REVIEW OF The York School BY parent, Elizabeth Dunn
- Date of Review
May 03, 2021
Gr. 3 - 3
(5) Student Experience
Our energetic 8 year-old son loves Pear Tree because of the active learning activities, centered around engaging projects. For example, last term, his class did a project on Pioneers, and he got to make his own pioneer wagon and use math and other skills to calculate what he would need to pack in the wagon to see our family through the many-months journey across the continent. The project culminated in a field trip to Fort Langley, where the kids got to see pioneer life in action, while dressing up as pioneers themselves. Our son also really enjoys the hour-long PE classes that he does everyday, including going to an actual gymnastics school and learning martial arts with a sensei at a nearby dojo. He also really likes the other kids and loves his teacher. At his old school, he would be sad on Sundays about going back to school, but those days are over thanks to Pear Tree.
(5) School Leadership
Because the school is so small, the administration is fairly small (e.g., the school principal is also my son's teacher). That said, we had a very positive experience with the school leadership/admin during the admissions process. For example, when we were missing some documents, they gave us a heads up and let us submit the documents when we could get them. The primary administrator, Jason, has also been very helpful to us with arranging uniforms, arranging before and after care, etc.
The teachers are the best part of Pear Tree. My son used to attend our local public school, which had some great teachers, but it always felt like we won the lottery when we got a good teacher (and this didn't happen every year). At Pear Tree, getting a great teacher seems to be a guarantee. Our son's current teacher is AMAZING. Day in and day out, she brings an exceptional level of creativity, enthusiasm, and patience to the classroom. Our son has learned so much--and gotten so much more excited about the learning process--thanks to her. I'm blown away by the amount of thought and preparation that goes into each of the learning activities. For example, my son's class just started a project on Plants & Pollinators, which began with a set of stations featuring hands-on activities, designed to inspire the kids' curiosity--from tasting bee pollen to examining a real wasp's nest to drawing scientific drawings of a daffodil.
As a professor at UBC, I feel like the education Pear Tree provides is ideal preparation for kids, especially the focus on solving complex, real-world problems by harnessing multiple skills. I also appreciate that students learn to work both alone and collaboratively with peers. A lot of the buzz words that other schools throw around, like project-based learning and socio-emotional learning, are baked in to everything Pear Tree does. I believe that attending Pear Tree will make it much more likely that my son will be admitted to a mini-school or whatever academic program seems suitable for him for high school (we are also excited that Pear Tree is opening up high school grades and would very much consider keeping him at Pear Tree then).
Our son mostly does extracurriculars that are not affiliated with school (such as Vancouver United soccer); the main "extracurriculars" our son does at Pear Tree are before care and after care. We really appreciate that we can bring him in for before care as early as 7:30, which gives him additional time to settle in. Because Pear Tree is such a small school, it doesn't have the extensive set of sports teams and clubs that are offered by large private schools, but the after care program is quite varied and creative. Our son especially likes Tuesdays, which feature cooking lessons (in fact, he asked to stay for after care rather than going to a soccer clinic on Tuesdays).
There are only 14 kids in my son's class, so it has a very cozy feel. A key feature of Pear Tree is that multiple grades are combined into "communities," and there is also a lot of interaction between communities, so the whole school kind of feels like a family. For example, every week the students have a "mixed up lunch" where they eat lunch in small groups of kids from across multiple communities. I volunteered during one of these lunches and there was a really lively, fun feel, with the kids engaged in animated conversation across age groups. As a result, my 3rd grader counts both a first-grader and a fifth-grader among his favourite friends. Before starting at Pear Tree, I was a bit concerned that the small size would make it difficult for my son to make friends, but the opposite seems to be true. Also, the kids are always well-supervised, so there just isn't a lot of opportunity for bullying or other problems to arise.
(5) School Life
My son has become much more enthusiastic about going to school since starting at Pear Tree. Here are our top 5 favourite things about Pear Tree: 1) Amazing Teachers! So much creativity! 2) True project-based learning. At his old school, my son used to complain about sitting at his desk doing boring worksheets. The Boring Worksheet has basically been eliminated from his life thanks to Pear Tree. Of course, he still does worksheets, but they're connected to projects that he cares about, making them meaningful and interesting. 3) Emphasis on healthy, adventurous eating. The school has its own chef who prepares healthy, adventurous meals for the kids (like Sicilian Sardine Pasta and Ginger Soup with Vegetables). This was challenging for my son at first, but it's amazing to see how much more open he has become to trying new foods--and he has developed an appreciation for the importance of heathy eating. 4) One hour of PE every day. So helpful for a child like mine, who is bubbling with energy! 5) Small classes. Pear Tree had smaller classes than most of the private schools we considered, and this enables the teachers to provide so much more individualized attention.
It's hard for me to speak to the parent community because we only joined during COVID so interactions are limited, although I really like the other parents that I've met. There is also a WhatsApp group for all the parents of kids in my son's class, which has been great--for example, when one parent broke her leg and couldn't pick up her son from school, another parent offered a terrific, creative solution via the WhatsApp group. While managing the inherent limits of pandemic restrictions, the school has managed to involve parents by enabling us to volunteer to help with "mixed-up lunches," which give a great window into the school. Also, because the current methods for teaching math are very different than what most of us learned as kids, the teachers held interactive sessions for small groups of parents to learn these methods. I found this SO helpful for understanding how my son was approaching math problems, and why these newer approaches have value.
(5) School Location
The school really makes the most of the vibrant surrounding community. The kids regularly walk to a gymnastics school, a martial arts dojo, a kids' yoga studio, and other destinations for PE, as well going to the nearby parks for recess. I found that the tuition at Pear Tree was lower than at most other private schools, and I think this may be partly because they keep their footprint small and make the most of the resources in the nearby community. And I really love how the kids get out and about in the community, so the school feels more like their home base.