The kindergarten rooms at Birchwood School of Hawken burst with energy and enthusiasm. Remarkably, the Birchwood teachers created a curriculum which taps into the inner drive for understanding as well as the deep need for creativity and meaningful social engagement.
Children engage in reading and math instruction at the level and pace that fits them; they may go as far as they have interest and capacity. The goal is the children’s thorough enjoyment, which arises when they feel competent about their growth and the worlds they are coming to understand. Children tell stories through art, conversation, and their burgeoning ability to write.
Curiosity and exploration units tap children’s interest and/or introduce them to fields as yet unknown to them. The guiding principle of these long-term projects is that they have open-ended components and are driven by children’s insight and questions. Additionally, through the week, children spend extended periods in free play both indoors and outdoors. A hallmark of the kindergarten year is a carefully tailored character program that embraces the daily challenges and opportunities for inspiration which naturally arise out of the experiences of children at this age.
While contained in two classrooms, the kindergarten functions as a whole class. Two lead teachers and up to three additional supporting teachers, oversee the unique development of each child for an approximate student-teacher ratio of 5:1. The children begin in one room as a home base but flow between rooms and among their peers for their educational experiences. The day includes a short rest time, and children eat a snack and lunch provided by their parents. Kindergarten begins at 8:30 am, with drop-off as early at 8 am, and ends at 3:20 pm. Before care and after care are provided for a fee as early as 7 am prior to school and until 6 pm at the conclusion of the school day.
“Birchwood is a unique combination of a rigorous disciplined curriculum with a strong academic push, delivered in a warm nurturing environment.”