by George J Elbaum
In 1908 Katherine Delmar Burke founded her school to fill an obvious need: young women who wanted to be educated enough to attend college faced often-insurmountable barriers. More than 100 years later, her school (Burke’s) still has the same mission: “to educate, encourage and empower girls. The school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.” Burke’s now has approximately 400 students (K-8) and a unique 3.5-acre campus in a residential district of San Francisco with mostly open space: a large grass athletic field, a sports court and two multipurpose courtyards with play structures. Its facilities include a large library, innovation labs, science labs, several art, music and drama studios, and a gymnasium/ auditorium. The faculty-to-students ratio is 1:7, and the average tenure of faculty at Burke’s is 10 years.
Burke’s prides itself in having its students graduate with a strong academic foundation and also a love of learning — not just for the sake of grades. This reflects Burke’s long-standing commitment to preserving the spirit of exploration while students master traditional skills and concepts. Upper School students have a comprehensive program that includes core academic subjects plus art, music, drama, and physical education, while 7th and 8th graders also have classes in public speaking and service learning plus many electives. The teaching of computer skills is integrated into the curriculum.
A unique program at Burke’s is the Makery, in which Burke’s decided to take a hard look at its outdated technology labs and replace these with space that emphasizes “make” and “creativity” and allows for innovative teaching and “tinkering.” This facility provides materials, tools (including a 3D printer), and talented faculty which allow students to model their work for each other in a collaborative, open environment. The ultimate goal of the Makery is to create a joyful learning environment for the girls that promotes creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking.
This, my second talk at Burke’s, was attended by all the 8th grade students, organized by teacher Debbie Yoon, and arranged by Brian Fong of Facing History and Ourselves. Also attending were Ian Van Wert, Upper School Science Teacher; Maria Shuman, Library and Innovation Support Assistant; Michelle Loomis, Upper School Library and Digital Media Specialist; Ron Malek, Upper School Learning Specialist; and Filomena Spero, Associate Director of Advancement.