Blue Valley School | Secondary Subject Description

Blue Valley is a private, bilingual, international school that offers a rigorous American curriculum, yet is rooted in local culture and includes a strong Spanish program.

Reading and Literature

Starting in middle school, literary appreciation and the interdependence of language and the culture within the context becomes fundamental. Teachers select works from the anthology (“Elements of Literature” series) and works from our own curriculum (fiction and non-fiction; different literary genres) thematically connected for interdisciplinary study from primary sources. They are analyzed in literary circles, Socratic circles, through concept maps, PBL (Problem Based Learning) assignments, passage analysis, oral commentaries, debates, and presentations using technological resources.


Gradually, students’ written expression becomes more complex. Teachers observe the degree of the students’ involvementin their writing. Are they actively writing? How elaborate are their ideas? Do they use a coherent story structure (setting, characters, sequence of ideas, beginning, middle, end, etc.) appropriate to their level? Creative writing, which begins as a spontaneous activity, is gradually complemented by formal instruction in writing skills. The 6+1 Traits of Writing Approach (a model that provides vocabulary to teach and assess writing) implemented in elementary, extends into middle school. Students now have to use standard spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. The paper must show focus, organization, and clarity of ideas, as well as correct syntax and style. Composition is a common practice in high school.


The middle school students go through a series of daily oral language practices that allow them to apply the grammar concepts learned in previous years. In high school, applied grammar is evaluated in the student’s writing. By now, students understand the professor’s technical indications and correct their work accordingly.


In middle school spelling/grammar, reading, and writing are graded independently to determine which area needs reinforcement. From ninth grade on English reports only one grade.


We emphasize the difference between understanding the procedure (concepts) and computation.

In sixth grade, Blue Valley’s program is designed for middle school’s first level to review elementary school concepts and skills and prepare for pre-algebra. Students receive special thematic booklets to work on during the year.

Beginning in seventh grade, the school has its own program with very definite, incremental and scaffolded math objectives that focus on algebra I in the eighth grade and geometry in the ninth grade while also introducing elements of probabilities and statistics.

In tenth grade, students choose a math track that they will follow into eleventh grade: regular math or advanced math. All courses prepare for the national baccalaureate.

International Baccalaureate (IB) students who choose IB Mathematical Studies take the regular math track. If they choose IB Math Standard they opt for the advanced courses. If they wish to test in Math Higher, they have to do it on their own. IB students complete their program in 12th grade.

LevelRegular MathAdvanced Math
10AAlgebraic principles: Algebra II, basic pre-calculus, trigonometryMATEM A (college level pre-calculus) + probabilities and statistics
10BAlgebraic principles: Algebra II, basic pre-calculus, trigonometryMATEM B (college level pre-calculus) + probabilities and statistics
11AMath principles: + probabilities and statisticsCALCULUS A
11BMath principles: + elements of mathematical logisticsCALCULUS B
12thIB Math StudiesIB Math Standard


Matem is M:125 and Calculus is M:1001 at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Students taking these courses get college credit when they pass exams taken at the UCR campus.


The ultimate objective is to cultivate the students’ natural awe and inquisitiveness while developing a scientific mind: a curious analytical approach to knowledge following the scientific method for analysis of information.

Through the end of middle school, the science program that ends in 8A is in digital format and fosters skills, abilities and knowledge in the three main scientific branches (biology, chemistry, and physics). In 8B, students begin the high school biology course that concludes in 9A. In 9B and 10A students take introductory courses in physics and chemistry that give them the basic knowledge to choose one or the other for the next two semesters. In 11B biology becomes another choice to prepare for the national baccalaureate science test in one of the three sciences. If they are in the IB program their choice must be physics or chemistry.

For graduation, high school students must complete seven semesters of science credits that include two laboratory periods a week.

II semester 8th gradeBiology AThese are “bachillerato” and high school subjects
I semester 9th gradeBiology BThese are “bachillerato” and high school subjects
II semester 9th gradeChemistry A o Physics AStudents choose one or the other
I semester 10th gradePhysics A o Chemistry AThey must take the other course
II semester 10th  gradeChemistry B o Physics BInstruction is at IB level and includes themes for the NB
I semester 11th gradeChemistry C o Physics CInstruction is at IB level and includes themes for the NB
II semester 11th gradeBiology C for MEP or Chemistry D or Physics DChoice for MEP Diploma
I semester 12th gradeBI: Chemistry E or Physics EChoice for IB Diploma


Middle school focuses on reading comprehension and textual production (fundamental tools for the performance of students in any field of knowledge) with lessons that include spelling reviews. Refining these skills expands the lexicon and cultural background without neglecting the aspects of written production. Literature is a program designed especially for secondary school taking into account the interests of the students and the proximity of the texts in time and space. Grammar is vital in our program; oral expression is reinforced through presentations of research papers or projects.

In high school, “bachillerato” students have to follow the government’s program but at BVS with a heavier emphasis. At this stage, all students should be capable of producing, orally and in writing, their own analyses with fluidity and depth, especially those in the IB program, who must write essays that are externally evaluated.

In secondary school, Spanish receives individual grades for literature, grammar, and composition except for IB students. These students follow the IB guidelines exclusively.

Social Studies

The methodology for all secondary school courses is meant to develop critical thinking and stimulate research, following a train of thought within the topics that allows students to internalize skills inherent to the subject. They must use different sources to identify political, economic, social, military, and religious contexts of the historical process. They must understand and relate cause and effect of those processes to that history. Students will learn to differentiate between primary and secondary sources and identify different perspectives and biases in historical interpretations.


Civics is part of the tenth and eleventh grade program to prepare for “Bachillerato”, two lessons a week with specific evaluations for the government mandated tests. Students opting only for the high school Diploma may take Civics as an elective.

Instruction is complemented with a weekly Wednesday lecture by a guest speaker who addresses the students on a contemporary perspective of the issues in the course. Ninth grade students also attend to enhance their citizenship education. Parents are invited to these lectures through the Tuesday bulletin and we also appreciate if they volunteer to cover specific topics


In eighth grade, students participate in a yearlong, guided research project on a self-selected topic. At the end of the project, the students convey their research findings in a formal presentation before a selected panel of judges.

This project is a catapult for the type of research required in high school, including the extended essay for IB and even their future productions in college.

The objectives covered in this class (plagiarism, bibliographical references, team work) have become increasingly important in the technological age students live in today. Students are taught all the rules and regulations of using information, especially information found on the web.


Plastic Arts

The art program at Blue Valley seeks to build children’s confidence, familiarity and skill in working with a wide variety of materials in many disciplines. The children work from life and from their imaginations, using the principles of design to make their artwork more visually compelling and meaningful.

Usually, experience in a particular discipline is revisited multiple times within the school art experience, strengthening each student’s understanding and skill in that area.


The music program in secondary is an elective where students can chose either music or percussion. The main objective of the classes is to actively create and study music through listening, voice, and practice. Furthermore, an appreciation for the musical structures and contributions of all kinds of music is promoted in the classes.

In the percussion class, creativity plays a great part because many times ordinary objects are used to create musical structures and compositions. Also, the middle school students participate in the school’s band during civic activities.

In high school, students with musical talents and interests are encouraged to join the band “Blue Note.” The band plays a variety of music genres and actively participates in special events including graduations, Coffee Night, etc.


Classwork focuses on the exploration of performance, improvisation, creative dramatics, and beginning scene work. This is used to introduce students to acting and character development. Incorporation of other art forms in theatre also helps students gain appreciation for other art forms, such as music, dance, and visual art. Drama provides opportunities for students to develop skills in critical listening and thinking, as well as stage presence, ensemble work, and aesthetic awareness culminating in periodic classroom and/or public performances. Drama class gives students the opportunity to develop fundamental group- and self- assessment skills, and problem-solving skills.


In secondary school, students focus on specific skills’ objectives according to their needs and interests within the general and tangible goals of the technology curriculum. A programming course is part of the offer.

Physical Education

Physical education is a required bi-weekly subject in all levels of high school besides voluntary participation in school sports teams. The goal of physical education is to equip the students with the knowledge, skills, values, and capacity to lead a life-long healthy life style. Students will develop individual sport skills, cardiovascular fitness, strength and speed. In addition, students will gain knowledge on fitness, nutrition, and sport tactics. They will participate in a variety of traditional and non- traditional activities and develop social skills through an assortment of team sport activities. They can join the team they favor to participate in tournaments and inter-school friendly games.

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