Unique academic programming at Birchwood School of Hawken empowers students to reach their highest level of achievement while fostering a strong sense of personal competency and self-worth.

Eight Pillars

Building character requires consistent programming that cultivates habits; habits form the basis for lasting character. There is much truth in an age-old proverb: good thoughts produce good behavior; good behavior produces good habits; good habits build good character; and good character shapes destiny. At the same time, challenging academic curriculum requires a continuing effort to identify and implement educational components that result in stellar achievement. In the process of developing and refining our program and curriculum, we have chosen eight “pillars” that inform our efforts. These pillars are rooted in research, history and our own evolving experience during our quest to provide the best education to every child at Birchwood.

Our first pillar informs us that all curriculum design and pedagogy must be time-tested and research-based. When making decisions about academic content or teaching methodology, we are careful not to jump on educational bandwagons or blindly follow theoretical trends. We use historical precedents: “Does history show us that this content is appropriate or that this method works? What is the track record of student achievement under this approach?” Then we check with the research: “Where and what is the empirical data to support the success of this approach?”

But as we let “time-test and research-based” inform our decisions, we do not allow precedent to constrict us. After asking these questions, we are prepared to learn and innovate, and we have developed some of our own curriculum that has enhanced student achievement.

Our second pillar informs us that we must benchmark our curriculum content, that is, we need to identify the schools and the academic programs in the United States and abroad that have demonstrated superior student achievement. We seek to discover, “What levels of academic achievement are other schools able to reach with their students? How do they get there? What materials do they use? How is the academic program designed?” When we find superior programs, we unabashedly learn what is being done well and improve our own program.


“Birchwood is a unique combination of a rigorous disciplined curriculum with a strong academic push, delivered in a warm nurturing environment.”

Marie Kittredge –
Birchwood Parent