Nova High School

High School

Coursework by Department

Freshfolks or 9th Grade Seminar:

Freshfolks is required for all ninth graders. This semester-long integrated studies course is dedicated to exploration of the competencies of Identity, Community, Justice and Inquiry Analysis. Students will investigate themselves, how they learn and how to affect change in themselves and their communities. Freshfolks introduces the academic, organizational and additional skills students will rely on for a successful Nova career. This seminar will be designed and co-facilitated by staff and students and will thus take shape around the interests of all participants.

Language Arts

Nova students begin with introductory courses that help students build strong foundations in different styles of writing: essays, short stories, journal writing, poetry and reading novels, poems, and non-fiction.  They advance to literary analysis, such as Horror Fiction, Senior LitElectric Sheep. Some courses, like Short Story, Essay, and Poetry are offered in the first semester and are followed in the next semester by a seminar where students participate in more intensive peer critique and discussion. 

Social Studies and History

History and social study classes at Nova are taught through a social justice lens.  In American History and Government, students examine the most pressing social issues affecting our communities, and work to understand, examine, and critique the structures of power in this country, with focus on what and who has power to change and/or perpetuate systemic harm. We role-play, debate, make art, use music, math, and more to question, analyze, and build informed perspectives on history and current events affecting your life.  Intro to Ethnic Studies is a world history class focusing on the experiences of peoples around the world who’ve played/continue to play critical roles in shaping the modern world, yet whose experiences and perspectives are frequently absent from and/or distorted by mainstream narratives of world history.

In these classes, students unpack what are dominant narratives—what they do, and why/how they persist—and work to uncover, analyze, and reconcile with counter narratives to broaden our understandings of how the past continues to shape the present (e.g., to determine why and how things change and/or stay the same for various peoples and the planet). Race/ethnicity, gender, class, power, and culture are primary lenses we’ll work with to research complex historic events. Topics include colonialism and imperialism, immigration and migration, and liberation and decolonization. 


Classes range from AlgebraI to Calculus and AP Statistics. Although there are plenty of advanced classes for the students who excel in math, the math department also make a special effort to help students who are disenchanted with math or are having difficulty.  To that end, many math classes, such as Applied Math, take an application-based approach: learning statistics through school surveys, or studying exponential functions through compound interest.  Math Lounge is offered every semester, providing students extra support and homework help at every level. 


BiologyPhysicsChemistry and Horticulture continue to be the staples. Biology is usually taught over the course of a year; Physics and Chemistry are offered as concentrated courses in one semester, having twice the workload and meeting more often. Other physical science classes include/have included Marine Biology, Cells to Anatomy, Conservation & the Zoo, Field EcologyLife on Earth, Arts-Based Physical Science, How Do We Live Here? and Balms Not Bombs.

Art & Music

Nova has a fantastic art room with natural light where drawing, painting, sculpture and ceramics are offered. High-tech digital art and animation are created in the Animation Portal. Music and drama studies are also offered, with students forming bands and composing original music, studying opera, drafting screenplays and staging productions.  Nova students have shown art at SAM and the Vera Project, hosted animation showcases, produced fashion shows, and organized band nights. 

World Languages

Spanish and French are available through the third year. Other languages also offered include German, Greek, Italian, Japanese and Russian.  Students who wish to pursue these languages further or learn another language entirely can do so through independent study, with Running Start classes, or at other institutions. 

Physical Education

Nova offers a range of PE classes every semester.  Students may also take sports outside of school, including swimming, skateboarding, martial arts, running, gymnastics, etc. 


Nova’s health classes, like those in most high schools, cover reproduction and sexual health, chemical dependency, building strong relationships, and other teen health issues.

Occupational Education

Occupational Education (i.e. CTE or Career and Technical Education) credit can be earned in web design, animation, horticulture. 


Every content area offers electives for credit. 


Committees allow students to pursue interests, expand knowledge and build community beyond their regular classes. Credit may be awarded for committee work, as determined by the student, coordinator and committee affiliated teacher. Current committees include: Action Faction: Gender Justice, Budget Committee, Chess, DBT, D & D, Film Analysis, Guild of Calamitous Events, Hiring & Review, Peace of Mind, People of Color Committee, Poster Brigade, Public Art, Recruitment, Spoken Word, United Nova, Wellness, Yarn, and Yearbook. 


Athletics at Nova include team sports, dance, and opportunities for students to create independent contracts for their participation in ongoing extracurricular team sports, training, and classes. Students may also try out for a sports team at their “assigned” high school. Nova students have participated in baseball, basketball, softball, football, swimming, and track at schools throughout the district. Students can arrange to play for another team by contacting the coach of that team.

Independent Contracts

Unique to Nova, students may design their own independent classes together with a Nova teacher, with an organization or person outside the school, or at another high school.  Independent contracts greatly expand the learning horizon; contracts are limited only by student interests.  There are two types of independent contracts, those made with Nova teachers and those outside of Nova with other teachers or organizations.

Independent Contracts at Nova

These are the solution for a student who wants to explore with a Nova teacher a subject not being taught – say, collage art, or the study of fresh water kelp.  It can also be the way to get credit for starting a sports team, casting and directing a play, shooting a movie, or participating in peer mediation.  Students can use independent contracts to accommodate their schedule or learning style.

Although students often do most (if not all) of the work for these classes outside the Nova classroom, students work closely with Nova teachers to make sure the work is meaningful, engaging, and meets competency standards.

Independent contracts outside Nova

With their coordinator, students can develop field contracts to study outside Nova, with contracts approved and credit granted by Nova.

Outside contracts might include:

  • An internship at a museum, a political campaign, or the opera.
  • Taking a class, joining an orchestra, string quartet, jazz combo, or sports team at another school. 
  • Attending a class at a community center, private piano lessons, dance, martial arts, or drawing at an outside institution.

How Independent Contracts Work

The student and coordinator or teacher discuss and decide the following;

  • Curriculum: what the student wants to learn and how they will learn it.
  • Goals: competencies, and how the student will demonstrate completion of the contract.
  • Logistics: the length of the contract, what kind of credit and how much will be earned.

As the contract proceeds, coordinators check regularly with the student to monitor progress.  When the student has completed all work necessary for credit, three evaluations are required to complete the contract: a student self-evaluation, an evaluation of the teacher by the student, and an evaluation of the student’s work by the Nova teacher or outside resource person.  These evaluations are recorded in the contract and coordinators sign off on the contract’s completion.

It’s worth noting that when a student embarks on an independent contract, they are taking on more responsibility than with a class.  Sometimes students are unable to complete these contracts.  This is one way students learn about consequences and responsibility.

Running Start

All students enrolled in Seattle Public Schools are eligible to attend Running Start if they qualify.  If a student would like to enroll in Running Start, they must first speak with their Coordinator.  All students who take a Running Start class must also fully participate in Nova classes.