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Program of Studies and Curriculum

Curriculum and Course Offerings

Program of Studies

Computer Science

Computer Science and Technology Curriculum

In today’s world, computer science and technology touch every aspect of our lives. Programming, software development and engineering have long since moved out of the lab and into every field from medicine, banking and exploration to commerce, entertainment and sports, to name only a few. With this in mind, the Pembroke Hill Computer Science and Technology seeks to prepare graduates for any approach they might take in their study of this discipline, from building and maintaining systems, to writing apps and shaping user experience, to creating robots to solve problems.

The Computer Science and Technology department allows students to focus on any of three areas: Programming, Engineering and Design.

  • Programming-focused courses include Web Design & App Development, Introduction to Python, Introduction to Java, and Advanced Placement Computer Science.
  • Engineering-focused courses include 3D Printing & Design, Computer Architecture & Server Design, and Introduction to Robotics
  • Design-focused courses include 3D Printing & Design, Computer Graphics, and Web Design & App Development.

There is no computer science requirement for graduation.


English Curriculum

In Upper School English classes, our students continue to develop the ability to read closely and to defend plausible interpretations of the text. Using literature as the vehicle, we teach students to be critical human beings. At each grade level, we expose the students to complex texts across all genres, including poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Another cornerstone of the English class is leading students through the writing process of literary analysis. But before students begin that process, teachers engage them in Socratic-like discussions to excavate details, identify incongruities, and theorize motives. Often using these discussions as a springboard, students will write up to ten essays per year, both in class and out of class. Since there are no miracles when it comes to writing, teachers stress the hard work of revision for grammar, style, and ideas as they provide their students with individualized feedback. While the pen and paper essay has mostly disappeared, the process of drafting a coherent persuasive essay has not. Teachers still spend significant time teaching grammar, punctuation, diction, sentence construction, and paragraph organization.  

In the first three years, students take year-long English courses. With each year, students are challenged by more nuanced and sophisticated works of literature that require them to formulate analytical arguments of increasing levels of complexity. Within each grade level, teachers incorporate some type of research essay that includes outside sources, such as literary criticism. As a result, students move beyond the classroom discussions to enter the broader intellectual conversation. Another requirement at each level involves public speaking. From short, impromptu speeches to the thirty-minute senior capstone presentation, students practice their oral presentation skills in front of their peers. In the final year of English, seniors choose from a selection of topics in the first semester while all seniors take the capstone class during the second. These courses during first semester, similar to undergraduate courses, consist of more focused topics on, for example, a genre-like short story or a thematic idea such as Existentialism or The Other. For the capstone semester, seniors propose an individualized research project that serves as their culminating research and writing for the department.

Fine Arts

Fine Arts Curriculum

Both Performing Arts and Visual Art departments offer entry-level courses. The Performing Arts Department offers Theatre Arts, Exploration in Music or Debate I, and the Visual Arts Department offers Visual Art.  Each semester course fulfills the 1/2 credit introductory requirement in each area.  All sections are offered fall and spring and may be taken in whichever order is preferred.  The only exception to this is Debate I, which meets only in the fall to allow students to participate in the debate season.  These courses are available to upperclassmen, but are highly recommended for freshmen and sophomores.

Upon completion of the entry-level course in the respective arts area, students will have the opportunity to enroll in more specialized courses in that area.  Exceptions to this sequence will be explained in the Performing Arts and Visual Art sections.

Students must have maintained a grade of B+ or better and receive teacher approval before being allowed to take any performing or visual arts course for the second time.  Also, no one will be allowed to repeat a visual or performing arts class for a third time.  Independent work for advanced students may be allowed with departmental approval.

Those students who have a passion for the Fine Arts and have the dedication to develop their artistic talents may want to pursue the Arts Focus Program.

Performing Arts

Performing Arts Curriculum

The philosophy of the Performing Arts branch of the Fine Arts Department is:  To develop self-esteem through artistic expression and aesthetic awareness in the performer and the non-performer alike; to meet students at their individual artistic levels, whether beginning or advanced; to promote a lifelong appreciation and support of the arts through the development of skills, knowledge, and experiences.  Emphasis is placed on individual skill development as well as ensemble work.  Academic course work in areas of music, theatre, and speech/debate is offered to widen a student’s understanding and appreciation of the performing arts.

Arts Focus was created for those students who will advance their talents beyond secondary education or who show substantial talent and dedication to a particular arts area. In the performing arts, students will choose, as they enter the upper school, to focus in one of the following areas: acting, choral music, instrumental music, or debate.  These students will meet with a Performing Arts teacher in their chosen area who will help them map out their four-year focus commitment. This commitment must be made before or during their freshman year. Students who choose this focus option will not be required to take the entry level offerings unless they do not fulfill the four-year focus commitment.

Entry Level Foundations Courses:

The Performing Arts Department offers three foundations courses:

Theatre Arts
Exploration in Music

Debate I

Upon completion of any of these courses, students can enroll in our more specialized offerings.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts Curriculum

The intent of the Visual Art program is to develop visual thinkers and to encourage creative problem solving through idea generation; ideas are implemented using structured and sequential learning. The art curriculum is designed to develop unique mental capabilities, which foster flexible, divergent, original, fluent, and imaginative thinking. Students are engaged in making art, looking at and reflecting on art through analysis as well as learning about the cultural, social, and historic context of art.

From the general Visual Art course through the AP Studio Art Portfolio course, students of any interest or ability level will gain aesthetic awareness and develop perceptual and analytical skills. Students expand their ability to express and develop ideas through a variety of visual media and practice discussing artwork using the vocabulary of artists: the elements of art and principles of design.

Visual Art Focus

The art department seeks to identify those students with a passion for art and who have the capability, as well as the dedication, to pursue the development of a portfolio by senior year. A strongly developed portfolio will more than likely enhance the student’s success in the college admissions process.

An art department faculty member may recommend an interested student at any time from 8th grade or after. A student may also request a portfolio review to join the Visual Art Focus program. Students accepted into this program are allowed to bypass the Visual Art course and enroll in Drawing as the first step. The commitment that the student and parents will agree to is a 4-year focus in the Visual Arts, in which the student participates in at least one visual art class each year. In addition, focus students are assured a spot in an art class of their choice each year. The culmination of the visual art focus is the AP Studio Art Portfolio class (See course description). It is understood that if the Art Focus student does not enroll in the AP Studio course, or if he chooses to drop the focus at any time during her enrollment, the student must fulfill the introductory Visual Art course requirement.



Language Curriculum

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. The French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish sequences continue through the Advanced Placement level. 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 demonstrating an understanding of the target culture. In addition, French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese students must display speaking proficiency in the target language.

Independent Study Credit

Independent study proposals may be presented to the Language Department by students wanting to continue the study of a language beyond the current offerings of our curriculum. Proposals will be accepted following the guidelines of the school.


Mathematics Curriculum

The normal sequence of math courses for a Pembroke Hill Upper School student is Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus; the progression for students in the accelerated program is Algebra II Accelerated, Pre-Calculus Accelerated, AP Calculus, and AP Statistics. We also offer semester electives for students to enhance their math education such as Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, Number Theory, and Probability and Counting. Every student must be enrolled in, and pass, a year-long math course three of the four upper school years. It is highly recommended students complete four years of math.

Placement in sections is made individually each year after consideration of a student’s past performance in math, standardized test scores (for new students), attitudes and interests, level of mathematical maturity, and current teacher’s recommendation. It may happen that a student will move between the accelerated and non-accelerated levels over the course of four years. Skipping courses or substituting abbreviated summer work or on-line courses for an academic year course is not allowed.

Beginning in their freshman year, students are required to have a TI-83+ or TI-84+ graphing calculator for use in every math course. The graphing feature of this calculator enables students to gain an understanding of many mathematical concepts and will be used extensively in every course. In addition to the graphing calculator, iPads will be utilized for additional resources and interactive activities.

Physical Education

Physical Education Curriculum

The Physical Education Department will endeavor to give students appropriate knowledge and ability in the areas of lifetime fitness, exercise, and nutrition and stress management. Students will be assisted in developing lifelong fitness programs, and they will be encouraged to self-evaluate their fitness programs and modify them continuously as fitness needs change.

Graduation Requirement

All students will be required to earn 1.5 credits of Physical Education for graduation. The credit will be available through the Concepts of Physical Fitness course for .75 credits which is required for all freshmen. The remaining .75 credits needed for graduation may be obtained during a student’s 10-12 grade years. The students may choose the Lifetime Personal Fitness course, PHS Athletics or apply for Independent Study in order to complete the remaining .75 credit of physical education required for graduation. All Physical Education requirements should try to be completed by the end of the junior year. Students that do not participate in athletics their freshmen year will be required to take the Lifetime Personal Fitness course their sophomore year.


Science Curriculum

Three years of science are required for graduation.

Students are required to take Biology in ninth grade and Chemistry in 10th. The third unit may be taken in junior or senior year. Courses that may be elected to fulfill the minimum three-unit requirement include Physics, AP Physics 1, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, and semester science electives. Though three years of science is the minimum requirement, it is recommended that students take a science course each year. Students may double in science courses in the junior and/or senior 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. Students considering a competitive college or science-based career, such as medicine or engineering, should take Biology, Chemistry, Physics and at least one Advanced Placement science course in the upper school as thorough preparation for the college curriculum. A suggested science course sequence follows these course descriptions.

Social Studies

Social Studies Curriculum

Every student is required to complete a sequence of three full-year 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.

Advanced Placement options exist in eleventh-grade American history, and in four senior electives: psychology, economics, American government, and art history.

Global Online Academy

Global Online Academy Curriculum

GOA students are modern learners.

The mission of Global Online Academy is to reimagine learning to enable students to thrive in a globally networked society. GOA provides a positive, interactive, and academically rigorous environment for students to learn. We offer courses that connect students to topics they care about, and we offer a network that connects those students to peers as passionate as they are.

As GOA learners, our students also develop a specific set of skills, skills that might not be exercised as often in a bricks and mortar environment. Based on our research, student surveys, and feedback from our faculty, we have identified six core competencies that students develop in practical, hands-on ways, no matter which GOA course they take:

  1. Collaborate with peers who are not sitting with them on campus.
  2. Communicate and empathize with people living in areas of the world that are culturally different from their own.
  3. Leverage their curiosity to curate and create content that is relevant to real-world issues.
  4. Reflect on and take responsibility for their learning and that of others in an open forum.
  5. Organize their time and tasks to become independent learners.
  6. Interpret assignments and express themselves using a variety of learning tools.

To build these skills, GOA courses are…

  • Globally connected: Even though our courses are online, students get to know their teacher and classmates. Each of our classes has no more than 20 students from many different schools, led by an expert teacher from one of our member schools. Studentslog in multiple times a week to engage in discussions, collaborate on projects, and share ideas. They learn how to use technology to build relationships.
  • Challenging: GOA courses are designed to be as rigorous as any course at a home school. Students spend 5-7 hours a week their courses. GOA courses are mostly asynchronous: students do not show up on certain days at certain times. Instead, teachers publish a calendar of activities, and within that framework, students work on their own schedules, gaining critical independent learning skills along the way.
  • Relevant: We want students to pursue their passions. Our courses offer practical, hands-on experience in how these ideas can be applied to the world outside of school. Students have voice and choice in the work they do and the ideas they explore.

Graduation Requirements

The Pembroke Hill curriculum is comprehensive in scope, encompassing a full complement of courses in Computer Science, English, the Fine Arts, Language, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, and Social Studies. It has been carefully planned so as to foster full and sequential skill development. We believe that this curriculum will ensure that our academic program provides excellent preparation for college, while remaining flexible enough to meet the individual needs of our students.

Pembroke Hill students are required to complete successfully 20 units of academic courses and 1.5 units of Physical Education. Please note that a “unit” in this instance means a full year, or two semesters. In particular, students will be required to complete:

4 years of English, must be enrolled in English each semester.
3 years of Mathematics, must enroll in a year-long Mathematics course each year through the junior year with a minimum completion of Algebra II.
3 years of Social Studies, must complete The World to 1500, The World Since 1500, and American Civilization History.
3 years of Science, Biology is required in 9th grade and Chemistry is required in 10th grade.
3 years of Language, must complete two consecutive levels of the same language. The third unit may be completed by starting a new language.
2 years of Fine Arts, must complete two 1/2-unit courses: Visual Arts and either Theatre Arts, Debate I or Exploration in Music. The remaining 1 unit may be completed in either Performing or Visual arts offerings.
2 years of electives
1.5 years of Physical Education, must earn 1.5 units through our athletic program and/or our Physical Education program.
Community Service, all upper school students must complete a minimum of 60 hours of community service by the last day of senior exams in the upper school in order to be eligible for a diploma.

Program Options

The Program of Studies has been prepared to assist students and their parents in planning an academic program for the upper school. Selections should be made after considering the goals of each student and after consulting with academic advisors and administrators at the school.

Graduation requirements are intended to serve as a minimum standard for a student. All students are required to take five courses each semester, but no sophomore, junior or senior may take more than six classes without advisor and administrative approval. Physical Education does not count toward the five-course requirement. Assuming a normal load, students will graduate with the minimum of 20 units of academic credit; however, most students will exceed the minimum requirement. Students who wish to carry a different academic load may petition the principal for approval.

Personal and career interests should be considered when deciding how many advanced courses to take in each department. We would expect our most capable students, who are interested in applying to highly selective colleges, to take a broad distribution of subjects at the Advanced Placement level. Four-year planning should be done with advisors, taking into consideration academic and extracurricular goals.

Schedule Change Policy

We have found it nearly impossible to schedule students in their courses and, at the same time, attempt to honor student and family requests for a particular teacher. Therefore, we will not accept requests for a specific teacher unless there is a compelling reason. During the advising and course planning process, an advisor, teacher, or parent can make a request in writing for special consideration. This request should include the compelling reason for special review and be signed by the parents and the advisor.

If scheduling has already occurred, requests for change will be divided into categories:

  1. Mandatory: scheduling error, graduation requirement. These will be changed as soon as possible.
  2. Desirable: administrative or teacher change to maintain class balance, gender balance, etc.
  3. Discretionary. [Note: A request to move from a smaller class to a larger class will not be honored.]

If a problem occurs after the first day of classes, a request for change can be made if parents, advisor, college advisor (if a senior), and the appropriate department chair agree that there is a compelling reason. Changes will be considered only during the first days of each semester for semester-long courses, and during the first days of the school year for year-long courses.
No student may enroll in any course after the first mid-quarter of the semester, nor may any student withdraw from a course after the completion of one quarter.

Advanced Placement

Each department has established criteria for student enrollment in Advanced Placement sections. Students enrolled in A.P. sections are expected to take the A.P. examination unless exempt upon appeal to the teacher, the department chair, and the principal. * Juniors enrolled in A.P. courses are expected to have a second semester final evaluation. Seniors will follow the senior exam policy.

Students are assigned to sections in English, language, and mathematics courses by the faculty and department chair. Students should consult with their language and mathematics teachers to determine the appropriate section in which to enroll.

*A.P. exams cost approximately $90 per exam. Parents will be billed through the business office.

Independent Study For Credit

Independent study is an option available to students, not as a substitute for courses offered, but as an opportunity to pursue an interest in-depth or to study an aspect of a discipline not available through the existing curriculum. Students interested in independent study must obtain the cooperation of the teacher or teachers with whom they wish to work and submit a written proposal to the Academic Dean. The proposal must include:

a) a clear statement of goals;
b) a detailed explanation of ways to meet those goals;
c) the signatures of the college counselor, the department chair and the teacher or teachers supervising the project;
d) the time to be allocated to the project and;
e) the credit desired, if any.

The Upper School Academic Dean, the chair of the appropriate department, and the cooperating teacher(s) will constitute an ad hoc committee that must approve the proposal. Final approval for independent study credit must be granted by the principal.

Independent Study, Non-Credit

Non-credit independent study projects can be short or long term (from one week during Jan-term to a full year) and take a variety of forms: A student may pursue a special interest in-depth, work in the community, shadow a professional, teach a mini-course, or pursue any number of other possible interests.

Students must be sponsored by a faculty member and submit their project proposal to the head of the Independent Study Committee for approval. Projects culminate with a reflection paper and oral presentation. Exemplary independent study projects are recognized at the year-end Awards Assembly.

Community Service

Community Service & Engagement

Pembroke Hill students are imbued with the responsibility to do good for the benefit of all. To this end, we envision community service as engagement- engagement with the community at large and within the Pembroke Hill School. Engagement is premised upon relationships that are both mutually beneficial and long-term. It is our goal to cultivate meaningful opportunities that ground classroom knowledge with real-world issues, believing that exposure results in greater awareness and compassion.

From our Early Years program, nested in a Reggio Emilia approach, to Upper School community engagement, experiential opportunities are woven into the fabric of engagement both inside and outside of school, reflecting the foundational inspiration of John Dewey’s experiential, hands-on approach. This approach, too, extends contemporary models of service learning where “students use academic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.”

In the spirit of engagement, students are encouraged to actively engage in direct experiences with interpersonal contact, to serve those in need and to step outside of their comfort zones of familiarity.

Our graduates complete at least 60 hours of service over four years, of which 40 hours must be outside of Pembroke Hill. For transfer students, at least 15 hours of service is required per year. Most of this work will take place with a nonprofit organization. There are many worthwhile volunteer and service needs but not all qualify for credit under the Pembroke Hill vision of community engagement. Hours will not be awarded for meeting time, fundraising, or religious practice (eg, acolyte). Hours earned in pursuit of another goal (eg, Scouts) do not simultaneously count towards the Pembroke Hill requirement.

Service hours will be tabulated each semester and will be reported on semester report cards. We employ a digital service hour tracking platform, x2VOL, and it is the student’s responsibility to enter and update their service hours in a timely manner. Hours may be submitted up to one year (June 1 to May 31). Recognition for the President’s Volunteer Service Award will occur every May; therefore, hours must be submitted with ample time in order to receive this recognition.