A visitor to Oak Hill is sure to be impressed with the natural beauty of our campus: the wildlife on the hill, the trails that extend into the open space beyond our white fence, the flowers and trees that surround the red buildings. But a closer look inside the classrooms and across the school grounds reveals a school carrying out its impressive mission: to meet students where they’re at developmentally, to engage them through carefully developed relationships, and to maximize their potential across disciplines.
The day begins with movement. Many students travel great distances from their homes across the Bay Area, and a healthy routine of hiking, yoga, calisthenics, or swinging helps establish optimal arousal levels for learning. Opportunities for movement are scattered throughout the day in Occupational Therapy, hands-on activities, recess, swimming, and as the need arises. We are an active school!
Each classroom follows its own schedule as the needs of its students dictate. For students who can access grade level content, we implement a standards-based program that emphasizes hands-on, project-based learning. These classrooms feature regular discussions of literature, in-depth studies of probability or the physics of sound, regular student presentations enhanced by Power Point, and math instruction tailored to student need. One group spends one morning per week at the Intel Clubhouse in San Rafael, where they learn cutting edge computer skills on some of the best equipment available.
Elsewhere on campus academics focus on skills that help students navigate the world: language development, reading, consumer math, safety, and following directions. This instruction comes alive as it is applied to cooking projects, gardening, shopping, field trips, and other activities. On Friday mornings the whole community enjoys a student-run coffee shop with coffee and pastries. Students work to maximize their communicative capacity with systems such as sign language, PECS, Proloquo and other iPad apps, and by building their verbal repertoire.
Collaboration across disciplines happens seamlessly. Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologists work with classroom groups to lead cooking projects, art activities, or physical education. Psychotherapists participate in classroom discussions about growing up, making friends, describing our emotions, or managing frustration. Individual therapy sessions are scheduled so that students do not miss important classroom activities.
Community based learning enhances every classroom. On a given day, classrooms may be visiting a museum, shopping at the farmer’s market, taking the bus to a restaurant, or traveling to a nearby park. These trips provide opportunities to generalize skills in authentic settings.
The essence of our program is visible in the smiles on the faces of students and staff; in the close relationships made possible by a small community such as this; in the enthusiasm and dedication of faculty and staff; and it is realized in the growth we see every day.