Our Program

We create a path to social and academic growth.
2 children engaged in a science experiment

Academics at The Burkard School

Elementary School (K-5)

Rigorous and Engaging Academics That Fuel a Love for Learning

At The Burkard School, we aim to develop skilled, autonomous students with a strong self-concept and self-esteem as learners and to prepare students for various educational settings beyond The Burkard School.

Our students are curious, competent, and academically capable.

In our most recent nationally normed performance assessment test session (October 2023), our students scored in the 78th percentile on average across all grades and subjects tested (Math, Reading, Language). Moreover, 41% of our students tested in the 95th percentile or above in at least one subject.

We strive to continue challenging our bright learners while providing behavioral support and strategies to allow their best selves to shine through. This is often a challenge for academically advanced students since they typically come to our school with some imbalance between their significant strengths and other areas that need development. We achieve this by utilizing engaging, multi-modal lessons in a highly structured, predictable environment.

With a class size of up to 10 students in an elementary school class, teachers can be responsive to the types of academic challenges common to our demographic of learners, such as difficulties with the pace of transitions in mainstream classrooms, reluctant writing, executive functioning and task initiation deficits, and attention challenges. Of course, the behavior specialists are there to support our students’ social-emotional well-being and self-regulation as well.

Although we use a high-quality, research-backed set curriculum as the foundation of each subject, implementing the curriculum for each discipline evolves continuously as teachers use assessment results to inform their practice. Lesson designs are regularly adapted and refined to ensure that all students achieve 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-5). 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.

Several children studying at a long table

The Burkard School Middle School: Cultivating Independence and Fostering Identity

Middle School (6-8)

Grades 6 – 8: The Journey of Self-Discovery and Academic Pursuit

Middle School marks a series of pivotal moments in a child’s educational journey. At The Burkard School, we recognize that this is not just a time of academic growth, but also a critical period for social-emotional development and self-discovery. It is here, within the nurturing confines of our Middle School, that students begin to unfold the map of their learning styles, study habits, and organizational systems that will serve them for life.

We recognize the dynamic challenges faced by children who aren’t quite ready in Middle School to handle the frequent daily transitions between five or more classrooms, along with the intricate social interactions and advanced executive skills needed for success. Our students benefit from more scaffolding in this area as they learn to transition into high school. TBS Middle School students change classes once during the day, between the Humanities room (Language Arts and Social Studies, taught by one teacher) and the STEM room (Math and Science, taught by two teachers). Our class sizes are capped at 12 students per classroom to ensure individualized attention and support. We currently run a 6th-grade class and a combined 7/8 class.

Executive Functioning Growth and Support

The Classroom Behavior Specialist is a cornerstone of our Middle School program. As our students grow in their independence and executive functioning, the Behavior Specialist is there to guide them, providing strategies and support that foster self-regulation and personal growth. The Classroom Behavior Specialist stays with the students throughout the day as they switch rooms. The job of the Middle School Behavior Specialist is to foster independence by explicitly teaching and supporting executive functioning skills – skills that are essential for the rest of a student’s educational journey and beyond.

The Classroom Behavior Specialists teach an explicit Social Emotional Learning curriculum daily as a core subject. In Middle School, a major focus of social-emotional learning is executive functioning. Students learn essential skills like time management, goal setting, and organization, which are crucial for academic and personal success. Through guided practice, we actively empower our students to develop independent work habits.  Our students explore and understand how they learn best, how they study effectively, and which organizational systems resonate with them. They start to realize that while adults are no longer seated next to them, guiding every step, they are still present, offering wisdom from the sidelines.

The Social-Emotional Learning curriculum is also designed to enhance students’ understanding of thought processes, encompassing key elements such as mindsets, automatic thoughts, and cognitive restructuring. Recognizing the critical role of these cognitive aspects in shaping emotional well-being, the curriculum aims to equip students with the tools to navigate and manage their thoughts effectively, utilizing tools like reflection worksheets that target thoughts, behaviors, outcomes, and moral values.

Beyond cognitive and executive functions, the curriculum incorporates social activities and games that foster important interpersonal skills. These activities focus on turn-taking, conflict resolution, perspective-taking, and empathy, nurturing a comprehensive approach to social-emotional development. By addressing various domains, this SEL curriculum seeks to guide students toward a well-rounded perspective, fostering emotional intelligence, resilience, and interpersonal competence for a more comprehensive educational experience.

Pivotal lessons are learned during these years, and yes, mistakes are made. But it is within these moments that magic can occur, especially when caring, knowledgeable adults understand the unique struggles of this developmental period. Our educators and behavior specialists are committed to guiding and supporting each student through these transformative years.

This unique support system ensures that our students develop the resilience and skills necessary to navigate the challenges of Middle School and beyond.

Nurturing Personal Growth and Identity

Middle School is also a time when personal identity takes shape, and social dynamics become more complex. Our students learn the art of friendship—what it means to be a friend and what they seek in friendships. They explore their passions and begin to envision their path forward into the world.

We introduce our students to the powerful tools of self-assessment and autonomy. They begin to take ownership of their decisions, understanding the impact of their choices. It’s a time of transition, where we gradually hand off the responsibility of education to our students, showing them that the decisions they make now will influence their future paths.

Academic Excellence

The academic rigor at The Burkard School remains uncompromisingly high. We challenge our students to reach their full potential, offering a curriculum that is both rigorous and engaging. Our Middle School students are not just preparing for high school; they are becoming lifelong learners with a love for knowledge and discovery.

Math: Our curriculum at The Burkard School is comprehensive, engaging, and backed by research. We believe in making math meaningful and exciting for our middle school students. The Open-Up curriculum focuses on building a strong foundation of conceptual understanding, problem-solving, and mathematical reasoning skills with hands-on lessons and activities. Students get to dive deep into the world of math, exploring concepts in a tangible and interactive way. Aligned with the Common Core standards, our program ensures students are well-prepared for the challenges they’ll face in high school and beyond. But perhaps most importantly, our program places a strong emphasis on the development of critical thinking skills, empowering students to approach math with confidence and creativity.

Grades 6-8 English Language Arts: At The Burkard School, teachers use The Lucy Calkins Readers and Writers Workshop curricula. This curriculum embraces the acclaimed workshop model, providing a dynamic and engaging approach to literacy education. With a focus on student-centered learning, authentic experiences, and high expectations, these units of study empower students to become skillful readers and confident writers. Through carefully crafted lessons, scaffolded instruction, and meaningful feedback, students develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and a deep appreciation for literature and writing. In our Writing Workshops, students get 1:1 feedback and practice SEL concepts as they navigate the Peer Review process. It is a journey where every student’s voice is valued, and every achievement is celebrated.

Grammar and vocabulary are a focus of the Language Arts curriculum as well. Students enjoy using the Prestwick House Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots series to contextualize middle school vocabulary. Students use their knowledge of roots, prefixes, and suffixes to decode the written world around them. 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 continue to build their mastery of the English language throughout middle school.

Science: Teachers use FOSS Next Generation, developed by UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of 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. This is a heavily inquiry-based curriculum in which students explore phenomena first-hand to develop a deep understanding of the scientific concepts and interactions at play. Students become scientists as they engage with similar materials, processes, and methods of inquiry as professionals.

Grades 6-8 Social Studies: TBS teachers use the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI) Social Studies Curriculum, an outstanding program designed to engage students in meaningful exploration of key historical events, concepts, and themes. We cover a wide range of topics across various social studies disciplines, including history, geography, civics, and economics. TCI’s approach emphasizes active learning through inquiry-based activities, interactive lessons, and hands-on projects. Students are encouraged to analyze primary and secondary sources, participate in discussions, and draw connections between past and present events. The curriculum often integrates technology, such as online simulations and multimedia resources, to enhance student understanding and engagement. Overall, the TCI Middle School Social Studies Curriculum aims to empower students to become informed, thoughtful, and active citizens in an ever-changing world.

Place-Based Learning

In Middle School, we extend our learning outside the classroom and invite our students to join overnight trips that bring them out of their comfort zone and into nature, where they can experience first-hand the phenomena they are studying in their science classes. In 6th grade, students study Populations and Ecosystems. As part of the curriculum, we visit Yosemite and Mono Lake for a 2-night deep-dive into these unique ecosystems.

In grades 7/8, we study Earth History. This course engages students with the history of our planet and teaches them about the geologic activities of land formation. The 7/8 class takes a 3-night field trip to Lake Tahoe to learn about the plate tectonic processes that formed the lake.

Both field trips are an opportunity for students to not only ingrain the science curriculum at a deep and personal level but also to stretch their wings and exercise independence from parents and social connections with classmates. They are trips our students treasure.

Preparing for the Next Chapter

Our Middle School program is designed to empower students to take the reins of their educational journey. With the support of our dedicated Classroom Behavior Specialist, students grow in independence and executive functioning, preparing them for the diverse challenges of high school and life beyond.

We invite you to explore how The Burkard School Middle School can be the catalyst for your child’s bright future. Contact us to learn more about our unique approach to Middle School education and how we prepare students for the exciting journey ahead.

A 5th Grade Student presents to the whole school on Composting

Social Emotional Learning

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).

Core Beliefs

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Behavioral Support

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 in 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 dysregulated, 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 Behavior, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, works closely with your child’s therapists to tailor an intervention plan that is nuanced and targeted.

Surrounded by a structured and supportive environment, motivated by positive reinforcement, and specialists who understand how to get the best from each child, your child can become the regulated, confident student they knew they could be.

Executive Functioning

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.

Social Groups

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
  • Flexibility
  • 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:

  1. Peaks and Pits: each student shares a highlight and a challenge of their day.
  2. Explicit social skill teaching: For example, identifying/describing emotions through worksheets and/or group discussions; reciprocity in conversations through role play.
  3. Collaborative group game or teamwork activity: For example, building an obstacle course together and/or group game (i.e. board game, turn taking games)
  4. 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 B

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”!

Applied Science

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.