Are you a certified independent school that follows the BC Curriculum?
Yes we are! We are a fully certified Group 1 Independent School. Our enriched nature and community integrated education meets or exceeds all requirements of the BC curriculum.
What is your class size?
On average, our classes range between 10 and 12 students. Small class sizes are fundamental to our effective exploration of nature and our city.
How much is tuition?
Our tuition is $6,500 for September to June. This is paid by an initial $500.00 enrolment fee, and a further $6000.00 most often paid in 10 monthly instalments of $600.00.
why are self-regulation skills and behaviour so important at The balsam school?
At Balsam we put a significant emphasis on student self-regulation skills and the ability to learn in various locations, deal with multiple transitions, and do so all without expressing behaviour that is disruptive to the learning of their classmates. The Balsam School is a unique school for a very specific type of student. We are not just a kinder, gentler, smaller more outdoorsy version of a traditional school. Our purpose is to continue to expand the depth of student learning at all grade levels through the purposeful and pedagogically sound incorporation of our community and nature as vital, comprehensive, and integrated learning spaces.
Learning at Balsam is a ‘big ask’ of both students and staff. Students beginning in kindergarten need to be able to attend to meaningful learning experiences both in class, in our community and in nature. This means being able to manage and self-regulate personal behaviour, listen, and follow instructions of his or her teacher and support the learning of his or her fellow students. Student behaviour that distracts other students from their learning is not acceptable at Balsam.
British Columbia is blessed with a wonderful public school system that is free to all residents and ranks amongst the top in the world. It is designed with the expectation that approximately 20% of students will require resources to participate in a classroom setting; these resources often do not have to do with general classroom teaching and learning but are rather adjunct processes to allow identified students to engage in learning. Classroom assistants are hired, resource rooms are utilized and visits to the principal’s office are only three strategies that are used in this process. While very important and necessary for a traditional classroom to meet the wide and varied needs of all students attending, planning for this absorbs time and resources that could be used for general student learning. Despite these investments and strategies, learning time is often still lost to correction and/or redirection of disruptive student behaviour.
At the Balsam School we truly respect and appreciate our public schools. We are grateful that every student in BC has the right to a quality public education. In BC, we are also blessed with partially government-funded independent schools which, while not a right, offer important options and alternatives to families and students looking for something different.
As a fully certified Group 1 Independent School, The Balsam School aspires to be a true alternative learning option for families and not re-create what is already available, and is a right, in our public school system. The Balsam School offers a unique and demanding learning program that exposes children to many incredible experiences, environments, and engaging learning opportunities. From visits to Art Galleries, lessons with local chefs, mushroom foraging and long hikes in the forest, Balsam goes to where the learning is and fosters the creation of deep connections with nature and our community. Our school values pushing the envelop in exposing our students to ways of learning that no other school in our City, and only a handful in our province, contemplate, let alone attempt.
When a teacher joins the Balsam School, they take up a unique and challenging mantle. Teaching at The Balsam School is a very demanding experience and expectations are set very high. For a teacher employed by a traditional school the only variables he or she needs to manage are planning and preparing learning experiences to occur 99% of the time within their classroom. They often have the support of a librarian, music teacher, art teacher and a language teacher who will rotate through their class each week. A Balsam Teacher is expected to create and execute learning experiences that occur in three very different learning spaces: their classroom, nature, and our community. Liability issues must be managed, locations scouted and reviewed, weather prepared for, community partners scheduled, multiple daily transitions managed, and all within the expectation of a pedagogically sound and planned lesson that meets the requirements of the BC curriculum. Our teachers love the additional challenge of teaching at the Balsam School because they know the immense reward in learning that our students experience. Learning time and depth is expected to be maximized each day at Balsam.
As can be imagined, there are many moving pieces in any learning experience created by our teachers. One of the variables that can undo hours of preparation and limit the both the time and depth of learning is student behaviour that is disruptive. Teacher time and school resources are not meant to be spent on correcting and managing student behaviour that consistently diminishes learning experiences. Students participating in such behaviour are given a very short time to correct it before they are transitioned to another school that better suits the way they engage in learning.
Disruptive behaviour both in class, and when we venture in Nature or our Community, is also a real and present safety issue. Students who do not listen, and cause other students to not listen, can miss important safety instructions prior to a learning experience, and crucial directions when a prompt reaction is required of students.
When Balsam students are learning together in any location, whether it be their classroom, an open meadow, or a museum, you will see curious-minded, excited and risk-taking students who respect their teachers, show good manners and appreciation to our community partners, and who protect everyone’s right to learn through listening to, and supporting, each other. Behaviour that negatively impacts another student’s right to learn is just as likely to be called out by a fellow student, as by a teacher. Abundant evidence of cooperation, encouragement, questioning and celebrations of effort marked by joyful learning, peaceful introspection and calm reflection is apparent to any visitor to our school.
Do you have special education supports?
The Balsam School has very limited supports for students with special education needs. Students with diverse abilities may be well suited to join the Balsam School if they are able to meaningfully and safely participate in all aspects of the program without additional resources or supports.
WHAT IS YOUR ADMISSIONS POLICY?
The Balsam School is non-denominational and enrols students from grade K to grade 4 (adding grade 5 September 2022) upon completion of enrolment requirements and placement availability. These requirements may include, but are not limited to, readiness, IELTS/TOEFL testing and/or achievement tests, a review of the student’s previous records, confirmation that the student has the emotional and physical regulation skills to participate fully in The Balsam School program, and evidence that the parents/guardians share in the mission and goals of The Balsam School, based upon its philosophy and purpose. The Balsam School is a very unique program and the social, emotional and physical demands of the program result in some students not being offered admission. Unlike a traditional school, The Balsam School has multiple ‘field trips’ each day. Our students leave the very predictable and secure facility of The Balsam School daily and venture into the potentially unpredictable environment of nature and our community. A student who is not able to manage multiple and varied transitions throughout the day, follow and react quickly to direct instructions, or whose behaviour causes disruption to the movement and operation of the group while out of school, presents a potential safety hazard to themselves, their classmates and staff and will not be approved for initial admission, or continued enrolment. Teacher time and school resources are not meant to be spent on correcting and managing student behaviour that consistently diminishes learning experiences. Students participating in such behaviour are given a very short time to correct it before they are transitioned to another school that better suits the way they engage in learning.
WHAT SAFETY PRECAUTIONS ARE TAKEN WHILE IN THE COMMUNITY AND NATURE?
At Balsam, routines and expectations are set early with the students to ensure safety, and to maximize the learning opportunities and enjoyment of our community and the outdoors. Our Emergency Preparedness Plan includes appropriate training requirements for staff, protocols for both expected and unexpected situations, drills, student education and community and environmental awareness. Our students learn how to react safely to various situations from finding a disposed needle while on a walk to the Art Gallery, to identifying potentially toxic plants while on a walk in the woods.
How do i enrol my child?
The application process begins with each interested family completing our Interested Family Form. Please email our Principal at email@example.com to receive yours!