Stay on track academically while taking place-based courses at HMI

HMI offers a rigorous academic curriculum that prepares students for success in the remainder of their high school careers and beyond. We design our courses to closely align with the honors and AP-level courses at our sending schools in order to facilitate smooth transitions home for our graduates. Students who enroll in our fall semester can expect to return home ready to begin the second half of most year-long courses at their sending schools. During our spring semester, classes pick up roughly at the midpoint and complete course work so that students are prepared for classes in their senior years. HMI is accredited by the Association of Colorado Independent Schools, an affiliate of the National Association of Independent Schools. Our transcripts and credit are therefore accepted by public and private schools across the country.

Students take honors and AP-level classes including math, English, history, etc.

Courses are designed to align closely with home-school curricula


HMI’s accredited transcript is accepted at home public and private schools 

Explore our courses

Practices and Principles: Ethics of the Natural World (P&P) is a unique and unifying course–one of two courses taken by all students in the HMI Semester. The P&P curriculum is taught both on wilderness expeditions and in a classroom setting on campus. There are two principal goals of P&P. First, to equip students with the skills necessary to camp and travel safely in the wilderness for extended periods of time. And second, to challenge students to think critically about the way in which they interact with, use, and conceive the natural world. On backpacking expedition, students practice technical skills such as map reading and backcountry cooking as well as soft skills like leadership, risk management, and communication. Students’ proficiency and growth on their wilderness expeditions are factored into their final P&P grade.

Students in Literature of the Natural World examine humankind’s changing relationship to nature from the early Western frontier to the present day and the role literature plays in creating and reflecting this relationship. While reading Norman Maclean’s elegiac novella “A River Runs Through It,” students explore how humans use experiences in nature to cope with loss. Next, they looke at gender in the American West through a series of short stories by Annie Proulx, Maile Meloy, and Mary Austin. Students hone their skills in literary analysis by dissecting the interplay between identity and nature in Leslie Marmon Silko’s challenging novel Ceremony. Lastly, they investigate literature of wanderers and considere the difference between wandering by choice and forced wandering. Students compose two analytical essays, a variety of poems, and a portfolio including erasure poems, research poems, and a choice of another creative piece. They also complete short in-class writing assignments daily. Writing-skills practice and grammar instruction guide students to expand their understanding of the mechanics of the English language and multiple revisions allow students the opportunity to refine their work and reflect on their development as writers. Finally, student-centered discussion formats challenge them to manage productive discussions in class without teacher intervention.

Natural Science cultivates students’ curiosity and refines the ways in which they observe, interpret, and describe the natural world. In addition to studying a rich curriculum that focuses on local ecology, geology, biology, and environmental science, students develop research and data analysis skills that allow them to culminate the semester by conducting an independent research project, writing a technical scientific paper, and presenting their findings via a Ted-Talk. Through interactive classwork and outdoor investigations, students study the Lake County watershed by examining forestry case studies, predator prey dynamics, water quality, and restoration ecology. On campus and on expeditions, students analyze environmental degradation and study landscape patterns, improving their ability to think independently and critically about the contentedness of ecosystem components. Further, students develop original research projects in which they make detailed observations, generate ecological questions, form hypotheses, design rigorous scientific studies, and present their findings using diverse strategies to reach specific audiences. For example, students learn about historical mining practices, design their own research projects on the water quality impacts of Acid Mine Drainage, and then engage with local stakeholders to present their research and understand its immediate and long-term implications.

In United States History: Western Perspectives, students engage with defining questions of the American past from a variety of perspectives. With historiography, freedom, and the relationship between the individual and society serving as overarching themes, students rely on an array of primary and secondary source documents as a foundation for analysis. After beginning with a western regional focus, our purview expands to encompass the ideology of the “global west.” Students consider concepts such as the frontier, modernity, race, postmodernity, power, and imperialism through the work of Richard White, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Michel Foucault, James Baldwin, and others. Throughout the course, students analyze art, literature, and music—in addition to historical events and themes—to consider how cultural products inform and transform American identity.

In Advanced Placement United States History, students use the tools of the historical discipline to examine some of the defining questions of the American past. Students focus on ideological continuity and discontinuity, authorial biases, historical causality, and cultural mythmaking spanning from the pre-Columbian to the end of the twentieth century. Using foundational primary and secondary texts students engage with concepts such as race, modernity, populism, ideology, liberalism, and historical objectivity. Analytical essays, class presentations, student-led discussions, group work, and debates provide students with the opportunity to refine their authorial voice, synthesize and make sense of diverse historical evidence, gain confidence in front of an audience, and explore the significance of historical narratives. Students leave the classroom with the skills and content necessary to succeed in an upper-level college history seminar.

During any given semester, up to six sections of mathematics are offered to accommodate the sequential nature of mathematics in high school. A trigonometry course is offered within both Algebra II and Precalculus. Algebra II students focus on developing proficiency with mathematical skills and exploring applications of both linear and non-linear functions, integrating their studies from algebra and geometry. Precalculus students explore concepts prerequisite to calculus from the analysis of functions through limits of functions. Advanced Placement Calculus is a challenging course consisting of work that is comparable to college-level courses. Students entering this course are expected to have a strong mathematical background and to have mastered appropriate trigonometry and precalculus material.

HMI offers Intermediate, Advanced-Intermediate, and Advanced Spanish courses, which are roughly aligned with Spanish 3, Spanish 4, and AP® Spanish. Intermediate and Advanced-Intermediate are taught predominantly in Spanish while Advanced Spanish is taught exclusively in Spanish. HMI strives to place students in courses that will allow them to re-enter their home schools’ Spanish programs successfully. Each course seeks to develop students’ understanding of the Building Blocks of Language (grammar, vocabulary, correct language structures) and explore the value of multicultural perspectives. Grammar and vocabulary study are woven into three thematic units. Comprehensible input based on the current grammar topic or theme allows students to practice their reading and listening comprehension. Students practice their speaking skills through discussions, debates, and weekly presentations. They hone their writing skills through weekly journal entries or essays. Evaluation for all classes includes grammar and vocabulary assessments and effective communication, curiosity, inquiry, and critical analysis in writing and speaking.

A student may pursue an Independent Study at HMI if there is room in his/her schedule to dedicate the necessary time and energy. Students must enroll in at least five courses offered by HMI, and a full academic schedule includes six courses. There are three ways in which a student can successfully complete an Independent Study at HMI:

  1. Through a teacher at his/her sending school.
  2. Through an online course provider.
  3. Through a private tutor who meets with the student via Skype.

Independent Studies are separate from HMI’s academic course offerings therefore, the sending school, online provider, or private tutor is responsible for providing all course materials and for awarding a final grade (excepting special circumstances).  It is also important to note that HMI’s schedule places unusual constraints on independent studies. Students do not have internet access while on wilderness expedition and therefore cannot participate in a regularly-meeting online course. For more information, view our Independent Study Guidelines.

At HMI, all students are exposed to a completely new academic environment where they are challenged by the diversity of perspectives brought by teachers and peers. Small class sizes (an average of ten students) and a focus on student-led discussion create an inclusive environment where every student participates. Our place-based curriculum connects students with the history, culture, and geography of the American West, while covering key topics necessary for junior and senior year academic progressions. Student-teacher relationships develop beyond the classroom through wilderness expeditions and residential life.

Students take 5-6 courses at HMI and can earn an ungraded ½ credit for physical education. Many students also participate in community service, particularly during the Fall Semester. If HMI does not offer a course that is necessary for a student’s academic trajectory at their sending school, students have the option to participate in an independent study.

For a more detailed description of the courses offered at HMI, download our Curriculum Guide

Are you a high school administrator/teacher interested in building a partnership with HMI? Learn how to become an HMI sending school

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