Where We Begin
Phillips Brooks School is an independent, co-educational day school offering a truly child-centered learning program for preschool through 5th grade, located in Menlo Park – neighboring Stanford University.
Our learning environment features a spacious, leafy campus with several classroom buildings, multi-use structures, and play spaces. Designed for a 1-classroom preschool and 2 classrooms per grade-level from pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade, PBS offers…
- intimate student-to-teacher ratios
- thorough teacher understanding of each child
- a diverse family community committed to partnering in support of the learning environment
PBS is not only ambitious, creative, nurturing, and well-rounded; it stands out for its ability to live and practice each day our core values of kindness, courage, community, and love of learning. Our challenging academic curriculum and seamlessly integrated emotional intelligence program are enhanced through child-centered teaching practices.
PBS is accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools and is affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools.
Key PBS Entry Points
Focused on the Foundations of Children’s Learning
Early Learning Center (ELC) Preschool
age 3 by September 1
8:20 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
age 4 by September 1
8:20 a.m. – 2:45 p.m., Monday through Thursday
8:20 a.m. – 1:45 p.m., Friday
8:20 a.m. – 3:05 p.m., Monday through Thursday
8:20 a.m. – 2:05 p.m., Friday
Extended care is available until 5:00 p.m. for ELC students and until 6:00 p.m. for K–5 students.
Early Learning Center
The ELC program features 3 classrooms, 2 for PreK and 1 for Preschool. We have 8 teachers working in the ELC, 2 dedicated in each classroom, 1 floating between all three, and an aftercare coordinator. The ELC is located in a self-contained area of campus, with indoor and outdoor spaces for children to learn and play in.
The Kindergarten program features a lead and an associate teacher for each of the 2 classrooms. The Kindergarten classrooms are located in a self-contained building and specialist classes integrated into the main campus.
Kindergarten consists of 2 classrooms and runs for the full day throughout the school year, consistent with 1st–5th grades. PBS typically seeks 12 to 15 new Kindergarten students each year.
Once your child is accepted to the ELC or Kindergarten, no further application is required to progress through 5th grade at PBS. We accept applications for 1st–5th grades, although openings typically occur in these grades through attrition only.
The Early Learning Center at Phillips Brooks School is a social-development and discovery-based whole-child learning program consisting of 2 age-based levels: preschool (ages 3 and 4) and pre-Kindergarten (ages 4 and 5). ELC teachers are dedicated to the principles that creativity flourishes in places of safety and acceptance, and kindness is paramount.
The ELC program is inspired by the world-renowned work of educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs.
What is the ELC approach?
The ELC is dedicated to being a student’s gateway into a love of school and learning that will last for years to come. Teachers create a joyful and engaging environment, that calls students to explore and understand the world around them in a natural and creative way. Knowledge and learning develop through everyday interactions, leading to organic experiences that prepare students for their future classwork.
At this developmental stage, children learn through their social growth and experimentation, and we harness that through collaboration with peers around teamwork, sharing ideas and learning to be a leader. Teachers help cultivate this (both one-on-one with students and as a community) by facilitating, coaching and mediating student intersections of social growth and learning, while encouraging students to lead their learning experiences and to lead empathetic lives. The empowerment of a compassionate child is central to the ELC learning experience.
What does this look like?
Children’s interests drive the work done in the ELC. Whether it’s a daily provocation, gross-motor play on the playground, or longer projects that develop across the school year, teachers are crafting the student experience around their interests. ELC teachers are co-learners along with the students, letting the children drive their discoveries, acting as guides by stimulating thinking through thought-provoking questions and encouraging collaboration among peers. Teachers document these explorations and display them in the classroom, furthering children’s thinking and showcasing all their work. Documentation of student growth and development is also maintained in a living portfolio, culminating in a year-end product that gives an arc of a student’s growth over the school year.
Children learn to share ideas, develop their interests, grow in confidence, and gain new skills through purposeful activities and collaborative experiences.
One of the most important opportunities the ELC program provides is to practice direct, respectful, and compassionate communication in a diverse, child-centered community.
Through roleplaying, modeling, creative experiences, and sharing of thoughts, the children practice leading lives of empathy, reflection, and thoughtfulness.
Project-based Work, Documentation, and Portfolios
Project work is central to the ELC curriculum and emerges from the interests of the children. The ELC teachers are facilitators and co-learners in these projects, asking and prompting compelling questions to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking and collaboration among the children and each other. Teachers also document and display the children’s social and cognitive learning; this enables children to see their efforts revealed and adults to understand the enormous amount of learning that takes place as the children develop ideas and pursue initiatives. As part of this process, each student in the ELC builds an ongoing portfolio of work samples that the family keeps upon completing the ELC program. These portfolios assist faculty in assessing and discussing with families the social–emotional, physical, cognitive, and creative growth of each child.
The Role of Play and the Daily Environment
Play is a primary mechanism through which young children develop higher-level thinking skills, evolve problem-solving capabilities, enhance language development, and build empathy for those around them. Play is central to the ELC’s approach to social, emotional and cognitive learning.
The physical space of the ELC is vital for the program. Students have access to materials, children maintain work that is both finished and in progress, while incorporating a natural look that is scaled to and focused for the child’s exploration and play.
A typical day in the ELC begins with students entering the space and immediately interacting with their peers and classroom materials. Each classroom holds a short meeting in the morning where students can greet each other, get a sense of what their day might entail, hear about who might be visiting the class that day, and come together as a whole class. Teachers can also use this time to address any lingering issues in the classroom or to discuss something the class might need some extra focus on. The rest of the day is a mix of indoor and outdoor exploration where students are able to play and learn in both spaces. Inside, students engage in provocations centered around drawing & writing, sensory experiences and art based activities, while the rest of the room provides a space for block building, dramatic play and reading opportunities. Outside, students have the chance to work on their fine and gross motor development on our play structure and in the sandbox, while really getting to expand the dramatic play scale in the larger outdoor space.
The ELC also gets to work with a number of our specialists at PBS; spending time with our P.E. coaches twice a rotation, library and music once a rotation, and science and art on a rotation schedule.
Each child’s seeds of knowledge continue to take root and grow in Kindergarten at PBS. As in the Early Learning Center, the Kindergarten program at PBS is both differentiated and collaborative, structured and exploratory. A rich collection of purposefully created experiences emerges from a Kindergarten program forged on this child-centered approach and designed to help children continue to develop their self-concept as learners.
Supporting Each Child’s Development
The Kindergarten learning community is thoughtfully designed as a bridge between the Early Learning Center and the continuum of elementary grades at PBS. As in the ELC, play is an important means for social and cognitive development; Kindergarten teachers skillfully facilitate the development of meaningful experiences and explorations that challenge Kindergarteners to construct ideas, learn new skills, and explore their own and others’ learning strategies. Children are encouraged to take active ownership of their learning and suggest class activities, projects, and themes that build on their interests.
At the same time, the Kindergarten program offers a scaffolding structure for developing each child’s learning – individually, as partners, in small groups, and as a classroom community – through a schedule design that incorporates daily morning meetings, literacy exploration, mathematical thinking opportunities, outdoor and indoor play, and an integrated approach to technology as a learning tool. Specialists programs in scientific exploration, Spanish, library, art, music, and physical education round out Kindergarteners’ weeks. The schedule also includes intentional “connection” time for homeroom and specialist teachers to provide integrated learning opportunities together. Each day is also designed to conclude with a closing reflection time.
In all these endeavors, Kindergarten teachers support each child’s individual development and consider themselves the strategic contributor to each child’s capacity to learn in self-directed and hands-on ways.
Each child is encouraged to take risks as they attempt new activities to become fluent in the use of many materials, confident in their expression of ideas, and flexible in their outcomes.
Expanding Social Learning Opportunities
Social learning is interwoven throughout each day in Kindergarten. In all grade levels, PBS believes that the development of social, emotional, and communication skills is as important as cognitive development. These skills are modeled, practiced, discussed, and improved on a daily basis across the curriculum, both inside and outside the classroom.
Co-curricular social learning programs available to Kindergarteners include weekly community assemblies, called GATHER, and service-learning projects. GATHER brings students, faculty, parents, and guests together as a community to explore life lessons and honor the common threads in all spiritual endeavors. Through service-learning, students develop empathy, awareness of the needs of others, and a commitment to contribute and participate in building and strengthening communities.
Kindergarten Program Highlights
- Literacy, math, science, art, music, and other concepts interwoven and integrated throughout the curriculum, rather than each being experienced in isolation
- A workshop setting for learning reading and writing in which literacy practices are modeled to ground children to act, work, and think of themselves as readers and writers
- A workplace approach to mathematical thinking featuring mini-lessons and multiple learning centers in which students can apply strategies and build skills: Math workplaces allow for individualized work and one-on-one teacher checkins – differentiation by design.
- Hands-on, lab-based scientific explorations that encourage children to ask questions, test ideas, observe carefully, and explore, seek, record, and discuss answers
- An active and holistic physical education program that seeks to develop a sense of community, teamwork, and sportsmanship while overcoming challenges, increasing skills, and playing together
- Studio art and music explorations designed to stimulate the growth of artistic perception, creative expression, sequential skill-building as emerging visual artists and musicians, cultural awareness, and performance practice
- Library experiences designed to expose children to the best of rich literature and informational text and to encourage sharing of books and stories with classmates
- An introduction to technology as a tool for communication and for enhancing learning
- Multi-sensory exposure to Spanish to connect words meaningfully and memorably to specific actions while exploring the culture of Spanish-speaking communities around the world
Children in Kindergarten at PBS think of themselves as mathematicians, scientists, readers, writers, artists, and musicians who continually gain understanding of their world through these media.