Curriculum Detail 1

Sustainability Studies

Founded in 2001, our Sustainability Studies Department is the first such department at the secondary-school level in the United States. Our discipline helps students become informed, thoughtful and active stewards of the changing ecosystem. Focusing on integral aspects of global sustainability – economy, natural environment, social equality and personal well-being – we introduce students to systems thinking (which encourages students to see connections between the biological world and human society, toward the creation of solutions that satisfy both human and environmental needs), and “seventh-generation thinking,” which enables students to consider the lasting impact that today’s actions may have on generations to come. The White Mountain School integrates sustainable practices into daily life through community service, recycling, and job programs; through our Sustainability Club; through international development work; and our School’s organic farm and compost program.

Sustainability topics are infused across the curriculum  They are integrated into freshman biology, sophomore world history and junior English.  Juniors and seniors also have the opportunity to choose at least one upper-level elective course - see sustainability electives below.  
  • AP Environmental Science

    AP Environmental Science students cover a wide range of topics from environmental ethics and policy to forestry, water pollution and scarcity, population, food and agriculture, toxicology, air pollution and conventional and renewable energies in preparation for the AP exam. Students are exposed not only to a large breadth of information, but they also get depth in areas where they are able to do independent research, conduct labs on the carbon stored in our campus trees, the particulates in the air they breathe, and the water quality of a local spring and the Ammonoosuc River, and participate in a variety of field trips to a forest plantation, the regional landfill, the recycling transfer station, a wastewater treatment plant, an organic, cage-free chicken farm and a wood chip power plant. This class is a combination of lecture, discussion, labs, and field trips. (Open to juniors and seniors, or with permission of the instructor.)
  • AP Human Geography

    The evolving field of human geography examines the modern and historical patterns, means and processes of human occupation in both place and space. While this class involves an introduction to physical world geography, our study is tied primarily to the unique impacts and consequences of the interaction between geography and human populations. Aided by maps and mapping tools, students study world religions, cultural patterns and global economics in order to understand how those forces place and order people in spatial dimensions. We use established models and methods as tools for understanding how cities develop, how people move and how populations shift. While this course enables students to discover a new lens with which to understand historical events, it also benefits those who seek a deeper understanding of the modern world. Contemporary politics, economics, conflicts and events help us understand geographical concepts in real time. We may also have a number of opportunities to learn from our own local geography through selected case studies and field trips. As with all AP courses, we concentrate on the specific strategies and skills students need to be successful on the AP Exam. (Open to juniors and seniors, or with permission of the instructor)
  • Place-Based Writing

    Students in this course have the opportunity to write informatively and creatively about the places that they are from and the places in which they are currently situated, both literally and figuratively. They discover how places impact people and shape events, and, consequently, how places influence writing. In this class we also read a number of articles, short stories and essays that effectively take us to different places, causing us to experience the emotion, essence and sensual nature of several distinct locations. Writing assignments include essays, poetry and short stories, many of which will be compiled into a class journal (“Writing our Communities”). Writings of particularly high quality may be submitted to contests or for publication. (Open to juniors and seniors, or with permission of the instructor.)
  • Environmental Literature

    In this class students have the opportunity to explore the environmental writings of a broad range of authors from Thoreau to McKibben. Students become aware of the history of the environmental movement, learn about the people who have written about the environment, and develop a personal philosophy about the environment. Over the course of the semester, students read and respond to essays, poems and articles. Students lead class discussions, contribute to a blog and write about current environmental issues and events. Each week students are assigned an article to read and respond to, present a current events summary in class and respond to presentations given by classmates. The culminating activity is to write a personal environmental philosophy based on one’s own experiences and the course readings. (Open to juniors and seniors, or with permission of the instructor.)
  • Food: Putting it on the table

    Where does the food we eat come from? Why is it important to know? This course seeks answers to those questions by exploring food production methods (e.g., subsistence, sustainable, local, organic and industrial agriculture) and examining the emerging ideology of food justice – the idea that the benefits and risks of growing, processing, distributing and consuming food should be shared equitably. We cover topics including: the nutritional value of food, GMOs, water resources, soil quality, food availability and food “deserts,” government food subsidies, community-supported agriculture, farmers markets, farm-to-school programs, the Green Revolution and urban gardening. We also review case studies on global commodities such as cacao, coffee, sugar, corn, palm oil, and beef. Academic studies are balanced with hands-on activities; students learn practical skills related to food production, preparation and preservation by boiling their own maple syrup, canning food, interviewing local farmers, and helping out on the School farm. At the end of the semester, students work on a final project exploring an area of personal interest related to food.
  • Land Use

    Meets Sustainability and Philosophy and Religious Studies requirements
    Northern New Hampshire, and in particular the region surrounding The White Mountain School, is currently experiencing an influx of growth that is putting demands, which have both positive and potentially detrimental implications, on land and natural resources.  This course will interface and work, both physically and in thought, with local and regional land use organizations to explore how land can be sustainably managed to promote and improve environmental, social, and economic well being. This course will occupy two concurrent academic blocks to allow time for significant field-work and exploration.
  • Sustainability Studies Seminar

    From a biological standpoint humans have three basic needs to sustain life: food, shelter, clothing.  What impacts do the acquisition of these basic needs have on our environment and how can we acquire these basic needs in a more sustainable way? How can we produce and procure these needs in a way that promotes social equity and personal well-being while maintaining a vibrant economy?   These are some of the basic questions this course will be looking to answer. This semester long class will be broken into three distinct units, each one study one of the basic needs. At the beginning of each unit students will be introduced to a basic need, provided with background information, delve into current issues, and assess what their role is and their impact is in acquiring that need.  A large portion of the time in each unit will be guided by student-directed questions. Specifically, students will complete a mini-LASR project for each unit. Some of the topics that will be explored during the semester include, but are not limited to, sustainable architecture, the textile industry, water pollution and small and large-scale agriculture.
  • Sustainable Farming

    In an increasingly globalized world, ingredients can travel thousands of miles before arriving on our plates. The environmental consequences of food production are undeniable and efforts to eat locally are at the forefront of the sustainability movement. But what does it mean to eat locally and is it possible to grow food in our own backyard? This semester course will be split into two distinct components: hands-on farming in the warmer months and a multidisciplinary classroom-based component in the colder months.  In the experiential component, students will have the unique opportunity to work as a team to take over the day-to-day operations of the White Mountain School Farm. Students will learn practical farming and business skills as they decide what seasonally-appropriate vegetables to plant, learn how to tap maple trees, weigh the pros and cons of raising chickens, and ultimately how to turn all that work into a profit. In the classroom-based component of the course, we will explore topics in various methods of food production, food justice, GMOs, global commodities, food economics, and much more all through the lens of sustainability.
  • The Ethics of Food

    In his essay “The Pleasures of Eating,” writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry says that eating is “the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.” Food ethics is an interdisciplinary field which seeks to examine that connection by analyzing the way food is grown, distributed, consumed, and perceived. 
    What does it mean to be a “food citizen”? What role do humans play in food systems? How can we collectivize around issues of food access and insecurity? How does food tether us to a place? In this course we will study topics of food justice as we interrogate how the choices we make about food reflect our beliefs about our spiritual, environmental, and personal wellness. We will use novels, nonfiction essays, poetry, visual art, and more as pathways into studying different community traditions around food and as case studies of the various roles food can play in society. Students will have the opportunity to independently select research topics, such as animal rights, environmental policy, or framing trends, to deepen their understanding of various branches of food ethics. 
  • US History: Natural Disasters & Humanitarianism in the United States

    Starting in the 19th century, this class will examine specific natural disasters in the United States and the historical context and significance of each. For each case study, we will compare and contrast three themes: 
    1. Political & Historical Significance: What was the political situation of the United States at the time, both domestically and globally? What connections are there between each event and the politics/economics/culture of the US? What was the communication like from federal and local governments to local communities prior to each event?
    2. Aftermath & Humanitarian Aid: Which humanitarian actors were involved, if any? How did they approach each situation? Were there any long-term impacts on migration or relief services in the US?
    3. Equity & Environmental Justice: What was the impact on traditionally- marginalized communities? How did their situation differ from others? Were there structural hierarchies at play?
    Throughout the semester we will also be asking ourselves how climate change and human activity have influenced natural disasters and whether we can still call them “natural.” In the second half of the semester, students will spend significant time on a research project addressing a disaster event of their choosing and will present their research and an argument for how climate change and human activity impacted the event. Assessments will include: reading and response questions, quizzes, reflection writing, essay writing, visual work and creative writing, and the research project. Materials will include (but aren’t limited to): scholarly articles, book chapters, editorial & media pieces, podcasts, documentaries. 

    This course would satisfy half of the U.S. History credit requirement.
At The White Mountain School we believe that true education should do more than inform; it should inspire. Courses here, while aligned with a college preparatory curriculum, extend beyond the classroom and into the world around us. Here students master their Spanish on our annual international service trip, practice forest stewardship as they help to manage our 240 acre campus property, and learn to measure slopes in advanced algebra while designing their own trail projects.

Our teachers know that in every interaction with a student there is a chance to motivate, mentor, and challenge; they teach here because they truly want to share their lives and passions with young people. These components of our academic program balance rigor and relevance as we prepare our students for college and, ultimately, for lives beyond formal academics.



371 West Farm Road  •  Bethlehem, New Hampshire 03574  •  603.444.2928
Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a coeducational college-preparatory boarding and day school for students grades 9-12/PG.

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