Curriculum and Requirements

Mercersburg’s curriculum offers 170 courses from its eight academic departments. Students may also pursue their passion through individualized projects.

Our faculty recognizes that the best demonstrations of learning aren’t in what students can repeat back to the teacher, but in students’ abilities to apply their learning and skills. Undoubtedly, learning and doing are not mutually exclusive, so we prioritize opportunities for students to use what they learn by building upon knowledge, then applying it.

When building our courses, we practice the concept of “backward design”—keeping the end goals of each student in mind. Planning begins—whether the subject is chemistry, history, Spanish, or multivariable calculus—with an essential question: what are the ideas and concepts students should understand and master after successfully completing a course? We start from there and build a flexible strategy that will maximize learning.

Curriculum Focus

9th and 10th grades

Ninth and 10th grades focus on skill development so that students establish a significant foundation in all disciplines, preparing them for more independent and in-depth work in 11th and 12th grade. We limit the amount of homework for ninth and 10th graders to no more than 20 minutes per class each night, because research shows that more homework does not result in better performance by students.

11th and 12th grades

In the 11th and 12th grades, students do more independent, in-depth, project-based, and experiential work. With most graduation requirements finished by the end of the 11th-grade year, students can explore their interests and passions during their senior year; and all students must successfully complete one of Mercersburg’s two capstone experiences for upper-class students: MAPS or Springboard.

Departments and Course Guide

For more than a century, the arts department has offered studio-oriented academic and co-curricular opportunities as well as intellectual and creative enrichment for the campus and region. Highly skilled faculty members—who are also working artists in drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, computer graphics, digital video, acting, speech, theatre design, modern dance, ballet, jazz, music composition, guitar, contemporary and classical piano, strings, and organ—inspire student achievement. 

Department class offerings range from history and theory to performance and production skills. With the department’s leadership, our campus is a creative festival throughout the academic year: Stony Batter (the student theatre company since 1894), the dance ensemble, seven musical performance groups, student art exhibits, and an annual student film festival. 

The department co-sponsors Blue Review, Mercersburg’s national award-winning annual journal of student writing and art. The work of fine arts students regularly wins regional and national awards. Student musicians perform on campus and in the community and regularly join in county and district band festivals. 

With the department’s home in the Burgin Center for the Arts, students train, experiment, and rehearse in state-of-the-art studios and practice spaces. The Cofrin Galley displays student and professional art. The 600-seat Simon Theatre (main stage) and Hale Studio Theatre (black box) provide professional-quality venues for performances and visiting artists.

Learn more about the arts

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Graduation Requirements

Each student must carry a minimum annual course load of 17 credits of academic work in ninth and 10th grades and 15 credits of academic work in 11th and 12th grades.

Senior Year Requirements

Students must participate in all senior activities. This includes participation in all required senior activities and programs through the end of the year including the senior trip and spring term exams. Seniors must pass all spring term work in order to graduate. 

Diploma requirements for a student are determined by entry grade.

Have questions?

Contact Dean of Academics Jennifer Miller Smith ’97 at