Course Catalog

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

Courses and Descriptions

College Preparatory Electives ("G" Courses)

The courses listed below have been approved by the University of California as college preparatory electives, challenging, often interdisciplinary courses that represent unique learning experiences. Juniors can fulfill their sixth class requirement with courses from this list, as well as from the Performing, Technical and Visual Arts classes and the BlendEd program.
  • Applied AI in Python

    This semester-long course will give students hands-on experience with artificial intelligence (AI) by applying machine learning models and libraries using the Python programming language. The course will explore the construction of algorithms which can learn from and make predictions on real-world data. Students will firstly recap on Python loops, lists and dictionaries and learn how to manage file input and output. They will then learn how to use the Pandas and Numpy libraries to analyze and interpret data. Students will then be introduced to the Tensorflow and Keras frameworks and build machine learning models to analyze images and text. Students will apply their knowledge to implement and refine machine learning models to a data set of their choice and understand the ethical implications. Finally, students will present their findings to an authentic audience. Emphasis will be placed on the project development life cycle and the importance of testing. Students will be expected to conduct independent research in addition to working collaboratively on projects.

    Weekly Zoom sessions will be used for short presentations, Q&A and discussions. In person sessions will be used to present and discuss project progress with the rest of the class and meet with guest experts. At the end of the course, students will have a basic knowledge of machine learning models and libraries and how to use these tools effectively with real-world data.

    Prerequisites: Introduction to Python Programming (B+ and above) or sufficient knowledge of Python. 

    This Fall 2023 course is UC approved. 
  • Astrophysics

    In this introductory, project-based class, we will explore the dynamics and evolution of the contents of our universe. We will grapple with a series of essential questions: how do we know what planets and stars are made of? How do stars die? Why do planets form rings? Do other planets support life? Where do black holes come from? How big is the universe? How do we even know all of this?

    While astronomy and astrophysics both involve the study of planets, stars, galaxies, and the history and evolution of the universe and its contents, astronomy is more descriptive, with a greater focus on the history and methods of astronomical observation, including telescopes and the apparent motion of objects in the sky. Astrophysics, by contrast, makes greater use of the tools of physics and chemistry, and is more quantitative and computational in nature. That said, because of the differing order in which BlendEd schools offer science courses, no prerequisite study in physics or chemistry is required; we will introduce what we need.

    We will spend significant time and energy on the metacognitive processes of learning, with the expectation that the communication and reasoning skills students acquire in this course will be generally useful, even outside of STEM courses.

    Students are expected to attend once-per-week, camera-on Zoom sessions at a mutually convenient time after school and to schedule once-per-week project sessions with other small-group members. Students must also attend at least 3 of the 5 planned in-person sessions on weekend evenings to be announced. In-person activities may include visits to local astrophysics research laboratories, scaffolded research project work, and nighttime visits to observatories.

    This Fall 2023 course is UC approved. 
  • Behavioral Genetics and Anthropology

    Behavioral Genetics and Anthropology is an advanced biological anthropology course that focuses on the connection between evolutionary biology, genetics and the wide range of traits influenced by gene-culture interactions in humans. We start with an exploration of connections and disconnections between Darwinian evolution, Mendelian inheritance, and human variation. We then consider genes as the unit of natural selection throughout the history of the gene as we read Siddhartha Mukerjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History. We will explore the study of behaviors ranging from the origin of behavioral diversity, sex and sexuality, mating rituals to violence, and emotions. We will also look at the recent analysis of the human genome and the discovery of genes that connect to complex human behaviors that impact modern cultural, technological and environmental changes. A question we will consider throughout is, “What, if anything, makes humans unique?”

    Note: May be taken in conjunction with Genetics and Ethics.
    Prerequisite: Biology and Chemistry

    This semester long course is offered both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 and is UC approved.
  • Black Holes and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

    Have you ever contemplated the reality of a black hole? How long does it take to create a black hole, or how much matter does it take, or how do you calculate its mass? Will our galaxy be consumed by a black hole? What would happen if you fell into a black hole? If you would like to know the answers to these questions, then this is the class for you.

    This class is concerned with studying the effects that gravity has on the structure of spacetime, from length-scales starting around 10−13 cm (the radius of an elementary particle) up to around 1028 cm (the radius of the universe). In order to understand these effects, we will use Einstein’s theory of relativity. Playing a fundamental role in our course will be the concept of a spacetime singularity – more precisely, a black hole. Thus, more precisely stated, this course will provide a direct examination of general relativity and black holes. However, instead of the typical approach, where one first learns the principles of relativity then, using them, proves the singularity theorems of Penrose and Hawking, we will go in the opposite direction. We will assume their existence and then, using the properties of non-spinning and spinning black holes, introduce Einstein’s theory.

    Along the way, we will learn about the physics of flat spacetime (the special theory), curvature, metrics, tests of the general theory, the physics of black holes, cosmology, and gravitational waves, with other fascinating topics sprinkled throughout.

    Throughout our development of the theory and its consequences, we will use only calculus and algebra, and require only the basics of Newtonian mechanics in order to achieve our goals. (While some basic knowledge of the special theory of relativity would be helpful, it is not a prerequisite). Class activities will consist of working through problems related to selected readings, alongside discussions, question/answer sessions; simulations (e.g galaxy creation, formation, and destruction); finding and analyzing numerical solutions to Einstein’s equations; and a few lectures.

    This class will have weekly meetings via Zoom. These virtual assemblies will be used as a time for discussion of the topics from the readings, along with highlighting the problems and debating their solutions, as well as Q&A sessions.

    In-person sessions will be used as time for students to present projects that they have worked through, guest presenters (on occasion), and ‘verification’ of the models to describe large-scale spacetime that we are learning about. In addition, we are hoping to be able to visit a nearby observatory where we can see the theories in action.

    Prerequisites: Mathematically speaking, if you are ready for the AP AB Calculus exam, you are ready for this course.

    This spring 2024 course is UC approved. 

  • Cinematic Storytelling: Fundamentals of Filmmaking

    This beginning filmmaking class is designed to introduce students to the exciting world of filmmaking. Through hands-on experiences, students will develop their original ideas into compelling visual stories and screenplays, learn how to create storyboards to blueprint their films, plan a realistic pre-production schedule, and understand how to shoot cinematic images using available technology. Students will also be introduced to editing software and learn how to distribute their films to an audience through platforms like YouTube and high school film festivals.

    In addition, students will acquire strong skills in communicating their ideas through image and sound, as well as gain valuable experience in planning and implementing real-world projects. They will work with the latest technology for filmmaking in the 21st century and collaborate with their peers to create dynamic films.

    Our students have a track record of success, with many of their films being featured in film festivals across the country, including some of the largest and most prestigious festivals in the nation. This class is the perfect starting point for any student interested in pursuing a career in filmmaking or just looking to develop their creative and technical skills.

    Online meetings with the whole class will take place every other week to discuss projects and share presentations. Students will sometimes be paired together or in small groups during our online meeting time or may occasionally arrange their own meeting times for collaborative activities and projects.

    During our 3 to 4 face-to-face sessions we may be meeting filmmakers, visiting cinemas, film festivals and film production studios. Students will need access to a video camera (this can be your smartphone) and be able to upload video to the web. Students should also have access to video editing software and a tripod.

    This course will be offered both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 and is UC approved. 
  • Creative Writing: Creative Nonfiction

    One definition of the term "creative nonfiction" is "true stories well told." In this semester elective, students will learn fictional techniques to help them tell true stories well. Students will read multiple kinds of creative nonfiction (personal essays, reflective essays, profiles, etc.) that document the experiences of the writer and the experiences of others. In addition, students will receive feedback on their creative nonfiction from their peers during “workshop” and use this feedback to revise. Reading models of published writing and keeping a journal will be integral parts of this course, but the focus of this elective is on generating original creative nonfiction rather than analyzing published pieces. The culminating assessment will be a portfolio of original creative nonfiction.

    This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

    This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

    Prerequisite: English 1

    This semester long course is offered Spring 2024. It is a UC approved course.
  • Ecological Architecture

    Ecological Architecture is a course that seeks to help students understand the necessity of sustainable architecture and the effect of our cities on the environment and climate. As our climate rapidly changes, it is vital that our use of materials, techniques, and designs meet the urgency of the climate and environmental challenges facing our world. Ecological architecture marries an understanding of ecology (the relationship of organisms to each other and the environment around them) and architectural design (the planning, design, and implementation of physical structures) to create a better, more sustainable world.

    We will meet once per week on Zoom to study fundamental concepts, learn physical and CAD modeling techniques, and complete designs of our own. Students will be provided with tools and materials at the beginning of the course that they will use throughout the term to complete their projects. Zoom will also be used for 1:1 help, group work, and teacher office hours.

    Our face-to-face meetings will include visits to local Architecture firms, buildings, and construction sites that are incorporating sustainable and eco-architectural concepts and fundamentals in their designs. We will also hear from local and international architects who are committed to sustainability and ecological design throughout the term, and work with real-world problems in our own projects.

    Prerequisites: None

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved.
  • Ethics in the Sciences and Technology

    This interdisciplinary course will begin with an introduction to philosophy and great thinkers throughout history. We will then focus on ethics, particularly the thorny moral questions which come up in the sciences and technology – How can we allocate scarce organs to those waiting on a transplant list in a ‘fair’ way? Should it be allowable to ‘design’ many of the traits of a baby? Are the risks of a driverless car morally acceptable and, if so, how should driverless cars be programmed in an imminent crash? Should the atomic bomb have been made- and are there limits on using science to make weapons or other products which can cause harm? The course will invite introspection and a solution-oriented mindset. We will be learning some psychology about ourselves and our moral development, our implicit ways of figuring out right and wrong. We will evaluate what ethical systems we might reject, and what we might create in their place? How might our life experiences, debates, discussions with our peers compel us to question our own beliefs? In the process, we will build skills in reasoning, speaking persuasively, and listening with an open, flexible mind in order to engage constructively around life’s biggest questions.

    Essential Questions:
    - Just because we have the scientific ability to do something, does that always mean we should?
    - How can examining our ethical thinking help us to lead lives of consequence and fulfillment?

    This fall 2023 course is UC pending. 
  • 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.
  • Financial Literacy

    What financial skills do you need for life? How can you make financial decisions while understanding the impact on yourself and others? What financial decisions are made for us by the institutions and structures that, for better or for worse, exist today? What is our role in creating a more equitable financial world in the future?

    This interdisciplinary mathematics, economics, and social science course will be organized around case studies chosen from all walks of life, circumstances, and backgrounds. We will consider the mathematics of budgeting, personal banking, credit & borrowing, renting or owning a home, taxes, and insurance while discussing the tough decisions people make along the way. We will keep an eye on the ways in which these discussions are shaped by the particular economic distortions we see in the Bay Area. Students will do weekly readings, engage in regular course discussions, attend field trips to gain real-life experience and complete collaborative projects and/or presentations for each unit.

    We will virtually meet as a class one evening per week via Zoom video conferencing for student discussions, presentations, and meetings with guest experts.

    Proposed field trip/in-person meetings:
    • Welcome meeting + team building and group formation
    • Visit to local financial institution(s), both traditional and Internet-based
    • Guided Q&A with a financial advisor
    Students must attend the welcome meeting and 2 out of the 3 other in-person meetings.

    Prerequisites: None

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved.
  • Food: A History

    Apple pie, California roll, fortune cookies, cioppino, enchilada and chicken bog. Momo, pasty, empanada and pierogi. The food we eat is the story of religion, culture, race and identity. It is the story of the agricultural revolution, the Silk Road, Columbian Exchange, economic hardships, imperialism, immigration... and Instagram and YouTube. In this course, we will tackle the topic of food by studying its history, by reading works from chefs, food historians and food critics, and by diving into the world of food television and documentaries. Finally, we will explore our own histories with food and how food has affected our lives and our families’ stories. Face-to-face sessions include a group meal at a Bay Area restaurant, visit(s) to a local farm, ranch and/or dairy, and an end-of-semester potluck featuring beloved family dishes.The course will culminate in a research project based on a historical menu from a wide selection of time periods and geographical locations.

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved.
  • Gender Studies

    In this course, students will investigate, explore, challenge and develop an understanding of the role gender plays in both history and our modern society. Using an interdisciplinary approach students will examine ideas related to gender through an intersectional lens that includes historical, feminist, queer, ethnic, sociological, and cultural perspectives. Using specific case studies, we will take deep dives into historical moments or events using scholarly texts, primary sources, and popular media with the goal of developing a critical perspective on the role of gender in society. Students will then have an opportunity to develop their own research topic, using the skills we have practiced as a class.

    The capstone project will allow students to pursue their own research interest connected to gender studies in a format of their choosing (traditional research paper, blog, podcast, oral histories, art, etc.) and share their research with their classmates and peers. Collaboration with other students on projects will be encouraged.

    Pending COVID restrictions, we will meet in-person three times throughout the semester to connect with guest presenters, visit local area organizations or museums, and work on collaborative projects. Weekly virtual classes may include guest speakers, class discussions, virtual field trips, and small group research check-ins.

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved.
  • Introduction to Fiction Writing

    In this semester elective, students will learn basic craft elements of fiction including plot, character, setting, fictional time, point-of-view, conflict, and dialogue; then they will experiment with these craft elements in their own stories. In addition, students will receive feedback on their stories from their peers during “workshop” and use this feedback to revise. Reading models of published fiction and keeping a journal will be integral parts of this course, but the focus of this elective will be on generating original fiction rather than analyzing published literature. The culminating assessment will be a portfolio of original fiction.

    This course is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

    Prerequite: English 1

    This Fall 2023 course is UC approved.
  • 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. The instructor’s signature is required on the course signup sheet. Current Paper Tiger editors (and students selected as editors for the 2018–19 school year) will be given priority in scheduling, regardless of grade level. This policy is meant to maintain continuity for the newspaper staff.

    (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.
  • Music and the Brain

    This course will consider a variety of questions considering how music is at the core of what makes us human: the appreciation of music, making music and sharing music. Music is a universal language, and the fact that we are a social species makes clear why music and language are crucial for our existence. There are rich comparisons between the development of language skills in children and the aesthetic appreciation of music throughout our lives. Music plays a part in many aspects of our lives, as a psychological, emotional, scientific, and social experience. Students will read, listen, discuss, research and develop projects that explore questions about music in the human experience: How does the auditory system in the brain respond to language and to music? In what ways are the components of music (rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre) universal and in what ways are they culturally determined? What provides the emotional content of music? What is musical intelligence? How does musical activity stimulate brain function? What causes musical disorders, such as amusia, and how are they distinct from aphasia, the language disorders? How can music enhance memory, and how does our memory relate to our experience of music? How has music been used therapeutically?

    Prerequisites: None

    This semester long course is offered in Fall 2023 and UC approved.
  • Psychology: Brain and Behavior

    Using multiple perspectives, students will look at human behavior from the biological, evolutionary, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic, social, and sociocultural points of view. An emphasis is put on how the physical brain, the environment, and human behavior continually interact and influence each other. Students examine readings and experiments on learning, social interactions, memory, thinking, and cognitive development. Genetic and environmental factors underlying development and attachment are also considered. 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. There is an emphasis on multiple ways of engaging with the material. Individual projects provide the opportunity for students to explore topics of their choice in more depth.

    Prerequisite: None 

    This is a year long course. It is UC approved.
  • 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.
  • Public Health & Vulnerable Populations

    The San Francisco Bay Area is rapidly becoming one of the most inequitable places to live in the nation. Taking a casual BART ride can reveal the environmental disparities that exist between places like the affluent suburb of Pleasanton and an industrialized community like West Oakland. The lack of income and environmental equality is obvious, but the disparities run much deeper. A short ride between BART stations can mean an 11-year difference in life expectancy. Folks getting off the train and living in neighborhoods near BART’s Walnut Creek station live on average 84 years, while folks that exit at and live near the Oakland City Center station live on average only 73 years. In other words, living just 16 miles apart can mean the difference between living more than a decade longer. Why does such a health disparity exist? This course will dissect the factors that influence this social gradient of health.

    There will be three face-to-face sessions and at least one off-campus face-to-face meeting with a teammate. During one of the first Saturdays in September, we will do a neighborhood health assessment of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco. In mid-October, we will volunteer in the native plant nursery at the Literacy for Environmental Justice in the Candlestick Point State Park Recreational Area. Our final face-to-face trip will be to the Social Emergency Medicine Department at Highland Hospital in Oakland during the first week of December. Students will also be expected to attend one virtual meeting roughly every other week, outside of school hours.

    This Spring 2024 course is UC approved.
  • Wilderness Studies

    Conservation and Management of Public Lands in the Western United States – A Wilderness Critique

    For thousands of years, humans have lived in the wild spaces and landscapes that make up the West. And, for the last 200 years, humans have ravaged many of these spaces. And yet, in 2023, large tracts of wild spaces still exist within the Western United States.

    This course will examine the value of “wilderness” and public land in the year 2023. What is the value of these lands (and waters) to the people who use, manage, conserve, appreciate, or have traditionally lived on them? We will use a week-long field experience and a weekend expedition to probe both the historical and current relationships between humans and these wild, largely untamed landscapes. Guiding questions for this course are:
    • What is the role of humans in managing nature, wildlife, & wilderness?
    • Who is “wilderness” for? What groups have been historically underrepresented in conversations related to “wilderness”? What effects may these exclusions have on society and the environment? How do we begin to change this story?
    • How do we balance the preservation of public land with the need for local people to make a livelihood off the land?
    • What, if any, models can we use to balance the preservation of wildland ecosystems and the current and future use of public land by humans for tourism, recreation, and utilitarian purposes? Can there be any land that humans are not managing or influencing?
    • How important is collaboration between governments, non-profits, businesses, user groups, and cities in the process of public land conservation?
    To answer these questions, students will participate in backpacking and camping trips to immerse themselves in the lands we’re studying while engaging with local experts who approach these landscapes from different ethical and practical approaches. Readings will provide additional knowledge in both the history of these spaces as well as current information and debates surrounding the use and management of the particular wild locations that we visit.

    This trimester intensive course will include Zoom group discussions as well as four face-to-face trips including the two intensive field experiences. Field experiences will involve rigorous academic work and will be physically demanding. Students will maintain a cultural and natural history journal throughout the course and engage in weekly readings, discussions, and reflections. Students will be asked to weigh in on current events, science, and legislation throughout the course by considering the significance of “wilderness” and nature from their own personal lens, the field experiences from this course, and their understandings of the cultural, political, ethical, historical, and economic perspectives addressed in the course. Assessments in this course will require that students research and evaluate “wilderness” areas and public lands and, applying their learnings from the class, make recommendations (based on sound research and the understanding of multiple perspectives) regarding the future of the land. Students will create a podcast related to the theme of wilderness as their final project for this course.

    In addition to following your school’s course sign-up process, you also need to complete the online application by Friday, April 28.

    Wilderness Studies FAQs

    Term Dates:
    Thursday, July 6, to Friday, October 6, 2023

    • June 10 (12-5pm): Pre-Course Hike to Stinson on the Dipsea (give out forms, summer reading, answer FAQs, do gear-pickup)
    • July 6 (7-8pm): Zoom Course Kick-Off (intros, connections, and pre-trip work)
    • July 13 (7-8pm): Zoom #2
    • July 29 (7am) – August 6 (12pm): Expedition #1: Yosemite Weeklong Expedition
    • August 17 (7-8pm): Zoom #3
    • August 24 (7-8pm): Zoom #4
    • August 31 (7-8pm): Zoom #5
    • September 2 (11am) – September 4 (2pm): Expedition #2 – Pt. Reyes Weekend Expedition
    • September 12 (7-8pm): Zoom #5
    • September 19 (7-8pm): Zoom #6
    • October 1st (12-3pm): Expedition #3 – Final Expedition & Celebration


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.