The Berkeley School, like many other independent schools in the Bay Area, began with the Early Childhood Center in 1963. While other schools narrowed their instructional bands to K-5 or 6-8, we continued adding grades and growing into the sized just right independent preschool through 8th grade program that we are today. The Berkeley School also has a unique grade configuration where students move from single grade to mixed grade configurations based on the latest in brain research with all students, especially our middle schoolers, having shared experiences with students 3-years to 14-years of age.
“The study, published online in the Journal of Early Adolescence, evaluates the effect of attending a public middle or junior high school versus a K-8 school on 8th graders’ academic and psychosocial outcomes.” (see link below)
At The Berkeley School, we have long known about the benefits of having extended exposure and multi-year experiences with faculty who truly get to know students as individuals. Our students tend to connect differently as they model being their best selves and practice navigating relationships, metacognition, as well as 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.
Research shows that harmony and nurturing that develops when children engage others who are at different ages, grade levels, and abilities far outweighs 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. Walter Rhoades found that children in a nongraded elementary school chose friends from two years older to two years younger than themselves. In a study of adolescents outside school in Salt Lake City, it was found that 31% of companions were other adolescents more than two years older or younger. Adolescent boys tended to associate with girls about 2 years younger. While the average age difference among friendship groups in school was only 6 months, outside of school it was 14 months.” Read more about this interesting phenomenon here.