The cornerstone of the ASP academic experience is the Major Course. With more than 20 course options to choose from, students are encouraged to extend beyond comfort zones, regardless of academic background, to pursue a comprehensive examination of a single discipline.

The major course experience runs throughout the day as students build on their classroom learning through nightly study halls, field trips, observatory and laboratory work and performances. Approximately 100 hours with classmates, teachers, and interns over the program’s five weeks provides time for exceptional gains in understanding.

Recent Major Courses

After the Rally

This class will help students explore their own voices and passions relating to issues of social justice. Specifically, they will learn how to move from passion to purposeful living. As neighbors, community members, passion-filled beings, how can we engage in programs, services, and initiatives that will work towards addressing those issues that we care most about? There are many mission-driven organizations that are on the front lines of fighting for justice. This may be in the form of feeding the hungry, or giving access to opportunity for those from disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities.

Students will have the opportunity to discover impactful nonprofit organizations right in their own backyards while also learning about those organizations that have been at the forefront of change throughout the nation.

In this class, students will be engaged in an exploration of the “causes” that matter to them most and work towards designing a nonprofit organization or social enterprise that will work towards addressing that cause. Working in groups, students will:

  • Begin the work of doing a needs assessment of the communities that they come from, and identify the top pressing needs that residents in their local or neighboring communities are facing. Through research they will explore the organizations working to meet those needs while skillfully identifying current service gaps, and work on building the type of organization that would help to fill those gaps.
  • Work on developing personal and organizational mission and vision statements that will help to align their personal passions with purposeful service.
  • Devise action plans that will be their ‘next steps’ in terms of applying their passion for justice into purposeful service.


When we look out into the night sky, we inevitably ask the question, “What’s out there?” Astronomy at ASP aims to answer that question and beyond. This course is an introduction to the cosmos, designed to get an idea of what the Universe is, how it came to be, objects and phenomena that exist in it, and the means by which we observe it. We begin with getting our bearings in the sky above: identify constellations, learn and share stories of the sky from around the world, and understand how and why the sky changes. We continue with a study of extrasolar planets as we ponder “Are we alone?” and write a mock proposal to NASA to use the James Webb Space Telescope to search for signs of life. Next, we examine our sun and solar system and move on to a study of stellar evolution and galaxy formation. Finally, we explore a wide variety of exotic mindblowing astronomical phenomena and ideas such as black holes, supernova and the expansion and fate of the universe. Throughout the course, we will use the St. Paul’s observatory for telescope observing of planets, galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters and learn to use computer coding to analyze data. We will visit a professional observatory and have a chance to chat with astronomers at NASA and other centers. All the while, we will see how astronomy has woven through time as an integral part of humanity and ponder its fate in our future.

Field Trips

  • Christa McAuliffe Planetarium
  • MIT - Haystack Radio Observatory
  • Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University

In-Class Activities

  • Telescope Fundamentals
  • Scale of the Universe
  • Edible Comet!
  • Spectroscopy Lab
  • Parallax Lab
  • HR Diagram
  • Amateur Radio -  satellite tracking


  • Text: Astronomy: A Beginner’s Guide to the Universe,  Chaisson and McMillan
  • Atlas: The Cambridge Star Atlas, Wil Tirion


  • Jonathan McDowell, Astronomy Researcher at Harvard University
  • R.P. Hale, amateur astronomer extraordinaire

Biomedical Ethics

We are living in a period of tremendous scientific and cultural change, and nowhere is that more evident than in the biomedical ethical issues that appear almost daily on the front pages of the newspaper and on the six-o’clock news. These biomedical ethics issues exist at the intersection of several important subjects: philosophy and medicine, private decision making and public policy, economics and scientific advancement, the individual and the society, popular culture and science. The questions raised in the study of biomedical ethics are important to individuals both as health care decision makers and as citizens involved in the debate and formation of public policy. Through the study of contemporary medical ethical issues, we will examine and question our own beliefs while understanding many of the thorniest personal and policy decisions of our time.

The course addresses such topics as genetic engineering, health care financing, allocation of scarce medical resources, death and dying, human experimentation, patient autonomy, stem cell research, and abortion. Class time is spent discussing difficult decisions and real cases, as well as developing formal analytical and presentation skills through research projects, weekly journal debates and weekly written case analyses. Films, newspapers and magazine articles are also incorporated along with field trips to hospitals, lawyers’ offices and other relevant locations.

By the end of the course, students should be able to identify ethical conflicts in news stories, medical cases, films, etc.; identify stake holders and articulate various opposing positions; analyze the arguments raised on multiple sides of a conflict; take and defend a reasoned position, both in writing and in public speaking, and, most importantly, engage in civil, productive discussion about divisive, emotionally charged issues.

Data Driven

Over the next decade, the cumulative amount of data collected since the beginning of human history will increase more than fiftyfold. We will need citizens who can understand how to sift through all that information and use it to improve our world. Data Driven is an applied mathematics course where students will learn how to collect, manipulate, analyze and visualize data, all backed by sound mathematical principles. Students will learn data science skills in the context of trying to answer interesting questions with data, with topics of exploration drawn from current political issues, economic trends, pop culture and student interest. Mathematically, students will engage with data via statistics and mathematical modeling, learning how data can both describe a certain situation and also wield predictive power. Both in statistics and modeling, the class will rely on equally abstract and numerical methods. After learning these mathematical skills, students will practice using data-based conclusions to make persuasive, human arguments through infographics, data journalism and class debates.

Students will also explore how we deal with issues surrounding data in our society. The class will explore the mathematics undergirding cryptography that helps us ensure our data stays private. Along the way, we will consider the growing tension between freely available data and individual privacy as data becomes easier and easier to collect, and is often collected without our knowledge.


As our world population and resource use increase, we are faced with a range of ecological challenges. This course explores the issues and the science behind those challenges. Using the tools and methods of ecologists, students will explore the principles applicable to local aquatic and terrestrial ecology.

Students can expect to learn new computer, laboratory, and field skills; improve their science reading-and-writing techniques; and acquire an understanding of the scientific and political issues facing ecologists today. This course introduces students to the various branches of ecology: experimental, field, and sociopolitical.

Specific topics to be covered include biodiversity, water quality; pollution and its effect on all parts of the environment; ecosystems and the interactions of animals, plants, microbes, and abiotic factors within those ecosystems; the flow of energy; cycling of nutrients; and populations.

Successful completion of a year of biology is a prerequisite. A prior course in chemistry is also helpful.

Homework assignments will vary from day to day, but students should expect to have about three hours of work each evening. Students are given reading assignments from the texts and numerous handouts on topics under consideration. Field trip reports and tests are usually of short-essay format.

Faculty and interns are available afternoons, evenings and in special review sessions held before tests. Student work is evaluated daily in the form of class participation, two tests, one field final exam, and class presentations.


  • Some days there are lectures on a specific topic to be followed by a lab activity or field trip. (One to two field trips are taken each week)
  • Students present special topics to the class in an evening seminar on the Merrimack River canoe trip.
  • Students use technology in graphing and writing up their data for their field trip reports and also conduct data tabulation on the Merrimack River canoe trip.
  • Students participate in current ecological discussions and debates.
  • Journals are kept of an observation site, field trips and for reflections.
  • A biodiversity project is presented by students.

Field Trips

  • Turkey Pond Watershed
  • 15 miles by canoe from below Sewell’s Falls in Concord to below the Bow Power Plant in Bow
  • Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest
  • Penacook Lake
  • Little Pond/Bog
  • Hall St. Waste Water Treatment Plant, Concord
Also On The Road
  • Soil Ecology and Conservation
  • Forestry measurements and ecology
  • A slide show at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and hike in the watershed
  • Tour (Merrimack River canoe trip) given by the staff at Garvini’s Falls Hydroelectric Dam
  • Tour given by staff at Hall St. Waste Water Treatment Plant


  • Environmental Science, Global
  • Pond Life
  • Composition Book
  • Africa: Serengeti
  • Aldo Leopold: A Prophet For All Seasons
  • Pond and Brook
  • Acid Rain
  • After the Warming
  • Canetoads Are Coming
  • China’s Only Child
  • The Lorax


This course is designed for students who may be interested in pursuing engineering as a college major. Many students enter college without the perspective of what engineering is and for which field they are best suited. The purpose of this course is to give students a taste of the engineering spectrum and the knowledge to determine whether they might want to pursue engineering in college. The course will address major fields of engineering.

Students in this course will explore engineering through an applied approach. Concepts will be taught using hands-on, practical, and familiar examples and explained with theory that builds on students’ current understanding of physics and math. Class work will be supplemented with field trips to organizations practicing engineering. Students will be required to complete a long-term project which incorporates major engineering fields.

The culminating engineering project for the session will be the design, construction and testing of a “Sea Perch” submarine. The class will be divided into small competing design groups with each group engineering their own submarine.

Prerequisites: Math through algebra II (pre-calc preferred). Physics (recommended but not required).

Field Trips

  • MIT
  • Bluefin Robotics


Are you an ideas person? A risk taker? A social change maker? You’ve come to the right place! As the world grapples with a variety of different economic, social, and environmental issues, many people are looking to the private sector, specifically social entrepreneurship, to provide meaningful solutions to contemporary problems. This class will equip students with not only the skills to become a successful businessperson, but also the tools necessary to develop and launch their very own company.

Students will begin by learning the foundations of entrepreneurship: finances, investing, marketing, and professional development. The majority of the work will be student-driven, featuring a variety of hands-on projects that teach the power of networking, the importance of engaging with their communities, and the need for comprehensive business models that lead to sustainable profits. Next, students will study corporate social responsibility and the potential for businesses to catalyze change. Through various case studies, they will explore different industries in order to identify areas where profits can be balanced with social impact and sustainability. Armed with this knowledge, students will complete a culminating “Shark Tank” style project in which they create their own socially driven business and pitch it to a panel of investors.

This class will regularly feature speakers, field trips, and cross-class collaborations, giving students the opportunity to hear from a wide range of perspectives. Students will develop public speaking and presentation skills, work with people from across backgrounds, and think critically about the institutions that structure our society. No prior experience necessary!

Film Studies

Painting, architecture, sculpture, music, dance, and poetry have been recognized as expressions of human imagination for over four millennia. Integral to our earliest civilizations, they have offered boundless emotional and intellectual rewards to every culture. Then, just a century ago, scholar Ricciotto Canudo added an entirely new art form to the pantheon: Cinema, The Seventh Art. Yet, since its invention, cinema has been primarily a commercial commodity, a thrill-filled mass entertainment like a magic show, or an amusement park ride. In Hollywood’s Golden Age, studios resembled production lines, providing a shiny stream of titles for eager consumers.

Is cinema a challenging and deeply satisfying aesthetic medium? Or is it a fantastical, escapist distraction? A gratifying “yes” to both questions. This course offers students the academic scaffolding to recognize, understand, and analyze the building blocks of film and to expand and intensify their own cinematic experience, exploring exactly what makes film such a captivating and unique creative mode. Beginning with elements that film borrows from literature and theater, like plot, characters, theme, dialogue, and costumes, we will use these “crossover” ingredients as a bridge leading to film’s distinct language: cinematography, mise en scène, editing, lighting, sound, special effects.

We will explore the ways in which movies reflect and shape our beliefs, values, and opinions about ourselves, our society, and how we understand life. We will address issues of representation and identity, including gender, race, and sexual orientation, along with questions about screen violence, sexuality, and censorship. Harnessing the power of communal viewing, participants will share observations, opinions, and questions in large-group discussions when the lights come back on. Other activities will include readings, writing, and student presentations. Our films will reflect a range of eras, countries, and genres, including some R-rated material.

Forbidden Fictions

Many works of fiction are avoided or even banned in high schools every year, yet these same texts are often taught to college freshmen. As a means of bridging this censorship gap, we will explore many such works in an effort to understand the complex issues the texts present and why those issues inflame censors.

We will examine novels, plays, poetry and film by authors such as Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Cormac McCarthy and Anne Sexton. We will address the texts through various theoretical and cultural lenses, an example of which is Louis Althusser’s notions of ideology. Through our studies we will ask how and why our society can and chooses to ban books and what kind of response is called for.

Run as a college-level seminar, the course will require students to lead their peers in discussion and to prepare ambitious independent research projects.

Field Trips

  • Walden Pond - Concord, Mass.


  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • “The Swimmer,” John Cheever
  • Cathedral, Raymond Carver
  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  • Transformations, Anne Sexton
  • Selections from Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson
  • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
  • All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
  • “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Louis Althusser
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  • Basic Instinct, dir. Paul Verhoeven
  • The Matrix, dir. Wachowski Brothers
  • Being John Malkovich, dir. Spike Jonze
  • Of Mice and Men, dir. Gary Sinise

International Relations and Global Politics

This is an introductory course to International Relations and Global Politics where students will learn about current global events through contemporary theories and practice of global politics. This course is divided into two main parts: in the first part, we will study the foundational theoretical concepts and approaches to International Relations; in the second part, we will focus on practical analysis of contemporary issues in International Relations and Global Politics using the foundational theoretical concepts from the first part of this course. This course will survey contemporary actors, theoretical paradigms, and disciplinary debates on interstate relations and the study of global politics. Additionally, the course will make use of non-traditional sources and academic paradigms in the study of International Relations and Global Politics. We will learn about other nations’ traditions, cultures, politics, and religions through ‘more fun and non-traditional’ academic sources. In addition to the assigned readings, students will watch films, listen to/watch lectures and podcasts, participate in discussion groups, and conduct group work in role-playing crisis situations and conflict resolutions. This course will provide you with a global perspective of current events such as the war in Ukraine.

Goals for Students:

  • Understand and be able to wield major concepts in the study of world politics such as power, states, war, peace-making, globalization, anarchy, balance of power, interdependence, and norms.
  • Compare and contrast different theoretical concepts with the objective of identifying the advantages and disadvantages of certain theoretical approaches and their application in global politics.
  • Understand and analyze contemporary events in world politics through using the canonical theoretical approaches of International Relations, including the variations of realism, liberalism, and constructivism.
  • Master the location of states on a world map and learn about other nations’ cultures and traditions.
  • Demonstrate a basic familiarity with great power politics with the objective of identifying the advantages and disadvantages of different US grand strategies in global politics.

Law & Governance

This course will explore the different philosophies, ideas and events that have shaped the development of the American legal and political systems. In particular, using a variety of historical documents, Supreme Court cases, and legislation, students will grapple with what should be the appropriate allocation of power between the three branches of the federal government and state and national governments. The course will also highlight the country’s persistent struggle to guarantee civil rights and civil liberties. Using current issues facing the courts and policy makers, students will research and discuss a range of topics including: government surveillance, campaign finance, immigration, national debt and deficit, and the criminal justice system. To expose students to political and legal challenges of governance, students will participate in a variety of simulations including a legislative hearing, a court trial, and a town hall meeting.

Guest speakers active in the fields of government and law and field trips to the state capital and Federal Courthouse complement classroom activities.

Molecular Biology

Personalized medicine, genetically modified organisms, human genome reprogramming; these are but a few areas in which our rapidly expanding knowledge of molecular biology is influencing the future. This challenging course is designed to provide a solid foundation in the science of molecular biology, and to explore how we might make sense of a wealth of genetic information that increases every year. Using state of the art laboratory equipment, students will have the opportunity to utilize cutting edge genome editing technologies to investigate issues of medical, ecological, and overall societal importance. Acting as medical researchers, we will also work to discover the etiology of a mysterious condition that affects people worldwide.

Our studies will be sustained by seminars, model building, group presentations, news articles and primary source readings, discussion and debate, trips to university labs and biotechnology institutes, and much hands-on exploration. In tandem with our study of modern technologies and their potential benefits, we will also consider the circumstances in which we might refrain from their use. As advances in molecular biology are poised to help shape what is possible in the future, this course’s goal is to empower us to be educated and capable stewards of a rapidly growing capacity. Successful completion of a year of both high school biology and chemistry is a prerequisite.


Recombinant DNA and Biotechnology, Kruezer and Massey

Clinical Presentations

Just as a medical student, intern, or resident would do, each student acts as a physician and must present a “patient.” Students diagnose and treat the disease and explain the molecular and physiologic basis for it.

Field Trips

This class may take a trip to the seacoast to collect samples for our research on marine micro-invertebrate species.

Physics for Sustainability

This is an exciting time to be a physicist and engineer. Staring down the climate crisis, physicists have been working tirelessly to create, adapt, and commercialize energy technologies that can power our world without destroying it. Turning renewable resources like wind, water, sunlight, geothermal heat, and even atomic nuclei into energy we can use in our homes, businesses, and automobiles is one of the most important pursuits in physics and engineering today.

This course will help students develop both a conceptual and quantitative understanding of the most prominent forms of renewable energy and carbon reduction, as well as innovative new forms used in the world today. Photovoltaics, wind, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, and concentrated solar power technologies will all be explored. Students will read seminal papers from leading peer-reviewed journals in the field, evaluate technologies based on their inputs and outputs, and discuss how renewable energy fits in with a sustainable future.

Through hands-on inquiry experiences, data collection experiments, and project-based learning, students will gain skills and knowledge in this important field. Whether you plan to study physics or not, this course will give you the information you need to live in a post-oil world.

Physiology for Athletic Performance

Have you ever asked yourself how some people seem to be able to get in shape rapidly? Wondered if there was a genetic component to sports performance? Are you curious about the physiological differences between an elite endurance athlete and an elite power athlete, or if all athletes should train the same?

Whether you’ve ever pondered these questions or are just an ardent sports fan, this course can help explain the science behind the statistics. We will use ourselves as test subjects, gathering baseline physiology data for VO2 max, Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), and Total Body Power expression in the vertical and horizontal plane. We will then commit to a 21-day evidence-based training program, retest, and analyze our results. The science to support the three-week training program will be investigated through journal research, class discussion, and hands-on activities. Students will maintain a detailed training log to document training variables such as intensity, frequency, and volume, as well as emotional state, daily nutrition, and sleep patterns.

Throughout this course, we will examine large-scale research studies to understand experimental design and the challenges of dealing with human subjects/participants. We will compare the results of our lab activities to those obtained in the HERITAGE Family Study, which was designed to study the role of genotype in responses to aerobic exercise training.

Anatomy and Physiology is not a prerequisite, but if you have already taken A&P and enjoyed it, we’d also love to see you join this course, as we will dive into the exercise physiology aspects of health and wellness.

Studio Arts

The Studio Arts course is a hands-on, studio foundations class that introduces a variety of important basic art concepts through projects in two- and three-dimensional design and drawing. The course accommodates both the novice artist as well as art students with an already developed artistic background.  Students will create a series of finished artworks across a broad range of mediums - projects range from perspective drawing and life-drawing, to color theory, to painting and printmaking, to photography and computer graphics, to additive, subtractive, and manipulative forms of sculpture utilizing, clay, wire, wood, wax, and/or plaster. Subjects include landscape, portraiture, still-life and abstraction, all supplemented with a broad survey introduction to art history and art aesthetics, and with field trips to local museums and artist studios, as well as work with Visiting Artists.  Students will also learn how to prepare and present a portfolio of their works, and will be introduced to ways that they might continue their study of the studio arts beyond the program.  The course will culminate in an exhibit of the student’s works in the Art Center At Hargate.

Field Trips

Field Trips in recent years have included:

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
  • Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA
  • The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
  • The Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH
  • Hood Museum, Hanover, NH
  • The Maine seacoast for plein-air drawing or painting
  • Local galleries and artist’s studios

Guest Artists

Each year students also work with guest artists. These artists have included sculptors, printmakers, and painters.

Typical Out-of-class Activities

  • Working in sketchbook/journals doing exploratory drawings and artwork
  • Researching artists at Ohrstrom Library
  • Using campus landscape, architecture, and art as a subject for sketches
  • Continued independent work on projects in the studios

Writing Workshop 

In addition to their Major Course, all ASP students take Writing Workshop. This course focuses on student writing, helping individuals develop confidence in their own writing process and voice.

Writing Workshop meets three times a week, with writing due at each session. Students will experiment with various prewriting techniques to discover subjects and then will draft a number of pieces. Later, they will select several pieces to be rewritten and edited for a personal portfolio. At the end of the course, students will produce a class magazine.  In-class exercises will encourage students to play with word choice, sentence structure, sound and imagery. Students will be expected to participate in class discussions, individual conferences and peer workshops.  Writing Workshop is required and separate from the Major Course; when registering, students are assigned to a section of Writing Workshop and do not list it as one of their choices.