The Athenian Way

Unlike many schools that focus on short-term outcomes, The Athenian School takes a lifelong view. Athenian's approach results in students who are not only academically successful in college but who are inspired to make meaningful contributions throughout their lives.

At Athenian, our rigorous academic program is delivered in a way that resonates and sticks with students throughout their lives—because you learn by doing. By applying what is learned in the class to real world situations, Athenian students construct meaning out of research opportunities, realistic lab activities, critical thinking exercises and fact-based analysis. Whether in or out of the classroom, this approach allows you to incorporate your learning with your living, laying a strong foundation for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.

A Round Square School

As a founding member of Round Square, an international network of more than 100 schools on six continents, Athenian embraces the philosophy that binds the schools. This philosophy is rooted in six main values: international understanding, democracy, environmental stewardship, adventure, leadership, and service. These values are embedded in everything we do at Athenian; as an Athenian student, you will have countless opportunities to experience and explore these themes. Through our membership, Upper and Middle School students have unmatched opportunities to go on exchange, service trips, and international conferences through sister Round Square schools. 

Pillars of Round Square

A fitting acronym by which to remember the Pillars is IDEALS.

List of 6 items.

  • International & Multicultural Understanding

    The world is in need of more adept and creative problem solvers, and, as an Athenian graduate, you'll be prepared to make a positive impact as a global citizen. Because our school community, by design, includes international families and participates in a worldwide consortium of schools, you'll have the chance to practice seeing issues from many points of view, as well as opportunities to attend international conferences, live and travel abroad, and engage with the Upper School boarding community. In our international and multicultural community, students appreciate and respect cultures, religions and languages other than their own, and see themselves as genuinely global citizens.
  • Democratic Participation & Justice

    The value of — and active participation in — democracy is essential to Athenian where students, in partnership with adults in the community,help shape school policy. We invite you to make Athenian your own by participating directly in its present and future. We value student voice; through Leadership in the Middle School and Town Meeting in the Upper School, there are a variety of ways in which you can be an active participant in the Athenian community.
  • Environmental Stewardship

    A deep respect for and understanding of the natural world is woven into our history, curriculum, and values at Athenian. Athenian students demonstrate care for the natural environment and an awareness of proven problems to take an active role in tackling environmental issues.
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  • Outdoor Adventure

    Athenian develops in students the appreciation of physical fitness and personal growth through the challenge of outdoor adventures. From 6th grade to 12th, you will explore Athenian's 75 acre campus that borders Mt. Diablo State Park, take field trips to other local wilderness areas, go on camping trips, and participate in Interim trips and classes. In the Upper School, you will complete the Athenian Wilderness Experience and have opportunities to join the Outdoor Adventure Club rafting, skiing, sea kayaking, and climbing adventures.
  • Leadership

    Athenian encourages students to discover the importance of leadership in making a positive contribution. Beginning in Middle School, you will have opportunities to work in groups, try out new ideas, and practice public speaking. In the Upper School, you will continue to have informal leadership opportunities, participate in Athenian's student government, as well as formal training in a variety of your classes.
  • Service to Others

    In striving to achieve balance between self-improvement and self-sacrifice in the interest of others, Athenian develops in students qualities of service and compassion. Through service, you will learn about and make connections with those in need in the local communities, as well as participate in projects across the world. Students make a significant commitment of time during their school career to service to the School and the wider community.


The Athenian School was founded in 1965 by Dyke Brown, a graduate of Yale Law School, who was then Vice President of the Ford Foundation. Dyke envisioned a school with the goal of Periclean Athens – the full development of each citizen. Intellectual growth, fitness of body and character, commitment to humane values, aesthetic sensitivity, and readiness for adult citizenship and leadership are Athenian’s objectives for each student.
The Athenian School was built on what was then known as the Blackhawk Ranch, at the foot of Mt. Diablo. It was originally a boarding school, grades nine through twelve, creating a 24/7 community of learners in a rural setting. In 1979, the Middle School was added, accepting day students in grades six through eight. The demand for an Athenian education from the local community prompted the School to begin admitting more day students in the 1970s. Today, along with many new facilities and a larger number of day students, Athenian remains a close-knit family of those actively engaged in a thriving learning community.
Far ahead of his time, Dyke realized the importance of service, international understanding, diversity and adventure as integral parts of a strong academic curriculum. Nearly fifty years later, Athenian's ideals have become a model for education in the 21st century.

Visit Athenian's 50th Anniversary website for a school timeline, archival documents, and more.
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