Distinguishing Characteristics

Orchard House School is committed to fostering each girl’s intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, emotional integrity and physical well-being. We are proud of the many key areas that set us apart from other educational institutions.

School Community and Culture

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Students at Orchard House School learn to foster respect and understanding by valuing and respecting individual differences. In addition to the typical markers of diversity (race, religion, economic, ethnicity and family structure), we seek diversity in ability and achievement, learning styles, and social and study skills. When the Admissions Committee processes an incoming class, it deliberately takes girls who represent variances in the areas of academics, introversion and extroversion, social skills, learning styles, study skills and leadership skills. We are not looking to accept just the top 10% by ability or academics. This is both a philosophical value and a practical one because we are a research institution. In a single class of twenty, our girls typically come from ten to twelve schools and zip codes and represent all of the above markers of difference.

Social Skills

Brain and human dynamic research (Deak, Davies) supports that all children, girls in particular, learn best in an emotionally safe environment. Rather than dismiss or devalue differences, Orchard House girls learn to process differences directly and respectfully. Positive social and group skills are taught through the Leadership program, the general curriculum, cross-grade peer relationships, base groups, Morning Meetings, homerooms, and sports teams.

Learning Environment and Risk Taking

Girls at Orchard House School naturally take greater risks academically, athletically, socially, and creatively because the learning environment is based on curricular demands that are the same for all. For example, all girls take drama. Even the shyest girls learn to speak in front of an audience. In many schools, a shy girl would opt out of drama; at Orchard House School, it is not an option. Many girls who have never played team sports before play them at OHS because the teams are open to all, and many of those same girls continue on to play sports throughout their high school careers.

Research and Methodology

Orchard House School is a research-based school. Not only do we use research to develop all aspects of our program, but we also collect research to monitor what we are doing internally and to share that information with families and other educators. Working from brain research, gender specific research, and developmental, social, psychological and curricular research, Orchard House School is designed for what works best for girls. We apply this research in the initial admissions process and continue to apply it through day-to-day experiences that eventually lead to graduation. We know that girls grow best and develop confidence through experiences that foster competence and that the girls’ connections to the real world and to the people around them are critical to personal engagement and success. We know which types of questions foster personal growth as well as the development of thinking and learning, and we use those strategies deliberately. We worked with a senior Wellesley College researcher to develop a survey that accurately tracks the impact of an Orchard House School education on our alumnae. We want our girls to develop a strong, authentic sense of self along with the confidence, tools, people skills, problem-solving ability and critical thinking to go out into the larger world and make a difference.

Leadership Program

Our Leadership Program is at the heart of an Orchard House School education. Leadership is a four-year, research-based program designed by Nancy Davies to foster the strong, healthy development of each girl, teach her real world tools for success, and help her develop a global connection to the world. Some classes are taught specifically on Friday afternoons during the Leadership block and others are included in the day-to-day curriculum. Leadership covers everything from service learning to financial literacy, from career education to the use of tools, from ethics and decision making to health, and from specific art projects to graduation where each eighth grade girl delivers her own speech.

Outreach

We are committed through our mission to sharing information with families and educators about issues and research pertinent to middle school girls. As part of the Orchard House Speaker Series, both Dr. JoAnn Deak, author of Girls Will Be Girls, and Peggy Orenstein, author of Schoolgirls, have given public talks. More than 300 families and educators attended the events. In addition, Orchard House School serves as a resource to other educators and schools. Most recently, the school hosted local college-level education students, offered workshops and gave public talks about middle school education and the Leadership program. Orchard House School is both a national and state-level resource for a variety of different types of schools, each with different goals. We have assisted public school systems that are setting up single-sex classes and schools, emerging independent schools, existing schools that want to develop Leadership programs, and local detention programs for juveniles where educators and administrators are seeking a more effective approach in working with their youth. We continue to expand the Orchard House Works program each year to benefit others in our community.

Orchard House School is doing transformational educational research. We are often linked at the national level with other cutting edge schools.