- Summer Term
- Semesters in the American West & Patagonia
- Semester in Patagonia
- Andes Leadership Semester
- For Enrolled HMI Gap Students
- Meet the Gap Faculty
- Request Information
- Apprentice Program
- High Peaks Adventure
- Adult Programs
- Educators Expedition
- Lake County Backpacking Trip
The High Mountain Institute offers an honors and AP-level curriculum that prepares students for success in the remainder of their high school career and beyond. We design our courses to match the content and rigor of our sending schools in order to facilitate smooth transitions for our graduates. HMI is accredited by the Association of Colorado Independent Schools, an affiliate of the National Association of Independent Schools.
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 and create an inclusive environment where every student can thrive. 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 of high school. 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 students academic trajectory at their sending school, students have the option to participate in an independent study.
HMI Semester Courses
Explore the courses listed below for a brief synopsis of coursework and content, or click here to view our complete Curriculum Guide.
Literature of the Natural World (Honors)
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 explored how humans use experiences in nature to cope with loss. Next, they looked at gender in the American West through a series of short stories by Annie Proulx, Maile Meloy, and Mary Austin. Students honed their skills in literary analysis by dissecting the interplay between identity and nature in Leslie Marmon Silko’s challenging novel Ceremony. Lastly, they investigated literature of wanderers and considered the difference between wandering by choice and forced wandering. Students composed two analytical essays, a variety of poems, and a portfolio including erasure poems, research poems, and a choice of another creative piece. They also completed short in-class writing assignments daily. Writing-skills practice and grammar instruction guided students to expand their understanding of the mechanics of the English language, multiple revisions allowed students the opportunity to refine their work and reflect on their development as writers. and student-centered discussion formats challenged them to manage productive discussions in class without teacher intervention.
Natural Science (Honors)
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 allows 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.
United States History: Western Perspectives (Honors)
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.
Advanced Placement United States History
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.
Mathematics (Advanced Algebra II, Honors Precalculus, Advanced Placement Calculus)
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.
Spanish (Intermediate, Advanced-Intermediate, and Advanced Honors)
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.