Springside Chestnut Hill Academy: School Review

Written By Pam Harris, SCH Academy parent

Two communities coming together

The start of a new school year has always been an exciting time for me.  As a student, it meant a new lunchbox, new binders, new shoes, and new teachers – it meant change and a fresh start.  As a parent, it is still an exciting time for me (I’m afraid that I enjoy the annual August trip to Staples more than my children do).  This fall was no different, except that this year some of the newness and change was more significant than in past years.  Last year, my son was at Chestnut Hill Academy and my daughters were at Springside School.  This year, they’re all at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, one new school with five divisions!

I initially chose CHA and Springside for several reasons.  I love the nurturing and supportive environments in the Lower Schools.  I am always impressed at the parent conferences when, after only six weeks, the teachers really know my children and value both their strengths and their needs.  I also really appreciate how the teaching and the programs instill or inspire a true love of learning and intellectual curiosity rather than just mastering a topic.

I remember reading somewhere that W. B. Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” This has always rung true for me at CHA and Springside.  And lastly, the single-sex environment in the Lower and Middle Schools is appealing to me as is the coeducational environment in the Upper School.  It’s a cliché, I know, but it truly is the best of both worlds.   I always figured that by the time my kids reached 9th grade, they would be prepared for the coed environment both intellectually and emotionally.  Ten years later, my son is in 8th grade and next year, he will be in the first grade to be part of the fully coed Upper School.

Regardless of whether your child is in one of the two Lower Schools, one of the two Middle Schools, or in the Upper School, SCH Academy has truly embraced the concept of 21st century learning.  You hear about it all the time, but SCH Academy is really living it.  They’re providing the kids with the skills that they will need in order to be vibrant, contributing members of the next generation.  Both in and outside of the classroom, their program is focused on leadership, global learning, collaborative problem solving, technology, and innovation.

My 3rd grader has been taking Chinese since Kindergarten and the school is now forging relationships with other schools in China so that one day she will have the opportunity to put her learning into real-life situations.  And after Chinese class, she puts on her rubber boots, goes down into the Wissahickon with her science classmates do their stream study; by finding and identifying creatures living in the stream (macro invertebrates, I’m told) they assess the water quality. Last year, when in the Lower School Physics and Engineering Lab, she thought she was playing with blocks but then proudly came home and told us what a fulcrum is and all about how levers work.

My 7th grade daughter did an internship this summer with the Director of Innovative Teaching (doesn’t the title say it all?) at SCH Academy where she helped to build web-based learning applications for the younger students using Adobe Flash, Adobe Dreamware, GarageBand, and Bamboo Tablets. Once the applications were developed, she helped the director teach the Lower School faculty how to use them.  While many schools talk about lifelong learning, at SCH Academy students see it in action; in this case teachers were learning new skills from students and students were being given the opportunity to teach.

Last spring, my son was very upset about the online hate crimes in Colorado.  He felt so strongly that he wanted to do something, so he approached the school about the idea of a day for students to wear purple to express solidarity against online bullying. The answer was yes, just one example of how the school supports student initiatives and allows them to put ideas into action.  This year my son has already engaged in several outdoor activities, including a trip to the Wissahickon with his history class to visit an old mill site and learn about the role of mills in the Industrial Revolution. As I write this, he is away on a three-day trip to the Poconos where the 8th grade boys engage in outdoor activities aimed at teambuilding, collaboration, and developing class cohesiveness.

This is a really exciting time to be at SCH Academy.  I am excited about all of the collaboration that has been going on among the faculty and the sharing of new ideas, new technologies, and best practices.  I am excited about the enhanced opportunities for the boys and girls to be together and to work together, and I am excited about the two communities coming together as one.  Change can always generate some anxiety, but it can also generate new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking and fresh starts – and isn’t that what a new school year is all about?

For more information about SCH Academy: www.sch.org

Find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SCHacademy

Follow us on Twitter: @schacademy

Editor’s Note: This is GAP’s fourth school review.  You can find reviews of The Miquon School here and here, Greene Street Friends here, and Project P.L.A.Y.  here.  We have more reviews coming in the next few weeks.  If you’d like to write a review about your child’s childcare, preschool, or school, please email us at jenbradley4@mac.com

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