Academic Experience

Immerse Yourself in Our Curriculum

The Athenian School recognizes the best way to master academic subjects is to experience their application first hand. In our rigorous academic program, you and other talented students from the East Bay and around the world will immerse yourselves deeply in coursework, inspiring each other to think critically, problem solve, and collaborate as global citizens. As an Athenian graduate, you'll thrive in any of the nation's best colleges and be poised for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.

In classes that average 15 students, Athenian’s faculty enliven the classroom with their love of teaching and learning. They engage students and awaken imagination by making connections. Teachers will get to know you well and guide you in the direction that best suits your interests and ambitions.
"People often say that high school is the time to find yourself. It is enlightening to know that, what many people talk about as the difficult journey of finding yourself throughout the years of being a young adult is different for me because Athenian supports students to enjoy the journey. Athenian gives us these wonderful opportunities that allow us to enjoy the challenges we overcome while we discover who we are as people of this world." -Emma R. '16

Graduation Requirements

EnglishFour years including World Literature, United States Literature, and 2 years of English seminars.
HistoryThree years including World Cultures, United States History, and 1 year of history seminars.
MathematicsThree years (through Algebra II).
ScienceThree years of laboratory science: Conceptual Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. 

World Languages
Three years (through Level III) or two years (through Level II) of two languages.
ArtsTwo and one quarter years of fine and performing arts, including Art, Culture, & Identity (3/4 of a year), 1 yearlong UC-approved course, and 1 semester elective.
Physical EducationFour years of P.E. classes or sports.
Community ServiceAll students fulfill a community service requirement each year. 
Athenian Wilderness Experience (AWE): AWE is a graduation requirement of all students and is usually completed prior to the senior year.


The Humanities department is an integrated department because we believe a combined study of social science, literature and language promotes a richer understanding of the human condition. This model reflects a more holistic view of Athenian students as we prepare you to become global citizens. While the focus of the program is the development of language arts and social studies skills, your 
Recent English Seminars: Environmental Literature, The Art of Memoir, The Political Novel, Shakespeare, Journalism as Literature, The Literature of Africa

Recent History Seminars: Democracy in Action, Global Economics, Middle East History, Race in the US, The Renaissance, International Relations
investigation of humanities topics will also involve the integration of related themes from art, music, science, and mathematics.

The 9th grade humanities program coordinates the content of World Cultures and World Literature classes. In the 10th grade, you will explore how complex and multifaceted "the American experience" is in the U.S. Studies program. Seminars offered to 11th and 12th grade students offer a broad range of cultural, religious, and ethnic perspectives as the focus of courses that deepen students abilities to communicate effectively, read critically, write clearly, use grammar accurately, and develop logical and effective arguments.

One class that really challenged me was Democracy in Action. This unique history seminar examines how power is implemented in a variety of settings. The main focus is the field research project: we tackle on-campus issues in groups to bring about positive change. For example, fostering Town Meeting’s participatory potential or more fully integrating boarding and day student populations. The key is, instead of going into the project with preconceived ideas about the problems and solutions, we are challenged to start from the ground up using the Design Thinking Process. There were days when I was frustrated with myself for not being able to see clearly the many layers of issues and solutions. However, this has also been the most rewarding class because, through my teacher’s support, I reached a level of understanding and design that I did not think I was capable of all while contributing to my school through my project. -Hayley C. '14


There are many ways of understanding our world, and mathematical understanding is an important one of them. Using logical thought, formulating problems appropriately, making deductions, and applying advanced concepts are critical skills for success in a world where calculators and computers can handle basic calculations. In our math classes, you will learn how to apply the fundamentals of algebra and geometry to your science, art, and humanities classes. Advanced math students are encouraged to continue studies in algebra, calculus, and statistics to expand their tools and perspectives for navigating information.
Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Algebra II Honors, Pre-Calculus, Pre-Calculus Honors, Applied Calculus, Calculus AB AP, Calculus BC AP, Applied Statistics, Statistics AP, Computer Science AP


Through the exploration of physics, chemistry, and biology, you will delve deeply into scientific concepts through laboratory and project-building experiences. We believe vehemently in the importance of hands-on activities, experimental analysis, visual learning, and interactive problem solving. Long periods are almost always used for labs or experiential activities. You will work in groups, find yourself all over Athenian's campus, and discover practical applications for scientific ideas. Faculty in the science department are familiar with the rigors of college science courses and Athenian alumni find that they are well prepared for the demands of college labs.
Conceptual Physics, Advanced Physics Honors, Biology, Biology Honors, Advanced Biology Honors, Chemistry, Advanced Chemistry Honors, Environmental Science, Applied Science and Engineering Honors, The Art and Science of Making, Marine Science, Marine Science Honors

Engineering & Design

Engineering and Design is a new department at Athenian based on the idea that creating and making are important skills. You will have the opportunity to work in Athenian's Maker Studio in a variety of your classes in the fine arts, sciences, and occasionally humanities.

Additionally, the Maker Studio is host to Athenian's Airplane Project, robotics, the electric car project, 3D printers, a computer-controlled router, a laser cutter, and an array of tools, electronics, and other making equipment.

Some of the core classes that are offered through this department include Project-Based Introduction to Computer Programming, the Art & Science of Making class, CAD Programming, and Applied Science.
When I started at Athenian in 6th grade, I knew that I was interested in the sciences and I loved building things. I didn’t have much of an idea of how I wanted to pursue this, but Athenian has provided me with the guidance and opportunities I needed. I’ve worked on converting a 1989 Honda Civic to electric, building two airplanes, and building a robot each year for the FIRST Robotic Competition. I’ve enjoyed all of these projects so much that I spent over 250 hours working on the robotics team in a period of just two months. Because of the exposure that Athenian has given me, I’ll continue my studies in engineering in college. -Holden Leslie-Bole '14
Online and Hands-On Introduction to Computer Programming, Project-Based Computer Programming, Art & Science of Making, Computer-Aided Design and Fabrication

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  • "Spirit of Athenian" Airplane Project

    Around 55 students a year participate in the airplane project, assembling a fully functional, FAA approved two-seat plane by hand. From riveting the wings to installing the engine, Athenian students have successfully completed two Piper Cub planes. The Spirit of Athenian III is expected to be completed in the next couple of years.
    The newest airplane project began in August 2012 and is a Van's Aircraft RV-12.
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  • Athenian Robotics Collective (ARC)

    ARC was founded when students wanted to bring a FIRST robotics team to Athenian in the early '00s. The club has recently been focusing on giving back, doing outreach with younger students to inspire them to love engineering.
  • Electric Car Project

    Students have been working for several years to convert a gas-powered car to an electric vehicle that can be recharged by energy collected from our own solar array. 
  • FIRST Robotics

    Upper School students work together to design, program, and build a new robot annually for the FIRST Robotics Competition. By joining the robotics program, you will be mentored by professional engineers, build and complete a robot of your own design, learn sophisticated hardware and software, and see a complicated engineering project from conception through completion.
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World Languages

Learning languages is an essential way to develop a global understanding of cultures and people, increase your perceptiveness, improve your decision-making abilities, and strengthen your mastery of English. Not only will you have the opportunity to explore the 5 c's of languages--comparison, communication, culture, connection, and communities--but you will be asked to challenge cultural stereotypes and find enjoyment in and appreciation for languages. The language department believes that culture and language are one; drawing on the resources of the diverse Bay Area community, you will be exposed to other cultures via performances, restaurants and cafes, television and radio stations, and press. The Upper School uses a communicative approach in foreign language classes; from the beginning levels, classroom instruction, student participation, and group discussions are in the target language. Grammar is presented as a tool to be applied to real-life situations and fluency is encouraged as much as accuracy. 

While Athenian requires students to complete a language through Level III, many students choose to continue their language study, exploring global issues in advanced classes.
French: I, II, III, III Honors, IV: Communication & Culture, IV AP

I, II, III, III Honors, IV, IV AP

Spanish: I, II, III, III Honors, IV: Communication & Culture, IV AP


In a rapidly changing world, the development of creativity and imagination, along with the ability to improvise and synthesize, becomes more imperative than ever. Our fine arts department instills confidence and conviction and rewards students that are willing to take risks, make mistakes, and try again. Athenian celebrates creative expression and promotes an objective appreciation for the processes of making art. You will have the opportunity to survey music, visual art, and drama in the Freshmen Art and Identity course. From there, you will be able to explore favorite or new arts forms, more informed about your own artistic abilities and preferences.
    • Color the Sky
Visual Arts: 2D Art, Photography, 3D Art, Advanced Art, Art Revolution, Ceramics, Humanitas, Personal Projects in Visual Art, The Art & Science of Making

Digital Arts: Animation, Athenian Video Storytelling Project, Digital Arts, Video & Special Effects, Yearbook Publication

Theater and Film: Dramatic Arts, Filmmaking, Cinema Studies, Rehearsal & Performance: Theater Production

Music: Instrumental Music, Instrumental Music Ensembles, Advanced Combo, Choir, Advanced Choir

Dance: Dance, Musical Theater Dance, Winter Dance Playshop Series

Physical Education

Athletics and physical fitness are important not just for health but for learning. Rather than a traditional PE class where you rotate through different sports and activities, you have the option of taking any of Athenian's faculty-led PE courses, ranging from hiking Athenian's hills to yoga to basketball. PE classes meet three times a week. Students can fulfill their PE requirement by participating in a team sport.

Students who participate in athletics or physical fitness outside of Athenian can qualify for Independent P.E. credit. 
AWE and Sports Conditioning, Dance, Hiking, Rock Climbing, Ultimate Frisbee, Weight Training, Yoga

Blended Learning

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  • Bay Area BlendEd Consortium

    As the ways we teach and learn continue to be influenced by the use of digital technology, the Blend-Ed Consortium seeks to combine demonstrated best practices for online learning with our schools' proven strengths in direct classroom instruction. By creating a blended model, where students access the curriculum and teachers online as well as through class meetings, we help our students prepare for the changing methods of instruction and communication they will see in college and in the workforce while preserving the core relational culture that lies at the heart of our schools' educational missions.
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Bay Area Cinema; Bay Area Ecology; Beats, Rhymes, and Life: An Exploration of Hip Hop; Climate Change: Scientific Principles, Impacts, and Human Responses; Field Study Photography and Bay Area History; Molecular Architecture: An Introduction to Organic Chemistry; Multivariable Calculus; Race, Place, and Toxics; Web Design and Development

Special Offerings

Entrepreneurship Class
This hybrid course is offered by parents in the Athenian community. Students work on real-life projects to explore entrepreneurialism and possibly create their own product.

Independent Study

Exceptionally responsible students who want to explore an area of academic interest beyond the regular classroom offerings can take an independent study with the guidance of a faculty member. 

Students who want to explore an outside interest in depth may earn elective credit for internships. Internships can be on campus or off campus. For more information about internships at Athenian, check out The Athenian Coop.

Teacher's Assistant
Teachers ask students to serve as Teaching Assistants in a particular class. Duties vary from class to class; most students find being a TA very rewarding.