Academic Program

A set of distinct practices define Casco Bay High School’s academic program. 


“Casco Bay has built a thriving SCL [Student-Centered Learning] environment. Measures of collaborative culture are robust, instruction and assessment aim at helping each student encounter rigor and relevance in learning tasks, the Crew advisory structure provides frequent and sustained support for students across the whole range of academic and personal issues that confront high school students as they figure out how to succeed. Student engagement with learning and student perception of adult support for learning are at high levels and increasing.”  

~ The Education Development Center, March 2016  


Learning Expeditions

Our curriculum is organized around Learning Expeditions. Learning Expeditions are long-term, in-depth studies of a single topic that explore vital guiding questions. They incorporate standards and involve fieldwork, service and research, culminating in a project, product or performance. Expeditions require strong habits of work and quality thinking that come through the daily rituals of reading, writing, research, problem solving, and discussion. Individual and group projects are designed to unify and ignite student learning by calling for concrete products or actions that address authentic problems, typically with a component of social or environmental justice.  In past expeditions, students explored topics ranging from Portland’s working waterfront to bio-ethics, from “Africa Rising” to the gap between rich and poor; they investigated questions from “How and why do I change the world?” to “What is the impact of a generation?”


In 2013 CBHS was named 1 of 20 “Deeper Learning” schools in the nation by Getting Smart.


Rigorous Academics and Focus on College Preparation

CBHS has a rigorous curriculum and promotes a high level of student engagement through real-world learning focused on issues of concern to teenagers. All students will meet college entrance requirements by graduation and will be proficient in the core subject areas of English, math, science, and social studies. We also place a strong emphasis on world language, wellness and the arts. Staff members take students to visit colleges and assist them through the college application and financial aid process, especially in Crew and Senior Humanities.


Building Character and an Ethic of Service

Students learn that values such as collaboration, perseverance, and craftsmanship are essential to the production of high quality work. Casco Bay's paramount values - best represented in the Pathways to Success (p 8) - are routinely assessed, reflected upon and taught. Service to the community is an ethic that permeates CBHS. Students will experience authentic service to the community as an important element of their academic work, including expeditions.  At CBHS, we are all crew, not passengers. Each year has its own theme designed to build character by providing numerous opportunities to learn, practice and demonstrate the trait.

9th Grade: Community  10 Grade: Stewardship   11th Grade: Service  12th Grade: Leadership



Students will often use portfolios to organize their work and reflect on their progress, for instance at student-led conferences.


Adventure and Fitness

Our innovative health and physical education program has a focus on lifelong fitness and nutrition and includes an outdoor expedition in 9th, 10th and 12th grades. This year's freshmen and seniors will spend four days adventuring and kayaking in Casco Bay – or backpacking in the White Mountains. As sophomores, each student develops a personalized “wellness plan” that may be monitored and revised throughout high school.


Fieldwork and Transformative Learning Experiences

CBHS students frequently work in the field. Our students have worked with scientists, writers, politicians, businesspeople, graduate students, actors, documentarians, inventors, and more. Off-site fieldwork has ranged from documentary film-making in Detroit to snow-shoeing in northern Maine. When in the field, students are active investigators, using the research tools, techniques of inquiry, and standards of presentation used by professionals. In addition to having students conduct research outside the school, teachers bring experts from the community into the classroom. These experiences maximize students’ motivation to learn and achieve. Each year, students also participate in overnight transformative learning experiences. These extended fieldwork opportunities for all students are designed to expand students’ sense of what is possible for themselves and their world. They are unique to Casco Bay are often the experiences which alumni recall as most impactful.  Grade 9 – Freshmen Quest (p 26), Grade 10 – Sophomore Solo (p 14), Grade 11 – Junior Journey (p 15) and Grade 12 – Senior Quest (p 26).


Use of Primary Sources

Our students access textbooks, but they more often gather information from non-fiction texts, historical fiction, the arts, local experts, periodicals, and trusted Internet sources. By reading literature and exploring primary sources, students gain information-gathering and interpretive skills that they use to independently problem-solve and conduct research in the real world.


High Quality Work

Students at Casco Bay normally aren’t finished with a significant piece of work until they do multiple drafts of it. This expectation reaches across grades and disciplines. Improving on work again and again is a common practice. Teachers guide students from draft to draft. Students collaborate to assess the work of their peers. Rubrics set high standards for finished pieces and guide students as they strive to get their work to meet these high standards.


Learning is Public and Collaborative

Our students’ work is often assessed by their peers. Students read their writing out loud, solicit comments, and present project drafts for formal peer critiques. We also seek a public, outside audience for student work whenever appropriate. Having an authentic audience supports quality work with high standards – while extending the impact of student ideas and learning.

CBHS 9-12 Social Justice Curriculum 21-22

Freshman and Sophomore Year


Freshmen and sophomores take a core curriculum of six, yearlong courses that enables students to build foundational skills and knowledge in math, science, and the humanities while participating in interdisciplinary learning expeditions. All freshmen and sophomores take math, science, humanities (English and social studies), and crew. In addition, all freshmen take a course called Visual Arts, and all sophomores take a year of an integrated health and physical education course entitled Wellness. For a sixth course, 9th and 10th graders take Spanish, French, Chinese, Academic Language (for ELL students), or, for some students with an IEP, Academic Strategies.




Humanities 1

Humanities 2

Math 1: Geometry and Probability (or, for some with an IEP, Math Foundations)

Sophomore Algebra or Sophomore Pre-Calculus (for students with requisite algebra skills)



Visual Arts

Wellness (Health and PE)

ONE of the following: French (1-5), Spanish (1-5), Chinese (1-3), Academic Language 1, Academic Strategies 1

ONE of the following: French (1-5), Spanish (1-5), Chinese (1-3), Academic Language 2, ELL Supported Study, Academic Strategies 2

Freshmen Crew

Sophomore Crew

Elective Intensives (Casco Bay Quest, Winter Intensives, and Spring Intensives)

Elective Intensives (Winter Intensives and Spring Intensives)


Special Learning Opportunities for Sophomores

The purpose of the Sophomore Passage Presentation is, at the halfway point of high school, to give each student an opportunity to:

  • demonstrate who s/he is and where s/he wants to go
  • reflect on growth
  • develop presentation skills
  • share (and develop) talents and passions

The “Sophomore Passage” is a gateway to being an upperclassman. In late spring, each sophomore will review classroom work with teachers and eventually complete a ten to fifteen minute, public presentation that addresses the overarching questions of Crew: Who am I? How am I doing? What are my plans for the future? The presentation will include a demonstration of a talent or passion as well as substantive reflection on the three questions and the Pathways to Success. The audience will include crewmates, parents and staff. The presentation grade will appear on a student's transcript. Prior to the Sophomore Passage, sophomore will undertake the Sophomore Solo, an overnight at Wolfe’s Neck Farm meant to prepare students to answer the big questions of the Sophomore Passage. In addition to camping with their crew, students will have the opportunity for an extended “solo” to reflect on the questions above.


Junior and Senior Year


The goal of the junior and senior year at CBHS is to graduate each student:

• Self Aware: with a clear sense of who they are and where they want to go, and,

• Ready: for college, career, and citizenship, with the skills and knowledge they will need to both follow their dreams and be productive citizens.

Our junior and senior year curriculum will ensure all students…

  1. become more aware of themselves, their community, and their world.
  2. meet essential learning targets in math, science, and the humanities.
  3. experience structured opportunities to pursue their particular passions and interests in greater depth.
  4. assume greater independence and responsibility for the nature and course of their education.
  5. develop the habits, skills, and knowledge necessary for quality craftsmanship and responsible, involved citizenship.

Juniors and seniors continue a college preparatory core curriculum through crew, humanities, math, and science as well as electives which might include second language study, a college course, a PATHS course, an independent study or a course at Deering or Portland. Interdisciplinary learning expeditions will continue to drive curriculum, but, as compared to expeditions in 9th and 10th grade, junior and senior expeditions are more likely to involve fewer courses and more student ownership and choice. All CBHS upperclassmen are strongly encouraged to enroll in at least one USM or SMCC course before they graduate. CBHS juniors and seniors are often eligible for at least one course, tuition free, each semester, thanks to our partnership with the two colleges called U. Start Ahead.




Humanities 3

Senior Humanities

Junior-Senior Algebra, The Code, Pre-Calculus, Statistics or Calculus

Junior-Senior Algebra, The Code, Pre-Calculus, Statistics or Calculus


Engineering or AP Env. Science

Junior Journey

AP English or AP US History or Poetry

French (1-5), Spanish (1-5), Chinese (1-3), Academic Language 3 (ELL) or Supported Study

French (1-5), Spanish (1-5), Chinese (1-3) or Supported Study

Junior Crew

Senior Crew, Senior Quest

Electives: USM and SMCC College Courses, CBHS Electives and AP's, PATHS Courses, Common Schedule Offerings, Winter Intensives

Electives: USM and SMCC College Courses, CBHS Electives and AP's, PATHS Courses, Common Schedule Offerings, Winter and Spring Intensives


Special Learning Opportunities for Juniors

Most juniors will experience two different kinds of compact expeditions: the internship and Junior Journey. The first is a one-week Career Exploration (.5 elective UPs). In collaboration with staff and community partners, students will design an internship in a field of interest.  After the internship, staff will help students reflect on their experience and synthesize their learning. With staff approval, some students may elect to complete their Career Exploration week during an alternate time, such as over the summer.


As their Spring Intensive, all juniors will participate in the Junior Journey. The mission of the Junior Journey is to involve CBHS juniors in a one-week, cross-cultural learning experience that will expand students’ sense of both their world and who they are through service and adventure learning. Previous junior classes have engaged in service and documentary study in Biloxi, Detroit, New York City and rural West Virginia. This year's juniors will travel to the Katahdin region to explore how life in the former mill towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket has transformed since the closure of the mills. In Humanities, juniors will explore the intersecting economic, social, and environmental issues that make this region an exemplary case study in some of today’s biggest challenges.  Juniors will complete service projects to assist the region and learn from locals. Our aim is for all juniors to participate in this transformational learning experience. Juniors engage in fundraising to help make this possible.


“My biggest takeaway from Junior Journey and the documentary expedition was the vitality and joy of life. As we explored different parts of the city, met different people, and finally worked with our interviewees, my overwhelming perception was one of joy…. I certainly observed hardship, but the resilience and vitality seemed to overtake it.”

~ Violet Sulka Hewes, ‘17

“If we stop and listen to the many untold stories, we open our minds.”

~ Fatumo Omar, ‘17


Special Learning Opportunities for Seniors

All seniors will design and complete their own Senior Expedition focused on the intersection between a personal passion and a need in the world. Seniors will be coached through this process in Senior Humanities, publicly presenting their learning. One requirement of Senior Humanities will be that each senior complete an application for a college or post-secondary program as well as a post-secondary plan. Senior Humanities teachers will support students through this process– with regular assistance from crew advisors and our guidance counselors. Senior year curriculum is launched with the Senior Quest (p 26) and ends with the Final Word (p 65).



“Participants overwhelmingly praised Casco Bay’s ability to foster a strong community (both within the four walls of school as well as the larger community) and noted how special/unique this is. They also noted that CB offers support systems not readily available in college.”

~ Dr. Deb Sawch in her 2017 report after interviewing CBHS alumni