Course Descriptions

Essential Questions Courses

Often, people have big questions on their minds. Questions like: What makes you step up to the plate and do something? Whose stories haven’t been heard in U.S. History? How can the design of living things be explained? Most courses in high school do not address such far-reaching questions. There is not enough time, there is too much material to cover, or it just doesn’t fit into one “subject area.” At Brown Summer High School, we focus on these big questions.

Brown Summer High School’s “Essential Questions” courses all begin with a big question that doesn’t necessarily have one right answer. You will have a chance to explore the question by studying it from a variety of perspectives. You will work individually, in small groups, and as a class. At the end of the course, you will have a chance to show others what you have learned, not by taking a test, but more creatively, in a way that you and your teachers design together.

2017 Summer Courses

BSHS students will participate in two of the following courses:


EQ: What would you risk to bring your family back together? How do you keep persevering despite sometimes insurmountable obstacles?

DESCRIPTION: Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario is a riveting contemporary story of creative non-fiction. The journey begins with Enrique’s decision: he will travel from Honduras to the United States to reunite with his mother who left 12 years before to find work. In order to reach her he must brave malicious coyotes, gangs, perilous train tracks, and countless other obstacles. Nazario, a journalist, explores the lives of Enrique and other children from Central and South America journeying to find their mothers who, because of poverty and violence in home countries, travel to and find work in the United States. She follows the true story of Enrique’s quest, retracing his footsteps along the way. This action-packed book will provide insight for our class into current events impacting thousands of lives today. We will also use creative writing, digital storytelling, and performance to explore the topics of family, obstacles, and persevering through challenges.

History / Social Studies

EQ: Who or what decides what defines a hero? To what extent is a hero defined by his or her public or private actions? Are heroes created by an event or do heroes create events?

DESCRIPTION: Many of us can think of those we consider to be heroes: parents, neighbors, even pets.  In history books those identified as heroes are often those who have taken risks or changed the course of history. But who decides what defines a hero? Are there heroic traits that are common across cultures or across time?  If so, how is it that one person’s hero can be another person’s villain? In this course we will work together to identify the heroes in history. You will learn to grapple with multiple historic accounts, sometimes accounts that conflict, to determine if these individuals were acting heroically and/or if they possessed the qualities that define a hero. Using primary and secondary sources, through role-plays, discussion, and multimedia exploration, you will be asked to come to a reasoned conclusion about those we celebrate as heroes.  Do they truly deserve the accolades that history has provided them? In the end we will strive to answer the question: Why are some people celebrated as heroes while others are relegated to historical oblivion. 

Science / Math

 EQ: How does nature inspire human invention?

DESCRIPTION: Many of our best ideas have come from studying nature. We learned to fly by studying birds, architects continue to steal ideas from bees and termites to build stronger and more comfortable buildings, and we can thank those pesky burrs that cling to your clothes for inspiring the invention of Velcro. This summer, BSHS science and math classes will experiment in this new field of study known as “biomimicry” where scientists, engineers, mathematicians and inventors look to nature to help solve the problems of tomorrow.

All course content is new, so feel free to sign up for any class - even if you've taken it at BSHS before!

College Pathways Advisory

The Future is Now

Whether you are beginning high school or going to be a senior, Brown Summer High School's advisory program will provide you with a chance to map your way toward college. You will have the chance to meet with an advisor and a small group of students to consider and plan your future while on the Brown University campus. Families will be invited to participate in a college preparation seminar. Brown Summer High School will help you set and achieve goals, both academically and personally, during high school so that you can achieve your dream of going to college.