The curriculum is individualized, with a foundation in age-appropriate natural history, geography and history, science, technology, math, literature, writing, music and the arts.
Each student’s morning program is developed with the cooperation and partnership of each student’s parents and teachers. Frequent communication and readjustment of program and goals when necessary ensure that students are progressing on a desired path.
Led by educational coaches, students follow an individualized program. The school coach, student, and parents work together to build a program around the student’s needs and interests and the available classes at the center.
A variety of resources and learning methods are available to students, and teachers and educational coaches work with individual students to identify and pursue the most appropriate method for the student and topic. Group classes, independent study, on-line learning, audio classes, open university classes, games, research, group projects, field trips, special guests and instructors, virtual field trips, interviews, simulations, project-based learning challenges, are just some of the possible sources of learning that students can chose to engage with.
Core subjects such as English and Science are offered in a class format for most students. Options are available for individual learning if desired.
Our staff ensures that each student is engaged with a well-rounded curriculum with emphasis on the key academic areas: English language and literature; history, social studies and geography; mathematics and problem solving; science, natural history and ecology. We also ensure students engage in experiences that teach engineering and technology, languages, life skills, art and music, collaborative work, health, goal-setting, time management, and more.
We utilize tools derived from project-based learning, agile methodologies, brain and learning research, and consensus group process. We also use community resources and the internet to match learners with engaging experiences.
We use a learning management system (LMS) to manage student work and progress. This enables students to keep track of the learning goals and projects they have outlined. It also enables students to build a portfolio of work, and to assign credits to their work in various projects. This keeps a record of the learning goals that students have met, and the goals and learning targets they are still working on. It allows students and teachers to more easily record the academic work that students produce. Over time, each student develops a portfolio of completed work, and eventually may add Open Badges they have earned, to their record of progress.
Our students are encouraged to become “producers”, to generate their own content, deliver their own message. We encourage students to become “makers”and design and build things in the real world. We help them see the world as scientists, using citizen science and ecology. We value complex thinking, thoughtful communication and freedom of discovery.
Birch Students are part of a strong community. We value contribution to the larger school community and encourage students to participate in School Service activities. Some students help staff the school snack store, and others help with building maintenance and improvement. Everyone helps set up and clean up our working space each week.
Students are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and take pride in the school environment.
Our center staff have an extensive network of educational professionals as advisors. Specialists in Reading and Literacy, Autism, Gifted and Talented, Technology Education, History Education, Environmental Education, Elementary Education, Math and Living Math Education, Montessori Education, Music Learning, are available to our staff for consultation and advisement.
Students create projects and portfolios, and pursue goals developed by the parents, student and teacher together. Each student’s instruction will be individually designed and authentically assessed. Students will also work on the creation of developmental portfolios and other authentic assessments.
We provide a context for student’s spontaneous growth and learning, as well as structure for organizing and understanding their journey.
We have a clearly defined, inclusive, consensus-based democratic process that we, as a school, consciously participate in. Students take responsibility for themselves, learn to keep their word and be accountable to others, and to communicate their ideas and feelings. We create a safe, caring community guided by knowledgeable, passionate adults in which our children can learn and grow.
Yet academic learning makes up only part of the Birch School day.
Nature and outdoor awareness are part of each day with daily outdoor time.
We recognize the importance of unstructured playtime, and provide plenty of time for play: indoors and outdoors, hiking, playing in the woods, and spontaneous games on the lawns and riding bikes and scooters or shooting baskets on the blacktop.
We value community service. In the past we have contributed home-cooked meals to a Newburgh Homeless program and visited a local Senior Center for crafts, singing, games and conversations. We have raised funds for a water purification system for a school in Kenya.
Our students engage in healthy large and small motor skill development, get the exercise they need, and have daily opportunities to express that boundless energy that is the very meaning of childhood.
The program is supplemented with frequent field trips to local parks, trails, and other relevant community destinations.