Birchtree Charter School grew out of a movement that started in 2006, when four families united around their interest in Waldorf education and their dedication to helping their children develop academically, physically, socially and emotionally. The families initially collaborated to hold a Waldorf-inspired homeschool co-op. In 2008, this group formed the Birchtree Parent Guild (BPG) and began the process of establishing a K-8 charter school guided by the core principles of Waldorf education. Birchtree Parent Guild participation grew and the group began offering activities to the Mat-Su community guided by the core principles of Waldorf education. In August 2009, seven members split from the Birchtree Parent Guild to form the Academic Policy Committee (APC) for Birchtree Charter School. The Charter was approved by the MSBSD in November of 2009, and by the State of Alaska in March of 2010. The Birchtree Parent Guild and the Academic Policy Committee worked together to get the school ready to welcome students by its opening date of August 2010. It was anticipated the school would open with 160 students enrolled. However, there was great interest in Birchtree Charter School and the actual enrollment for the first year was 220 students. Between our opening date, we have grown to over 400 students and have worked to maintain a student/teacher ratio of 24 to1. Birchtree board members and staff continue to work hard to nurture this unique school community.
Why We Love Birchtree
At Birchtree Charther School, we are committed to providing a Waldorf education that honors the child's unique developmental journey. We believe in cultivating creativity, imagination and critical thinking skills. Our school is founded on the principles of social responsibility, environmental stewardship and community building. We strive to create a diverse, inclusive community that respects and celebrates differences. We believe that education is a lifelong journey and we are dedicated to supporting our students' growth and development.
THE WALDORF WAY
Greater Student-Teacher Interaction
In Waldorf education, the teacher loops with the class. Looping means that the teacher stays with the class from year to year. At Birchtree your child will have one teacher for kindergarten, one teacher from 1st-5th grade, and one teacher from 6th-8th grade.
In addition to rigorous academic study, Waldorf curriculum includes foreign language, music, movement, handwork, woodwork, environmental education, and learning through story.
The use of narrative gives students a conceptual framework in which they can orient themselves and understand their experiences. Content is shared in oral form rather than through written textbooks, especially in the earlier grades. Teachers use biography to strengthen pupil identification with people who made a difference. They inspire students to identify with characters in stories and develop linguistic and listening skills. History is taught initially through narrative and stories from a wide range of sources. This can include folktales, legends, fables, parables, mythology, and literature.
Two hours of the school day are devoted to the main lesson. This refers to an intensive study of a specific subject that lasts for three to four weeks. Find sample main lesson block plans here.
Rather than reading from textbooks, students develop their own books, which are called main lesson books. These books serve as a portfolio of what they have learned in their main lesson block.
Rhytms, Routines, and Assessments
Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms and routines are an important part of Waldorf education. Attention to the seasons and a celebration of seasonal festivals is also an important part of a Waldorf education.
In lieu of traditional grades, students are assessed on the basis of work recorded into their main lesson book using Waldorf-inspired rubrics. Parents receive end-of-year narrative reports that provide information about the progress of their students. Parents also have the opportunity to attend family nights, assemblies, conferences, and concerts to observe their child’s learning. At Birchtree, students also participate in state-mandated testing.