Academics: A Multidisciplinary Approach

Knowledge is a process, not a product.


With rigor of thought and process at its core, Bay’s academic program develops fearless thinkers who are comfortable with complexity. Our students are consistently presented with challenging questions and asked to investigate them from different angles, test out solutions, incorporate feedback and new ideas, and continually refine. These process-oriented skills are integrated and deepened across the academic arc, and connections are built between subjects.

In tackling tough real-world issues, Bay students must draw from different disciplines and skills. “Who owns California’s fresh water?” is the question that drives our spring Immersive course Water in the American West. To wrestle with this thorny question, students will learn about the ecosystem of a watershed, the state’s geography, and the complicated politics of water in the Eastern Sierras and throughout California. Students in the Design 1 series puzzle through how to improve the experience of being on crutches around the Bay campus. To come up with solutions, they interview fellow students and experts, explore our buildings, and research existing solutions; then they prototype, test, and refine their designs.

The mind doesn’t work in silos, so our students don’t either.

Collaborative and Project-Driven

Collaboration, as a skill, is explicitly taught beginning in 9th grade, so that students immediately begin to grasp how to create something—be it an infographic or a podcast episode—that is enriched by the contributions of others. They continue building this skill as they move into more complex coursework that demands project management, iterative thinking, and the ability to seek and incorporate diverse perspectives.

Collaboration skills also support a common feature of our teaching: project-driven work. Projects at Bay are not simply a final assignment in a unit. They are, as one teacher puts it, “the meal, not the dessert.” As described above, many courses are shaped around an essential question, and the project allows students to build a comprehensive response to that question throughout the term. Projects are central to the success of multidisciplinary teaching and learning.

Grounded in Ethics and a Mindful Approach

Bay intentionally helps students develop ethical frameworks. They consider and discuss social and political issues from a variety of perspectives; they learn about and practice peer review in science courses. And we see them become broad thinkers forming educated opinions, with the ability to exchange ideas on complex, nuanced topics. All students are required to take Civics in 10th grade, as well as a religion or philosophy course and an ethnic studies course to graduate. These classes encourage reflection on how we make decisions in all aspects of our lives and how our decisions continually shape society.

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness to what is happening internally and externally. This is a teachable skill that allows students to enter their classes with greater patience, focus, and resilience, helping them to become skilled listeners and discerning learners. Since Bay’s founding, mindfulness has been part of the support structure for our values, our teaching, and our students’ development. It is taught in our co-curricular classes, and practiced at Morning Meeting three times a week; many teachers choose to start their classes with a short practice.