Signature Programs

Signature Programs at Birchwood School of Hawken epitomize the school’s mission and play an important role in the development of intellect and character for all students. Elementary and middle school students are given the opportunity to engage in subject disciplines at deeper intellectual levels or at more accelerated achievement levels. Due to their high academic standards these programs introduce students to standards of excellence that inspire them to work hard, persevere, and perform at their best.

Signature Programs include proven academic programs sponsored by national organizations, quality academic competitions, and Birchwood’s own innovations like Speech Fest and the Ben Franklin Initiative.

Birchwood’s strategic use of quality academic competitions in its curriculum is unique. By addressing students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, the process embraces the entire academic experience. Children are immersed in the essential structure of a discipline and experience deep learning over an extended period of time.

Competitions also provide opportunities for academic performance against top students in Ohio and the nation. Most importantly, Birchwood uses competitions to teach children how to compete, excel, and reach for one’s highest performance. After all, those who hope to live a flourishing life, will find themselves competing in one way or another. At Birchwood there is a special word to describe competition – soft – as students are supported through the process of hard work, struggle, perseverance, disappointment, failure, and success.

Read on to discover the wide array of Signature Programs offered to Birchwood students:

Reading

Junior Great Books & Junior Great Books Roundtable – Short stories and excerpts from classical children’s literature are used to teach children how to read interpretively using methods of shared inquiry. Beginning in first grade students are introduced to critical reading and thinking skills that they will use throughout their academic career. The Great Books Roundtable for sixth through eighth grade students adds selections from enduring literature, poetry, and nonfiction. These programs introduce students to the critical reading and thinking skills they will use throughout their academic careers and as citizens in our democratic society.

The Avid Readers Clubs – Believing that children learn to love reading by reading, we have created several types of reading clubs that nurture this lifelong habit. The Avid Readers Clubs meet the reading needs of able readers by introducing them to classical literature for young people and holding discussions of these works at lunchtime meetings with our reading teachers. Our Read Across America programs stimulate the love of reading by setting children on imaginary treks in which each page they read translates into travels across the world and through history.

Public Speaking and the Performing Arts

The Poetry Show – Students across all grade levels memorize great and enduring works of poetry, enabling the rich language and thought of master poets to be embedded into their hearts and minds. These poems are brought to life on stage in a yearly show in which students apply elements of vocal delivery and theater arts, drawing upon a range of fine arts experiences through the incorporation of props and costumes. By engaging in this process year after year, students develop teamwork, self-confidence, and dramatic expression.

Project Presentations – Beginning in the earliest grades, students are required to create and present projects in reading, social studies, science, and our Signature Programs. Through a scope and sequence of skills in public speaking, project design, and unique creative presentations, students build up confidence in public speaking before difference audiences. In this way, public speaking becomes a familiar non threatening experience.

The Explore Program – In seventh grade, students have the opportunity to explore a topic of interest pertaining to any subject. Applying all the steps of the research process learned systematically in earlier grades, they proceed through the steps independently with a view toward a demonstration of their findings. Students present their projects through a medium of their choice while also giving an oral presentation to classmates. This allows them to apply the skills of a speechwriter and a speaker.

Speech Fest – Selecting and interpreting great speeches from history or Shakespearean monologues, seventh and eighth grade students speak before a panel of judges in a public presentation. Students gain practice in public speaking as well as receive feedback on vocal delivery, interpretation, and use of body language to communicate effectively.

Graduation Speech – To demonstrate the public speaking skills acquired through their years, each student composes a culminating speech. The intention is to have eighth grade students reflect upon their experiences at Birchwood; summarize what they have learned about becoming a great person; and write and deliver their speech before family, friends, faculty, and students.

Writing

Spider and Cricket Magazine Contests – Young writers are fascinated with the opportunity to create engaging fiction, fantasy, folk tales, adventures, poems, history, and more.

Scholastic Art & Writing Contest – The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers supports this prestigious writing contest for middle school students.

Creative Communication – Poetry, essay, and short story writing contests that are important “confidence builders” for young students as almost half of the entries are selected for publication.

PenOhio – Crafted for seventh and eighth grade Ohio students, teams of six hone their imagination and writing skills writing impromptu creative narratives.

Letters About Literature – Students in grades four and up read a book, poem or speech and then write to the author (living or dead) about how their writing affected them.

Mathematics

WoodMath Toolboxes – Developed at Birchwood, this simple program helps students become fluent with computational skills, accelerates math learning, and lays a foundation for advancement in mathematics.

Math Olympiads – A series of five contests provide students in fourth through eighth grade training in creative problem-solving skills.

Continental Mathematics League – A series of five contests for students in second through eighth grade teach how to apply basic math skills to complex logic and reasoning problems.

American Mathematics Contest 8 – A 25-question exam for middle school students that promotes the development and enhancement of problem-solving skills.

Noetic Learning Math Contest – A biannual math problem-solving contest for second through sixth grade students that encourages an interest in math, develops problem solving skills, and inspires students to excel.

MATHCOUNTS –math enrichment program that promotes middle school mathematics. Schools select students to compete individually or as part of a team.

Ohio Mathematics League – The league promotes the enjoyment and study of mathematics. Fifth through eighth grade students prepare for a 30-question, 40-minute exam and compete against some of the best math students in the state.

Science

Bridging Engineering, Science and Technology BEST Medicine Fair – Beginning in sixth grade students with "superior” projects from a local or district science day are accepted.

Northeastern Ohio Science and Engineering Fair – Affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the goal is to get young adults interested in science and engineering.

Broadcom MASTERS – A national competition for sixth through eighth grade students to inspire and encourage young scientists, engineers, and innovators.

District Science Days – Overseen by the Ohio Academy of Science and held throughout Ohio.

State Science Day – Highlights the top 10 percent of Ohio student research and engineering projects. Students may compete if they receive a “superior” at both their local and district Science Day.

National Chemistry Week – Community program of the American Chemical Society that teaches advanced content and provides for experimentation and critical analysis.

Ohio Science Olympiad – As one of the state's premier science competitions, Ohio Science Olympiad allows students in grades 4-6 to demonstrate their skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Ohio ranks seventh in the country for the overall number of student participants.

History

National History Day – This U.S. government-sponsored program introduces students to the historical method beginning in sixth grade. Students conduct extensive primary and secondary research and present their work at the district contest. Those who qualify move on to the state and national level. 

Character Education

Inspirational Openings – Inspirational Opening time is a 15-minute period at the beginning of the day in which teachers model character and virtue through literature, simulations, or videos regarding biographical and historical events. This daily schoolwide practice is informed by the research of Robert Coles on the effect of stories on the moral imagination and the Lawrence Sternberg on the cultivation of moral reasoning.

Day-to-Day Instruction – As situations arise in the day-to-day instruction and discipline of children, the focus is always to cultivate a child's reasoning according to the seven moral virtues, so that "right" behavior is supported by knowledge and understanding . In support of these efforts, banners, admonitions, directives, and instructions fill the classrooms and hallways to remind children "to know the good, to love the good, and to do the good." The research of William Damon and Carol Dweck have guided our approach.

Leadership Program – Building upon the foundation of daily instruction, the Birchwood Leadership Program, educates seventh and eighth grade students about leadership skills and provides opportunities to practice these skills. Students select school responsibilities that match their interests, assist in maintaining the school building, and help foster a positive school atmosphere. Students choose from jobs such as helping younger students pack up at the end of the day, computer maintenance, recycling, gardening, librarian, office help, hallway bulletin boards, and more.

The Ben Franklin Initiative During the fourth quarter of their seventh grade year and continuing throughout their eighth grade year, students participate in the Ben Franklin Initiative. This program is an extension of our eighth grade character development program and an authentic capstone of our creative problem-solving program. It is an opportunity for students to learn skills that promote independence, self-reflection, responsibility, collaboration, goal setting, and planning. The initiative speaks to the best intentions of young teens and inspires them to fulfill their potential.

Creative Training

Creative Problem-Solving – Birchwood recognizes that the ability to think creatively is an essential life skill that empowers children to thrive and flourish. Birchwood also recognizes that creative thinking skills can be taught and developed. Consequently, all children participate in creative problem-solving. This program teaches children to apply creative problem-solving to personal and group challenges and also includes strategies from project-based learning and design-thinking programs.

Future Problem Solving (FPS) – Birchwood's Creative Problem Solving Program culminates in middle school where students participate in Future Problem Solving Program International. In this competition, students study futuristic topics, work in groups to evaluate problems and challenges in the future, and brainstorm potential solutions and action plans.

Additional Programs

Midwest Academic Talent Search – The Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University conducts the Midwest Academic Talent Search for third through eighth grade academically talented students. Students qualify by attaining outstanding achievement in math and/or verbal areas. Students who qualify take either the PSAT 8/9, SAT, or ACT.

National Latin Exam – This exam given by the American Classical League and National Junior Classical League tests grammar and reading comprehension, etymology, and Roman culture.
 
National Spanish Exam – The National Spanish Examinations are a motivational contest designed to recognize student achievement in the study of Spanish. Online, standardized assessment tools for grades 6-12, they measure performance (interpretive communication) and achievement of students studying Spanish as a second language. Each year about 4,000 teachers throughout the United States administer this test to more than 160,000 students.
“From an early age the seeds of my interest in history had been planted. Birchwood opened a door to channel this interest via National History Day. I became well-versed in conducting primary and secondary research; spending days in libraries, archives and presidential museums; and reaching out to experts. I liked to joke that I became infected with a research disease. The cure? Research more! Competing in History Day I learned invaluable research skills which served as the rain that helped my seed to grow.”
Zaeem M. 
Birchwood Graduate