Glenburnie Private School
“Today’s children are being raised in a very different world than their parents. In a few short years, these children will enter the working world, where they will use tools that have not yet been created, and will be confronted with challenges that we cannot even imagine. The question all educators must ask is, How do we best prepare our children for their future world?”
— Linda Sweet
Glenburnie is a co-educational private school that educates children from preschool to Grade 8, actively integrating current brainbased research in quantum physics and the neurosciences, creating an optimal physical and educational learning environment. The Glenburnie approach proactively helps students to develop effective leadership skills and to prepare them for the 21st century.
Linda Sweet founded Glenburnie School in 1985, with a single goal to make a difference in the children’s lives and to better prepare them for their future. In our interview, Sweet postulated a deeply penetrating thought and a pragmatic question, “How do we best prepare our children for their world? Our current school system has been modeled on an Industrial Age format, while we now work in a Technological Age.” Sweet has turned the tables on the outdated teacher directed ‘sage on the stage’ educational approach in setting up her expectations and educational approaches to address current learning for the forthcoming ‘Age of Wisdom’.
Glenburnie’s interpretation of the expression ‘21st century skills’ goes well beyond the incorporation of technology to the curriculum studies. At Glenburnie, curriculum experiences are extended to stimulate intellectual curiosity to include critical thinking and analytical skills, strong oral and written communication and leadership development. Teachers provide training in Emotional Intelligence and in Economic Education starting at the Preschool level. “It is critical to develop emotionally intelligent youth, who have a strong sense of global awareness, and who feel comfortable to risk-take in their thinking and in their choices, understanding that failure can also be a strong component for future success.”
Integrated Educational Process
Glenburnie is recognized for its outstanding Arts programs — Visual Arts, Instrumental Music and Orff studies, Drama and Theatre; as well as its strength in Intramural and Varsity Sports. These areas of study also provide a wealth of leadership and problem solving opportunities and further enhance and extend student communication skills. Academic studies are integrated throughout all subject disciplines which include real life applications.
The acquisition of knowledge is just the first step. Teachers use curriculum concepts and skills as ‘tools’ to teach and develop analytical and leadership skills, and the school’s integrated approach links and reinforces academic content across various subject areas. For example, an overnight class trip to Fort York in Toronto is part of the Grade 7 study of the War of 1812. This provides students with the opportunity to experience what life would have been like in this period of history. In Geography, students examine how local geography influenced fort construction. In Computer Technology class, students design their own fort. In Art class, students build a replica of their fort based on their computer design. In Language Arts class, the narrative study would be selected for the same historic period along with related story writing activities. In Mathematics, students work on problem solving using perimeter, area and percentage calculations to cost out construction of the fort in both historic and current time frames. In Drama class, students discuss the core values of the people who lived in and around Fort York and roleplay various community scenarios. In Music class, students explore or might compose a musical piece from those times. In this way, students will have a powerful, integrated, vicarious set of experiences which would anchor and cross reference a wide range of curriculum concepts and skills.
The various learning experiences surrounding this topic of study are structured with the 21st century outcomes in mind.
Nurturing Children’s Goals
Teachers meet formally with each parent early in the school year, often including their son or daughter, to set academic and social goals. Students are expected to be integral partners in their education, and are held accountable for their academic progress, failures and successes. For example, if a student’s test results are not up to expected standards, the child has the option to retake the test, not only to improve the mark but to attain greater mastery of the specific concepts and skills.
Risk-taking is another important component of the Glenburnie approach and has a direct correlation to improved learning. With full teacher support, students are challenged and challenge themselves to reach their fullest potential in Glenburnie’s positive learning environment where new learning and individual successes are celebrated.
“Another critical goal for our students is the development of greater self-awareness. Emotional Intelligence lessons and activities help students understand the effectiveness of goal setting, the importance of making good choices and the power of words directed toward themselves and toward others. Students enjoy discussing their own core values and what they believe is most important in their own lives. A Grade 3 student might list their core values as, ‘Love for my mom, my family, being a good friend, being honest.’ When students become aware of what is most important and meaningful in their own life, they make improved choices.
“At Glenburnie, we see our classroom as workshops which mimic the workplace environment requiring teamwork, collegiality, integrity and high emotional intelligence to take a project from conception to completion. The classes are busy and fast-paced, where students benefit from whole class, group, and individual instruction, providing for students to work at their own personal level of challenge. Students learn the importance of developing strong leadership skills which are necessary for timely project completion and an enjoyable experience for all.”
The physical learning environment is also very important at Glenburnie. Right from the beginning, the school physical structure was designed with a low welcoming profile, as this is more visually inviting and less intimidating for both the kindergarten child as well as for the intermediate students. The homeroom classrooms, two for each grade level, are bright and colourful, with large windows for natural daylight. Shelves are overflowing with student materials.
Full spectrum overhead lighting has been installed throughout the school, as it not only improves physical comfort in the working environment, but it also can help to increase productivity up to 30 per cent. Interestingly, children with active minds and bodies are far more relaxed and focused when learning and working under full spectrum as opposed to florescent lighting. EMF (electromagnetic field) protection has also been installed throughout the school to protect students from the electric currents and magnetic fields emanating from computers and other electronic devices. Research indicates that EMF fields can drain one’s energy and lead to fatigue, forcing the body’s cells to expend more energy to protect themselves from these currents.
“In keeping with continuous goal setting, our Grade 8 graduates are strongly encouraged to become involved in high school leadership activities to practise their skills within a larger peer group. Once the high school years are completed, graduates gravitate toward university studies in business, law, medicine, and technology. Our strong Arts students continue to develop their passions in theatre, music, and dance. Due to the strength of the Economics program, Emotional Intelligence training, and 21st century skills approach, many graduates seek the challenges and excitement of entrepreneurial ventures.”
Glenburnie seeks regular feedback from its graduates and makes adjustments accordingly to ensure that current students are well prepared and experience a smooth transition to their high school studies. Glenburnie alumni regularly drop by from high school, university and the workplace to celebrate their successes with their former teachers. They continually comment that their Glenburnie education has provided them with a solid foundation of long-standing skills, values and lasting friendships for many, many years after leaving Glenburnie.
Sweet’s original goal of making a difference in the lives of children is evident throughout the school. One sees happy children at work in active, busy classrooms engaged in meaningful activities, exploring, risk-taking, and excelling in the academics, in the Arts, and in the Sports programs. In such a positive learning environment, with open minds and passionate teachers, anything and everything is possible.