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Academics & Arts


Our Curricular Philosophy

The curriculum at Laurel School promotes learning that is enduring and transferable. Teachers and families work collaboratively to help each student find her own path, and girls enter the classroom with an open mind, ready to be a partner in their own learning.

To meet the needs of Laurel students, three kinds of learning in particular distinguish our curriculum: experiential, interdisciplinary and community-based. Experiential learning asks girls to be active rather than passive--students learn by doing. Interdisciplinary learning takes many forms and occurs throughout the Laurel curriculum. Connections to other disciplines help girls understand that the subjects they study do not exist in a vacuum, nor are they naturally discrete entities. Community-based learning allows students to use both interdisciplinary and experiential methods to further their understanding of the role they play in the world.

Curricular Braid Themes

The four themes of civic engagement, entrepreneurship, global studies and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) set the foundation for the Kindergarten - Grade Twelve academic program. This curricular braid with each of the four themes emphasized and highlighted in innovative, recursive, and developmentally-appropriate ways, creates a rigorous environment where students are challenged to approach issues with interdisciplinary, creative, and research-based thinking and problem solving.

As generations of Laurel alumnae attest, these four themes have always been at Laurel; their accomplished careers and life paths certainly reflect that lineage. Even so, these four areas encompass many professional fields in which women remain underrepresented. Being committed at Laurel “to inspire each girl to fulfill her promise and to better the world” makes this curricular braid an imperative in our goal to empower young women to be changemakers in the future, young women who are adept at thinking creatively across disciplines and who are proficient at solving problems and using research to guide their work.

Grades K-8

In the Primary and Middle Schools, each year highlights two different strands of the curricular braid preparing girls for life in Laurel’s Upper School where the braid continues to weave throughout the academic program through graduation. Following are brief descriptions of how the braid comes to life in Kindergarten through Grade Four

List of 9 items.

  • Kindergarten: Global Studies and STEAM

    Girls focus on STEAM through collaboration with the Sixth Grade during their Tinkering Week, a design-thinking challenge and the Kindergarten study of Kenya.
  • First Grade: Civic Engagement and Global Studies

    The theme highlighting families and neighborhoods engages girls in an exploration of concepts related to civic engagement.
  • Second Grade: Civic Engagement and Global Studies

    The extensive study of Native Americans including research on tribes across the continental US and a week-long experiential adventure at the Butler Campus helps students develop new perspectives on the lives of the first inhabitants.
  • Third Grade: Entrepreneurship and STEAM

    Exploration of the Shakers and their inventions introduces girls to STEAM disciplines as they recreate numerous innovations.
  • Fourth Grade: Civic Engagement and STEAM

    A month-long learning experience at the Butler Campus called Power & Purpose engages girls in scientific field research, application of mathematical knowledge for service and construction projects creating a junior version of Ninja Warrior elements.
  • Fifth Grade: Civic Engagement and Entrepreneurship

    Looking west to the city of Cleveland and its innovative and sustainable businesses and looking east to the Butler Campus, Fifth Graders apply what they learn from site visits to design their own businesses, incorporating basic economics and city planning.
  • Sixth Grade: Global Studies and STEAM

    Connecting patterns of exploration and colonization discussed in social studies, Sixth Graders consider the issues related to travel to Mars and what might be required for settlement on that planet.
  • Seventh Grade: Global Studies and STEAM

    With the insight provided by a paleontologist, girls gain a sense of purpose while working on Laurel’s Archaeological Dig site. An environmentalist provides opportunities for students to learn to read the landscape and demonstrate appreciation through writing and drawing.
  • Eighth Grade: Civic Engagement and Entrepreneurship

    Anticipating “Physics First” in the Upper School, the science curriculum focuses on chemistry and environmental studies. Following established curricula on environmental science and drawing on concepts of the history of the United States, students explore the intersection of both in an experiential learning adventure at the Butler Campus.

Grades 9-12

For all four years of Upper School, each girl has the opportunity to craft her own experience, to explore beyond-the-classroom endeavors and real-world professions, to develop a deep interest in a particular pursuit, and to work alongside adult mentors. In addition to our outstanding classroom offerings, Laurel students use the curricular braid to create their own path through our signature initiatives: Dream. Dare. Do. (D3) Courses, the Protégé Internship Program and the Capstone Experience.

Dream. Dare. Do. (D3) Courses

Dedicated blocks of time for students to explore interests and pursue emerging passions. D3 periods were developed based on LCRG research that demonstrates the power of purpose in multiple measures of students’ well- being. Additionally, students optimize the time to create meaningful leadership opportunities and student-designed initiatives such as: the Laurel Political Review, a student-run political publication designed to offer a variety of perspectives and engender open dialogue about current issues; One Coffee Circle, a student-run coffee company whose mission is to provide customers with the highest quality of fair-trade coffee; and the Adventure Leaders who are trained to facilitate the high- and low- rope elements on Laurel’s 15-element Project Adventure Course and who help lead Laurel’s Adventure Girls (Laurel’s after-school resilience programming for girls in Grades 3-7).

Protégé Internship Program

This internship and research assistantship program allows students to explore a field of interest by undertaking supervised projects in the workplace or through research in a local science, medical or social science laboratory. These out-of-school experiences are entirely student motivated and student driven under the guidance of an adult mentor with expertise in the area of focus; they may occur during the school year, during D3 time, and/or during the summer. Protégé Internship credits are recognized on the Laurel transcript.

Capstone Experience

Laurel School’s Capstone Experience, by design, cultivates purpose, relationships and leadership using one of the four themes from Laurel’s curricular braid--civic engagement, entrepreneurship, global studies or STEAM. Capstone Candidates explore issues through guided research, intellectual discussion, relevant internships and purposeful travel. Using expert guidance from mentors and support from cohort peers, each Capstone Candidate creates a Research Focus based on her individual interests and agency. This innovative program provides committed, interested students with opportunities to approach real-world issues with inter- disciplinary, experiential and community-based strategies while building mentor and peer relationships. Students apply through a competitive admissions process in January of their Ninth Grade year and participate until they graduate. The Capstone Experience is a three-and-a-half-year commitment and girls may use D3 time for Capstone.
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