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High School

High School is a laboratory for life. The Forest Ridge global curriculum is interdisciplinary and motivates students to make meaningful connections beyond traditional subject boundaries.

Students find creative solutions to real problems, whether programming NAO Humanoid Robots, coding, experimenting with 3D printers in the Maker Space or designing with state-of-the-art Microsoft Surface Studio devices. Here, students can explore their inspiration on stage, computer, canvas, paper, clay or metal.

Students have increasing opportunities—through projects, experiences and enhanced studies—to explore passions and examine greater social truths. As a senior, a Forest Ridge student can showcase project management, organizational and analytical skills through a year-long focus on a topic that moves her.

Forest Ridge students are standout communicators. Every year, our alumnae report a marked advantage in writing and communication. Through rigorous and consistent cross-disciplinary feedback, students develop a strong voice and communicate effectively to diverse audiences. They collaborate and debate with other students—and teachers. The faculty has high expectations and open office hours, mimicking a collegiate environment.

Top colleges want problem solvers, creative thinkers and cooperative learners like the graduates of Forest Ridge—who are prepared to thrive in college and in life.

Forest Ridge is doing all the things educators know they should do but are afraid to do. It isn’t just interdisciplinary, it’s integrating multiple ways of thinking and doing. The more students can see that everything is connected, the better we are preparing them for what the world actually looks like now. I don’t want girls to just get into college I want them to succeed at college. I don’t want them to just be able to get the jobs, I want them to thrive at their jobs and be change agents in their jobs and be innovators.—Courtney Caldwell, Director of Teaching and Learning

Curriculum FAQs

List of 12 frequently asked questions.

  • What do colleges think about the Forest Ridge curriculum?

    Colleges understand, respect and appreciate the high standards of the global Sacred Heart Network and consider Forest Ridge as an exemplary member of this Network.
  • Yes, but what do colleges think about the ways you are individualizing the curriculum and making it distinctive?

    Nearly every college and university around the world receives applications from students attending thousands of high schools with different curricular programs; they do not expect students to have completed a certain type of curriculum. Rather, they expect students to have appropriately challenged themselves in the context of the curriculum offered by the school.
    Time and again, we hear from our college contacts that colleges are looking for problem solvers, creative thinkers and cooperative learners. When college admissions personnel read applications, they are looking for self-awareness and time management. Our curriculum delivers on that score.
    Furthermore, colleges look to the “distinctive” qualities of their candidates. Forest Ridge enables each student to be a reflective, confident, creative and self-directed learner; these qualities attract college admissions officers.
  • What is the unique educational philosophy behind the Forest Ridge curriculum?

    Both our high school and middle school curriculum are grounded in the values articulated in the Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria. Each Sacred Heart Network school holds in trust the 200-year-old Society's mission of education. It also renews its vision and practice as a Sacred Heart school in a five-year cycle of reflection and rekindled commitment to living the Goals and Criteria. In our high school, the Goals and Criteria are “lived” through a four-year progression during which each girl has increasing opportunities, through projects, experiences and enhanced studies, to explore her developing interests, examine social issues, and develop her sense of agency. Our curriculum is designed to ensure that she will investigate, reflect, express and create. Our goal is for each girl to understand that she has a responsibility to take an active role in the world.
  • What does it mean that the high school curriculum is “interdisciplinary” and “global”?

    Our approach to teaching encourages students to think across and beyond the borders of various academic disciplines as they develop skills of logical thinking, solve complex problems, learn to ask meaningful questions, and imaginatively consider the implications of ideas. Our faculty work across disciplines to identify key skills and questions we address and reinforce across the curriculum, ensuring that students develop both depth and breadth of understanding. 
    Our curriculum is “global” in its emphasis on exploring universal human truths, and in our commitment to recognizing our interrelatedness and interdependence across borders of culture and nationality.  It inspires an expanded view of one’s purpose in the world, just as our founder intended.
    In developing their courses each year, faculty work together to make meaningful cross-curricular connections, developing projects and assessments that promote expansive thinking. One example of such an activity is this year’s freshman “world building” project. We are currently designing additional senior year electives that will bring together disciplines to explore topics such as sacred art as a religious experience and computer coding as a language. We are also looking towards more opportunities to connect classroom and experiential learning in projects, such as a study of the economics of food production combined with work in community gardens.
  • How will this curriculum prepare girls for college and beyond?

    The Brookings Institute has done extensive research on comparing high school courses to college performance. After an analysis of transcripts in the Department of Education’s National Educational Longitudinal Study, they found a stunning lack of correlation between high school coursework and college success. Their conclusion: “It is not that high school students are not learning. Rather, it is more likely they often learn the wrong things, do not sufficiently focus on the critical thinking commonly needed in college, or simply forget much of what they learned.”
    That conclusion got our attention.
    Since Forest Ridge has always had a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum while maintaining a focus on the whole child, we challenged ourselves to imagine coursework that would focus on the skills needed for college success. We developed and shared across departments, academic standards as well as goals for developing habits of mind in our students. It is our intention that our alumnae will be fully prepared for both the demands of university work and for the critical challenges of their lives beyond college.
    Every year, our alumnae report that our emphasis on writing and communication skills has given them advantages, in many areas of study, over their peers. The challenging nature of our coursework, along with our support, ensures that students develop organizational skills and effective study habits. While developing skills we emphasize original thinking and academic integrity. We foster a sense of community within each classroom and throughout the school, affirming our understanding that relationships are key to learning and growth for adolescent girls. Our girls depart the Ridge with the confidence to ask questions, effectively collaborate and be strong advocates for their own and others’ needs.
  • Do you have Honors classes?

    By design and with intention, we choose not to designate individual classes as “honors.” We have found that doing so encourages ambitious students to focus on the label of the class rather than on their learning, to prioritize pace of instruction over engagement and understanding. We place students with care in courses that effectively challenge their academic strengths and needs at each stage in their intellectual development. 
    Within individual classes students have opportunities to take initiative and to investigate topics more deeply according to their interests, abilities and motivations. When a student works beyond the course curriculum and standards, her effort and achievement will be represented by her teacher and the college counselor when she applies for college. When a student advances beyond the curriculum in a given discipline, we create opportunities for her to continue to extend her knowledge by working with a mentor through independent study, or in supporting off-campus coursework on an individual basis. This commitment is definitely shared with colleges in the admissions process.
  • Are there opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom?

    Yes. There are service learning requirements at every grade level. Student-created activities and extra-curricular events take students into the community and off to regional and national competitions. Each year we offer international trips tied to themes in our curriculum, as well as our extensive exchange program through the Sacred Heart Network around the world. Our shop and media lab are places where students use actual and virtual tools to create. And, of course, field trips exist in abundance. Internship opportunities are available upon request and in keeping with a girl’s interests and academic program of study.
  • Does the curriculum teach a girl to be an independent learner?

    Yes. That is a primary goal. At Forest Ridge classroom learning is not a passive experience but one that calls students to engage in analyzing, evaluating, experimenting and creating. Students may experience some frustration when “answers” are not supplied, or they are not given a template for solving a problem, or when a teacher plays devil’s advocate. This is by design on our part. These discomforting experiences engage students in real thinking, and give them the skills and self-confidence to meet new learning and life challenges. We encourage students to challenge each other – and their teachers — and teach them discussion skills that enable them to do so without hurt feelings. We also practice our goal of personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom by giving students choices about how to use their free time. Individual goal setting, reflection and self-evaluation provide opportunities for students to look to themselves for solutions.  
  • Does Forest Ridge offer differentiated instruction?

    We know that students learn in different ways, and our faculty has spent considerable time learning methods of differentiating instruction to meet the needs of individual students in the classroom. We work individually with students who are challenged by concepts or skills, and, when appropriate, we make accommodations in our assessments. Weekly math labs and writing workshops offer further opportunity for individualized assistance.
  • How do you know this?

    We have been in contact with more than 100 colleges and universities, and every college reassured us that our curriculum plan would have a positive impact on admissions for our girls. In fact, the college professionals we have spoken to suggest that our Integrated Global Curriculum — developed with our Sacred Heart Goals in mind — will offer girls greater opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to and expertise in a given field or area of interest.
  • What conversations do you have with colleges?

    Each fall, representatives from approximately 110 different colleges visit Forest Ridge. Those meetings provide an opportunity to discuss individual students and the academic program of the school with the individual admissions officers who are Forest Ridge’s primary contacts.
    Additionally, every transcript that is sent to a college includes a copy of our school profile, which allows college admissions personnel to understand our school’s mission, philosophy and curricular program. This strategy allows us to reiterate and emphasize our holistic approach to educating healthy, well balanced, poised and prepared young women who are ready to excel in college.
    Perhaps a quote from one of the many college representatives to whom we speak annually sums this up best:
    When we review applications, we're always considering a student in the context of the curriculum available to them. We certainly recognize and appreciate the expertise that the Forest Ridge faculty bring to crafting a rigorous curriculum that will allow girls to better explore their interests.”
                                                                      Carleton College
  • How does the curriculum allow a girl to find and pursue her passions?

    A primary goal of our curriculum and our work with students in the classroom is to enhance student engagement with learning. Our teachers are passionate about their subjects and eager to encourage student inquiry within and beyond the classroom. As students progress through Forest Ridge, coursework becomes more advanced, more experiential, more experimental, and more interrelated; and the relationship between “real world” issues and academic questions becomes more apparent and critical. In many courses, projects and assignments increasingly ask students to draw on their own experiences. In choosing a topic and question for her capstone project, for example, a student has an opportunity for an in-depth study of something she is already interested in. Or she may find that in working through the process of selecting a topic and designing learning experiences, she opens the door to new interests. Students also have opportunities to talk at length with their advisors and their teachers. In each department, upper division course offerings increasingly allow for student choice among electives that the students have had a voice in creating. 
    9th Grade: 
    All students will have a choice in international language, art and math (language and math course placement is based on assessment).

    10th Grade:
    Students may take one elective course in addition to the core curriculum.

    11th Grade:
    Students will have greater variation and more choice in both core discipline classes and elective courses. Students who choose to do capstone project start this work in the second semester of junior year.

    12th Grade:
    Students have fulfilled their core requirements in most disciplines, and choose advanced studies or select electives in areas of interest. In upper division classes, students have more choices in project and topics, and student leadership and initiative are emphasized in class activities and discussion.  

4800 139th Avenue SE, Bellevue, WA 98006 | 425.641.0700