Program of Studies

Curriculum and Course Offerings

Program of Studies

Computer Science

AP Computer Science

This course is designed around the AP Computer Science A exam. This course is equivalent to a first-semester, college-level course in computer science. The course introduces students to computer science with fundamental topics that include problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, organization of data, approaches to processing data (algorithms), analysis of potential solutions, and the ethical and social implications of computing. The course emphasizes object-oriented and imperative problem solving and design using the Java language. These techniques represent proven approaches for developing solutions that can scale up from small, simple problems to large, complex problems. This course is taught on a bi-yearly basis.


English 9

The ninth grade year is a critical one: it is a year of transition and a year of beginning. The groundwork begun in middle school – in grammar, mechanics, vocabulary, writing, reading and research – is reinforced. Attention to grammar and punctuation is maintained with the consistent use of the Hacker Manual on every major writing assignment. Students will be expected to experiment with a variety of styles and forms in analytical writing, as well as personal essays, and move beyond the paragraph level to that of the full-length paper. In literature, students study the basic genres of fiction and are introduced to non-fiction as they learn the fundamental skills of literary and rhetorical analysis, including a unit on poetry. In order to prepare students for the concentrated emphasis on literary analysis in the upper school, the ninth grade year is dedicated to developing the vocabulary and techniques of argumentation. From the outset, teachers will cover the basic components of claims, reasons, evidence, and underlying assumptions that constitute clear and effective persuasive writing. From there, students make the natural progression to literary argumentation while exploring such works as , Catcher in the Rye, The Merchant of Venice, The Odyssey, The Glass Menagerie and others.


French - Level I

This is a beginning course for students with little or no previous study of French. Basic grammar and vocabulary will be taught; oral practice and communicative activities will be emphasized. Listening, reading, and writing skills will be developed throughout the year as well. Exposure to francophone cultures and customs is an integral part of the course.


Transition to Geometry

This course reviews the fundamental principles of Algebra I and introduces students to the beginning concepts of Geometry. Topics covered include simplifying and evaluating expressions, relationships and functions, linear equations and inequalities, systems of linear equations, exponential and radical expressions and equations, rational expressions and equations, and beginning concepts of plane geometry.

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

Theatre Arts (Foundations Course)

This course serves as an introduction to the Theatrical Arts, in which students will explore the history and significance of theatre as communication practice. Additionally, students will investigate how social and political changes can affect theatre/theatrical expression and identify elements of cultural preservation in theatre. Basic techniques of script analysis, character development, directing, and design will also be introduced as we work through significant periods in theatre history.

Visual Arts

Visual Art

Visual Art is the mandatory introductory art course in the upper school. The Art Department recommends the Visual Art course to be taken in the 9th or 10th grade. Passing this course will allow the student to enroll in more specialized art electives.

This course provides the framework of knowledge and skills upon which the upper school art courses build. Students will learn to see and think like an artist and will develop skills using a variety of tools, materials, and techniques. Students will practice the language of art. They will develop visual thinking and creative problem solving skills in diverse art forms. Students will gain understanding of 2- and 3-dimensional design through application of the elements of art: line, shape, form, composition, value, and color theory as well as the principles of design: unity, variety, balance, emphasis, rhythm, repetition, scale, and contrast. The student’s intentional use of content, composition, and craft will be included in assessments. Students will develop the perceptual skills crucial to visual art, including methods of visual analysis.

Physical Education

Concepts of Physical Fitness Course

All freshmen will be required to take the Concepts of Physical Fitness course. Students will earn .75 credits upon completion of the Concepts of Physical Fitness course.

Course Objective: This course will provide the knowledge and foundation necessary to establish a personal lifetime fitness program. It will be based on seminar sessions and physical activity to ensure a firm foundation for developing lifetime fitness.

Students participating in a PHS-sponsored sport or an approved Independent Study will be responsible for:

  1. Completing the designated work during scheduled seminar times.
  2. Attending lectures during the scheduled seminar times.
  3. Attending sports practice each week.
  4. Writing a personal workout program.

Students not participating in a PHS-sponsored sport or approved Independent Study are responsible for:

  1. Completing the designated work during scheduled seminar times.
  2. Attending lectures during the scheduled seminar times.
  3. Two half-hour workout sessions per week in the PHS facility using a heart rate monitor to ensure students are working out in their optimal heart rate zone.
  4. Writing a personal workout program.



Required Course, 9th grade

The Biology course is designed to give students a comprehensive introduction to the study of life sciences. Topics included are biochemistry, cell structure and function, genetics, evolution, anatomy and physiology, and ecology. Frequent classroom activities and laboratory work reinforces conceptual understanding and develops analytical skills. Students will be evaluated on homework, laboratory reports, tests, class participation and various papers and projects.

Social Studies

AP Art History

Enrollment for qualified sophomores requires Art Department chair approval.

This course is the study of Western art (major focus) and non-Western art (minor focus) within its historical and cultural context. Students will discover how art embodies values of a culture with reference to time and place of origin. Emphasis will be placed on students’ acquiring the ability to identify and describe major cultures, art movements, and art forms. Using the appropriate vocabulary, students will gain the ability to analyze the structure of artworks, interpret meaning, and evaluate aesthetic quality. This course will prepare students for the Advanced Placement Art History exam. Field trips to local museums and galleries will be a major resource. AP Art History may be taken for Social Studies credit. Please note, however, that students will not receive graduation credit in both Social Studies and Visual Art for this course; the student must choose one departmental designation or the other.

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 units of English, must be enrolled in English each semester.
3 units of Mathematics, must enroll in a year-long Mathematics course each year through the junior year with a minimum completion of Algebra II.
3 units of Social Studies, must complete The World to 1500, The World Since 1500, and American Civilization (History).
3 units of Science, Biology is required in 9th grade and Chemistry is required in 10th grade.
3 units of Language, must complete two consecutive years of the same language. The third unit may be completed by starting a new language.
2 units of Fine Arts, must complete two half-unit courses: Visual Arts and either Theatre Arts, Debate I or Exploration in Music. The remaining one unit may be completed in either performing or visual arts offerings.
2 units of electives
1.5 units 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 complete several more units of credit. 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.

Community Service

The goal of the upper school Community Service program is to “foster a sense of community responsibility.” Through volunteer service, students will gain a greater understanding of social and moral issues. It is our belief that service to the community is one of the major characteristics of leadership. Those who serve also lead. Those who lead also serve. This concept is reinforced by requiring completion of a minimum of 60 hours of community service to charitable causes. Summer community service programs, January Interim Week service projects, and organized weekend service projects are examples of the ways to meet the requirement. Twenty of the 60 hours may be completed within the Pembroke Hill School community, although it is not mandatory.

To encourage the habit of serving the community, each student must perform a minimum of 5 hours of service each year of upper school enrollment, (June 1 to May 31) regardless of the total accumulation. Final year-end grades will be withheld until the yearly community service requirement is met. Each time community service is performed, the student must fill out a form, complete with signature from an adult at the agency where work was performed, and return it to the director of community service.

For students who are not enrolled in the upper school for four years, 15 community service hours per year are required.

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

Many students undertake a non-credit independent study project at some point during their upper school years.

Non-credit independent study projects can be short or long term (from one week to a year) and take a variety of forms: A student may pursue a special interest in-depth, focus on a special aspect of a course, work in the community, shadow a professional, teach a mini-course, or pursue any number of other possible projects. Student independent work is evaluated by a faculty committee and shared with their peers.

Students must be sponsored by a faculty member and must submit their project proposal to the head of the Independent Study Committee for approval.