Academics / Special Programs

Opportunities for learning outside of the curriculum.

Experiential Learning

Kirby recognizes the importance of learning beyond the walls of a classroom. Our holistic approach to education includes opportunities for students to learn through experiences that help them shape their understanding of the world while integrating principles discussed in the classroom. These experiences include community service projects, intersession, field trips, class trips and retreats, speaker-series workshops, and more.

Grade-Level Outdoor Retreats

Grades 6-9 start each year with a 3 or 4-day retreat occurring at various outdoor settings throughout California. One of the primary goals of retreats is to establish a positive social dynamic within the class while welcoming new students to our community. We also gain a deeper appreciation for our environment and allow teachers and students to connect in a way that facilitates empathetic and lasting relationships. These valuable community-building experiences are a core part of the caring and mutually supportive environment that we strive to create at Kirby. If you are interested in seeing where students went on retreat in 2017, please click here.


Kirby offers a three-day intersession program during the spring semester in which students choose from a menu of experiences that draw on the rich and diverse learning opportunities that exist throughout California. This immersion opportunity provides all students and faculty with an experience of broad educational value outside the traditional classroom. Take a look at the 2017-2018 Intersession Catalog.

Service Learning

There are a variety of forms that service learning can take at Kirby.  Many opportunities come up in the regular curriculum (examples include taking water samples on behalf of the county, working at election polls, organizing school-wide clothing swaps, etc.) and students are encouraged to pursue capstone projects for their Intensive Paths or Independent Study courses in their own areas of interest.  These experiences build leadership skills and provide deeper insight into social, economic, environmental, and other forces that shape our community. Service learning experiences broaden students’ perspectives, encouraging informed and engaged citizenship. Faculty offer guidance and support for students projects.

Field Trips

Throughout the academic year, Kirby faculty organize field trips to deepen understanding and provide hands-on experiences. Last year, students visited Ano Nuevo State Park, the Santa Cruz County courthouse, the San Lorenzo River, and a professional production studio, to name a few.

Independent Study

Kirby maintains a commitment to tailor instruction to the needs and interests of individual students. A high school student may ask a teacher to supervise an independent study to explore a subject for credit within the following parameters:

  • Independent study provides a student learning opportunity not available in the curriculum.
  • The independent study demonstrates academic rigor and involves a level of effort and outcomes equal to standard courses. It is taken on a graded basis and requires a faculty advisor.
  • A written proposal is approved by the Dean of Faculty prior to the semester in which the study is to begin. The proposal requires the signatures of the student, the student’s parents, and the Division Head.

The faculty advisor meets with the student at least weekly and is responsible for submitting scheduled grade reports. The Dean of Faculty and the faculty advisor will ensure that the terms of the independent study agreement have been met.

External Courses

Kirby supports students who desire to further challenge themselves. With that in mind, there are various enrichment possibilities available in our community. In every case, students must consult with and obtain permission from the Academic Dean to take off-campus courses for Kirby graduation credit.

Credit for Courses Taken At Other Schools

Students enrolled may earn Kirby graduation credit for a course taken at another school only if: the course is not offered at Kirby; the course is academically comparable to courses offered at Kirby; and the institution offering the course is an accredited institution academically comparable to Kirby. Students who enroll in such courses elsewhere must maintain a minimum course load of four courses at Kirby.

Cabrillo Community College — summer and/or concurrent with Kirby classes

Courses with meeting times scheduled in the late afternoon and/or early evening may coordinate with Kirby’s class schedule.

University of California system

The entire UC system offers Summer Session courses, including intensive language programs. In addition, a number of campuses offer special summer session programs geared for high school students who have completed their junior year. A release form from Kirby is required.

Correspondence Courses

Many institutions in the United States offer correspondence courses at both the high school and university level. Many of these courses are self-paced. Students who take required core math courses outside of Kirby due to scheduling conflicts or other acceptable reasons must succeed on the Kirby placement test before proceeding on to the next level of math.