Course Catalog

Please select from the list of departments to see details about Lick-Wilmerding High School course offerings. 

Courses and Descriptions

The Center

The LWHS Center for Civic Engagement is both a vehicle for, and an expression of, the school's purpose—educating students with the capacity and commitment to make the world a better place. During their four years at LWHS, all students will participate in the Public Purpose Program, which guides students in several ways, from recognizing how to apply their education and unique talents, to ultimately affecting positive change and social justice.

9th Grade—In their first year at LWHS, 9th grade students participate in a year-long workshop series that explores privilege, the roots of inequality, volunteerism, and community. The curriculum culminates in a day of service during the spring semester where the entire 9th grade class begins to enact the mindsets and attitudes cultivated over the year.

10th Grade—Sophomores spend the year completing 40 hours of service. With the support of the Public Purpose Program, students can partner with local organizations, participate in Center for Civic Engagement sponsored projects, or find their own opportunities. At the end of the year, sophomores take part in an LWHS Volunteer Exhibition, in which they present information on their service and highlight local organizations with whom they have partnered.

11th Grade—Juniors complete the Public Purpose Program requirement by enrolling in an academic class with a service learning component, designing a relevant independent study, or working as an intern with a local nonprofit organization.

12th Grade—Seniors may choose to deepen the inquiry they began during their junior year by interning with the same organization or pursuing similar service based academics. Alternatively, they may decide to design an independent study based on a different theme, take a course with an alternative focus, or apply for a new internship.

At its core, the Center is a space for civics in action and a foundation for responsible, effective leadership.
  • Advanced Jazz & Contemporary Music Ensemble PPP

    The Advanced Jazz and Contemporary Music Ensemble is the upper level jazz and commercial music course at LWHS. Geared toward musicians in grades 10–12, students are required to possess advanced proficiency of their instruments and have a strong foundation in music fundamentals. Students must demonstrate self discipline and maturity to participate in project-based activities, public service projects, peer tutoring, and public speaking. Emphasis is on working in small ensembles to develop concert and community service performance material, cultivate outreach opportunities, and mentor beginning musicians from within and/or beyond the school. Students will hone their own skills and performance experience through regular rehearsals and participation in appropriate concerts and festivals. Applicable music theory and analysis is also a component of the course. Students will be assigned to varying sized combos to study and prepare a variety of stylistically appropriate music for public performance.

    This yearlong course fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Art in Action PPP

    This class explores and examines how to use the visual language of art to create change in the world. Topics covered include how the visual language of art influences social interaction, politics, and fashion through different media, including film, performance, and graphic design. Students will learn how to create a socially engaged art practice, how to construct influence in the digital world, graphic design skills for effective visual communication, and video production to disseminate ideas. An examination of artworks that spurred cultural change, along with class field trips, and guest visits with contemporary artists will guide us in the making of our own original artwork.

    Prerequisite: CMA

    This semester long course offered in both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Biology Honors: Marine Ecology: Field and Lab Science (PPP)

    The world's oceans cover over 70% of the earth's surface and are integrally tied to the health of the planet. A deep understanding of marine ecology is critical for the appreciation, preservation, and protection of marine habitats. Marine Ecology is a year-long advanced interdisciplinary science course that uses the Bay Area as a classroom. In 2021-22 the course will include required field trips during non-school hours. Students will be expected to meet at various locations in the bay area for our fieldwork and field trips (rain or shine) - planning and organization are going to be important skills. Students should expect to attend 1-2 field trips per month.

    Over the course of the year, students will grow to understand the physical and chemical characteristics of marine ecological zones and investigate the anatomy, behavior, and evolutionary adaptations of a variety of life. Students will investigate a broad range of current conservation concerns with an emphasis on global fishing practices and climate change. Laboratory activities include dissection, live organism exploration, data collection, guest lectures, and microscope work.

    Prerequisites: Biology and Chemistry

    This yearlong course is UC approved and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Calculus PPP

    This course explores the fundamental concepts and techniques of differential and integral calculus—the mathematics of change. The emphasis is on conceptual understanding achieved through investigations, problem solving, and projects that require applications of calculus to mathematical modeling. 

    In this PPP version of calculus, students will use the mathematics learned in class to serve the community via fundraising and other activities.  Students will be expected to use the shops as well as technology, arts and crafts to design and produce objects to be sold. Students will gain business management skills through these endeavors.  

    This course will require summer reading and preparation work, as well as some out of school time for students to do research and participate in community events. Students should expect to engage in service work about 15 hours per semester.  Students should also expect to reflect on their service work in order to inform further actions and/or to shape the scope of their existing service projects. Service work will be done concurrently with class work. 

    Prerequisite: Precalculus with semester grades of at least B-.

    This year long course fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC eligible course.
  • Chamber Orchestra PPP

    Chamber Orchestra is for intermediate to advanced string, woodwind, brass, piano, and percussion instrumentalists. Repertoire is drawn from orchestral and chamber music literature of the western classical tradition, orchestral pops, as well as through creative explorations and adaptations of new music. Additionally, the ensemble engages guest composers to create works for the course. Emphasis is on ensemble playing, refining instrumental technique, and building musicianship. Listening activities and applicable music theory assignments are included in the coursework. Students are expected to practice at home and are encouraged to study their instruments privately when possible. The department owns many school instruments that are available for student use.

    Students will fulfill their PPP requirement through the planning and implementation of community outreach performances, exploring arts advocacy, arts equity, and peer mentoring.

    Prerequisite: One year of ensemble experience, intermediate music reading proficiency, and a successful placement audition. Participation in one academic year does not guarantee placement in subsequent years.

    This yearlong course is UC approved and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Chinese 4 Honors PPP

    Chinese 4 Honors PPP extends the foundation developed in previous levels and improves students' ability to communicate in the context of contemporary Chinese culture. Students analyze readings in the textbook, as well as historical idiom stories and classic novels. Students communicate in great depth about everyday activities, current events, and culture. Students further expand on their abilities to read and write in all modes. Topics include but are not limited to the Internet economy, working part-time, geography of China, environmental protection etc. The course will follow Integrated Chinese Volume 3 and other supplementary materials. Correlated cultural topics are introduced with each unit for further exploration and comparisons. This course prepares the students to achieve a proficiency level of Intermediate-mid to Intermediate-high across interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational communications (based on the ACTFL standards) at the end of the school year. Mandarin Chinese is the sole language of instruction.

    Prerequisites: Chinese 3 students who have met the requirements for entrance into 4H. Any new student to the Chinese program must take a placement examination and be interviewed. 

    This year long course fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Chinese 5/6 Honors PPP

    This advanced course is designed for students who have reached a high intermediate to advanced level of proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking Chinese. With emphasis on thematic units, students will explore China past and present, through reading, research, writing essays, giving presentations and engaging in daily discussions using critical thinking, comparing, and contrasting. “China’s Development and Dilemmas” serves as the primary resource, which is an authentic reader for advanced learners. Mandarin Chinese is the sole language of instruction. Some of the topics covered in the curriculum are: Environmental pollution and protection, climate change and its health impacts, climate justice and media control vs freedom of speech,family planning, internet freedom and censorship,anti-corruption, China-US relations. The public purpose program (PPP) component will align with the curriculum to guide students to apply their knowledge, perform their assigned tasks, and ultimately affect positive change and social justice.

    Prerequisite: CH4H or CH5H students who have met the requirements for entrance into 5H/6H. Any new student to the Chinese program must take a placement examination.

    This yearlong course is UC approved and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Cinematic Storytelling PPP

    In this class students will have the opportunity to delve into the art of filmmaking while shining a focused spotlight on storytelling. Students will have the opportunity to develop their own original short films and learn specific techniques including the visual language of film, character development, and dramatic motivation. Students will hone their shooting skills and cinematography with in-class exercises, create original screenplays and storyboards, and learn techniques to improve workflow during digital video editing. The art of sound design and lighting will also be introduced. Point of view, both of the filmmaker and the audience will be examined. Students will watch and analyze a diverse array of exemplary films.

    Prerequisite: CMA

    This semester long course offered in both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Community Computing PPP

    Community Computing is a project-based PPP class that cultivates teamwork and service in the context of software development. Students can take this course as advanced engineers or as designers/product managers with no prior programming experience.

    In the first of two projects, the class creates software for use at Lick-Wilmerding. Students solicit feedback from peers, faculty, and staff and work in teams to build applications that fill an existing need. Within their groups, students may specialize in engineering, product management, or graphic design. No previous programming experience is required for product management and graphic design specializations. Students with less coding experience will learn basic computer science concepts from structured class exercises and interacting with experienced peers. Advanced students will work in JavaScript & Node, building on the skills learned in Graphics & Game Design.

    In the second project, students serve as role models for elementary and middle school students through introductory computing workshops.

    Throughout the semester, we examine computing's culture and the importance of cultivating a diverse new generation of computer scientists.

    This class meets the Tech Arts "Design & Engineering" category requirement.

    This semester-long course offered in Spring 2024 fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is UC approved.
  • Dance Ensemble PPP

    Dance Ensemble PPP provides students with continued development and practice in the principles of technique and movement through diverse genres and styles of dance. Students will experiment with choreographic premises and apply them to their own movement preferences. This course further develops the technical foundation in all dance genres and encourages students to create and innovate their own original work. Students will continue to establish their creative process to create and innovate their own original work. Students will have opportunities to collaborate and work with guest teachers, choreographers, and students in a variety of electives.

    This course is a PPP course. and will include experiences and opportunities with the community through elementary schools and youth organizations. DE students will develop unique performances and interdisciplinary experiences for young audiences both on and off campus. There will be opportunities for mentorship and teaching.

    Prerequisite: This course is offered to juniors and seniors who have taken two semesters of Dance at LWHS.

    This is a yearlong, UC approved course. 
  • Ethnic Studies: Exploring Our Collective Communities PPP

    This introductory course to ethnic studies is designed to provide students a collective space to reflect on identity, challenge systems of power, and imagine communal liberation. We will examine and engage with various academic materials including art, history, literature, and theory. The two foundational texts of this course are the following:
    • All About Love: New Visions - Bell Hooks
    • Emergent Strategy - Adrienne Maree Brown
    The trajectory of the course will start with intentional community building, a general overview of the history of ethnic studies and the Third World Liberation Front, dissection of a variety of theory and texts in relation to both ourselves and our communities at large, and end with group presentations centered around our major themes. Given the non-linear nature of ethnic studies, the structure provided may be subject to change.

    Prerequisite: None

    This Spring 2024 course is UC pending and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Improv PPP

    You don’t have to be an “actor” to be a good improviser. Improv is for everyone, and it is not only hilarious and fun, but it will also enhance essential life skills such as listening, communication, creative risk-taking, problem solving, and building self-confidence. This course teaches students how to create and interpret original unscripted performances in the presence of and in collaboration with a live audience. Class topics will include physical comedy, storytelling techniques, character-building, and space-object work. Students learn how improv turns imagination into action and they will reflect upon these experiences through journal writings and in-class evaluations. Additionally, the historical, cultural, and sociological influences of improvisation will be introduced and guest teaching artists will work with students to help amplify their improv performances. Students will gain the understanding of what it means to be a supportive member of an improv ensemble in a classroom that values teamwork and non-judgement. Improv techniques have recently emerged as a necessary 21st century skill that can benefit anyone in our rapidly changing technological world.

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Journalism PPP

    The Journalism class offers an opportunity for students to learn and work in a professional setting as a member of the press, the vital investigative branch of democracy. Students will plan, write, edit, and design the LWHS student print publication, the Paper Tiger, and the online Paper Tiger. Students will write in depth news stories, features, profiles, reviews, and editorials; they must write for all sections of the paper—news, politics, sports, arts & leisure, science & tech, and voices. To get the story, students will work in the field and in the newsroom researching, writing, discussing, and dissecting. The course will facilitate building critical and creative thinking and writing skills, investigative reporting, interviewing, understanding and designing the impact of rhetorical techniques, photography, and page and publication design. As members of the Paper Tiger staff students collaborate to run a small company. Students will consider both the ethics of journalism and the future of different news media. Students must learn Adobe InDesign to publish the paper.

    PPP requirements for the course will be satisfied by students identifying, investigating, and writing one long-form feature that highlights the work of a Bay Area community organization or a vital community issue. This feature requires research, investigation, and interviews off campus. The article will be published in the Paper Tiger and possibly in an external news outlet. In addition, students must write one op-ed and submit it for consideration, for example, to Youth Radio or KQED Perspectives.

    The course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Students may enroll in Journalism multiple times. 

    (Add/Drop at the semester by permission of instructor only.)

    Prerequisite: English 1

    This yearlong course is UC approved and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Leadership in Action PPP

    “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

    This course seeks to provide students with skills, knowledge and practice to develop themselves as leaders within their communities. Students will study effective public speaking, learn the art of giving and receiving feedback and spend time reflecting on their own leadership style. Our focus will be shaping future leaders who empower others.

    In their culminating project students will draw on newfound confidence and strengths to lead a community project of their choice – with the ultimate goal of creating positive, forward change in whatever issue/topic/group they identify.

    This is a Public Purpose Class that aims to teach real life skills through joy, play, and reflection.

    Prerequisite: None

    This Spring 2023 course is UC pending and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Modern US History Seminar: Politics and Power PPP

    When the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, the writers sought to correct the issues under the nation’s first government, The Articles of Confederation. More importantly, though, these men embarked on an experiment—a “government by the people, and for the people.” This new nation was not formed based on a common ancestry or identity, but rather on a set of ideals that sought to bring the states, and the people within them, together. Almost 250 years later, this document and the choices made in Philadelphia in 1787 still guide our decisions and, at times, divide our people. This semester-long senior seminar course invites students to investigate the structures, documents, landmark decisions, and people of the United States government. Students will examine the structures of the constitutional system by breaking down the branches and systems of government. Students will also use historic and contemporary case studies to investigate the choices of those in power and the impact of these choices on the American people using both historic and contemporary case studies.

    Prerequisite: U.S. History Honors

    This UC approved course will be offered Fall 2023.
  • Music and Social Justice PPP

    Make no mistake: music can, and has, changed the world.  Whether you're looking at Fela Kuti's Afrobeat songs condemning the corruption of the Nigerian government, the Protestant church creating new hymns by repurposing well-known drinking songs during the Protestant Reformation, the popular songs of protest that fueled the Arab Spring uprising, or Childish Gambino's recent single "This Is America" confronting racism and discrimination in the United States today, music has always had a significant role to play in fight against oppression.  Throughout recorded history, musicians have wielded great power as agents of change.  Music has fueled uprisings, toppled governments, and given new hope to the hopeless.  In this course, we will examine the relationship between music and social justice using case studies from different historical times and different parts of the world.

    Music and Social Justice is a PPP course.  Students will collaborate in small groups to design and implement a music-themed community-based social justice project of their own choosing.

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Photography 2 PPP

    While examining a variety of intermediate and advanced photographic techniques, students will creatively pursue individual self-expression and work to develop their own authentic artistic voice. Topics covered will include, the cultural and historical impact of photography, the influence of digital media on how contemporary images are made and perceived, the ethics of image making, and the ever-evolving social responsibility of representation. Advanced color, black and white, and alternative photographic image making and manipulation may also be explored.

    Prerequisites: Photography 1 and/or permission from the instructor.

    This semester long course is offered in Spring 2024 and fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Private Skills for a Public Purpose PPP

    Private School With Public Purpose (PSPP) aims, through design and research, to allow our students to examine their own privileges and biases and more importantly the role we all play in the greater education system. Students mix reading and research with tangible hands-on shop skills to build relationships and foster empathy for people beyond the walls of the school. Shops skills are primarily in the area of wood and metal fabrication but the course is not constrained by specific tools or mediums. Students are given an opportunity to work closely with a public school or nonprofit organizations to provide design and build skills while filling needs within the local organizations. The semester begins with in-depth inquiry into systematic social inequities, and challenges students to think about their own position of privilege. The rest of the semester is spent on designing and building projects to meet the needs of the organization and its stakeholders. This is an ideal opportunity for students to learn about the client/builder relationship through site visits, interviews, and observations about the organization's needs. The class culminates in the delivery of the finished projects.

    This class meets the “Design & Engineering” category requirement.

    Prerequisite: Design and Technology

    This semester long course offered in both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Psychology: Brain and Behavior (PPP)

    An overarching goal of the PPP version of B&B will be to develop empathy as a skill and enhance compassion for people with challenges, experiences and identities different from our own (e.g., the elderly, children with learning differences, adults with disabilities). Students will visit and develop ongoing relationships with a given population of their choosing. As a class, we hope to foster lasting connections with agencies in the bay area which serve communities with challenges and experiences different from our own. This will depend in large part on student initiative and commitment. The course will begin with an introduction to the fundamentals of psychology from B&B classic. We will focus on how we identify, how we act, how we interact, how we develop, how we learn and remember, and how we all face psychological and neurological challenges with all of these. These questions will equip students with the knowledge and emotional skills they will need for the public purpose portion later on. The course highlights how the physical brain, the environment, and human behavior continually interact. The course is an invitation for introspection and expression as students agree, disagree, and take what is helpful to them and make it their own.

    Prerequisite: None 

    This yearlong, UC approved course fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Sewing and Textile Arts Level 2 PPP

    Building on the skills from Sewing and Textile Arts Level 1, this advanced sewing Public Purpose course will provide much needed services to local and national organizations. Students mix reading and research with tangible hands-on sewing skills to build relationships, examine our own privilege, and foster awareness and empathy of global issues impacting young people.

    Our topics will include researching period poverty in preparation for creating re-usable maxi-pads for girls abroad, working with an organization creating wheelchair capes for children that are chair bound, and other projects that will be chosen by the class.

    Students will work collaboratively and in teams to design and organize their making process in order to efficiently produce their goods. New sewing skills will be learned and old skills perfected in order to accommodate the needs and expectations of our organizations.

    Prerequisite: Design & Technology, Sewing and Textile Arts Level 1

    This semester-long course is offered in Spring 2024. It is a UC-eligible course.
  • Spanish 3 PPP

    Building on the Spanish 2 curriculum, students continue to explore the differences between the indicative and the subjunctive moods throughout the year. Students read short stories, poetry, and drama within the cultural context of Spain and Latin America. Students write original pieces that reflect the style of the assigned authors. In class, students engage in spontaneous speech using the newly acquired vocabulary and advanced grammar structures. The textbook Imagina, teacher generated material, short films, readers, and full length movies enhance student learning. Spanish is the sole language of instruction in class.

    Prerequisites: Spanish 2 or 2A. Incoming students must take a written and oral placement examination.

    This yearlong course fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Statistics Honors PPP

    Statistics is essential for any field in which people wish to draw meaningful conclusions from data. The goal of this course is for students to become ethical and competent consumers and producers of statistics by using the process of statistical thinking. The course begins with descriptive statistics, focusing on the essential question "What stories do the data tell?" Topics include graphical and numeric representations of one- and two-variable data, survey design, and sampling. Moving into Inferential Statistics, we turn to two essential questions “Should I be surprised?” and “Is the difference meaningful?” Major topics will include counting and probability, random variables, and significance testing. Students will spend significant time carrying out a Public Purpose Program project that will be integrated throughout the course.

    Prerequisites: Algebra 2 and department recommendation

    This year long course fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. It is a UC approved course.
  • Teaching Assistant Tech Arts PPP

    This course will have students apply the combined skills learned in previous Technical Arts classes with new skills focused on leadership. The faculty member will act as a mentor and coach, introducing material so that the student leader can better understand cultural competency, equitable pedagogical practices, and their impact on the learning environment. These learning strategies will then be applied and focus on four main areas on a daily basis—teaching, community, machine maintenance/class prep, and reflection.

    Note: This class does not fulfill the technical arts graduation requirement and PPP credit can only be given for participation Private Skills for a Public Purpose class.

    Prerequisites: Design & Technology along with one semester of the class for which you will be the teaching assistant.

    This semester long course offered in both Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 fulfills the Public Purpose Program requirement for juniors and seniors. 
  • U.S. History Seminar: ACT UP FIGHT BACK–A History of the AIDS Movement PPP

    One of the most successful movements of the last century, the AIDS Movement transformed how we think about activism, healthcare, and LGBTQIA+ rights. While many associate the movement exclusively with gay, white, men, it was actually a remarkably diverse, fierce group of people who combined their collective experiences to enact systemic change. This class will delve into the history of the movement, highlight the work and voices of BIPOC activists, and explore how this movement fits into a larger history of social change movements in the United States. As we face many struggles today requiring massive systemic transformation, we can learn from the strategies and structures employed by AIDS activists to build a more inclusive, intersectional movement. A key component of this PPP course will be to interview AIDS activists and long-term survivors to gain a first hand understanding of the movement and its impact locally and nationally.

    rerequisite: US History Honors

    This semester long course is offered Spring 2024 and is UC approved.
  • Vocal Ensemble PPP

    Vocal Ensemble is a performance-based chorus class open to all grades in which students will learn group vocal technique, performance styles, music history, and music theory. The ensemble will, during any given semester, learn repertoire from all genres of music, including Renaissance, Classical, Baroque, Romantic, 20th Century, Popular, Broadway, Jazz, and world music. Students will work collaboratively to become one instrument: the chorus. A minimum of one concert and two after school rehearsals will be required during each semester.

    Prerequisite: None

    This yearlong course is UC approved, though students may add this class in the spring with teacher approval, and fulfills the PPP requirement for juniors and seniors.


Lick-Wilmerding High School

755 Ocean Avenue | San Francisco, CA 94112 | 415.333.4021
A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.