the questioning of, the bases of knowledge.

Science of Nutrition (Science)
This course will explore macronutrients and micronutrients, how your body uses these nutrients, how your health and fitness are impacted as a result of being properly nourished or malnourished, how age changes your nutritional requirements, and how outside factors influence our nutrition (athletes, psychology, family, society, etc).

Film Studies (English)
This course is an introduction to classic film works across a variety of genres. It involves a focus on film studies, and an analysis of film technique, but not learning how to make films. Emphasis is placed on a close viewing of films and on learning the meaning and application of film terminology. Students enhance their writing, critical thinking and analysis skills through essays and filmic readings. A Netflix account is required to access the films for this course. Haiku is used for assigning films, material, papers and weekly discussion forums. Findings are ultimately presented in written form. The historical events they reflect also will be discussed.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at