In their time at Bay, students will participate in a process that creates the skilled and compelling writers, thinkers, and communicators demanded by the era.


The study of humanities at Bay is a co-construction of knowledge between teachers and students around essential questions. Our humanities courses are designed to create an understanding of how cultures develop, evolve, and shape our views. Studies of literature, art, and historical sources are carefully connected to our current context to build foundational knowledge about patterns in global and US history. Students learn to engage with and articulate ideas for different audiences and to communicate through multiple mediums.

Our courses are driven by a commitment to interdisciplinary learning and the recognition that you need multiple lenses to make sense of the world.

Robin Workman, Humanities Teacher

Bay requires four years of humanities for graduation: Humanities 1 and 2, one term of Civics, American Studies, one term of religion or philosophy, and a two-year literature requirement that students fulfill from a range of electives including:

  • Speculative Fiction
  • African American Literature
  • The American Dream
  • Gender in American Literature
  • Essay and Memoir
  • East Asian Philosophy

One of our spring 2022 electives, Social Theories of Race and Difference, produced a zine. It is truly a legacy project for a class that ventured into complex and sometimes difficult territory. The students themselves proposed creating this zine as their culminating project.

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Bay’s required two-year humanities sequence begins with a yearlong exploration of self and society in 9th grade, seeking to answer essential questions that include:

  • How does family shape my identity?
  • What is community?
  • Who belongs and who is excluded?

Readings, discussions, and projects hone critical thinking and communication skills while building media and information literacy. Texts in 9th grade include Homer’s The Odyssey and The Gangster We’re All Looking For, by the Vietnamese-American novelist Lê thi diem thúy. 

In the required Immigration Immersive course, our first-year students fully experience Bay’s multidisciplinary approach by examining the myriad experiences of immigration to the United States. Beginning with the book Enrique’s Journey, students build toward a mock Senate hearing to collaboratively create a bi-partisan immigration bill. The culminating project is an immigrant narrative. In the process, students gain skills in writing for a specific audience, examining complex social issues, and constructing the kinds of informed, compelling arguments that shape society’s views and government policy.

Humanities 2 continues to examine the role of systems in societies by asking essential questions aimed at understanding our core experiences as human beings:

  • How do values held by individuals and communities become systematized?
  • How do these systems shape our history?
  • How do individuals and communities interact with these systems—where does power lie? 

In studying the three Abrahamic religious traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—we identify key founding values, and then examine pivotal moments in history through the lenses of religion and art to understand how religious values shape our world. In-depth discussions center on colonialism and 20th-century events that reshaped the world order, including WWI, WWII, and contemporary conflicts that grew out of the post-war period.

During junior year, students embark upon a yearlong study of the United States grounded in the following essential questions:

  • Who is an “American”?
  • What does it mean to be an American?
  • What are American ideals?
  • To what extent have American ideals been upheld, ignored, or rejected over time? Who tells the American story, and how?
  • Where does your story fit in?

Students grapple with both dominant and non-dominant narratives as entry points into addressing these questions. Throughout their junior year students hone their reading, writing, and collaborative skills as they learn to synthesize primary and secondary sources, make cross-disciplinary connections, and apply course material to contemporary concerns and challenges. The year culminates in a historical investigation wherein students articulate an original point of view based on independently performed research. 

The American Studies courses, which may be taken in 11th and 12th grades, use literature as a means for uncovering the vast range of interpretations and experiences of the United States. Students may wish to understand the country through the voices of African American and Asian American authors, or to interrogate the notion of the American Dream itself. 

In further electives and during Immersive terms, students can take flight. Those who discover a passion for writing can hone their voice and skills in courses devoted to nonfiction and fiction, while literary study courses plunge into futurism, science fiction, and other genres.