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Orchard School


Where learning comes to life

 

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Orchard School


Where learning comes to life

 

Our Philosophy

We believe that children need to live vigorously in an environment that invites learning, and we know that they will thrive given the time, the space, the resources, and the gentle and respectful guidance of skilled mentors. Much as we value core academic skills, we also find it important to nurture and protect childhood, giving kids the chance to do things like climb, dig, run, unicycle, gaze at the clouds, sing, prepare and share food, and feel the earth beneath their feet.  

 
 

 

 


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The Orchard Difference


The Orchard Difference


Specialty Teachers

In the first through sixth grades, our small academic classes are taught by specialty teachers in math, humanities, and science. The primary goal is to create meaningful classroom experiences that keep children engaged and active. In addition, students attend a daily arts class in music, art, drama, or circus arts.  This structure means single-subject teachers can provide a depth of knowledge in their field of expertise. It also gives students the opportunity to form relationships with a family of teachers who can follow a student’s academic progress through the grades. Kindergartners spend most of their day with one dedicated teacher but also have time with the arts teachers.


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Student-CENTERED

Our progressive approach prioritizes class discussion, open dialogue and hands-on experiences to ensure children are active, enthusiastic participants in their own education. We honor children’s curiosities, recognize they have different interests and needs, and encourage their ability to problem solve in a group setting. Students are given the chance to design learning projects based on their passions and to lead class activities, both of which increase the depths of understanding. Competition among peers is deemphasized in favor of cooperative work and personal achievement. To this end, grades and testing are not part of the curriculum. Homework is limited to allow time for other activities outside of school and to help promote a well-rounded child.


nature-based

Our campus is an integral part of the student experience at Orchard School. Teachers use every opportunity to bring the learning outside and allow children to interact with nature. In science, students might spend weeks tracking the bird activity around bird feeders they built in a carpentry elective. In math, they might develop word problems based on counting legs, heads and tails of our farm animals. In language arts, they might gather for centering yoga activities under the trees, or to write poems about key features on campus. We know that children are happier when they develop a concrete relationship with the Earth and when they get to learn while moving their bodies.

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The Campus


The Campus


Organic Gardens

Our life lab garden is comprised of about 2,000 square feet of sunny fenced land with many prolific fruit trees and raised vegetable and flower beds. As well as tending this garden, students help prepare two enormous and delectable meals each year with food grown on campus, for the annual Harvest Festival held in October, and the Thanksgiving Feast the following month. In addition, kids use garden-grown ingredients yearlong in the school’s hot lunch program and for cooking class electives.

 


The orchard

Our spacious 14-acre property in the Aptos foothills boasts a seasonal creek, a meadow, play structures, a swimming pool, all kinds of trees and a redwood grove. Children are given ample time to run, climb trees, play field games, dig in the sand and mud, and build forts and fairy gardens. Extended recess time is valued because unstructured play time provides an important opportunity for deep engagement and cooperative, child-driven learning.

 


The Animals

Three alpacas, a pot-bellied pig and a sizable flock of chickens live at the school. All grades take turns caring for the farm animals -- feeding them, cleaning the corral, collecting eggs, grooming, interacting and observing. Periodically, the whole school makes an enormous human fence by linking hands to let the animals run free for a time.

 


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Reviews


SEE WHAT PARENTS OF ORCHARD STUDENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCEs.

Reviews


SEE WHAT PARENTS OF ORCHARD STUDENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCEs.

My daughter is very comfortable and happy at Orchard, which has paved the way for her academically. I believe because she feels safe and nurtured, her brain is free to learn and experiment.
— April Stearns, parent of a 3rd grader
My daughter is really a success story for Orchard: she is a caring, curious, excited, exploring, smart, imaginative and joyous kid; Orchard fostered her personal growth in a way that no other school could have.
— Ivano Aiello, parent of a former Orchard student
After three years attending public school, we moved our son to Orchard. This magical place is nestled in the woods, with trees to climb, unicycles to ride, a garden to plant and teachers that inspire and encourage young minds to grow. Orchard feeds the whole child and ours has blossomed. We only wish we’d become part of this wonderful little community sooner.
— Yvonne Reynolds, parent of a 4th grader
Orchard offers more than a strong academic program. The children learn leadership, self-confidence and compassion...on elective day, the children learn skills such as surfing, woodworking, sewing, archery, photography and fort building. The children carry these experiences throughout their entire lives.
— Stacey Kronschnabl, parent of an Orchard alumni and a current 4th grader
The teaching staff knows each child well and supports and encourages their talents and interests. The lovely grounds, varied curriculum, and choice of electives is a refreshing departure from the norm, and helps to reinforce what was learned in the classroom by giving kids the opportunity to not only run and play but negotiate, take risks, collaborate, lead and challenge themselves to grow, think, and live outside of the box.
— Jennifer Collins, parent of a 1st grader and a 3rd grader