Educators at Lakeside School developed the academic program, combining some of the best aspects of Lakeside’s high-quality curriculum with an emphasis on interdisciplinary, experiential, and online learning.  

Students who graduate from The Downtown School will have highly developed skills in five core competencies and will be able to: 

Learn how to learn:

  • Employ available tools and resources.

  • Take risks, learn from failure, and persevere.

  • Engage in self-reflection.

  • Transfer skills from one context to another.

  • Use feedback effectively.

Think critically: 

  • Question prior knowledge and admit errors.

  • Identify and address cognitive filters.

  • Identify patterns and create connections.

  • Assess the accuracy and reliability of information.

  • Make reflective and reasoned decisions.

Think creatively: 

  • Practice design thinking to solve problems.

  • View the world from multiple perspectives.

  • Explore with curiosity.

  • Think metaphorically.

  • Embrace and harness the unexpected

Communicate effectively: 

  • Understand their audience and respect others' perspectives.

  • Listen to understand.

  • Use modes of communication (oral, written, computational, visual, non-verbal language) that match the given context.

  • Cultivate empathy and develop awareness of their own cultural perspective.

  • Check for understanding in their audience.


  • Engage in debate to sharpen ideas.

  • Use a generative feedback cycle to drive growth.

  • Share group ownership for tasks and outcomes.

  • Demonstrate awareness of group need and harness individual strengths.

  • Share work appropriately in a group setting.


Interdisciplinary Learning

Courses at The Downtown School pursue an interdisciplinary approach, through which students examine how multiple disciplines approach questions, investigate problems, and follow themes and topics. Students will move beyond artificial boundaries in favor of exploring links between traditional academic disciplines. 

Interdisciplinary learning is at the core of the three-week intensives, which start and end each school year. Course content is heavily influenced by the students' own interests and passions: the questions they ask and the problems they wish to solve. Students work collaboratively in grade-level groups on projects that take them around the city. Teachers emphasize learning processes for inquiry, problem-solving, and design thinking. Content learned during intensives connects with content in semester classes.  

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is learning by doing. Students tackle real-world and relevant projects to practice the key skill of applying knowledge: learning what to ask, how to find answers, and interpret and vet information to solve a problem. In intensives and semester courses, our students use the city as a lab, regularly engaging with a network of local nonprofits and businesses that provide real applications and practical lessons for topics in our curriculum.  

Outside of the classroom, service learning and internships enable students to define and develop their personal talents and passions, put theory into practice, and give back to the community. Placements are student-driven, with students receiving support from a faculty advisor. Starting in 9th grade, students do service work with organizations that reflect their interests. Through their engagement in the service program, they will come to understand that it is never too early to have an impact, and that the common good is everyone’s responsibility. Juniors and seniors have internships in an area of their interest. Completion of 40 hours of service learning and 50 hours of an internship are graduation requirements. 

Online Learning  

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Online learning is part of every student’s experience at The Downtown School. Juniors and seniors are able to take electives through the Global Online Academy (GOA); two GOA classes are required for graduation. Established in 2011, GOA offers diverse and rigorous credit-bearing courses to students in member schools around the world. Courses are designed, developed, and taught by teachers from member schools and meet the standards of rigor and quality for which these schools are well-known. 

Through GOA, students at The Downtown School are able to widen their field of study; gain technology skills; and participate in a truly global classroom, learning alongside peers with diverse backgrounds and experiences who attend more than 60 of the world’s best independent schools. Learn more about GOA on their website and view their current course catalog. You may also read about GOA’s Member Benefits here.

Graduation Requirements

The Downtown School requires 24 credits for graduation. Requirements for students who enter the school after the 9th-grade year may be altered based on the student’s previous study and academic interests. Students may be awarded a diploma only after completing four academic years of high-school study (some of which may be completed elsewhere) and fulfilling The Downtown School’s distribution requirements shown below.  

Students must carry 5 credits a semester; intensives and each semester of a class counts for .5 credits. To graduate from The Downtown School, students are expected to be enrolled here for 12th grade.  

Requirement: Interdisciplinary  
Credits/Time: 2.5  
Courses: ID110, ID310, ID320, ID410, ID420

Requirement: English  
Credits/Time: 4
Courses: E100, E200, E310 and E320 (.5 credit each), E400

Requirement: History  
Credits/Time: 3 (4 recommended)
Courses: H100, H200, H300

Requirement: Math
Credits/Time: 3 (4 recommended)
Courses: M100, M200, M300

Requirement: Science
Credits/Time: 3 (4 recommended)
Courses: S100, S200, S300

Requirement: Spanish
Credits/Time: 2 (3 recommended)
Courses: L100, L200 and/or L300 (Completion through L300)

Requirement: Art
Credits/Time: 1
Courses: A210, A220

Requirement: PE & Health
Credits/Time: 2
Courses: W120; complete 1.5 credits of physical education through approved outside activities

Requirement: Internship
Credits/Time: 0.5 (50 hours)
Courses: Students will receive a half credit for each 50 hours of internship time.

Requirement: Service Learning
Credits/Time: 40 hours

Requirement: Global Online Academy Electives
Credits/Time: 1