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perpetually learning

Step into the bustling halls of Breck, and you can sense it. The constant energy of teachers and students: rethinking, reigniting, recasting. Observe a first-grade Mandarin class, or upper school science research, and there it is again.

The steady momentum of discovery: redefining, reframing, refreshing. Attend an inclusive chapel service, a Breck soccer game, a student art exhibition, and you see it in action.

The unbroken current of enthusiasm: reenergizing, reflecting, reemphasizing.

At Breck, each community member– preschooler to senior, teacher to coach, bus driver to administrator– is perpetually learning.

When perpetually learning students encounter our

perpetually learning school, they see the very process of learning– not just as a prerequisite for success or the ticket to a specific college, but the lens through which they view the entire world: constructing and reconstructing, inventing and reinventing their own lives from this time forward.

lower school: Reinforcing the learner in every child

Preschool and Kindergarten engage in playful, meaningful, and social learning from the start. Preschoolers learn the importance of trusted relationships and responsibility as they navigate their discovery-filled days. Kindergarteners continue their study of modern language–Mandarin or Spanish–as well as a topic closer to home–Minnesota. They conduct science experiments, give stage performances, and, even if they don’t realize it, start internalizing the interconnectedness of all their lessons. When a first-grade class takes a keen interest in the deepest parts of the ocean during their Island Adventure unit, their teacher adapts and draws up a new lesson plan to deepen their study of the abyssal zones. Second graders build on their already strong foundations to study plants, American history, local communities, and biomes. That leads to using artifacts and primary sources in third grade to learn about people and places “before our time,” employing critical thinking skills to evaluate evidence. Their teacher encourages them: You’re making up your own mind on this. You have the knowledge to do that.

Preschool to fourth grade is one of the most influential periods of your child’s life. Our early learning experts envelop your child in a caring community and open up the world to her inquisitive mind and boundless imagination.

Fourth graders immerse themselves in the Heroes and Sheroes project, penning an original narrative from the viewpoint of a person who changed history–Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln. Even at this age, they’re learning to be reflective writers, viewing revision as a process and answering the question: How can I take this writing to the next level? Your child begins, ever-so-gradually, to take charge of his learning, rethinking, reinterpreting, and reconsidering everything he encounters.

Reconnecting on our campus home Breck houses a full 14-year continuum on our Golden Valley campus, which confers definite advantages for your child. No matter when he starts, he’s immediately included in a caring, close-knit community that feels and functions like a family. Four-year-olds and 18-year-olds intermingle naturally, our upper school students proud to serve as role models and our youngest students all too eager to follow in their footsteps. First grade & senior buddies

Through his trajectory at Breck, your child experiences cherished traditions from two points of view, making them all the more meaningful when he reflects back on his younger self from a more mature vantage point.

Every Breck first grader has a senior buddy. They trace the outline of their hands together on a mural and attend chapel together. The first graders sing to the seniors at graduation–there’s rarely a dry eye in the house– and the connection lives on as the now-second graders write to their buddies at college.

Biddying A time-honored tradition at Breck where third and fourth graders serve, sit down with, and clean up after preschoolers and kindergarteners during lunch. Biddying instills a practice of responsible role modeling in our lower school students before they progress to middle school, and lends a sense of belonging and aspiration to our early learners. Bio-buddies Breck kindergartners study the human body as part of our Real Science curriculum–which makes them natural lab partners for our middle school students. Bio-buddies get together for monthly activities that combine hands-on experience with field research while forming a genuine sense of connection.

Breck understands that children are so capable even at the youngest ages. When you pair up a six-year-old with a senior, it’s not just a cute thing to do, but real learning comes out of it– that’s the epitome of the whole-child approach. –parent


Renewing spirituality Chaplains and Chapel at Breck

Our spiritual component unites us under the common purpose of supporting each other through successes and struggles, strengthening our campus and local communities, and confronting questions about life and our place in the world. Through services, religion classes, and candid discussions, we seek balance between action and reflection, and pursue our own personal path to God. The point isn’t what you believe when you arrive. It’s not even what you believe when you graduate. Rather, it’s that you’re open to joining together as a community in pursuit of shared understanding, the common good, and higher truths. Those may sound like lofty ideals for a preschool through 12 school. But year in and year out, Breck students astound us with the generosity of their spirit, the depth of their questioning, the power of their convictions, and their ability to understand the long ripple of their actions.

We’re not Christian, and we couldn’t be more comfortable here. Even though the students live in this small bubble of Breck, they’re learning about the whole world out there, and also learning to be the best person they can be. –parent

Breck is unique in that we employ a full-time chaplain for each division. This allows our chaplains to work with the age group they feel the deepest connection to, teaching the power of reflection and being true to oneself. The near-ubiquitous presence of our chaplains also means your child always has a trusted, wise, and easily approachable advocate outside the classroom. This lends another layer of safety and belonging to our community, and encourages your child to speak his mind and learn about his place in the world with a friend and mentor who cares deeply about his journey.

middle school: Refocusing the adolescent years Grades five through eight are years of transformational growth–physically, intellectually, and socially. Breck middle schoolers handle these transitions uncommonly well because they’re fully supported by their teachers and classmates, and they’re engaged in learning that opens their eyes to countless possibilities. Imagine a fifth-grade science class whose year-end assignment is simply: Prove that drag is a force that resists forward motion. Now imagine the collaboration and testing, the lab work and theoretical discussions, the tests and retests that follow. Imagine a fifth grader realizing, with a gleam of excitement– not disappointment–in her eye: We get to re-do our whole procedure because this one isn’t working. That’s one example, but Breck’s middle school unfolds like this through every grade. We start with passionate teachers who were meant to teach this age group, and we introduce them to students who think learning is not only fun, but exciting. Then, there’s a bit of alchemy that occurs. Your child learns advanced research and writing skills through Hunger Projects, which seventh graders present at Museum Night. He travels with classmates to Wolf Ridge to build campsites and camaraderie, all the while learning the self-sufficiency that only the outdoors can teach. Through it all, our middle school functions as a contained experience. Sure, it prepares students for the advanced work they encounter in upper school. But more important, it’s a self-reinforcing, self-sustaining culture that looks out for each other–the ideal environment for your adolescent to come into her own as gracefully as possible.

The whole middle-school team is full of exceptional teachers. The middle-school faculty makes me want to go back and do middle school over again here, and who would ever really want to relive middle school? –parent


Reinventing curricula

Breck is about constant growth. For both students and teachers, a culture of continual learning is our clear expectation. If you’re not growing here, you’re not going to reap what this school offers. –faculty member

Students learn best from teachers who practice what they preach. In other words, passionate intellectuals inspire passionate intellectuals-in-the-making. Breck teachers, consummate learners themselves, find little joy in teaching the same syllabus every year. They’re constantly reinventing and refining assignments, projects, and lessons to better engage their students–keeping everyone’s learning exciting–while making themselves available to help your child delve into subjects that fascinate him. That’s why we take our teachers’ professional development so seriously. They arrive at Breck incredibly well-educated, caring deeply about each child’s education, but also yearning to learn more, to improve, to adapt to our changing educational landscape. And so we ensure their development matches that of their students. Through summer grants and endowed chairs, local and national workshops, visits to exceptional peer schools, and hosting renowned experts on campus, Breck teachers keep growing. Each year, we also extend year-long sabbaticals to teachers who feel inspired to travel and study beyond campus and bring that learning–and their reinvigorated self–back to share with the Breck community.

Our kids are talented in the arts, as creative thinkers, as young adults who can think outside of the box. Breck students are open-minded, and interested in social change and entrepreneurship, which speaks to our overall creativity. –faculty member

Integration and reintegration define learning at Breck. We meld arts and science. Develop the intellectual alongside social responsibility. Curiosity fuels belief. Physical ability, mental acuity, and artistic vision proceed on sometimes parallel, but often intersecting, pathways. In this environment, your child finds his place within our full-spectrum arts program. He may be a hockey player or a physicist, but that doesn’t limit him as a painter, a singer, a cellist, or a ceramicist. In fact, the more he learns outside of the art room, the more he brings into it to use as inspiration that leads to fresh discovery. Beginning in preschool, our arts teachers draw out your child’s budding potential, making him feel comfortable trying a variety of media. From his earliest days at Breck, the pursuit of the arts feels not only natural, but necessary and reenergizing. Over the years, he incorporates his particular talents–sculpture or watercolor, trumpet or stand-up bass, singing or stagecraft–into his broader life. Breck students routinely exhibit in galleries across the city, perform for audiences across the country, and even go on to continue honing their craft in college.


Refreshing artistic expression

upper school: Redefining college prep

Your student can take a wide range of AP courses, and he augments his classroom learning by immersing himself in the vibrant life of our upper school. From international service trips to boundary-pushing arts and team-building athletics, he departs for college with troves of life and learning experiences.

Our upper school students constantly engage with projects and assignments that have meaning to them personally and in the larger world. Through our advanced math research program, students become consulting mathematicians who perform research in mathematics with a local governmental, civic, or non-profit group to solve real problems.

The impact and contributions of Breck students are just mindboggling. I know so many who have gone on to distinguish themselves in medicine, in scientific research–as real leaders within the scientific community. –faculty member

Students also pursue advanced research in science and history, offering them college-like experience to develop, prove, and present a thesis alongside a teacher-scholar. Recent participants have developed an iPhone app to measure limb functionality in stroke patients and used stem-cell technology to develop an artificial lung that could replace donor transplants. Others worked with the Geography department chair at Macalester College to research the economic, social, demographic, and esthetic characteristics that have shaped small, Mississippi River towns past and present. And with the new Breck upper school facility completed in fall 2013, students and teachers now have abundant access to intentionally designed spaces that better facilitate collaboration and inspire the kind of college-level thinking, synthesizing, and analysis that have long been a hallmark of teaching and learning at Breck.


Refocusing as a team

At a school as inclusive and interconnected as Breck, athletics take on an important role in building camaraderie and spirit across divisions and among teams. Our athletics program is designed for everyone to compete. For a school our size, we field a remarkable number of competitive teams–more than 60 when you combine boys and girls–most of whom play in the Minnesota State High School League’s Tri-Metro Conference. If your daughter is like most of her Breck peers, she’ll compete in at least one sport each year. Athletics offer a conduit for thinking and teambuilding that reinforces what happens in our classrooms, but also call on students to use different parts of their minds and bodies. Making split-second decisions, digging in during a tough stretch, and knowing intuitively when to take the lead and when to rely on a teammate all contribute to your student’s holistic growth at Breck. Breck teams play as cohesive, well-coached units, which accounts for our considerable on-the-field success. Each year we take home championships in sports ranging from tennis and golf to hockey and basketball. Our victories may be cyclical, but our philosophy is consistent: By asking students to play the game hard, with respect and fairness, they grow in maturity and confidence, aligning our athletic program with the overall mission of our school.

Talk to a Breck student and you’ll likely hear about service Wednesdays or forming alliances with local non-profits, connecting with the community through independent research, or traveling to work with refugees in Thailand. Helping our students make their academic study personally meaningful, relevant, and beneficial to others is central to our mission.

At Breck, we integrate service into our program from preschool through grade 12 as fully and thoughtfully as we do athletics, the arts, and technology. That’s because what our students gain and give back through their service work can’t be duplicated in any other way. Service teaches empathy to our youngest students, a trait we aren’t born with but rather must develop to act as good people, and to really understand the growing complexities of our world. Service helps students develop mature habits of reflection and introspection as they evaluate their actions, rethink decisions, and consider ways to improve in the future. Service extends the public purpose of our independent school, connecting us with our community and our community with us through sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships. Ultimately, service at Breck causes us to slow down from time to time, to realign our actions with our beliefs, to ensure we’re acting with integrity, honesty, and serving not only our own purposes, but the principles we hold dear as individuals and as a community.

My friend and I started a social advocacy group that had a three-fold mission: to educate the community, keep social justice issues in the constant consciousness of the students, and help individuals develop a thesis statement for themselves. –student


Reenergizing learning in the wider world

At Breck, perpetually learning means: Redefining whole-child education From age four to eighteen, Breck cultivates each student’s growth in directions she didn’t know possible.Through trusted relationships with a succession of knowing teachers, she comes to understand the many dimensions of her voice and where her passions can lead her.

Reconnecting on our campus home At Breck, because we join fourteen grades on our single campus, your child inherits and stewards cherished traditions–progressing from a wide-eyed preschooler to a wise senior among peers and adults who feel like family.

Reemphasizing character At Breck, intellect and character develop symbiotically. Students see empathy and compassion not as abstractions, but ways of being, and learn to argue respectfully, lead with fairness, and understand the long ripple of their actions.

Reenergizing collaboration At every level, we passionately discuss ideas and learn from each other. Together, teachers and students fuel a school culture where each person confidently voices her opinion, pursues original learning, and thinks independently.

Reflecting on every action Breck students and adults consciously revisit important acts and feelings. Students come to view reflection as integral to learning, and grow into more self-aware, more mature individuals ready to engage meaningfully with the world.

Reframing college preparation At Breck, we prize learning for its own sake. Each student wields discernment as a tool as he matures into a grounded applicant ready to choose his college–not the other way around.

Renewing spirituality At Breck, we affirm balance as a high virtue. Students hold purposeful action and quiet reflection in constant tension, remaining open to the world’s surprising beauty and attuned to subtle signs of grace.

Rethinking learning spaces Our new buildings embody our long-held teaching philosophy. Open spaces invite open dialogue and light illuminates the constant collaboration made possible when form follows deep intention.

Reimagining service learning We recognize the interdependence of all people. Students inhabit multiple viewpoints before putting values into action–the first step in developing their social conscience.

Reinterpreting diversity It’s important to point out that diversity at Breck transcends numbers. Students come together to exchange ideas, explore complexities, and form lasting friendships because they are genuinely interested in learning from each other.

Refreshing artistic expression At Breck, because we encourage each child’s selfexpression, your daughter freely and fearlessly explores the arts–coming into her own as a singer, dancer, painter, sculptor, actor, or art historian.

Refocusing as a team Because each Breck team plays as one, your child masters the dynamics of working together– understanding that the combined talents of a group are greater than the sum of its parts.

one campus p-12 in Golden Valley 763.381.8100



When perpetually learning

students encounter our

perpetually learning school, they’re not just preparing for college– they’re realizing that thinking and problem solving, listening and leading, and creating and collaborating are all lifelong processes, all constantly being reinvented, and all starting right here, right now.

Come see for yourself how your child might thrive among our perpetually learning community.

Breck School 123 Ottawa Avenue North Golden Valley, MN 55422-5189

Breck School Viewbook 2013-14  

Breck School Viewbook — information for prospective families.

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