Upper School


Celebrating independence, grace, & curiosity

Upper School represents a defining period in our students’ lives.

Having successfully navigated the academic and time management challenges of the Middle School, students intensify their studies and co-curricular activities in preparation for finding the best fit for college.

Great expectations

A rigorous academic program is delivered by passionate, professional educators, who incorporate critical-thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills into daily lessons and discussions.

College admission orientation begins in ninth grade, and by their junior year, students meet individually with college counselors and advisors to build the best fit for the next phase of their journey. As graduation approaches, students mature into confident, capable young adults with lifelong friendships, impressive academic footings, and solid foundations of social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual health. Our students leave aware of their gifts and talents and are passionate about sharing them with the world.



Words Matter

Our students’ experience from the Middle School to the Upper School are aligned, very much, in terms of their reading and writing. Beginning in the fifth grade, every student submits at least eight formal essays per year with drafts, so we pride ourselves on forging excellent writers through diligence, repetition, and effort for their entire careers.

We believe that the “classics” will never go out of style in helping to forge our students’ identities as thoughtful, soulful human beings. We believe that “great” literature will always provide our students with equipment for living, to paraphrase the great modernist poet Wallace Stevens. And so our all of our sixth graders read A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the same reason that all of our seniors read Hamlet: because in Shakespeare we find ourselves.

Featured Experiences
  • Poetry Recitations: Middle & Upper School
  • Life of Pi boat projects: Middle School
  • Daze Between: Middle School literary magazine 
  • Watch Magazine: Upper School literary magazine 
  • Canterbury Tales Recitation: Upper School
  • Writing Contest: Upper School
  • Visiting Writer: Upper School
  • Valedictory Addresses: Upper School 



Collaboratively Solving Problems

We strive to lead students in their development of a solid foundation in the mathematical concepts and critical thinking skills that will make them 21st century problem-solvers and innovators. Our students are not only building the foundation related to content but they are also building the skills needed for students to be successful independent learners of math. 

Teachers of all grade levels strive to put students in situations where they have the opportunity to hone their problem solving and critical thinking skills. These opportunities are scaffolded by grade level and course. The guiding principles of every lesson are driven by the mission of the school and vision of the Porter-Gaud graduate. 

Featured Math Programs and Experiences
  • Individual and Collaborative Learning 
  • Math Counts 
  • ASMA Junior and ASMA Senior 
  • AMC 8/10/12
  • SCISA Math Meets 
  • CofC Math meet 



Fostering an Understanding and Appreciation for the Natural World

One of the most important things in life is to never stop questioning. Understanding how the world works, from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest features of space, leads our students to a deeper appreciation for our place in the universe. The faculty and science curriculum at Porter-Gaud strive to develop learners who will leave our classrooms continuing to question and learn about the world around them.

Featured Experiences
  • AP Chemistry magic show
  • Honors Physics and Physics egg drop challenge
  • Oceanography students teach O’Quinn students about the ocean
  • Chemistry Olympiad
  • Sea Turtle hospital trips for Biology/Environmental/Oceanography
  • Science Olympiad (9-12)
  • STEM Night Student Presentations 
    • Environmental Science research projects
    • Biotechnology research
    • Engineering projects (may be more appropriate if there is an Interdisciplinary seminars page)
  • Astronomy (upcoming in 2024-2025 and beyond so all planned but TBD)
    • StarLab 
    • Field trip to SC State Museum Planetarium and Solar Observatory
  • Honors Biology 
    • Environmental impact on enzyme lab, bacterial transformations, and gel electrophoresis labs
    • Global Diseases and Biology Career Fair Projects
  • AP Biology Yeast DNA Damage, E. coli Gene Expression, and Genetic Engineering  labs
  • Honors Biomedical Sciences 
    • Bacterial culturing and antibiotic sensitivity screening
    • Anatomy & physiology with cat gross anatomy,  sheep brain dissections, and observation of human brain and spinal cord specimen 
    • Neuroscience of sensory processing and screening for “early-bird” sleep genes
  • Honors Biotechnology Research
    • Collaborative research projects with faculty at Clemson University
    • Field trips to MUSC Neuroscience Research Department and Clemson University to tour EPIC and REDDI Labs
  • Honors Chemistry and Chemistry - Copper Cycle Lab; Honors Chemistry - Analysis of Iron in Cereal Experiment

Upper School student in class at Porter-Gaud



Context for our Modern World

The History Department places a greater emphasis on thematic history and the interrelationship of events over “memorization of facts,” challenging students to focus more on the “how” and “why,” rather than the “names” and “dates.”

The department also emphasizes the instructional goal of empowering students to personalize history while appreciating the achievements and sacrifices of those who came before them. History, ultimately, is a complicated story that requires critical analysis to comprehend, and our goal is to guide students through this complex narrative in order to be more prepared to make educated decisions in a diverse and shifting world that has been forged by decisions and developments of the past.

Our students will become leaders in this world, and they will have the tools necessary to manage and understand their role within it through their coursework here at Porter-Gaud.

Featured Experiences
  • National History Day (NHD) competition in 9th Grade
  • Youth in Government
  • Model United Nations
  • Field Experiences Utilizing Charleston's Rich History and Local Academic Archives
  • AP World History
  • AP US History
  • AP US Government
  • AP Micro/Macro Economics
  • AP Comparative Government


Computer Science

Innovate to Create

Our four-year Computer Science (CS) program in the Upper School is the only one of its kind in the state. It is designed to attract, recruit, and engage students in the world of computer science.

The 360° approach empowers students to explore and learn not only the programming behind a technology or topic, but also study the job market, ethics, current events, related technologies, and real-world application. Computer science is a required course for ninth grade. The accelerated program is selective for 10th-12th grades.

Featured Experiences
  • Build games related to social, culture, political, and world issues and problem in Python.
  • Program autonomous vehicles through robotics and code to access sensors.
  • Develop for a mobile device by creating an app.
  • Work to develop a 2D educational game in the first semester, and a 3D interactive environment in Unity.
  • Build Virtual Reality(VR) apps.
  • Learn to code in C# within the object-oriented Unity environment.
  • Explore the digital art components of game and app development with 2D animation and 3D modeling in Maya.
  • Create a 3D programming project using the Kinect camera.
  • Learn Swift programming to design a capstone project that uses the interface and functionality for an app on iOS that addresses a real-world social, economic, or health problem.
  • Explore cybersecurity techniques of attack and defense in preparation for a Capture the Flag (CTF) competition.
  • Program drones to compete in numerous obstacle course challenges autonomously as well as with controllers.
  • Design Virtual Reality (VR) and/or Artificial Intelligence (A.I) programs that address a real-world issue. 



The Fine Arts Department offers students a variety of courses throughout the year to prepare them for a career in the arts, an appreciation of the arts or even an opportunity to explore something out of their comfort zone.
Students are able to create a path for themselves through music, drama, dance or visual art that will enable them to cultivate a better understanding of their aspirations.

They will gain their voice in 10th grade Public Speaking class, embark upon a  musical journey in choir, jazz band or music theory and explore their artistic creativity with different mediums in the art studio.  There are more opportunities for students interested in drama, music and dance to further their interest in performance, technical theatre or stage crew.

Please see the Fine Arts page for a photo and video gallery of last years performances.


World Languages

On the Path to Proficiency

Becoming proficient in another language and learning about other cultures is vital in today’s global community and the Porter-Gaud World Language program. Our curriculum provides students with the opportunity to participate in a multilingual and multicultural environment and to learn to connect and communicate with speakers of other languages. In addition to working toward acquiring the languages, students will be introduced to the practices and perspectives of these global cultures.
In all languages - Spanish, French, Latin, and Mandarin Chinese - our department faculty utilize engaging resources including developmentally appropriate content, rich stories, authentic texts, computer applications and audio and video resources to facilitate learning to communicate,  interpret the language and bring the targeted cultures to life.

Featured Programs and Student Experiences
  • Focus on proficiency 
  • Opportunities for international travel through immersion experiences
  • Global Seal of Biliteracy
  • Target Language Clubs (conversation, book clubs, celebrations, dance workshops)
  • Connections with their local community (restaurants, dance studios, native speakers, volunteer opportunities, and theatrical performances)
  • Intercultural Competence and Cultural Connections


Religion and Philosophy

Questions and Persuits of Ultimate Concern

The Religion & Philosophy Department exists to serve the mission of Porter-Gaud School by educating students on the questions and pursuits of ultimate concern, including what are the ingredients to a good life, why is there something rather than nothing, and what to do with pain and suffering.

Consistent with the standards of Episcopal education, our aim is neither indoctrination nor catechesis. Rather, we seek to create space for students to humbly, critically, and comparatively explore the various responses to questions offered by the major religions and philosophies of the world.

This exploration takes the form of analytical reading, creative and argumentative writing, seminar-style discussions, and formal debate within an environment of open-mindedness, empathy, and respect. For our department, success looks like students who better understand their world, their neighbors, and themselves. 

Current Upper School Offerings
  • Christian Theology and Ethics
  • Life Worth Living: Philosophical Studies
  • Honors Philosophy
  • Honors History of World Religions
  • Bioethics Interdisciplinary Seminar (Offered in Partnership with Other Departments)
  • Cybersecurity and Ethics Interdisciplinary Seminar (Offered in Partnership with Other Departments)
  • Genocide: Past and Present
  • The American Story
  • World Health and Ethics


Physical Education

The Porter-Gaud Physical Education program is designed to develop each student’s physical, emotional, and social growth. Physical Education in Upper School is focused on continuing to build on the knowledge and understanding of health-related physical fitness through exercise and organized game play. Students will learn through team games the importance of working together for a common goal, being great teammates and displaying great sportmanship.

The curriculum strives to promote students’ self-confidence by cultivating a positive environment through sports activities as well as building on their base knowledge of fitness that the students can carry with them throughout their lives.

Porter-Gaud students in a science class

Featured Programs