Holland Hall’s Upper School prepares each student for success in college and in life by sharpening the ability to make sound decisions, solve difficult problems, and cultivate healthy values. Our students have the self-confidence that comes from being taken seriously in school, and from being encouraged to reach beyond their grasp.
Holland Hall is proud of its students for many reasons: their character, their contributions, and their accomplishments. While test scores are not the only signs of success, it is notable that our students score substantially above the local, state and national averages on SAT and ACT tests. National Merit Semi-Finalists and Commended Scholars routinely make up 10% of the Senior Class. Much of this success comes because Upper School teachers challenge each student to think critically, pose questions, and seek solutions.
The Upper School curriculum offers a rich and varied program in the liberal arts tradition. The collegiate modular schedule and exceptional college counseling all contribute to each student’s ability to learn according to his or her talent and potential.
The center of the Upper School academic facility is an enclosed open space known as The Barnard Commons. Here, before classes each day, Upper School students from all four grades and their teachers assemble for “morning meeting,” and here each day students gather, when free, to socialize. Around the perimeter of the student commons on the first floor are the offices of faculty members, the Dean of Students, the college counselors, and the Head of Upper School. The library/study center, the lecture center, a collaborative work space, and conference rooms are also adjacent to the commons. The self-contained academic building provides ample space for classes in a congenial environment that encourages healthy social interaction among the students and ready access to the faculty for extra help sessions.
Meet the Upper School Head, Ms. Frances Fondren-Bales.
Holland Hall’s upper school strives to involve students in their own education so learning becomes more applicable to the world around them and more deeply embedded in their memories. We accomplish this goal by prioritizing the student-teacher relationship. It is only when a student is truly known that exponential growth can happen.
Our teachers work to develop a curriculum based on interdisciplinary and experiential learning. We value getting students out of their seats and into situations that provide firsthand experiences, whether that comes in the form of environmental science classes working outside on our campus or the Downtown Tulsa Studies class heading out on a field trip. We also strive to provide students with opportunities to see connections between the traditional academic disciplines, in classes like American Studies, where English and history are combined. In these and many other ways, we strive to involve our students rather than simply telling them or showing them, as Benjamin Franklin exhorts us to do.
Holland Hall students can make their own paths through our curriculum. As they grow older, they can focus on the subjects that inspire and intrigue them, including independent studies, if they would like to explore a subject absent from our curriculum. Our goal is to help students explore new terrain and develop their specialized talents because in this quickly changing world, it is critical to feel comfortable with exploration with the new while feeling firmly planted in one’s knowledge of self.
We steep our work with teenagers in brain research. As Daniel Siegel explains in Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, “brain changes during the early teen years set up four qualities of our minds during adolescence: novelty seeking, social engagement, increased emotional intensity, and creative exploration.” Therefore, we seek to harness these natural qualities of the adolescent brain so that each student may develop more fully into a unique potential.
In this sense, we think of our students’ time in the upper school as a time of apprenticeship in the habits of mind they will need to be engaged, accomplished citizens and lifelong learners. In our daily Morning Meetings, students grow into their own voices, guiding the activities and topics of discussion in our community. On the fields and courts, our students develop the ability to work as part of a team, as they develop the skills of the game. On the stage and in the studio, our students grow in confidence and creativity. In the classroom, our students learn to think critically and to express themselves clearly. In the hallways and during less formal times of the day, our students develop what Daniel Goleman refers to as their emotional quotient (E.Q.), with a communal emphasis on empathy and kindness.
By using every arena as a place of learning, we hope our students will realize that we learn by seeking novelty in all that we do, by seeking connections to the world around us, and by giving our creativity the license to explore ideas and solutions beyond the status quo.
Ms. Frances Fondren-Bales
Upper School Head