The Benefits of Progressive Learning at The Orchard School

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Orchard School.

We all want our children to become well-rounded adults someday – and that starts with a great education. The Orchard School will host their next admissions open house for the 2024-2025 academic year on January 21st, and families are invited to come! We were able to chat with Jessica Aiyasami, the Director of Admissions at The Orchard School, who has been a part of the Orchard community for twenty years. She works with prospective families, enrollment, flexible tuition and financial aid, and merit scholarships for 4th through 8th graders. And not only that – she’s also a mother of two current Orchard students and one Orchard alum – so she knows a thing or two about being involved in the Orchard community. She wants to give more families the opportunity to get involved, because she says once you become a part of the Orchard community, it’s hard to leave it.

The Orchard School Indianapolis
Photo Credit: The Orchard School

How young can a child be enrolled and up to what grade level do the academics continue?

The Orchard School provides education for kids from preschool age through the 8th grade. Aiyasami says that for the next academic school year (2024-2025), the student would need to be three years old by approximately August 16th-17th. She says there may be some flexibility on that – if the child is ready for the program – but those exceptions are determined on a case by case basis.

The Orchard School continues to be committed to Progressive education. Share more about what this looks like and what exactly it means.

“At Orchard, Progressive education means that children learn by doing. It’s an experiential learning environment where they’re doing a lot of problem solving,” says Aiyasami. “We have very strong academics, but we also focus on educating the whole child.” This means teachers not only focus on the academic side of learning – the math, the reading, the sciences, etc. – they also focus on social-emotional aspects. It’s important to the staff at The Orchard School to let children have an outdoor education, a physical education, and plenty of art and music, too. The Orchard School is very proud to educate the whole child, not just sitting at a desk, but exploring their surroundings.

Give a “peek” into the classrooms! If a family were to glance into a preschool classroom, what are some things that they would see?

Aiyasami likes to say that the first thing you notice during a school tour is smiling faces. “The kids are excited to come to school. When they are away, they actually miss their Orchard community,” says Aiyasami. She continues by saying you’re going to see kids doing a lot of hands-on projects together. You’ll also see the kids bundled up and ready to go outside and explore the 43 acres of land. A lot of the land on the Orchard property is wooded, and classes are often held outside.

For parents and caregivers wanting to know about student/teacher ratios, the average ratio is eight children to one teacher. This depends on the day, as Orchard offers 3-day and 5-day programs for preschool. But in a typical preschool, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten room setting in Orchard, there are two lead teachers in the classroom. If students are in classes like PE, you might see a larger student/teacher ratio. In academic classes, you’re going to see breakouts of smaller groups, like one-on-one or five-on-one. Classes have an average of 18 kids per class, and preschool has a little bit less. All staff members and teachers are very passionate and caring, providing a safe place for your student.

What about elementary and middle school classes – what makes these grade levels at Orchard stand apart from other schools around the community?

First and foremost, the small classes stand out, says Aiyasami. Especially in elementary and middle school, having that small class size is a big benefit. Orchard teachers really get to know their students on an individual level to know their interests, what may need a little more work, and where they are excelling.

“In the elementary school and middle school, you’re also going to see the students are partners in their own education. That is a big foundational piece where a student knows this is their education,” says Aiyasami. “You want them to grow and actually be invested in their own education, so you’re going to start seeing that in the elementary school, and a lot heavier in the middle school too.” Desks are placed in clusters because the kids are going to be able to interact with each other and problem-solve together during group projects.

Another aspect of education that stands out is The Orchard School’s dedicated time to performance. All Orchard students will have many opportunities to perform in front of parents and peers through plays, musicals, concerts, variety shows, poetry nights, and even a mock trial of the Supreme Court. Teachers will help shy students come out of their shell, and the student will gain the confidence to get on stage and do their performances. Public speaking is very important to the staff at Orchard, and Aiyasami reminisced about students doing their final public speech during graduation every year.

Something unique to The Orchard School is the annual class called “Winterm.” Winterm is for middle school students from 5th to 8th grade, and they spend two weeks in March completely immersed in a subject they are interested in or passionate about. Some examples of past Winterm subjects are Slot Car Racing, Creative Writing and Illustrating, and Marsville: Colonizing the Red Planet. You can learn more about Winterm at The Orchard Core webpage.

Orchard has an upcoming open house on January 21st. Share more with Indianapolis families about this open house, what they can expect, and how they can register to attend!

The Orchard School will host families for an open house on Sunday, January 21st from 1:00-3:00 pm. Registration is encouraged for this event. Current Orchard middle school students will be available to provide prospective families a student-led tour around the school. Teachers, Orchard parents, and the administrative staff will be available to answer any questions you may have. They urge the entire family to attend! “This event is for the whole family because students are making decisions as well,” says Aiyasami. “We want this to be their opportunity to see the school, too.”

Head to orchard.org to learn more about The Orchard School’s educational mission, information on the upcoming open house, and how to get in touch with the Admissions department.

Watch the full interview here and learn more:


About The Orchard School

The Orchard School’s mission is to develop and educate the whole child. As a progressive, non-sectarian, independent school, Orchard commits to advancing each student’s academic success, self-confidence, open-mindedness, ethical character, leadership, and love of learning.

The Orchard School Indianapolis
Photo Credit: The Orchard School

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