TPA Students

About TPA :: Curriculum

The Tempe Prep curriculum focuses on Western Culture during a student’s six years at the school. This focus is not intended as a statement about other cultural heritages. We believe, rather, that six years is just enough time to offer students a comprehensive introduction to the great works of the Western tradition, including literature, philosophy, history, math, science, languages, and the fine arts. The Western tradition is one of great depth and diversity (of peoples and ideas) and will serve as a superb foundation to our students as they go on to be life-long learners. Additionally, many of the principal values and ideas that underlie our own American society may be clearly traced to the classics we study.


Course Descriptions -
Humane Letters Seminars

A cornerstone of the liberal arts curriculum at Tempe Preparatory Academy is the Humane Letters Seminar. In the 9th through 12th grades, English, history, philosophy, and economics are combined in Humane Letters, a 2-hour long, daily seminar directed Socratically and revolving around primary source readings from Western Civilization’s best works.  The goal of the HL sequence is to help students understand the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in the humanities through close textual readings, daily group discussions, and intensive, progressive writing assignments.

Freshman: A Socratic seminar that addresses European literature, philosophy, and history in tracing the development of cultural and political institutions as well as economic patterns from the Middle Ages through the 19th century.  In addition to numerous primary source documents, texts studied include those by Shakespeare, More, Locke, Austen, Dickens, Marx, Dostoevsky, and Solzhenitsyn.

Sophomore: A Socratic seminar that combines a survey of American history through primary sources with representative American literature and philosophy including works of Hamilton, Madison, Thoreau, Douglass, Twain, Crane, Cather, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Wilder as well as the Shakespearean play Othello.  The first semester concentrates on American history from the founding era through the Civil War and Reconstruction, while the second semester focus is on the 20th century with particular attention paid to W.W.I, W.W.II, and the Cold War.

Junior: A Socratic seminar on ancient literature, drama, philosophy, and history with readings from Homer, Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle and Vergil. Students also study Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Julius Caesar, as well as The Old Testament.

Senior: A capstone Socratic course in which students draw upon the work of the previous three years in examining developments in literature, philosophy, history, and economics in the transition from the era of the Roman Empire through the Middle Ages and into the modern era. Works include those by Plutarch, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare, Descartes, Marx, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Faulkner, as well as selections from The New Testament.

The Tempe Preparatory Academy Mathematics curriculum is a six year program that employs the mission to Socratically lead each student to discover mathematical truth and beauty from arithmetic through calculus by helping him or her to:
  • Develop fluency in the language of mathematics;
  • Acquire analytic reasoning and logic skills;
  • Apply abstract concepts in concrete situations;
  • Translate problem situations into mathematical models;
  • Organize and effectively communicate mathematical questions and results

7th Grade - Pre-Algebra: Students begin to address mathematical concepts by using numerical analysis. They master the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using whole numbers, fractions, decimals and percents. They move toward symbolic language and begin to understand math as more than just rote memorization of algorithms. They learn to use first order equations and inequalities to solve real world problems.

8th Grade - Algebra I: Students acquire more algebraic skills using and articulating the properties of real numbers. Students learn to set up and solve complex first and second order equations and inequalities. They expand their mathematical models to the coordinate plane and begin to understand functions.

9th Grade - Geometry: Students build an axiomatic system of definitions, postulates and theorems in order to write well-developed proofs of geometric ideas. They combine their knowledge of algebra and start to analyze geometric ideas analytically. Their application problems become more difficult as they apply area and volume formulas in new ways.

10th Grade - Algebra II: Students more fully develop their algebraic skills and analyze higher order functions. In addition to linear and quadratic functions, students study exponential, logarithmic, polynomial, rational, and radical functions. Students begin to use the graphing calculator as a tool to solve real world problems graphically and algebraically. Discrete mathematic topics of probability, statistics, sequences and series are studied. Their studies end with proof by induction.

11th - Pre-Calculus/Calculus: Students continue the study of functions by looking at trigonometric functions and include a study of conic sections to end their pre-calculus study. In the second semester, they begin the study of calculus by examining limits and derivatives. Their application problems involve related rate problems.

12th Grade - Calculus: Students continue the study of calculus with the study of integrals. They reach the pinnacle of their study as they master mathematical logic and proof. Their application problems become more complex and they learn to use all the tools of mathematics incorporating numerical, algebraic, and graphical analysis in their solutions.


The Tempe Preparatory Academy Science program is a six-year curriculum, which draws the students into an intense observation and exploration of the physical and natural world via a cultivation of their innate curiosity and sense of wonder. We believe that the fields of science are “fruitful ground” for the development of reasoning abilities, as well as an igniting of true passion for the intellectual (and physical) exploration of one’s environment.

In these courses, students will learn to speak and write intelligently about even very complex processes and events, and will gain familiarity with the “language” of science. To this end, the curriculum emphasizes Socratic questioning, guided research, and student interpretation (versus simple recall of memorized facts). Labs in all the courses are designed to solidify a true and long-lasting comprehension of the phenomena studied, and improve the students’ own powers of discernment and analysis. Finally, the students will be challenged to see the thematic connections that exist between the all of the science courses (e.g. forms/changes of energy, properties of matter, cycles, organization in systems), and genuinely perceive the value of a multi-faceted approach to observing and describing the world.

The graduate of the Tempe Preparatory Academy science curriculum should develop through their coursework, a deep understanding of the investigative process by which science, as a broad and varied field of inquiry, uniquely explains and models our experience and surroundings. As science across the world advances, the necessity of a scientifically literate community-at-large is quite clear, and thus from a purely pragmatic standpoint, the detailed study of science can be justified. However, a genuine appreciation of what science is and how it is done is at least as important as the basic content knowledge of any of the courses. For example, students should grasp the processes by which hypotheses and ideas are tested to become theories; revel in the surprising manner in which discoveries are often made, and learn how much of science is truly “art”. While the science courses at Tempe Prep certainly have as a primary goal clear and logical thinking about scientific topics, we also work to develop in the student a profound appreciation for the inherent beauty of science and nature.

7th Grade - Life Science: In the 7th grade Life Science class, students develop a sense of wonder about life through an introduction to the incredible diversity of living organisms. The year begins with the scientific method and the importance of scientific thought and inquiry. Students then begin their exploration of life with cells, bacteria, fungi, and plants during the first semester, and the animal kingdom during the second semester.

8th Grade - Earth Science: In the 8th grade Earth Science class, the students develop a sense of wonder about the space in which we live, from the smallest rocks upon which we walk to the farthest point in the universe. Students conduct their studies in a wide array of earth science disciplines including geology, geography, astronomy, oceanography, meteorology, climatology, and environmental issues affecting the earth. This course is an exciting, fast-paced look at the earth and the entire universe, as scientists now understand it.

9th - Grade Biology: In the 9th grade Biology class, students gain an appreciation for the diversity and complexity of life, and an understanding of the larger processes at work in the living world. This will be accomplished by studying the various concepts and themes important to this field of inquiry. Additionally, their critical thinking abilities will be honed through scientific inquiry and Socratic seminar.

10th Grade - Physics I: In the 10th grade Physics I class, students learn how to investigate and think critically about the concepts of mechanics. The ideas of measurement, linear motion, and statics are dealt with in the first semester, while dynamics, projectile motion, work, energy, circular motion, and momentum are covered in the second semester.

11th Grade - Physics II: In the 11th grade Physics II class, students continue the study began in Physics I in order to investigate and think critically about the physical world. The study will focus on electricity, magnetism, and simple harmonic motion.

12th Grade - Chemistry: In the 12th grade Chemistry class, students will cover the principles of General Chemistry in depth during the first three quarters of the year and will be introduced to organic and biological chemistry in the final quarter. The primary focus of the class will be on direct observations and investigations of chemical reaction.

Foreign Language
All students study Latin in 7th & 8th grades. In high school, the students may switch to a modern language for four years of study, or they may continue their 3rd and 4th years of Latin, then study another language for 2 years.

Classical Languages - Latin & Greek: This language track affords students the opportunity to read and best appreciate some of the world’s most rich and influential literature and poetry in their original languages, including Cicero, Caesar, Lucretius, Ovid, Catullus, Virgil, Plato, Herodotus, and Homer.

Modern Languages - French, German & Spanish: The emphasis in the modern language classes is to teach even first year courses entirely in the target language, adding both literature and composition by the second year. The class transitions to a seminar-style course in the third and fourth years, reading and discussing literary texts in the target language, including short stories, novels, plays, and poems. Students are expected to write essays of three to four pages.

Fine Arts/Poetry

Each course in fine arts at TPA includes two strands, theory and technique. Theory is the historical and cultural frame within which the art has flourished in western civilization. Technique is the application of the theory to the student’s own creations. Our goal is for our students to understand the theory and to practice the technique. We test understanding of the theory through written or verbal means. We test technique through actual execution of the art.

7th Grade - Art I: | Theory | Introduction to calligraphy. Introduction to elements and principles of art and basic drawing skills.

| Technique | Pencil technique and practice of right brain exercises to develop observation and drawing skills and to develop compositional awareness. Opportunities for creative and individual exploration provided in various assignments.

7th Grade - Music I: | Theory | Introduction to music notation, diatonic modes, key signatures, rhythm, meter; music appreciation of mostly program music.

| Technique | Soprano recorder performance in two parts, rounds Solfége syllables for pentatonic scales.

8th Grade - Art II: | Theory | Drawing review. Introduction to color theory, painting, and art history overview.

| Technique | Continued development of drawing skills and awareness development of the elements and principles of art. Color mixing and color scheme exercises. Exploration of various color media. Art history timeline or master artist study. ArtTalk chapter readings.

8th Grade - Music II: | Theory | Introduction to harmonic analysis (triads), music appreciation of instrumental timbres, Renaissance, Impressionistic, and Twentieth Century periods. 

| Technique | Recorder performance in up to four parts with various accompaniments
Solfége syllables for pentatonic and diatonic scales.

9th Grade - Honors Studio Art I: | Theory | Students study the History of Art from ancient times through the 19th Century with correlating studio art projects in drawing and painting.

| Technique | Developing drawing skills: hands, self-portrait, and still life. Begin canvas painting.

9 th Grade - Honors Poetry I: | Theory | Sample & analyze U.S. poets, from Colonial times to 1960. Recognize tools & techniques of poetry.

| Technique | Write poems in various formats, using different tools and techniques: haiku, rhyme schemes, quatrains, figurative language, arc of story, title, characterization, personal experiences, narrative.

10th Grade - Honors Music Theory/Choir I: | Theory | Scalar and harmonic analysis, music appreciation of mostly Baroque and Romantic periods.

| Technique | Introduction to choral performance, rhythmic and melodic dictation, and sight-singing.

10 th Grade - Honors Poetry II: | Theory | The study of British poetry. Authors studied include Donne, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Tennyson.

| Technique | Analyzing and writing metrical poetry.

11th Grade - Honors Drama I: | Theory | Basic principals of acting, Volume and diction and creating a character.

| Technique | Learning and performing a Shakespeare monologue. A full performance of a Shakespeare play.

11th Grade - Honors Music Theory/Choir II: | Theory | Harmonic and formal analysis, music appreciation of mostly Classic and Romantic music.

| Technique | Choral performance, melodic dictation, sight-singing.

12th Grade - Honors Drama II: | Theory | Advanced principals of acting. Writing for the stage.

| Technique | Performance of a contemporary play. Writing, directing and acting student written plays.

12 th Grade - Honors Studio Art II: | Theory | Students continue their study of Art History, emphasizing the 20th Century with correlating studio art projects in painting, printmaking, and sculpture.

| Technique | Acrylic canvas painting and creative projects like the artist’s book and sculpture.

>> Learn more about syllabus

Senior Thesis

The culminating project for an Academy student is the Senior Thesis. At the beginning of the senior year, the student selects a field of inquiry from the curriculum — literature, philosophy, math, science, the arts — and then reads three or four substantial primary texts to examine in preparation for writing a 15 - 20 page analytical paper.  At its core, the thesis is an exploration of one of the “Six Great Ideas” of humanity summarized as Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, Liberty, and Equality.  Students discuss texts in small group seminars composed of students, faculty, staff and board members, and work individually with a faculty member on the paper.  After submitting the paper in the second semester, the senior then publicly defends the thesis before a three-member panel of faculty reviewers and also the community at large.