Independent schools offer more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. The below program profiles, from our annually published “Guide to Baltimore Independent Schools,” explore the classes, internships, experiential learning and more that enrich the curricula at area private schools. Applications are due in December at most schools. Check websites for exact dates.
Beth Tfiloh – College Counseling
Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School is Baltimore’s only co-educational college preparatory Jewish day school spanning preschool through 12th grade. Faculty members address each individual learner’s needs throughout the rigorous dual curriculum while building creativity, leadership skills, and community ties.
Every student’s educational journey culminates in an individualized college guidance program. Each year, our college guidance program has successfully placed 100 percent of our seniors who have applied to four-year universities and colleges, as well as gap-year programs.
The process begins with informational class meetings in both freshman and sophomore year, continuing throughout junior and senior years with individualized family meetings and student conferences. College counselors help students assess their interests, goals, and achievements as they explore opportunities at a vast array of colleges. These partnerships provide comprehensive advising and advocacy for each student, and the results are exceptional: acceptances to 64 colleges and universities, each one selected for being the right fit for each student’s needs.
Catholic High School – Biomedical Program
Students at The Catholic High School of Baltimore have the unique opportunity to explore the vibrant worlds of science and medicine. The school’s unique four-year Biomedical Program challenges students through a combination of intense course work, research and lab experimentation, field experiences, and highly qualified guest speakers. Learning also takes place outside the classroom, as students often participate in programs such as the National Institute of Health Summer Internship Program. Catholic High is the only high school in the area to offer coursework in epidemiology, biotechnology and bioethics. Angela Baumler, Director of Enrollment, explains how being introduced to the biomedical field in high school provides an early mastery of this coursework. “The program provides an early introduction and exposure to the growing fields of science and health care,” she says. “Students are finding the program covers coursework they encounter in college in degree programs such as nursing.”
Friends School of Baltimore – University Partnership Program
For more than 200 years, Friends School has pioneered innovative teaching in Baltimore. The University Partnership Program, Friends’ initiative to provide students with hands-on college research experience, is the longest-running program of its kind in the Baltimore area. The program connects students and teachers with thought leaders from colleges and research institutions across the country.
At Friends School, students don’t have to wait until they graduate to work with collegiate-level researchers. From neuroscience to the arts, Friends School students have the opportunity to research topic areas they’re passionate about and apply skills learned in the classroom to real-life situations.
At Friends School, students are challenged to find meaning in what they learn and encouraged to continually ask why. Friends is committed to helping students discover and become the person they are meant to be and believes the experience a student has on the way to their future determines the path they will follow on the road to success. At Friends School of Baltimore, the journey matters.
Garrison Forest School – WISE Program
Through a 15-year partnership with The Johns Hopkins University, the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program at Garrison Forest School allows juniors and seniors to obtain hands-on research experience in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
WISE participants conduct world-class research mentored by Johns Hopkins University professors and graduate students for two afternoons a week for about 15 weeks of a semester. Students are guided through diverse aspects of assisting in a research lab, allowing them to learn at a level usually reserved for graduate school.
WISE is supported by The James Center at Garrison Forest, which connects students with organizations and non-profits to provide opportunities in experiential learning. Andrea Perry, Director of The James Center and coordinator of WISE, notes, “WISE gives students the chance to be tested in a real-world research context as they develop confidence, collaborative skills, and practical lab experience.”
Institute of Notre Dame – Project Lead the Way STEM Program
The Institute of Notre Dame is proud to offer Project-Lead-the-Way® STEM programs in Computer Science, Engineering and Biomedical Science. PLTW students take an additional science class each year to graduate with a STEM certificate. Computer science encompasses courses in web design, cyber technology, Java and AP computer science. Engineering students are exposed to principles of engineering, engineering design and development classes. Biomedical students learn about body systems, medical interventions and biomedical innovations. Field trips are an important extension of classroom learning; for example, IND Biomed students are regular visitors to the nearby campus of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
For students who excel academically and are interested in a wider curriculum, IND’s Theresian Scholars Program allows them to take all honors and advanced placement classes across disciplines. To receive the Theresian Medal, qualified students must maintain a high average, complete an AP research and methods class, and present a capstone research project on a topic of their choosing.
Maryvale – The Leadership Institute and the STEM Program
Innovation is front and center at Maryvale, a Catholic, independent school for girls in grades 6-12 in Lutherville. Two particular programs support the students’ drive for innovation: the Leadership Institute and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) opportunities.
Through courses, advisory sessions, school-wide assemblies and events, all Maryvale students benefit from the Leadership Institute. Students in the competitive Leadership Certificate program take at least four leadership courses, engage in leadership service and complete a Capstone Project their senior year.
“Our Capstone experience is unique,” said Mary Ellen Fise, Maryvale’s Director of the Leadership Institute. “It allows a student to conduct her own primary research on a leadership-related topic while also engaging with professionals in the field. It is a hands-on and immersive approach.”
Similarly, hands-on STEM opportunities are infused in middle and upper school curriculums through course offerings and partnerships with prominent corporations and universities. Students can flex their innovative skills through robotics courses, two advanced Mac labs and the new Innovation Lab. They can delve into ecological stewardship in marine biology and environmental science, consider the origins of early humans, adaptations of the human body and study the interactions of humans with today’s world in biological anthropology and human anatomy and physiology.
Notre Dame Preparatory – Dance Program
Dance is more than an extracurricular activity at Notre Dame Preparatory School, a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for girls in grades 6-12. Middle-level dance students are introduced to world dance, jazz, musical theatre, tap, ballet, modern and dance for social justice. The Upper Level program offers novice and advanced courses with performing opportunities during the year. The program is headed by Serene Webber, who holds a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and is a Certified Movement Analyst (C.M.A.) She is currently pursuing a M.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts Infusion.
She feels the skills acquired through dance build a student’s communication and collaborative abilities. “Students learn how to communicate thoughts, feelings, and experiences,” Serene says. “Dance allows for creative reasoning and reflection, which helps the student in all aspects of her life.”
Ms. Webber also combines dance with service; last year she launched a statewide campaign called the Tutu Mission, which raised money for AileyCamp Baltimore, benefitting young dancers from Baltimore County and Baltimore City.
St. James School – Pre-Kindergarten
The pre-kindergarten program at St. James Academy exemplifies the school’s multisensory approach to learning, providing students an enriching, nurturing, and creative educational experience. The program design is inspired by the Reggio-Emilia philosophy, a child-centered educational approach that embraces open-ended questioning, project-based lessons, and experiential learning.
Pre-K at SJA offers the added value of a kindergarten-grade 8 experience for a four-year-old in a much larger setting. The 89-acre campus allows for outdoor exploration in all subject areas. The student-centered program clearly understands the ages and stages of development, and the goal is to educate students in an active, warm, and safe environment while educating the whole child. Meeting children where they are and watching them grow in this welcoming and supportive environment is key to the SJA experience.
St. Johns Parish Day School – Transitional Kindergarten
St. John’s Parish Day School offers Transitional Kindergarten (TK) to successfully bridge the path from preschool to kindergarten. St. John’s Parish Day School, located in Ellicott City, is a co-ed Episcopal school for students in early pre-k through grade five. Transitional Kindergarten is aimed at students who turn five between May 1st and November 1st who could benefit from another year to strengthen the fundamental skills needed for success in kindergarten.
The small class size provides each student greater one-on-one time with instructors, making sure the personal educational interests and needs of each child are met. Lisa Cheuvront, Transitional Kindergarten teacher at the school, notes how TK students have many of the same specials classes (Spanish, technology, science, music, P.E., art) as kindergarteners but attend those classes for shorter periods of time and some as only half the class.
She also notes parents enroll their children in TK to have an additional year to mature socially, emotionally and academically. “By the end of the year, we see children’s self-confidence grow immensely,” she explains. “They grow in their ability to handle different social situations, the longer school days and in how they approach their school work whether it be individually, in small groups or as part of a whole class.”
St. Timothy’s – Winterim
At St. Timothy’s School, the world becomes the classroom during Winterim, the two weeks just after winter term and just before spring break. St. Timothy’s is a private boarding and day school for girls in grades 9 through twelve, located in Stevenson, Maryland. During Winterim, students immerse themselves in experiential learning, which could take place around a campsite, at the U.S. Capitol, at NASA, or the United Nations. Each Winterim revolves around a theme, while exploring and exercising concepts such as leadership skills, scientific and technical innovation, and cultural and global awareness.
St. Timothy’s Head of School Randy Stevens notes experiential learning is so critical because students aren’t learning about history, the sciences or foreign policy from a textbook, they’re seeing it in action firsthand. “Our students get exposure to world leaders, policymakers, and scientists who many don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to until the college years,” he says. “It truly makes for an incredible learning experience.”
Waldorf School of Baltimore –
The Waldorf School of Baltimore uses the power of play as a curriculum component to build healthy sensory development and motor control, along with the natural creativity and imagination that live within each child. Through play, children also learn about the laws of nature and science, how to think flexibly, solve social conflicts, and develop resiliency. “Play is child-directed, allowing for the development of wonder and observation, and problem-solving skills,” said Christina Harris, Waldorf Education Specialist. Located in Baltimore’s Cylburn neighborhood, WSB recognizes that interactive play sets the stage for students to thrive academically and socially-emotionally in the lower and middle schools. In elementary school, creative play opportunities continue during daily recess and outdoor nature explorations. Harris explains that elementary students are provided age-appropriate opportunities to engage with interactive, hands-on learning experiences. These foster a sense of wonder and curiosity that continues into middle school and beyond.
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