Our ProgramWe create a path to social and academic growth.
Academics at The Burkard School
Flexible Academics to Meet Your Child’s Needs
School is not just about memorizing facts and mastering basic skills. It’s about helping students to become citizens of the world, supporting them as they explore their passions, and laying the social, emotional, and intellectual foundation necessary for a smooth transition from childhood into adolescence and adulthood. This is often a challenge for academically advanced students who need extra social emotional, behavioral, and executive function support. These students typically come to our school with some imbalance between their significant strengths and other areas that need development.
At The Burkard School, we know that no two kids are the same. Our teachers and behavior specialists work hard to develop honest and open relationships with students so that they can reframe student differences in terms of the unique strengths that each student brings to the learning community. Teachers help students to hone and develop their strengths and weaknesses through authentic, hands-on, highly personalized learning experiences.
With a student-teacher ratio of 5:1 in the elementary school/6:1 in the middle school, teachers are able to utilize a unique blend of flexibility and predictability that allows individuals to thrive within their learning community. The small class sizes and integrated behavioral support allow teachers to be responsive to individual differences in ability, interest, and rate of academic progress. Teachers differentiate learning content continuously as they develop lesson plans and attend to needs in real time, making sure all students engage with content at the level that is “just right” for each individual.
This model also enables teachers to deliver engaging project-based lessons against the backdrop of a highly structured predictable environment. Students are explicitly taught to understand their weekly schedule, the elements of daily lessons in each subject, and expected behaviors during academic time. At the start of each year, each classroom community works together to craft classroom norms and these are promoted throughout the year through positive reinforcement from the teacher and behavior specialist.
So that they can utilize this blend of flexibility and predictability in daily lessons, teachers are provided with high quality curriculum materials and regular professional development. The implementation of the curriculum for each subject is a continuously evolving process as teachers use assessment results to inform their practice. Lesson designs are regularly adapted and refined to ensure that all students are achieving their maximum potential.
English Language Arts: For our reading and writing curriculum, teachers use The Wilson Reading Program (K-3) and The Lucy Calkins Readers and Writers Workshop (K-6). Both are renowned programs that provide teachers with research-based tools, methods, models, and assessments to deploy as they build students’ capacity as expert readers, writers, and thinkers. Through the Wilson Reading Program, students master the structure of the English language and the foundations of literacy through targeted daily practice. In the Lucy Calkins program, students gain skills by engaging in the practices of highly literate people living in a text rich world. They become critical consumers of information, connoisseurs of text, and authors – capturing vivid details about the world through ongoing writing projects.
Grammar and vocabulary are a focus of the Language Arts curriculum as well. We use Growing With Grammar, based on Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition curriculum, long acknowledged as the standard authority among textbooks of English grammar, usage, and mechanics. Through the curriculum, students gain mastery of the English language, and are able to diagram complex sentences by the end of 5th grade. At TBS, students learn vocabulary through the Wordly Wise curriculum, developing sophisticated vocabulary through a study of Greek and Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes, and synonyms and antonyms.
Math: Teachers use Investigations 3, a focused, rigorous mathematics curriculum aligned to the Common Core State Standards. This curriculum supports students in developing and expanding their own ideas about mathematics. Students develop the foundational skills needed for math at higher levels through unique lessons that encourage reasoning, communication, and sense-making rather than simply memorization.
Science: Teachers use FOSS, a research-based approach to teaching hands-on science. This curriculum engages students in active learning experiences while cementing the development of the foundational skills this generation will need to pursue science and engineering in high school and beyond. Students become scientists as they engage with similar materials, processes, and methods of inquiry as professionals.
Social Studies: Teachers use TCI’s California Common Core-aligned Social Studies Alive! Curriculum. TCI lessons are highly-interactive and inquiry-based – designed to present content in a way that helps students grasp important details while gaining an understanding of the big picture. Students explore the essential elements of our social world by engaging in individual and group projects. Each project introduces students to specific historical periods as they investigate key figures and events associated with that time period.
Teaching the Whole Child: At the Burkard School, the focus is on development of the whole child. Given this, students not only participate in our rigorous academic program, but also daily lessons in Social Emotional Learning (see next section for more information), daily opportunities to explore their bodies and minds through movement and meditation, and weekly enrichment courses in music, art, and PE lessons.
Our educator/specialist model and whole child approach allows the teachers to focus their attention on teaching and the students on learning. Our balance of flexibility and predictability in the curriculum engages the students in active, project-based, experiential learning in a way that awakens a love and excitement for school and allows them to flourish. As a result, inquisitive minds that might have been distracted in their previous school settings are now focused, regulated, and ready to learn.
A 5th Grade Student presents to the whole school on Composting
Social Emotional Learning in Culture & Curriculum
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is the core of The Burkard School’s mission. We believe that social emotional skills are a foundational part of child development and building a strong SEL foundation is key for our students’ to grow into happy, productive, well-adjusted young adults. As such, SEL is not only a key element of The Burkard School curriculum, it is also deeply ingrained in our school culture.
Culture: Students engage in daily SEL lessons but their learning extends well beyond this class. Our faculty and staff are trained to weave best practices in social emotional learning into every aspect of student life on campus. In each classroom, a dedicated behavior specialist takes advantage of in-the-moment opportunities to support students who are experiencing difficulty with an SEL skill. On the playground and in the classrooms, the behavior specialists engage with the children to scaffold positive, meaningful interactions that build these skills, bit-by-bit.
With this unique wrap-around support for social-emotional development, our students are able to learn, practice, and get feedback on the social-emotional skills that are essential for productive personal and academic growth. Teachers and behavior specialists work closely to elevate student development by setting and monitoring individual and group SEL goals that both challenge students and support their growth. The result: Children who can form strong friendships with their classmates, control their impulses, be team players, use appropriate tools to handle frustrations, and be competent student citizens.
Curriculum: The dedicated behavior specialists teach a robust SEL curriculum through the daily lessons. The Burkard School SEL curriculum explicitly teaches SEL skills and practices in a way that balances repetition of learned skills and acquisition of new skills. The content spirals so that as students progress from Kindergarten through the upper grades, they build upon familiar concepts with increasing depth. In each lesson, concepts are introduced and developed with a targeted combination of age-appropriate methods (i.e. read-alouds, videos, role playing, organizers, hands-on activities, etc.). Students are invited to explore their thinking across multiple modalities (i.e. art, game play, individual projects, cooperative projects, writing, class meetings).
In SEL class and beyond, The Burkard School approach to SEL is organized into four key domains: Awareness, Regulation, Mindsets, and Values. In their time at The Burkard School, students will have the opportunity to develop their knowledge as they engage with a variety practices in each domain. In this process, our students grow to internalize four core beliefs about themselves and their ability to interact within a social world.
- Awareness: I am knowledgeable.
Students develop this belief as they cultivate their self and social awareness. Students are taught recognize their emotions, thoughts, and physical states and understand how these influence their behavior. In this domain, students also learn to notice and name aspects of interpersonal interaction. They learn to recognize the emotions of others and are introduced to the importance of empathy and perspective taking in day-to-day interactions.
- Regulation: I am capable.
Students develop this belief as they learn and practice strategies for self and social regulation. Students are taught to notice, name, and exercise control over their emotions, thoughts, and physical states. They also practice a variety of strategies designed to increase positive behavior choices in their daily actions and interactions.
- Mindsets: I have intention.
Students develop this belief as they learn and practice the mindsets of highly effective individuals. In this domain, students learn to embody components of self and social efficacy. They are given tools and strategies that allow them to develop habits of self-reflection, goal setting, persistence, empathy, compassion, and mutual respect.
- Values: I have purpose.
Students develop this belief as they learn and practice the markers of strong character and social responsibility. In this domain, students learn to recognize admirable traits that lend to outstanding character, productive citizenship, and pro-social ethics. They are given opportunities to explore these themes in the school community and beyond. Students are provided a safe space to explore and reflect on the kind of person they are and who they would like to be in the world.
In order for students to develop these beliefs about themselves, each domain is covered explicitly within each grade level using age appropriate methods for exploring the related themes. Student development is tracked on a continuum of growth that follows the TBS Social Emotional Practices. As students progress from early grades to upper grades, the emphasis of the SEL curriculum shifts. In the early grades, all four domains are covered but the emphasis of SEL class is placed heavily on the development of awareness and regulation. In the upper grades, these domains are covered early in the year and a stronger emphasis is placed on the development of mindsets and values.
Across all grade levels, the faculty and staff at The Burkard School embody the notion that social emotional learning is a set of skills that must be practiced. We do not believe in a common standard of social emotional behavior to be upheld by all individuals at all times but instead in a set of skills that can be built up by continuous practice over time. Like building our muscles through workouts, we teach kids to build their social emotional skills through regular exercise that is intentional and targeted. When your child experiences continued success as a result of this kind of practice and realizes how capable they can be, their pride and self-confidence will grow. At The Burkard School, we live for that spark.
Specialists who can help your child succeed
Some children exhibit disruptive behavior due to underlying anxiety, frustration, ADHD, or other factors. Most classrooms are not set up to help these students effectively. At The Burkard School, our educator/behavior specialist model allows those students who need extra behavioral support to receive it in a consistent, patient, and loving way.
Our behavior specialists have extensive experience and training dealing with challenging behaviors. Most importantly, they love what they do. They see the potential in each child and treat each child with respect, understanding, and sensitivity. We know that children work best in classrooms with consistent and clear expectations. Lots of positive reinforcement coupled with clear, kind boundaries empower students who might otherwise feel disregulated, unfocused, confused, or anxious in the classroom.
At The Burkard School, we believe that understanding the underlying psychological drivers for your child’s behavior is key to unlocking his best self. Our Director of Social Emotional Learning, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, works closely with our behavior specialists and our advising psychologists to tailor an intervention plan that is nuanced and targeted.
Surrounded by a structured and supportive environment, motivated by positive reinforcement and specialists that understand how to get the best from each child, your child can become the regulated, confident student they knew they could be.
Mastering lifelong skills
Executive function skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. The brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.
When children have the opportunity to develop executive function skills, they experience lifelong benefits. These skills are crucial for learning and development. They also enable positive behavior and allow children to make healthy choices.
At The Burkard School, we understand that executive functioning is a skill set like any other – some people master it easily and some need extra help. Our behavioral specialists bolster the organizational skills that don’t come naturally to a child with poor executive functioning. They teach a mix of specific strategies and alternative learning styles that complement or enhance a child’s particular abilities. The classrooms themselves are organized to help children develop their executive function skills – with clear charts, checklists, and predictable schedules. For those children struggling with executive functioning, The Burkard School provides the perfect environment to learn those skills and become self-sufficient.
For TBS students, we offer two after-school social groups: one for K – 3rd grades, and one for 3rd – 5th grades. These highly-structured groups promotes the development of age-appropriate social and communicative competence.
The small group size allows for staff to provide a myriad of opportunities to practice:
- Multiple round conversations
- Perspective taking
- Negotiating with peers
- Problem solving
- Adhering to social norms
Individualized goals are developed for each participant, which means we make data-informed decisions. In collaboration with classroom teachers, goals are set to address behaviors that present across multiple settings. The small ratio allows the lead behavior specialists to break down skills and design activities to target these objectives. Each student has one behavior goal they work on each session. The student’s Behavior Specialist will report on the student’s progress in the group alongside their Student Success Plan in Team Meetings.
During each session, the schedule revolves around a specific social skill. A typical agenda is:
- Peaks and Pits: each student shares a highlight and a challenge of their day.
- Explicit social skill teaching: For example, identifying/describing emotions through worksheets and/or group discussions; reciprocity in conversations through role play.
- Collaborative group game or teamwork activity: For example, building an obstacle course together and/or group game (i.e. board game, turn taking games)
- Centers – reward time for a job well done!
Students are encouraged to engage in prosocial behaviors by earning friendship tokens. Following directions, participating in activities, complimenting others, showing flexibility, showing kindness to oneself, and other positive actions can earn friendship tokens. Once students have obtained three friendship tokens, they will receive their centers time. Centers is a time for students to pick an activity of their choice, BUT…the purpose of this social group is to be just that, social. This is a screen-free zone!
These groups focus on keeping anger at bay, showing empathy for others, having a positive inner voice and targets countless other social skills. In each session, there are no mistakes, just teachable moments. We encourage a growth mindset and remind students that mistakes grow our brains!
Camp at School
At The Burkard School, every school year culminates in June with a fun, exciting multi-week segment called Camp B, where kids apply the social-emotional tools they have been learning all year to a camp-like setting. There, our students experience the camaraderie and skill-building that traditional camps provide in an environment that is safe, supportive, and promotes success. For many of our kids, it is their first experience of “camp,” and our teachers and specialists are there to make sure it is a positive one. The Camp B curriculum gives our kids the confidence to go on and enjoy traditional camps once school is officially let out for the summer.
Camp B is a time when our kids can master the nuances of group activities. The focus of Camp B is on important life skills such as flexibility, fairness, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Most of the day is spent outdoors team-building and exploring. Whether they’re learning outdoor survival, taking a photo walk, geocaching, putting on a skit, or running an obstacle course, the students are working together and honing their skills. The kids don’t realize they are participating in an intensive social-emotional learning program – they just think they’re having fun at “camp”!
While the main focus of Camp B is social-emotional learning, it is also a wonderful opportunity to feed our children’s natural curiosity and engage them in experiential, kinesthetic learning. Applied sciences take center stage as the students learn by doing. Physics, chemistry, geometry, geology, and zoology are just some of the subjects our educators will be cultivating in their outdoor laboratory.
Watch best-selling author and psychologist Madeline Levine, Ph.D. share her views on the benefits of camp for children:
Camp B is part of the regular school year at The Burkard School and is included in the tuition. Camp B is for enrolled students of The Burkard School only.
Home Behavioral Support
Help at home
At The Burkard School, we’re aware that consistency across environments is key for our students to thrive; therefore, we offer a wrap-around service to ensure your child is successful in each environment that they are in.
Included in the tuition are two home sessions with your child’s classroom behavioral specialist, who can implement the same systems running in the classroom into your home environment. This can be extremely helpful for families that are having difficulty maintaining balance or feeling powerless because of their child’s adverse behaviors.
A small independent K-8 school for bright children who need extra support with self-regulation, executive functioning, and/or social-emotional learning in the classroom.
Want More Information?
Contact us to find out more information about The Burkard School.