Like many independent schools in the Bay Area, The Berkeley School was initially founded in 1963 to be a preschool. As our students grew older, our school grew bigger, branching into elementary grades, and eventually flourishing as the ‘sized-just-right’ preschool through 8th grade school we are today. Our preschool students learn on our original campus, which we call the Early Childhood Campus in multi-age classrooms with an age range of 2.7 to 5. And our K-8 students share learning spaces and interact often at our campus on University Avenue Campus named for our location on University Avenue in the heart of North Berkely.
The Berkeley School’s unique grade configuration gives students the opportunity to have experiences in both single-grade classrooms and multi-grade classrooms. Single-grade classrooms in Kindergarten and 3rd grade align with developmental stages when children consolidate critical social-emotional and academic awarenesses. Multi-age 1st/2nd grade and 4th/5th grade classrooms allow for increased differentiation and extended teacher/student relationships at stages when both peer modelling and leadership are most advantageous for growth.
TBS students make meaningful connections as they model being their best selves and practice navigating relationships, metacognition, and conflict resolution. The social and emotional development that occurs when children model behavior for their peers, both older and younger, leads to a more empathetic and confident child.
As The Atlantic‘s 2017 article “Inside a Multiage Classroom” notes:
Multiage education puts learners at the center, socially and academically. On the social side, younger children look for guidance from older students who know the ropes, while the older students in the classroom organically learn about mentoring, leadership, and collaboration.
At TBS we have seen — and research shows –that there are a multitude of advantages when students have extended exposure and multi-year experiences with faculty who truly get to know students as individuals.
According to a study published in 2017 by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, there are measurable benefits for students who matriculate through a K-8 environment.
“Students who attend a middle school compared to a K-8 school are likely to have a lower perception of their reading skills [at a time when] students’ self-perceptions of academic competence are critical.“
The harmony and nurturing that develops when children engage others who are at different ages, grade levels, and abilities is a far more positive outcome when compared to the competitive and sometimes aggressive nature that can take hold when children are siloed into middle-school-only context.
When children and adolescents find themselves in an extended communal context, they associate and make friends across a relatively wide age range.
Hear from TBS alumni in the video below about how they reflect on their experience attending K-8.