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 three key areas.  

They will be active learners who: 

  • Take ownership of the learning process. 
  • Take risks, learn from failure, and persevere. 
  • Engage in self-reflection. 
  • Identify goals and strategies for personal development. 
  • Use feedback effectively. 
  • Transfer skills from one context to another. 

They will be critical and creative thinkers who: 

  • Observe and gather information. 
  • Construct and evaluate arguments. 
  • Make reflective and reasoned decisions. 
  • Consider multiple points of view. 
  • Identify patterns and create categories. 
  • Look at problems in different ways and evaluate options. 
  • Practice divergent thinking, in which they generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. 
  • Use design-thinking principles to problem-solve and innovate. 
  • Formulate the most critical questions to ask at each point in problem-solving. 
  • Identify gaps in information or understanding. 
  • Seek information and advice when needed. 

They will communicate and interact effectively and know how to:  

  • Practice deep listening. 
  • Use language (oral, written, visual, computational, nonverbal) effectively. 
  • Consider audience and how contexts, such as culture, affect a communication’s impact. 
  • Consider and choose the most effective format or medium for communicating ideas. 
  • Collaborate productively and work well on teams. 
  • Practice a variety of leadership techniques, including knowing when to lead and when to follow, and when to negotiate, mediate, or persuade. 
  • Demonstrate cultural competence. 
  • Engage in creative friction to sharpen ideas.  
  • Accept and provide thoughtful feedback. 
  • Demonstrate awareness of group needs. 

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  

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.

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  
Courses: ID100, ID200, ID300, ID400

Requirement: English  
Credits/Time: 4
Courses: E100, EH200, E300, E400

Requirement: History  
Credits/Time: 3 (4 recommended)
Courses: H100, EH200, H300, H301

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: A100, A200 or A201

Requirement: Health & Wellness
Credits/Time: .5
Courses: W100

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