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10 Things We Know and Love About PBS


Welcome to PBS.

By passionately pursuing core teaching beliefs in ways that set us apart, we create the extraordinary every day at Phillips Brooks School. We guide children to cultivate their individual talents, explore, and dig deep, while working together. In the process, they discover their best selves and truly flourish. We invite you to take a closer look at what we know and love about inspiring young learners.


1. You can have it both ways.

Top-notch, engaging academics can – and should – be seamlessly integrated with thorough social–emotional development. You don’t have to choose one or the other.

Learning that powers long-term success. Our teachers combine a highly integrated academic curriculum with extensive social–emotional learning strategies across all learning domains, led by Responsive Classroom practices. We unify social and cognitive learning experiences through an academically challenging program, which is essential for children to practice responsible decision-making and develop resilience.
Research shows that children who learn in safe, caring, supportive, and empowering environments have more developed social and emotional skills, better quality relationships, and greater academic performance – preparing them for lifelong success.Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence


2. One size does not fit all.

Every child learns differently. What works for one may not for another. By truly knowing our students and customizing learning experiences, we help children reach their full potential.

Teachers who know what your child needs. Every day, as many as 15 teachers are working with or planning on behalf of each student. This includes lead and associate teachers; instructors in science, art, music, technology, Spanish, and physical education; and literacy-based learning specialists. Together, we have invaluable knowledge of each child’s learning style and what he or she needs to succeed.
You know your child best. At PBS, so will we. Teachers new to our school tell me they’ve never before experienced such a collaborative and supportive professional team of faculty and administrators devoted to each child’s success.Dr. Scott Erickson, Head of School


3. A little power goes a long way.

Liberated and energized children are eager learners. We cultivate empowered, independent thinkers by guiding students to be agents of their own progress.

Redefining the role of the young learner. Our teachers invite students to become the experts rather than learn a “lesson.” Every day, students are authors, scientists, artists, musicians, and mathematicians who defend their reasoning and explain their problem-solving approaches. In this intellectually vibrant atmosphere, children learn and stretch their frameworks of applied thinking through shared strategies and reflection.

Every PBS student is a confident public speaker. Throughout the year, every student – from Kindergarten through 5th grade – volunteers to speak at GATHER, our weekly community assembly. They stand before the entire school with courage and grace because they genuinely want to share their learning and represent the PBS community.


4. We're better together.

Collaboration is the key to a healthy learning community. Whether it’s students analyzing project data, specialists integrating a project across disciplines, or teachers strategizing on behalf of a single child, we always work to support and inspire each other.

A rainforest study. Recently, the 2nd-graders embarked on a study of the rainforest, a two-month project that culminated in creating and performing their own, original play. The students constructed scenery, props, and character masks in art class, developed a soundtrack of Amazon recordings in music, learned rainforest vocabulary in Spanish, created and monitored tropical terrariums during science labs, and took a trip to a rainforest exhibit at the Academy of Sciences. As one 2nd-grader summed it up, “I am so sad this project is over. I wish it could go on forever.”

Walk into the classroom during math workplaces and you will see children actively engaging in a series of strategy-based activities customized to their particular learning styles and skill levels. They work as partners, in small groups, and with teachers who conference one-on-one with each child. We design individual differentiation while keeping community at the center. A PBS 1st-grade teacher


5. Play is good, very good.

Young children learn through play. When purposeful play is at the heart of the early-childhood learning environment, it inspires, engages, and motivates, creating a joyful foundation.

The research is clear. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), one of the country’s leading authorities on early-childhood development, supportive teacher and peer relationships combined with sustained exposure to developmental skills – through play and guided reflection – provide the single most effective way to create a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

When my oldest went to Kindergarten, I really understood the benefits of PBS’s Early Learning Center (ELC). Their powerful combination of play-based experiences that scaffolded social learning while providing exposure to pre-literacy and mathematical thinking skills contributed to his strong motivation and independence in Kindergarten. Plus he already had trusting relationships with virtually all of the specialist teachers. A PBS Kindergarten parent


6. Educate the whole family.

Whole-child learning is the baseline. Incorporate the whole family and the returns are even greater. We bring home and school together to support and fully maximize your child’s potential. In the process, the entire family benefits.

Thanks to your daily emails, we feel like true participants in the learning process and are so much more in tune with the questions our daughter has for each night. I am beyond impressed that you have the energy to send these meaningful, articulate, and heartwarming messages. It means so much to us that you do. A PBS parent in an email to a PBS teacher

Students lead the way. Students participate in and help lead parent–teacher conferences at PBS, with our youngest learners presenting their ELC portfolios to their parents. Our 5th-graders lead assessments of their scholarly work in conferencing opportunities, through their design-thinking projects, at the annual Science Fair, and as student-leaders in service-learning partnerships.


7. Timing is everything.

Virtually every student at every elementary school will learn how to read, write, and solve math problems. It’s how students feel about it – and how thoroughly they embrace their experiences – that makes us different.

Unique multi-age learning experiences. K–5 students come together one Friday each month in small groups with teachers and administrators for “Family Fridays.” The older students are paired with their buddies from the lower grades, forming relationships that last for years. 5th-graders take on leadership roles to help guide their “Families” as they learn, play, and work together on community-service and other projects.

Validating student voices. Teachers introduce topics as thought-provoking explorations, and student voices help shape the paths of inquiry. At PBS, we find this process critical to keeping students engaged, motivated, and working to their individual best.

The students feel like their opinions are highly valued and that they have an important role in their learning community; it creates such energy and excitement in the classroom and a genuine desire to invest in the process on the part of each child. A PBS 4th-grade teacher


8. Think outside the desk.

Classrooms can be great places for work and reflection. Beyond the classroom, even more inspiring learning environments beckon. We believe in fully engaging students throughout our campus and the region – in sunshine and fresh air, on patios and porches, and in gardens, studio spaces, exhibit halls, and historic and wilderness preserves.

We were immediately captivated by the joyful and engaged student interactions with each other and the environment at PBS. It feels like a mini-college, with several buildings separated by green lawns, mature trees, fields, multiple playgrounds, and even an outdoor amphitheater and pavilion area. A current PBS parent

The power of place. Study fire ecology, hike the terrain, and analyze the geology of Yosemite for the better part of a week. Pan for gold, study the stars, and listen to Native-American campfire stories in Coloma. Walk the Camino Real and become immersed in the cultural collision course of the Spanish mission system, indigenous people, and fortune-seekers who trekked west over the Continental Divide. These are just a few of the ways your child will experience learning beyond the classroom at PBS.


9. The most important lessons aren't in a textbook.

Compassion, empathy, and giving back are taught by example and by doing – day in and day out. We bring to life our core values of courage, community, kindness, and love of learning by practicing them daily in all of our actions, large and small.

As part of a service-learning project, students in 3rd grade made fleece blankets for children in homeless shelters. The teachers cleared the entire library floor, divided the children into random pairs, and set them to work to piece together the blankets. It was heart-warming to see the students work so capably, follow complex instructions, and concentrate on the task at hand. They were in their element focusing on others and making something for someone who genuinely needed it. A project reflection from a PBS teacher
Working on behalf of There With Care to help families with seriously ill children helped me learn more about what compassion means. Even in making a card, it was so important to think about how my words would feel to the child. You want to say, ‘I hope you get well soon’ but you can’t; you have to find other ways to send a positive thought. A project reflection from a 5th-grader


10. Take a risk...or two.

When children feel safe and supported, they will push the boundaries of what they know and learn to accept that they will make mistakes. We establish this foundation on day one and continuously build on it. By the end of their journey, our students are intellectually and socially mature. They thrive in the learning community because they know how to relate to each other and, most important, because they know who they are.

PBS alumni are the academic and community leaders at their next schools. We hear time and again that they lead by example in their ability to take on new challenges while fostering a supportive, healthy community.

PBS is a liberating environment. It kept me open to making mistakes as well as being ‘right,’ open to feeling passionate about learning and growing. PBS helped me define myself. A PBS alumnus

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