At the St. Francis High School, we believe that the best preparation for higher education and adult life is a challenging academic program within a vibrant urban community. A diverse student body develops creative and critical thinking skills while passionate, talented faculty emphasize and cultivate in-depth investigation, discussion, and writing; active participation in these activities builds students’ confidence. The downtown location allows students to interact on a regular basis with the urban community, and the open campus teaches students to balance freedom with responsibility. Coming to know and negotiate their environment, our students develop self-reliance and sophistication. The entire High School community is actively engaged in a comprehensive long-term relationship with the city’s non-profit organizations through a four-year community service program. Faculty and staff are attuned to the concept of the teenager as a work-in-progress and believe that students are well served not only by warm personal support, but also by thoughtful provocation and challenge. While student voice is essential — and expected — in the classroom, it is also actively sought and heard in discussions and decisions about school policies and student life. Students leave St. Francis prepared for college not only academically but also personally, because they know how to manage their time and have confidence in themselves and their ideas as they head into the adult world.
Inside the classroom:
Students’ chairs circle around a seminar table. For the 10 months of the academic year, English teachers and students are members of a small community in which each student’s intellectual, aesthetic and personal discoveries are elicited. The heart of English teachers’ work at St. Francis is to arrange for, encourage, model, coach, and, when necessary, insist on thoughtful expression in individual voices. The heart of students’ work in English is a variety of projects and texts leading a variety of individuals to the pleasures of literacy and of confident, competent self-expression; the heart of students’ work is also collegial, as in workshops and seminars they experience the whole as greater than a sum of parts, taking part in a searching, open-minded, many-voiced conversation.
Outside the classroom:
Our communal dialogue begins on the first day of school, when the conversation begins among every member of the school community – students, faculty, and staff – regarding the all-school summer reading book. The dialogue among us continues throughout the year at every Morning Meeting, which ends with a student or staff member reading a poem of his or her choosing. During the Showcase of Plays in December, student writing in a variety of genres and formats – primarily short plays – is performed. The communal conversation comes to a close at the end of the year, with the publication of an ambitious student literary magazine and the presentation of staff-written speeches about each graduating senior. The collective creative process also involves extracurricular activities, like the improv group and play casts/crews, and independent creative projects, such as creative-writing Senior Projects.
At St. Francis, we believe that to take the time, effort, and care to consider not only what we say but how we say it, and to pay close, careful attention – whether as participants in a revision workshop, readers of a monumental poem, or audience members at a spoken-word performance – to the words of others are not only indispensable human responsibilities but also educated pleasures no one should have to live without.
All St. Francis High School sophomores embark upon a yearlong journey in one of four art areas: 2D and 3D studio art; filmmaking; photography; or music. Junior and seniors are offered elective courses in each of these categories. Student work is showcased in an annual art show each spring.
Art students are asked to keep open minds and work thoughtfully. Their shared experiences with art-making are discussed in critiques that emphasize each person’s growth and unique vision. Perceptions are challenged in discussions that lead to a greater appreciation of the unlimited range of expressiveness. Intellectual rigor is encouraged, and classroom discussions open for students a view into the latest trends in major art centers around the world. Installation and performance art are collaborative work at St. Francis, sparking a creative excitement that comes with working cooperatively. Students whose creativity is best expressed intellectually find this an especially engaging project.
St. Francis Fine Arts teachers are designated as artists-in-residence. The goal of the artist-in-residence is to find the unique individual voice that presents itself in any given media and to encourage its growth. All the artists-in-residence have active professional careers distinguished by years of dedication to their crafts and by reputations that extend beyond the city limits. Their career focus provides a window into the highly competitive world of art as a profession.
It is the mission of the World Languages Department at St. Francis School to prepare students for college and life by giving them the tools to effectively communicate orally and in writing with people of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.
When you enter the language classroom, you’ll hear students conversing in Chinese, French or Spanish with each other and the teacher. These conversations frequently continue into the hallways between classes, creating a positive global atmosphere in the school.
Beginning with introductory-level classes, students are encouraged to use their language skills. We want students to become comfortable with speaking and writing in a second (or even a third) language. The best way to develop these skills is to speak and write a language daily. Teachers use a variety of participatory, hands-on activities to motivate students so they can focus on communication.
The World Languages Department offers beginning, intermediate and AP courses in Chinese, French and Spanish, allowing interested and capable students to pursue a more in-depth study of the literature and culture of their chosen language(s). Students also have the opportunity to travel abroad with their language teachers, with recent trips including China, Ecuador/the Galapagos, France, and Argentina. These trips allow students to become totally immersed in the language and culture and to experience daily life in another country first-hand.
St. Francis School students are required to complete two consecutive years of the same language in order to graduate. Our graduates who complete four years of language study with us often report themselves extremely well prepared for college-level language courses.
The history department’s goal is to encourage thoughtful reflection and independent thinking on historical events through the study of geography, social conditions and categorical contexts. Our focus is global, and as a result, we emphasize connections more than isolated facts. In addition, a continuous effort is made to meaningfully connect the past to the present and the present to the past; thawing frozen history, and making sense of the contemporary world.
Group work, visiting speakers, field trips in the city, and creative presentations of historical information help involve the students in an interactive and engaging way. Interdisciplinary activities also enrich historical understanding.
In accordance with the above goal, and unlike any other school in the region, St. Francis requires students to study history all four years. During the first two years of the curriculum, students are introduced to civilizations, cultures, and socio-religious traditions in the ancient and medieval worlds, respectively. In addition to providing a cultural and geographical base, the Culture and Civilization courses in the freshman and sophomore years stress basic research techniques, primary source textual analysis, and effective written expression. Most classes are conducted in the discussion format, emphasizing respectful interaction.
In the junior year, students take U.S. History or one of the Advanced Placement History offerings. Seniors take an Advanced Placement History course or choose from our unique offerings of 20th Century Seminars and electives. This culminating year prepares students for college academic work by covering a demanding curriculum that stresses independent reading and research as well as lively and informed classroom discussions.
Student voice is an essential aspect of progressive education, and while this exists in numerous informal ways throughout St. Francis School, it is codified by student government in 2nd – 12th grades.
2nd, 3rd and 4th graders are elected as representatives of their classes and form the Lower School Student Council. They meet weekly to discuss student concerns and run the weekly Lower School Morning Meeting.
The Middle School Student Council (6th – 8th grader) meets weekly, runs the Middle School Morning Meeting three times a week, makes plans for school dances, and brainstorms ways to raise money for their annual Class Gift.
9th through 12th graders are elected as class representatives and form the School Committee, which has an annual start-of-school retreat followed by monthly meetings with the Head of School and Head of Campus at which reps plan events and weigh in on school policies. Class reps also lead fundraising for their grades each year, with proceeds going toward prom in their senior year.
The math department faculty at St. Francis School strives to provide our students with not only the mathematical skills they will need to take their place in a technologically advanced society, but also with the fundamental skills, procedures, and good judgment to continue their mathematics education at the most competitive universities and throughout their careers. To this end, we emphasize the necessity of communicating answers in mathematically correct notation, and in complete sentences.
We expect our students to take advantage of the opportunity for personal interactions with their instructors, in accordance with the larger goal of having our students grow into mindful, informed young adults. Students are encouraged to be part of the process, driving discussions and curriculum decisions, and being full partners in their own education.
Freshmen regularly enter anywhere in the Algebra I – Geometry – Algebra II range. Beyond these core courses, students’ choices include Precalculus, Math Modeling & Trigonometry, AP Calculus AB/BC, AP Statistics, AP Computer Science, and Set Theory & Logic. For Algebra I through Precalculus, along with AP Statistics and AP Calculus, St. Francis uses the College Preparatory Mathematics curriculum, which is driven by student-centered activities and a balanced emphasis on basic skills and conceptual understanding. Students learn how to approach open-ended math problems, how to pose their own questions, and how to find solutions using multiple methods.
Beyond the ordinary curricula, we offer students the chance to participate in the Greater Louisville Math League, a challenging competition held four times per year, with both individual and team scores reported, and in any other math competitions that may arise from year to year.
When you walk into a St. Francis science classroom, you’ll find students engaged in applying science principles to everyday life. Whether it’s designing a safe but universally thrilling roller coaster in physics, synthesizing the “bounciest” bouncy ball in chemistry, or sampling local waterways in biology, students appreciate science as a process, rather than an accumulation of facts.
St. Francis embraces the Physics First curriculum philosophy, which elevates Biology to a capstone course. The required core curriculum sequence is Conceptual Physics for freshmen, Chemistry for sophomores, and Biology for juniors. Rather than merely flipping the traditional order, this sequence of courses allows students to progressively build on their scientific knowledge and curiosity.
Students then have the opportunity to take semester electives and/or Advanced Placement courses in physics, biology, environmental science, and chemistry. Students can also participate in Science Olympiad, which is a national science competition where students can compete in physics, engineering, biology, and general science.
A St. Francis alum will have the tools to critically analyze the often- oversimplified presentation of scientific data in news, advertisements, and pop culture. Through collaborative investigations and student-centered classroom discussions, students learn how to develop good questions, how to research and analyze the world around them, and how to effectively communicate their findings to the greater community.
At the High School’s urban Downtown Campus, the Outdoor Activities Club continues the Goshen outdoor education tradition with canoeing and hiking trips (open to all students) several times per year. We also open senior year with a whitewater rafting adventure for the whole class, spending time together on the rapids and over the campfire later.
Fitness, Health, and Skills
The Fitness, Health and Skills course takes the physical education and health requirement for high school graduation in Kentucky a few steps further. We ask the question: What do college-bound high school freshmen need to know? Then we spend a year answering it. Interwoven with a comprehensive fitness and health curriculum, we move from current events awareness to public speaking to analysis of our learning and communication styles, and more.