Our Curriculum

The Pembroke Hill upper school curriculum is comprehensive and encompasses a full complement of courses in English, social studies, science, mathematics, languages, computer science, the fine arts and physical education. This curriculum has been carefully planned to fulfill our mission as a college preparatory school while serving the individual needs of our students.


The English program creates in students a genuine appreciation of good literature and provides skills to understand, use, shape and enjoy their language and culture. Crucial to appreciation of classical and contemporary literature and the cultivation of effective writing are exposure, discussion, analysis and imitation. Students are, therefore, asked to read and react to a wide variety of works, to challenge themselves in writing, to experiment with a variety of forms and to master those critical to future competency. A core of departmentally chosen readings is studied in grades nine and 10. In the junior year, an interdisciplinary course called American Civilization is taught in tandem with American Civilization History. Juniors may elect to take the Advanced Placement English exam. In their senior year, all students take AP English, and they conclude their studies by engaging in work that represents their best efforts in creative thinking, rigorous analysis and clear written and oral communication. Senior year culminates with a capstone project in which students pursue individualized topics and research of interest. Students present their findings in an oral presentation for students, teachers and parents.

Most students graduate from Pembroke Hill as very strong writers. Our young alumni tell us each year that they are the ones in their college dorms to whom other students come to for help with their writing.

Social Studies

Every student is required to complete a sequence of three full-year history courses. The sequence consists of: 1) The World to 1500; 2) The World since 1500; and 3) a survey of United States history as part of the American Civilization program. The senior elective program includes full-year Advanced Placement courses in Economics, Psychology and American Government.


All students are required to take three years of language in the upper school, at least two consecutive levels of the same language. Students are encouraged to continue the study of their language of choice for the duration of their high school career.

Students may study more than one language at a time, and they may begin a new language sequence in any grade.

All language students must learn and perform the following skills in the target language: writing, spelling, reading, listening comprehension and an understanding of the target culture. In addition, French, Spanish and Chinese students must demonstrate speaking skills in the target language.


The math program consists of two college preparatory course sequences. The first sequence of courses consists of Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. If an entering freshman has not successfully completed an Algebra I course then he/she will begin this sequence with Transition to Geometry. The second sequence consists of accelerated versions of these courses ending in AB or BC Calculus. Additional electives include AP Statistics and Advanced Math Topics. Problem-solving skills and applications of mathematics are stressed, and students use the graphing calculator extensively.


Students must be enrolled in science through 11th grade and are required to take Biology in ninth grade and Chemistry in 10th or 11th grade. Other courses that may be elected to fulfill the minimum three-unit requirement include: Physics, Anatomy and Physiology, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics and AP Environmental Science. Students are encouraged to take Biology, Chemistry and Physics before taking Advanced Placement courses. Though three years of science is the minimum requirement, it is recommended that students take a science course each year. Laboratory work is an integral part of every course, wherein students gain extensive hands-on experience and work in groups to reinforce and expand scientific concepts.

Several students who are particularly interested in science are members of our nationally-recognized Science Olympiad and/or Envirothon teams.


It is the goal of the computer department to assist other departments as they integrate technology into the curriculum, to make students comfortable working with computers, and to offer a challenging sequence of courses for students with special interest in computer science. We offer Introduction to Java programming and AP Java, as well as elective classes in server design and 3D printing. We encourage students to develop good computer skills “from the beginning” by emphasizing the use of the computer as a powerful problem-solving tool, and employing interdisciplinary approaches whenever possible.

Visual and Performing Arts

Pembroke Hill students have extensive opportunities in the fine arts through courses in music, speech, theatre and in two- and three-dimensional visual arts. Two credits are required, with a minimum of 1/2 credit in both visual and performing. Both departments offer one-semester, entry-level courses that serve as prerequisites for all other courses in the respective departments. Courses include: Drawing, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Printmaking, Ceramics, Silversmithing, AP Art History, AP Studio Art, Choir, Instrumental Music, Music Appreciation, Music History, Music Theory, Acting, Advanced Scene Study, Theatrical Design, Debate and Forensics. Students may “focus” in the arts, which enables them to emphasize a particular area over their four-year upper school career and bypass the semester prerequisite. The culmination of the four-year visual art focus is the completion of a portfolio in the AP Studio Art Portfolio class.

Physical Education

The physical education program gives students the flexibility and freedom to explore and create an individualized program that meets their personal fitness needs. Our physical education classes are not like the ones many parents remember from their high school days!

Students attend seminars during which they are introduced to theory and practical applications of the basic concepts of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating knowledge obtained through seminar sessions, new technology, heart rate monitors, the new cardiovascular fitness room and an extensive weight training room, students have the resources to develop a fitness program that works for them. The physical education program provides the basic knowledge, understanding and values of physical exercise as it relates to optimal healthy living. The program strives to give students the knowledge and tools that they will use throughout their lives to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Independent Study

Non-credit independent study is an opportunity for students to pursue a special interest outside the regular curriculum, take charge of their own learning, share a passion with faculty and peers, and receive recognition for their work. Projects can be short or long term from one week during Janterm to a full year. Students must be sponsored by a faculty member and submit a proposal to the independent study coordinator. Projects culminate with a reflective paper and an oral presentation. Past examples include shadowing a professional in the community, writing a business plan, studying a specific art movement, composing original music, producing a short film and building a website. Exemplary projects are recognized on Academic Excellence day in April.

International Studies

Upper school students may choose to participate in a variety of international study opportunities. During sophomore year, students have an opportunity to participate in an exchange program with the Graz International Bi-Lingual School in Graz, Austria. In addition, students may participate in American Field Service (AFS) summer programs and other home-stay programs like The Experiment in International Living, home-stays in France or a semester of study in Switzerland.