H Block

H Block electives provide conflict-free time for students to pursue electives and take risks intellectually. All H Block electives are 1/2 credit courses and most are Pass/Fail. H Block electives include performing arts ensemble electives, as well as non-departmental electives. Most H Blocks change each semester.

H Block Courses

All Art is Political

This course will explore a small handful of artworks that represent both critical monuments and significant turning points in the history of political art in the Western world. We will begin in ancient Greece and Rome, and conclude in the 21st century. Objects chosen represent a small but compelling sampling of some of the most significant pieces of political art produced in Europe and America. We will example architecture, mosaics, painting and sculpture. Some pieces will be overtly political, others far more subtle, raising the question of what does it take for a piece of art to be political in nature? Our discussion will begin with the artwork, but will delve into the historical context: what important historical developments of the day shaped the art object? How does the artwork reflect the values, concerns and interests of the people who created it? What did it mean to create political art at different points in history? What does political art look like today?

App Inventor

Apps are an increasingly important part of the programming landscape. This course will introduce students to MIT’s App Inventor, where they will learn the fundamentals of programming and computational thinking by building Android apps.

The Art of Mathematics

Since the first time one of our human ancestors used a piece of string to scratch a circular decoration, the concepts, techniques, and applications of mathematics have helped inform, influence, and create art. The Art of Mathematics will explore the many ways in which mathematics—the “language of pattern”—has led artists to express their aesthetic vision. The course has no prerequisites, and will require only an open mind and the patience needed to learn a few new perspectives—literally. The following topics may be covered: symmetry, harmony, fractals, line design, mandalas, one and two perspective, op art, origami, tessellations, Islamic art—and other culturally specific applications of mathematics in art. Also, the works of various innovative artists will be discussed—from Brunelleschi and DaVinci to M.C. Escher and Erik Demaine.

Audio Recording and Production

This half credit course will introduce the skills necessary in order to engineer, record, and produce audio and music using the equipment and facilities of the Pingree Recording Studio. Students will explore audio recording fundamentals including principles of acoustics, signal flow and routing, microphone selection and placement, and techniques for recording music from a variety of sources. The course will also focus on production techniques including effects processing, mixing, and mastering. Students will have the opportunity to practice their skills by working with and in other H block performing arts classes and through the recording of community events. Students who successfully complete this course will develop the necessary understandings to use the Pingree Recording Studio in order to manage future recording sessions within the school community.

Ballroom with a Twist

This fun, festive and social dance class is for any student who wishes to learn basic ballroom techniques in both American and Latin style dances. These styles include and are not limited to salsa, cha cha, samba, waltz, tango and swing. Dancers will also learn partnering techniques along with some ways to sweep their partner off their feet.

Building and Contruction

Students will work in the Scene Shop in collaborating on hands-on projects to create and build designs for the fall, winter, and spring productions, and will have the opportunity to work on independent building projects. Additionally, students should be comfortable learning to work with power tools, electricity and on ladders.

Classical Chamber Ensemble

This half credit H block course is offered to those students who would like to participate in an instrumental ensemble that focuses on more classically oriented repertoire and can incorporate any instrument. The ensemble will rehearse and perform a wide variety of classically based musical styles and genres, as well as work on basic musical skills such as music literacy, solo and ensemble technique, and arranging.

Clay Tiles, Mosaics, and Glass

In this ceramics class students will be introduced to the process of creating clay tiles and mosaics. Decorative surface treatments will be explored, including high and low relief carving, melted glass, and a variety of glazing methods, as well as the process of grouting shards of broken pottery and other mixed media materials onto vessel forms or flat surfaces, to design an expressive, composite exterior.

Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Film

In this pass/­fail course we’ll examine the primary causes of climate change, the various available solutions, and the path toward preserving a habitable planet. In large part through a series of mostly feature ­length films, we’ll study fossil fuel extraction and consumption, food production practices, renewable energy options, extreme weather, threatened habitats, and the scientific and socio­political movements necessary to halt warming. We’ll spend most class time on film study, short readings and discussion, eventually shifting to short film­making as well. Students will, either individually or in groups, create their own short films on climate topics which (though completed by the end of Semester One) will be screened during Pingree’s Earth Week, 2016 Film Festival. GoPro Studio and iMovie will be among our film editing tools.

Contemporary Instrumental Music Ensemble

This half credit H block course is offered to any student who would like to participate in a large instrumental ensemble. This ensemble can incorporate any instrument, and even those who may be interested in incorporating digital music technology in live performance. The ensemble will rehearse and perform a wide variety of contemporary musical styles and genres, as well as work on basic musical skills such as music literacy, solo and ensemble technique, and improvisation.

Conversational Spanish

Conversational Spanish will be devoted entirely to speaking Spanish in everyday situations. The course will be catered to the interests and needs of the students in the class. Students will learn key phrases and vocabulary as well as helpful hints related to speaking the language. It will be an entirely interactive course with activities and games requiring each participant to step outside of their comfort zone and speak 100% in Spanish during class. Students do not need to have any experience with Spanish in order to take this course.

Dance Today: Dance Fusion

Students will explore the elements of various dance forms across the world. Students will share their thoughts on the world of dance today by using video and other media resources, and will learn the expressive and functional benefits of different dance forms and the ways they relate to one another. Along with basic dance techniques, students will develop physical strength, coordination, and flexibility. Multiple genres of dance will be covered including Hip Hop and Contemporary. Additionally, students will study and practice the ways in which yoga and Pilates might inform and enhance their athletic abilities. This exciting class will emphasize active participation and students will have the opportunity to perform in events in and around the school community.

Designing for the Laser Cutter

The laser cutter in the Pingree Makerspace is seeing ever-increasing demand. Students have engraved a wide range of items including phone, tablet and laptop cases. Students, e.g. some science team members, have use it to make parts for projects, and it will even be used in some senior projects this year. To capitalize on this interest, the timing is right to offer this course to train the next generation of laser cutter users.

Drawing: Comics and Cartooning

The first half of this class will cover the basics of drawing comics and cartoons. Students will learn the fundamentals of form, lighting, perspective and anatomy. An emphasis will be placed on design, layout and visual storytelling. In the second half of the class students will learn to bend those basic principles to their own unique style and a focus will be placed on the student creating their own mini comic or cartoon.

Drawing and Painting: Landscape

Using landscape as subject matter, this course is a study of the basic elements and principles of drawing and painting. Using examples in art history as a guide, students will complete multiple landscape drawings and/or paintings. Assignments will vary by trimester and students are encouraged to take the course multiple times. Students will be guided and encouraged to explore and take risks with materials and ideas.

Drawing and Painting: Portraiture

Using portraiture as subject matter, this course is a study of the basic elements and principles of drawing and painting. Using examples in art history as a guide, students will complete multiple portrait drawings and/or paintings. Assignments will vary by trimester and students are encouraged to take the course multiple times. Students will be guided and encouraged to explore and take risks with materials and ideas.

Engineering and Design for a Better Tomorrow

This course provides an introduction to engineering design work and the process of design thinking and problem solving. Students will be introduced to this thinking approach and then they will select their own project for analysis, design, and construction. Student projects will be rooted in social awareness, environmental stewardship, or artistic expression.

Failure Analysis in Engineering

This class provides an introduction to civil engineering and structural analysis. Small hands-on projects will allow students the opportunity to creatively design, construct, and test a variety of structures as we explore engineering principles, identify structural loads, and analyze failure.

Financial Literacy

This course will expose students to the fundamental principles of personal finance. Students will learn about credit and debt, saving and investing, money management, risk management, income and careers, and taxes. The goal is to equip students to make responsible, informed financial decisions now and in their future. Assessment will be based on participation and projects.

Get Published: Advanced Storytelling, Multimedia, and Video Production

Want to get your first story published? Want to put together a strong sports highlight reel or an online website/portfolio? Want to bring your creative skills to the next level? This class will take a look at the trends in communications today and guide you to produce strong work with the goal of publication and distribution. We will learn how to storyboard, explore design, and see how creative concepts become real projects. We will work individually and as a class to produce projects for personal and/or institutional publication. At the end of each trimester, students will produce a class project for Pingree School.

Hip-Hop Grooves

Groove to the beat of some of your favorite songs! This beginner/intermediate level hip hop dance course is a blend of different hip hop techniques that will explore popping, locking, krumping, breakdancing and other popular dance styles. Dancers in this class will practice isolation, body control, and musicality. Freedom of freestyle and self expression will be encouraged.

Introduction to Debate

Introduction to Debate, a trimester elective for students in grades 9-12, is for students interested in developing persuasive argumentation and advocacy skills. Students will begin the course learning about and practicing structured extemporaneous speeches with emphasis on verbal and nonverbal delivery skills, which include: organization, projection, inflection, eye-contact, cadence, and hand gestures. Presidential candidates, styles, and topics will be explored. Students will then build a foundation for effective argumentation and advocacy -- claim, warrant, and evidence -- by participating in SPAR debates and presenting a research-based persuasive speech. This course is ideal for students who want to explore forms of debate, enjoy persuasive arguing, or wish to develop their public speaking skills.

Latin and the Foundations of Democracy

Have you ever wanted to read Caesar in the original Latin? Or understand why democracy and self governance emerged in modern history? Latin and the Foundations of Democracy exposes students to the language, culture and history of the Romans. An introduction to the language through excerpts from the Cambridge Series emphasizes basic comprehension of the Latin language and common English root words by following the lives of a traditional Pompeian family. The stories read will illuminate the social and political history of the Romans, especially during the first century AD. Classes will include basic Latin grammar and vocabulary, as well as discussions of Ancient Rome’s contributions to modern democracy. Labor omnia vincit!


Mindfulness practice involves learning to direct your attention to the present moment without judgment, and with curiosity, patience, acceptance, and your full attention. The course will be taught with the .b (dot-b) Mindfulness in Schools program. .b, which stands for “Stop, Breathe and Be!”, leads students through a nine week series of lessons and exercises in mindful practices. The objective of the course is to present mindfulness as a life-long skill and practice. In the words of the .b program, “Students use it: to feel happier, calmer and more fulfilled; to get on better with others; to help them concentrate and learn better; to help cope with stress and anxiety; to perform better in music and sport.”

Painting: Imaginative Realism

Ever wanted to paint something from imagination, but became discouraged with the result, or was even too scared to start? In this class students will learn basic fundamentals of painting, along with specific tips and tricks, and even a step by step process, to make a fully finished detailed painting. For inspiration we will look at book covers, movie posters, videogame concept art, surrealist painters, fantasy painters… the list goes on.

Percussion Ensemble

This half credit course is offered to those students who would like to gain more experience playing a variety of percussion instruments with others. The ensemble will rehearse and perform a wide variety of musical styles and traditions from all over the world, as well as work on basic musical skills such as music literacy, solo and ensemble technique, and improvisation.

Photo Workshop: Low Light and Long Exposures

Whether using existing light or adding light to pictures using light sticks, flash lights and off-camera flashes students will explore low light and long exposure situations with cameras and tripods to evoke time of day, movement, and emotion. Some subjects may include neon signs, star trails, and painted light landscapes. Students must commit to photographing for an hour at night each week and have access to a digital camera and tripod.

Photo Workshop: Photo Books

Students will explore inventive uses of photography and bookbinding to make one-of-a-kind books. Projects may include a pop-up book, a flip book, a flag or tunnel book and multiple image books that utilize various book binding forms.

Photo Workshop: Photo Collage

In this workshop students combine photography with different materials to build unique mixed media works. Students will take pictures and then will work with inkjet prints, paint, glue and found objects to create a mixed media piece that tells a personal story.

Pilgrimage: A Short History Through Art

Pilgrimage is an age-old concept that crosses cultures and transcends time. This course will serve as an introduction to the concept and history of pilgrimage as it has been practiced across time and place and in religious and secular (non-religious) contexts. Students will read about the theory of pilgrimage, the rituals associated with it, and how it has been practiced from the medieval period to the present day. We will explore Christian, Islamic and Buddhist pilgrimage tradition: so in many ways, this course will serve as a general introduction to some significant faith traditions. Students will learn about key pilgrimage sites and the people who visit them, and consider the elements of sacredness, ritual and tourism that shape the pilgrim’s experience. We will conclude the course by considering secular pilgrimage and the ways in which pilgrimage continues to thrive today outside the realm of religion but within the realm of the spiritual.

Pingree A Capella

With artists like the Pentatonix and television shows like "The Sing Off," the popularity of a cappella singing is on the rise. In this performance-based ensemble class, and in the tradition of a cappella singing at Pingree, students will explore many genres of music as they relate to the unaccompanied voice. Students will perform pieces from the Early Renaissance all the way through popular songs by contemporary artists. This ensemble will be asked to perform at various school and community events and may participate in vocal competitions.

Pingree Singers

This half credit H block course is offered to any student who would like to participate in a large choir. The ensemble will rehearse and perform a wide variety of musical styles and genres, as well as work on basic musical skills such as music literacy, vocal solo and ensemble technique, and choral arrangement. Students will also be encouraged to provide their own ideas for concert repertoire as the year progresses.

Programming Arduino Boards

The Arduino board is a small, inexpensive microcontroller that is used for a wide variety of dedicated, open-source hardware and software projects. Students will learn the fundamentals of Arduino programming and then will learn how to integrate a breadboard to create projects that feature inputs and outputs. The course will culminate with a major independent Arduino project of the student’s design.

Public Speaking

Speaking in public is an opportunity to connect, to educate, to motivate, and to inspire. This course will introduce students to a wide variety of types of public speaking – narrative, informative, symposium, persuasive and impromptu. We will especially focus on the art of communication and connection with an audience by strengthening skills in voice, diction, posture and gesture. Students will prepare a series of solo and group 1-5 minute presentations over the course of the semester. Students will also learn techniques to overcome anxiety about public speaking and self-expression.

Rock Ensemble

This half credit H block course is offered to those students who would like to gain more experience playing guitar and bass with others, and will also incorporate vocals and percussion. The ensemble will rehearse and perform a wide variety of musical styles and genres, as well as work on basic musical skills such as music literacy, solo and ensemble technique, and improvisation.

Sculptural Ceramics

In this class the aesthetic and functional possibilities of clay will be explored as students experiment with a variety of clay forming techniques and processes. Focus will be on technique, basic design elements and the development of original ideas. Patterns in nature, figure and animal forms will be possible sources of inspiration. Students will examine the dual nature of pottery as both practical and expressive.

Sculpture: Mask and Monsters

Students in this class will create a Monster! Beginning with small sketches and ending with a finished sculpture in clay. Students will then make a life size mask of their Monster out of wire, masking tape, and even paper mache. Scary or friendly, the limits of design are only your imagination!

The Solo Artist

Have you ever dreamed of being the lead singer fronting a band? Or performing at coffee houses? Well, now is your chance! Each voice is different and possesses unique sounds and capabilities all its own. In this lab we seek to identify and develop each person’s individual potential. Explore the key components of singing, from stylizing to repertoire, from communicating and performing with confidence. You will have the experience of singing jazz, pop, rock, R&B and beyond.

Song and Dance

Song & Dance is a performance based class designed to develop skills such as improvisational techniques, characterization, and interpretation through the study of musical theater scenes and songs as well as other popular music. Scenes from classic and modern musicals are rehearsed and studied in terms of styles and historical perspective. The course also includes the effective use of the singing voice on stage, and movement for actors through dance and creative movement. All will culminate in a final project performance designed by the students in class. No previous experience needed. All are welcome to participate in this class!

Sustainability: Research, Design, and Implementation for Environmental and Social Impact

This interdisciplinary elective course provides a structured platform for students to learn about sustainable living practices and to advance their passion for preserving the environment. This course is intended to be an extension of Pingree’s green team “Pingreen” and can supplement ongoing work done by the club, but not act as a replacement. Students do not need to be “Pingreen” members, but should have a genuine interest in sustainability.

Technical Theater Design

Open to all students, this course is open to students who are interested in scenic design, costume design, light/sound design for us in theatrical productions. This course may appeal to students with an interest in architecture, fashion, and sound engineering. Student will be introduced to and have the opportunity to practice using the technical operating systems in the Pingree theater, and may apply skills learned in supporting Pingree events and productions.

Theater Improv

This half-credit course will introduce the essential skills and techniques necessary for becoming a successful improviser. Through a series of theater games and improvisational structures, students will learn to work both independently and collaboratively on acting “in the moment”. The course will focus on creating an ensemble, building confidence on stage, making unique and interesting character choices, and developing comedic timing. Also offered: Advanced Theater Improv.

What's Next?

The purpose of this course is to examine the transitions students encounter as they progress through high school. Specifically exploring how your identity shapes your world view. Growing racial diversity of America will affect students’ ability to navigate in a world that is more diverse than Pingree. What are the skills you will need to assist you in networking, selecting a college, selecting major and/or selecting friends as you move away from your community.


Students in this class will develop the skills required to communicate ideas and information, reflecting various aspects of the 2015 - 2016 Pingree school year. They will be involved in the production of layouts, photographs, graphic design (use of the online page design website) and digital imaging. Students will be assigned specific pages to complete and will be involved in theme development and cover design for the 2016 yearbook, "Gadfly".


This yoga inspired dance movement class will help all athletes with coordination, flexibility, and balance. Students will practice multiple genres of dance, while staying connected mind and body. Students will study the ways they might inform and enhance their athletic abilities through strength, stretch and conditioning exercises while focusing on the importance of breath. Athletes in this healthy and effective class will have the opportunity to perform in the Spring Arts Festival.