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The Clover School:
The Our Kids Report > Key Insights
Grades Nursery/Toddler TO 8 — Toronto, ON (Map)


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The Clover School:
THE OUR KIDS REPORT
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The Clover School KEY INSIGHTS

Each school is different. The Clover School's Feature Review excerpts disclose its unique character. Based on discussions with the school's alumni, parents, students, and administrators, they reveal the school’s distinctive culture, community, and identity.

What we know

  • Fostering social skills alongside academics in mixed-age classrooms is integral to The Clover School’s Montessori curriculum.
  • There is minimal use of technology at The Clover School. 
  • The Clover School has a full-time, resident urban farming specialist that runs an ‘Edible Lab’ on each campus.
Read our Feature Review of The Clover School

Handpicked excerpts

The Clover School more than lives up to its motto as ‘The School with Heart.’ Combining a Montessori curriculum with a philosophy that promotes social, emotional and physical well-being, the school is a nurturing home-away-from-home for students. Three—soon to be four—Toronto campuses make up The Clover School, offering programs for children from 18 months to Grade 8. Each campus has its own unique features, but the overall feel is the same: warm, alive with the energy of kids at work and play, and yet somehow peaceful. 

Sandra Bosnar-Dale and Isabelle Kunicki built the Clover community from scratch more than 25 years ago. Though the school has grown substantially since then, the founding values are stronger than ever. “We’ve always believed that schools should be true communities that bind students, families and teachers together,” says Bosnar-Dale. “Raising children is hard in this fast-changing world, especially living in a big city. It really does take a village. Our goal from the start was to create trusting relationships with families because everybody benefits from that—especially children.” 

ON THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM

 The Clover School curriculum could be described as Montessori-plus. Students benefit from a proven, century-old educational philosophy, but also from a progressive, holistic approach that nurtures their whole selves. 

Clover students at every level have the freedom to explore subjects and projects that spark their interest. The core Montessori tenet of self-directed learning—within limits and with teacher guidance—is core to the school’s curriculum. Montessori is known for an emphasis on early academics, and Clover’s toddler and pre-primary programs include a focus on cognitive development fueled by curiosity and newfound independence. Many parents are surprised to learn that children receive some French language instruction starting in the pre-primary program. The school’s aim, however, isn’t to accelerate learning, but rather to lay a strong foundation for it. 

In pedagogical terms, the school takes a strongly relational approach, meaning that the teacher-student relationship is the springboard for learning. In the words of Nina Mason, lead pre-primary teacher at High Park, “Our fundamental belief is that children, and people in general, can’t learn unless they feel safe and loved and supported, and that’s what we do to the best of our abilities here.” 

ON THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT 

Our tours at each campus revealed classrooms that were relatively quiet and remarkably orderly, yet full of activity. Children sat alone or in small groups, obviously engaged in their tasks. “We call it their ‘work’ rather than their play or activity,” says Tracy Durisin, vice principal at the midtown junior campus, who adds that uninterrupted work periods are central to every Montessori classroom. “But we use that word in the sense of something that’s chosen by the child, enjoyable to them, encourages learning and requires some concentration.” Amy Gataveckas, vice principal at the High Park campus, adds that students appreciate their right not to be disturbed. “When a child is focused, we honour that,” she says. “It helps to build mutual respect in the classroom.”

ON STUDENT ASSESSMENT 

Parents new to Montessori may be surprised to discover that there are few or no tests or graded assignments. They may wonder how they’ll know whether their children are progressing well. “One of the most frequent questions I get from prospective families is how well we prepare our students for when they leave here to attend traditional schools,” says Dawn Whitehead, vice principal at the midtown elementary campus. “I tell them that, since each child essentially has their own lesson plan, they tend to be ahead of where their peers are in straight grades.” 

The Montessori philosophy emphasizes children’s intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards such as grades. “It’s about mastery of skills rather than demonstrating knowledge on a test,” says Whitehead. “Once students and teachers agree that the students have mastered a skill—that they truly understand it—they go on to the next one. The reward is in finishing the work, not in marks, because our aim is for students to be self-motivated, self-sufficient learners.” 

ON THE CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT 

Moral learning is a fundamental part of the Montessori curriculum, and its effects shone through the students we met at The Clover School. They were consistently polite, friendly and open in our conversations, while showing consideration for each other—for example by offering everyone a chance to speak, including the quietest participants. 

The mentoring among students that naturally takes place in mixed-age classrooms is inherently character-building, says Tracy Durisin, vice principal at the midtown junior school. “We’re always telling students that as you move up in this school, you also give back. Our internal community is designed to cultivate good citizenship and good character. The older students help to do the laundry for the toddler classrooms, for example, and bring around the vegetables they’ve grown for everyone to try. They also greet the youngest students in those first days of school when they may be nervous, and later become reading buddies.”


THE OUR KIDS REPORT: The Clover School

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