Wellsprings Friends School - alternative learning approaches Back Home

Philosophy and Practice
Class Schedule
Course Descriptions
Community Service



Students at Wellsprings have a wide variety of classes to choose from each term of the school year.  Along with required classes in math, science, writing, reading, history, the arts, and physical education, students have opportunities to take courses in community building, music (guitar), cooking and nutrition, yoga, human sexuality, personal finance, forest ecology, and dozens of other offerings.  And, if students have a desire for a special class, they can request that it be made available (and our teachers will create it or we’ll find a knowledgeable person in the community to teach the class).

Current & Recent Course Offerings

Alternative Medicine

This course surveys the fundamentals of alternative health care and how it is integrated into the Western world today. The fundamentals of acupuncture, herbs, naturopathy, nutrition, fitness and meditation will be covered.


Creates an environment that involves all forms of artistic expression. Students draw, paint, sculpt, design, listen to and play music, view classic performances in film and music, write poetry, etc. An initial goal is to involve students in ways that allow them to influence and inspire one another in their artistic efforts. The overall goal of the class is to promote and reinforce the daily need to create in one's life -- it is as important as drinking water!.

Anarchist Literature

Explores the topic of Anarchism from four different perspectives: the history of anarchism; biographies of "famous" individual anarchists; essential concepts; and writings by a variety of anarchist authors. Class discussion is emphasized, grounded in and stimulated by written materials, videos, and guest speakers.


This class is meant to serve as a general introduction to the anatomy of the human body. While much of the organization of the class follows analyzing specific “systems” of the human body – cardiovascular, nervous, muscular, skeletal, lymphatic, reproductive, etc. – this class also addresses the underlying health issues that can affect each system (and its parts). A key part of this class is introducing language specific to the anatomical field in order to obtain a deeper level of understanding. In-class activities and mini-labs help students gain a hands-on understanding of their own body. Human physiology and kinesiology are weaved into the curriculum; cancer, HIV/AIDS, and sexually transmitted infections are also discussed.

Ancient Civilizations

Traces the worldwide development of civilizations. Particular attention is given to the common threads (government, monument building, impact of religion, cultural and technological advances, etc.) as well as the unique characteristic of various ancient cultures. The idea of cultural relativism is evaluated. The course covers the rise of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, China, as well as the Pre-Columbian societies in the Western Hemisphere.

Car Talk

This course is designed to teach students an introduction to automotive. We’ll examine different aspects of the automobile week by week, such as combustion engine function, transmission, brakes, tires, etc. We’ll also brake down the chemistry behind fluids such as oil, brake fluid, and gear oil. We’ll use both primary and secondary sources to help clarify mechanical understandings and hands on activities to give real world experience.

Chemistry 101

This class is meant to serve as a general introduction to concepts in Chemistry. We begin with elemental particles and understanding the periodic table. The class also focuses on vocabulary terms common to Chemistry and we discuss examples of each. This is a lab and activity-heavy class, and a large part of participation points come from completing lab assignments. This class is also meant to serve as an introduction to laboratory work and etiquette. Conservation of mass, balancing chemical equations, oxidation/reduction reactions, ionization, compounds, and acids/bases (pH) are just a few of the concepts covered, all supplemented by labs.

Community Building

"Community Building" is a class unlike others, although it carries the standard 3 credits per term. Students do not earn credit simply by hanging around school on Fridays. "Community Building" involves genuine participation in daily life at Wellsprings. It is an essential part of being a Wellsprings student, and making the school a comfortable and functional environment for students, and for everyone involved with the school. Formal credit is based on the following criteria:

* Being present in Morning Circle
* Participation in Silent Meetings
* Participation in Community Meetings
* Participation in Advisor group meetings
* Participation in All-School activities

Grading is either "Pass" (P) or "No Basis" (NB), with credits calculated proportionally to attendance. "Community Building" is required for graduation.

Cooking and Nutrition

Focuses on making yummy, local organic food. The class discusses the wide variety of food choices we make in our daily lives and how to make healthy choices for the planet and ourselves. Guest presenters will come and demonstrate traditional food preservation and cooking techniques.

Creative Writing and Grammar

Merges technical and creative writing skills to help students develop an understanding of grammar and learn to effectively communicate in writing. The technical writing aspects of the class focus on letter writing. Letters address issues that are important to students. Students focus on writing letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines they read, as well as state and local representatives, and other government officials, including the U.S. President. Creative writing assignments are loosely based on issues students explore in their technical writing projects.

Dungeons and Dragons

Based on the role-playing game of “Dungeons and Dragons.” The intent of the class is to provide a setting that is a relaxing elective, which uses one's imagination while participating in a group cooperative effort. The class also involves using mathematical skills, reading, reference to mythology, interpersonal skills, and artistry.

Fundamentals of Guitar

An introduction to the acoustic guitar. Coursework is individualized     since students start at different stages and advance at different speeds. Students have the opportunity to learn about chord formation, strumming and finger picking, scales, and song structure.


In order to be successful, a democracy needs the involvement of informed citizens. By understanding the way our government is run, students are empowered to take an active role in the larger community.

Grammar and Vocabulary Study

Focuses on several areas of the English language including spelling, writing and reading. The class uses games, field trips, and hands-on activities to improve skills.

Hiking and Forest Ecology

Observes the flora and fauna of various ecosystems in the Willamette Valley. As they walk through oak savannahs and riparian zones, students learn the plant names and uses, and taste some of the edibles as we pass by them. The class is meant to invigorate students minds as well as their bodies as we appreciate the beauty of the area.

History of U.S. Elections and Politicians

Traces the history of American elections. Topics include: the development of the American electoral system, close and disputed elections, limits on the right to vote, third-party candidates, Watergate, the history of political parties and campaigns, the impact of special interest and grass roots campaigns, initiatives. Each student also chooses a U.S. politician to research.

Human Sexuality

Explores the emotional, physical and biological aspects of sexuality.

Interfaith Dialogue

Explores the major religions of the world. In this challenging time of globalization and conflict it is a key to have a clear understanding of different belief systems in order to attain genuine respect for others and peace. Spiritual leaders from different religious traditions are invited to speak from their hearts. The class also visits the religious and spiritual centers around town. It encourages students to see the common ground among different religions and begin an inter-faith dialogue. Through this process students attain a deeper understanding of life and a means of conflict resolution.


Mathematics classes serve a broad range of student needs, interests and talents. Students work individually on topics from subjects commonly studied in high school, especially algebra and geometry, but also including work in such areas as trigonometry and calculus for college-bound students.

Media Studies

Examines the mass media and its influence in today’s society. Issues such as bias, censorship and methods will be covered. Each student is responsible for analyzing media in their own lives.

Mindful Cooking

Focuses on meals that are alternatives to public school lunches. Students learn to select and prepare foods that are simple, healthy, and nutritious. The class cultivates mindfulness in our choice of foods and in the process of cooking. Students are expected to be actively involved in planning meals, shopping, cooking and cleaning up. The lunch produced at least twice a week will be available to everybody who would like to try out!.


Explores a variety of minority movements through US history and how they are affected by the current day situation in America. Topics include language minorities, age, gender, race, religion, body shape, disability and sexual orientation.

Music Jam

Music Jam is an opportunity for students to share, explore and build on their music interests and talents. Some equipment is provided; students are encouraged to bring their instruments to work with.

Naked Ape

In this human evolution class, students will gain an understanding of how Homo sapiens came to exist on this Earth. A strong understanding of evolution and natural selection is crucial to this class, and many examples and activities are used to achieve this. Binomial and taxonomic classifications are also very important and they are addressed thoroughly. The class begins with the Order Primata (primates, showing up around 60MYA) and continues further in time until Homo sapiens (humans, showing up around 200,000 years ago). Extinction, environmental change, dynamic Earth forces and common ancestors are general themes used to help students understand evolution, natural selection, and species diversity. As the class becomes specifically focused around Hominins, we look at fossil evidence (and lack thereof) to show where, when, and who we came from. Preconceived notions about human evolution are discussed frequently throughout the term.

Outsiders and Revolutionary Literature

Explores the poetry, plays, short stories, and song lyrics written by outsiders and revolutionaries including racial, ethnic, and social minorities, and early women writers. The class also looks extensively at socialist literature from various perspectives, and watch documentaries about revolutionaries and people who have historically been considered outsiders.

Prehistoria I, II

In this class, students will be learning about prehistoric life (i.e. life before modern humans) using the Geologic Time Scale as a timeline. In Prehistoria I, the time scale begins at the formation of Earth (~4.65BYA) and ends with the extinction of the dinosaurs (65MYA). Prehistoria II covers the Age of Mammals (~65MYA) to present day. While prehistory is covered, there are many disciplines of science that are touched on, including Geology, Geography, Biology, Evolution, Paleontology, and Archaeology. Video resources will be used to enrich the class and promote creative thinking.

Physical Education/Team Sports

An exercise class in which teamwork and positive attitude are emphasized.

Reading Circle

Students have an opportunity to choose books of their interests to read. Time is spent at local libraries exploring local opportunities. While improving reading skills, students gain personal confidence and critical thinking.

Science in the News

Focuses on current issues of scientific importance. Students take a close look at newsworthy topics and explore the underlying science. Specific topics include cloning, space exploration, alternative fuels and climate change. The class also examines the impact of science and technology on our world and society.

Storytelling and Children’s Stories

Builds public speaking and performance arts skills through traditional and non-traditional storytelling, poetry reading, and slam poetry reading, with the options of reading modern plays or performing music. Students write and illustrate a piece of children’s literature, a poem, a short story, or a comic book. Writing and illustrating is not limited to children’s stories, but children’s stories are highly encouraged.

Transitions and Personal Finance

Designed specifically for seniors, the class helps students prepare for life after graduation. Credit evaluations, career explorations, researching colleges and other vocational programs help each senior develop a plan for their next phase of life. The class also helps prepare students for life after high school where finances are concerned. The class focuses on job hunting, banking, housing, bills, credit, higher education as well as savings and long term planning. Students incorporate their personal goals and trips are made to help familiarize students with resources in town.

U.S. History

History is nothing more than the stories of people who came before us. Importantly, history often repeats itself. By learning more about past experiences, students learn to better understand the world of today and become prepared to face the personal and societal changes of tomorrow.

Word Games

A social time to work on communication skills and advance vocabulary and sharpen language skills by playing word games such as Scrabble, Boggle, Balderdash, Taboo, and doing crossword puzzles.


Working throughout the year, students collect and compile the moments and events that made Wellsprings memorable for the past school year.


Yoga literally means "yoke" or "union": the union of mind and body, oneself and others, inner self and outer environment. In our busy daily lives we often lose the oneness, connectedness, harmony and balance of opposites. Through the physical and mental practice of yoga and meditation, students learn to restore all of the aspects of body, mind and spirit to a place of harmony and balance. We hope that this place of oneness will be carried out into the daily lives of students to benefit whatever they do.