Academics at Birchwood School of Hawken empower students to reach their highest level of achievement while fostering a strong sense of personal competency and self-worth. Eight “pillars” rooted in research, history, and experience provide the best education to every child.
Curriculum design and pedagogy are time-tested and research-based. When making decisions about academic content or teaching methodology historical precedents are used: “Does history show that this content is appropriate or that this method works? What is the track record of student achievement under this approach?” Then research is evaluated: “Where and what is the empirical data to support the success of this approach?” After asking these questions, we are prepared to learn and innovate, and develop some of our own curriculum to enhance student achievement.
Curriculum content is benchmarked. Academic programs in the US and abroad that have demonstrated superior student achievement are identified. Discovery includes learning what levels of academic achievement other schools are able to reach. When we find superior programs, we learn what is being done well and improve our program.
Good education is rooted in a sound taxonomy of thinking skills. Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking skills guides us in this effort. His taxonomy begins with knowledge and understanding, and extends to application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Students at a basic level must learn to learn, study, memorize, and master bodies of information. Then they can learn how to think, apply knowledge, analyze it, synthesize it into new forms, and evaluate it against other bodies of knowledge.
Curriculum design must be systematic. A well-defined curriculum for each grade level in each subject must build upon itself year after year. A robust, detailed, academic foundation, formed in elementary and middle school, enables students to excel in high school. Quality teachers may bring fresh inspiration or creative strategies to the curriculum, but the scope and sequence remains constant, adjusting only for the speed at which students proceed through coursework.
Student attitude and work ethics are just as important to the learning process as curriculum and teachers. The special curriculum fosters these virtues. In morning openings, students listen to stories of great individuals and historical events that illustrate qualities such as industry, self-discipline, courage, and compassion. This helps etch lasting impressions in the mind and conscience of each child. Student performance is commensurate with each student’s ability: whether of average or superior ability, children learn to produce work.
Parents and teachers maintain close communication concerning the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. Parent meetings and an open door policy quickly and thoroughly address issues that arise.
Great teachers are needed if students are to learn at high levels. Great teachers must know their subject matter and “go the extra mile” with each student, whether for remedial or advanced work. They recognize the need to work in harmony with the curriculum, faculty, and administration, and play an essential role in making classrooms exciting and challenging and the school a happy, positive, and productive place.