Prepare To Challenge and Be Challenged

Oxbow academics are integrated with the studio art practice to engage students in a new and inspiring way. Each course offers students multiple entry points that allow both the most academically focused students and those still identifying the area of their interest to engage with the material. Our courses are fully accredited and college preparatory. Oxbow students have described the courses as being more relevant learning experiences than they have ever encountered anywhere else in their lives.

We believe that disciplines should not be siloed and that authentic learning occurs when connections are made between subjects. Therefore, our curriculum reflects integration across disciplines. Three core courses are taught in a block format and guide students through a series of carefully conceived assignments that build skills and provide integrated instruction across academic disciplines and the visual arts. Throughout each course, the art-making process is informed by intellectual inquiry, in-depth research, synthesis of ideas, critical and creative writing, and self-reflection.

Oxbow students receive 2 semester credits in Honors Studio Art and 1 semester credit each in Honors English, Honors U.S. History, Honors Environmental Science, and Physical Education. Students develop critical thinking, writing and research skills, and a personal voice in each of the core courses. Students also have an opportunity to take a range of elective courses. Honors Math (of various levels) and World Language tutoring is offered, but not required.

At Oxbow, we are fully committed to working with students’ home schools to best support their time with us, and their return home. The first step is for families to meet with their home school to go over our Curriculum Guide. The Oxbow Admissions Office, Deans, and Faculty are available to answer questions and provide additional information as needed.

Core Course: Humanities/New Media

What is art’s relationship to history? What place do reading and writing have in defining contemporary media? What are the ways in which we tell stories and archive our unique experiences? This interdisciplinary course unites disciplines within Humanities (English and U.S. History) and New Media art, exploring the ways in which the written word translates and relates to the digital world and historical experiences. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, a text that blurs the lines between poetry, socio-political commentary, visual art, and personal essay, will be the cornerstone text. Rankine’s multimodal style will inform the way students go on to read other texts, including works by John Berger, Ulises Carrión, Anne Carson, Lynda Barry, and Otessa Moshfegh. Field trips to a world renowned letterpress (Arion Press) and zine distributors in the Bay Area will supplement readings and discussions around materiality and the notion of considering the book as an artistic and historical object. Students create an artist book of their own, weaving together historical narratives with their own personal experience to place their living history into present context. This course also surveys the historical context of “new media” from its nascence during the Cold War era, its development through the dot-com boom, and its role in the unfurling of contemporary media theory and practices. Students survey works and methodologies, consider participatory media and authorship, and explore various historical/personal lenses. Introduction to animation and film techniques support students in forming a foundational understanding of digital workflow which they, in turn, apply to intermedia research and artistic experiments. Assignments incorporate theories of perception, as well as effects and illusion. Students come away from this course having considered their own relationship to media thinking and with the tools to further develop their practice as media artists. *Please note that this is a conceptual approach to understanding the convergence between history, technology, personal narration, and writing and is not a traditional survey course of seminal events in United States History. If students are on the A.P. track, they should plan in advance to supplement their studies with additional history texts from the sending school.

There has never been a work of art created which didn’t somehow reflect its own time.

— Hayao Miyazaki

Core Course: Environmental Science/Printmaking

Who is responsible for climate change? In what ways can artists respond to the climate crisis and positively engage in the conversation? How can we adopt resilient climate responses? How does the practice of printmaking support modes of critical thinking? This interdisciplinary course, “Field Guide,” situates students at the crossroads of environmental literacy and impactful, responsible artmaking. The academic content explores climate justice and environmental citizenship while posing questions about the ecological effects of traditional art materials. Students consider the importance of artmaking in the age of the climate crisis while gaining knowledge on global realities and potentialities. Throughout the course, students read and write about scholarly articles, pose philosophical questions, and debate strategies about climate impacts and solutions. Students utilize art practices to synthesize, comprehend, and shed light on the psychic weight of global ecological catastrophes. Camping trips to scenic natural spaces in the Bay Area provide students an opportunity to build landscape literacy which, in turn, is translated into maps and visual representations of nature. As students analyze both contemporary artwork and traditional craft, they hone their ideas and experiment with materials to produce a print series inspired by the natural world. Available printmaking techniques include: ink and watercolor monotypes, ink and watercolor relief printing, and experimental etching processes. Students consult with experts in the field -- from environmentalists to naturalists and artists -- who work in radical practices as a way to inform their own ideology and environmental stewardship. Core texts written by international environmental organizations, and Black and Indigenous peoples include: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Tending The Wild by Kat Anderson, Decolonize Your Diet by Luz Calvo and Catrióna Rueda Esquibel, This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, Farming While Black by Leah Penniman, and assorted essays by Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Linda Hogan, and Robert Macfarlane.

One thing I’ve learned in the woods is that there is no such thing as random. Everything is steeped in meaning, colored by relationships, one thing with another.

— Robin Wall Kimmerer

Core Course: Painting/Sculpture

How can painting and sculpture express emotions and communicate ideas? How does color convey cultural and personal meaning? What associations, histories, or technologies do specific objects and materials embody and how might these meanings inform the work? Drawing inspiration from Kiki Smith’s statement, “I think a lot of making art is listening to yourself,” this interdisciplinary course explores introspective ideas of “the Self” through the mediums of painting and sculpture. Students read essays, experiment with life drawing, learn body casting techniques, create expressive color palettes, explore non-objective painting, and make “combine” artworks which eliminate the distinctions between painting and sculpture. Class slideshows and videos expose students to a range of influential contemporary artists and aesthetic thinking. Students study visual works from artists such as Jack Whitten, Mary Heilmann, Annette Messager, David Hammons, Bruce Conner, Robert Rauschenberg, Sarah Sze and Betye Saar. Students discuss and present their own work through critiques and discussion groups. All of the assignments encourage students to develop their individual voice and acquire a working knowledge of issues in contemporary art. Students reflect upon their creative process, engage in problem-solving, and expand their creative thinking. Core texts include non-fiction pieces, short stories, prose, and poetry from authors such as Ocean Vuong, Pico Iyer, Carl Jung, and Audre Lorde.

I think a lot of making art is listening to yourself.

— Kiki Smith


Regardless of the level of math students are currently enrolled in, math is optional at Oxbow. To meet the individualized needs of each student, Oxbow math tutors oversee an adaptive online math curriculum designed by McGraw Hill, ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces). Through initial assessment, this program identifies a student’s math strengths and gaps and builds a course of instruction based on that information, working towards mastery and competency: “ALEKS intelligence uses machine learning based on Knowledge Space Theory to efficiently develop and maintain a detailed map of each student's knowledge. ALEKS knows, at each moment, with respect to each individual topic in the course, whether the individual student has mastered that topic and if they are ready to learn it now. ALEKS facilitates super-effective learning by offering the student a selection of the topics that they are currently ready to learn...the student's confidence and learning momentum build as they are challenged by, work on, and then master each new topic.” Using a “flipped classroom” approach, students report to math class at designated times during the week and receive 1:1 tutorial support as needed during these sessions. Due to the flexible nature of the ALEKS program, our tutor can edit course content for each student to ensure specific concepts are covered for a more seamless transition back to the sending school math program. During the enrollment process, families are encouraged to work directly with the math department chair at their sending school to gather detailed information about core skills and concepts that need to be covered while the student is at Oxbow. To learn more about the subjects and curriculum offered through ALEKS, please visit their website or follow the link above.


For an additional fee, world language tutoring in French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, and Latin are available for those students who require it. This fee is waived for students from our Member School students who are taking a language in level 2 or above. The purpose of language tutoring is to keep students engaged in their conversational abilities. Students will meet with a tutor weekly, individually or in small groups. Language instruction is not guaranteed and must be requested in advance.

Final Project

At the conclusion of the semester, the capstone Final Project is a chance for students to focus on a subject in great depth with support from faculty mentors. The primary goal of this project is to foster ongoing dialogue between inquiry, research, writing, and art-making. The learning path integrates multiple disciplines as a means to inform one’s artistic process. Students take on the model of the artist pursuing a line of work in their own studio. Many students cite this project as the highlight of their Oxbow experience, for it allows them to take full ownership over their work by engaging in a dynamic process of creative experimentation, discovery, and output.

At Oxbow, I got to try inquiry-based learning for the first time. This allowed me to control the amount of rigor and the depth of research in my topic, as well as picking a topic that I found most interesting. From going through this new process of learning, I feel excited to go back to the rigor of my sending school to apply the inquiry-based perspective to my classes.

— Meave, OS33

Physical Education

Each week all students take a break from the work at hand to get some exercise. Students choose from a range of activities led by faculty and staff. Past activities have included biking, yoga, hiking, gardening, kayaking, and team sports that offer everyone the opportunity to stay fit and get outdoors.