A Parent’s Thoughts: Pear Tree Elementary vs Elite Vancouver School

Paul Romani (M.Ed.)

My wife and I chose Pear Tree Elementary for our daughter, currently in Grade 2.
 
I have so many good things to write, here is my short summary.
 

At A Top Ranked Vancouver Private School

Our daughter attended one of the top ranked Vancouver private school. Our decision for this school was mainly based on the school’s values. The staff and faculty were all wonderful people.
 
Junior Kindergarten (JK): It was a blast. The students had so much fun, and during this time, we formed many close friendships with parents and students.
 
Kindergarten: It felt like we all went backwards into daycare; achievement would be to count to 10. We, among other parents, complained to the school.
 
Grade 1: We noticed the learning system was not improving: lots of colouring on printed out colouring sheets (this was also for Spanish class, music class). We kept hearing that it would improve in senior school, but we believe these young years are foundational and vital. We realized that many students in the higher grades required after-school tutoring to maintain grade level; I believe this is due to not building a strong foundation. Knowing other students from G4 and G7, we did not see much improvement, so we decided to make a change.
 
Note: We were not solely looking at academics. We don’t prescribe to the idea of repetitive memorization of facts and math. We believe in critical thinking, problem solving, curiosity, art, play and creativity.
 
 

At Pear Tree Elementary

Here are my thoughts about Pear Tree Elementary:
 

Staff & Faculty

  • Awesome and wonderful!

Mixed Grades

  • Our daughter likes the mixed grades (G2, G3, G4). She realizes that ability and competence are not a matter of age or grade, but more of engagement and practice.

Project-Based Learning

  • One of the main reasons why we chose Pear Tree Elementary.
  • Just like real life, the students are faced with a problem and together, they learn and research to find a solution(s). All the while, they are learning reading, writing, math, science, communication, collaboration – all without really realizing it.
  • Pear Tree doesn’t run the class in “blocks” of subjects. When we ask our daughter what she did at school she usually answers “we had fun working on our projects”.
  • They are not taught the traditional way of only one right answer, or it’s multiple-choice, or the answer is in the back of the book.
  • The students also present their projects to their classmates, building their confidence with public speaking.

Example 1 (Biodiversity):

The students researched different types of land formations, biospheres, animals, human cultures, and how all of those elements interact.
 

Example 2 (Math):

The students worked on calculating the rate of glaciers melting, the rate of an animal growing. The students math work includes the written solution, drawings to scale, and a physical representation. This method differs from the repetitive style of multiplication tables, since the students see a real purpose for figuring out a math problem – plus they have fun.
 

Example 3 (Biomes): 

The students selected a reptile to research; they designed and constructed a biome for their reptile and presented their research to the class. And they had special visitors come and show reptiles to the students.
 

Example 4 (Collaboration):

As of this writing, the students are currently working on publishing an encyclopedia, both in paper format and an e-book. Due to project-based learning, we found that our daughter takes homework very seriously; she understands the reason for finishing her work by a set deadline, and she even records her homework activities on a calendar.
 
 

Daily Physical Education, so important!

  • Pear Tree does not have a gymnasium on premise; they utilize the local community centre, nearby gymnastics, or take public transit to the Hive for rock climbing. Doing so, the students become more aware of their community.
  • The students are tasked with creating new games and rules as part of their playtime. I watched an interview where Wayne Gretzky said there is no creativity in hockey anymore because the young players are run through constant drills without opportunity for being creative.

Elite Vancouver Private School

Nutrition

  • Their full-time chef prepares healthy wholesome meals from scratch (morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks). The smell of cooking makes Pear Tree feel very homey and welcoming. Nutrition is essential for brain health. Since our daughter is eating healthy while at school and not skipping meals, we find she is not “hangry” when we pick her up; which is the opposite of her previous school.
  • The students will also learn how to cook a dish and how to budget the costs of the dish. They will also go to the local produce and buy the food; and, finally, they present their cooking to their classmates.

Healthy Hot Lunch Program

Commuting by Public Transit

  • I think it’s great for the students to take public transit for field trips or other excursions. They learn planning, schedule, patience, respect and build their walking stamina. Our daughter says she has more fun on public transit; she was even explaining transit infrastructure to me.

Community Engagement

  • The students have partnered up with a senior home, they visit their senior buddies to read books and share stories.  I read an article (sorry I don’t have the link for it), where it was observed that these interactions are healthy for both the young person and senior. Some of the seniors find a new spark in their life, a sense of purpose, for some their health improves, and some even wean off their medication.

 

Feedback Loop & Goal Setting

  • We are kept up to date daily on our daughter’s progress by in-person interactions and through a student/parent web application. Progression of projects, photos, artwork, etc., are all posted on the app. Our previous school utilized a similar app, but it was rarely updated. 
  • The teachers run the students through timed drills for math and reading; the students compare their progress to previous results and then their set goals. Our daughter finds this method as a challenge, and she eagerly practices at home to improve her skill. I watched an interview where Steve Balmer (ex Microsoft CEO), through his foundation, learned that 30% of grade 3 students in the USA are not at reading level. This problem compounds as the child ages through the school system.

 

 
I can definitely write more but I’ll end here.
 
Thanks again Pear Tree for opening your school to our family!
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Pear Tree Elementary,
215-2678 West Broadway,
Vancouver, B.C.,
V6K 2G3

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