School of the Woods was originally founded as a nursery school in 1962, a few years after Montessori education resurfaced in the United States. The school received its name to honor the work of Dr. Ernest Wood and Hilda Wood in developing the school’s curriculum. School of the Woods formalized its commitment to the Montessori Method of education in 1973 by associating with the American Montessori Society. In 2002, the school added a twelfth grade. In that same year, the school received accreditation from the American Montessori Society, the Texas Alliance of Accredited Private Schools, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
School of the Woods has no religious affiliation.
A student’s environment is an important factor in the Montessori Method of education, and School of the Woods’ location reflects this part of the school’s curriculum. The school’s 5-acre campus is located in a wooded area of Spring Branch, just one mile north of I-10. Texas Parks and Wildlife designated the campus’s grounds a Wildlife Habitat in 2003. The design of the school buildings is cottage-themed, further enhancing the earthy aesthetic.
Each classroom is fashioned after the Montessori method to be orderly and suited to the age group, with plenty of natural light and easy access to Montessori materials. In the summer of 2002, the School of the Woods purchased a second 5-acre plot of land as the future site for a new high school at the corner of Wirt and Westview; development of this building is ongoing. School of the Woods does not have any on-site athletic facilities, but the school’s teams compete at Memorial High School and have access to the gym at neighboring Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
The School of the Woods features a rolling enrollment program, with all prospective students placed in a waiting pool. The school determines re-enrollment for its current students in February and notifies the parents of students in the waiting pool by April 1st whether or not their student has been placed. Students may also be placed throughout the year if vacancies occur. Students are required to submit academic records from the last two years for applications to elementary to high school. Students applying to grades 9 through 11 must also submit teacher recommendations, a photo, a completed student questionnaire, and ISEE score results. The student and his/her family will also participate in an interview.
For the ISEE for grade 9, we recommend that applicants target a stanine of 5 or better in all test sections.
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Since the School of the Woods’ inception in 1962, the school has followed the principals of Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator (1870-1952). The Montessori Method emphasizes the natural development of the student, with the teacher acting as a guide rather than a conventional instructor. Each classroom is open and orderly and is filled with Montessori materials, such as the pink tower of blocks. Students are allowed to develop at their own pace within the specific limits of the classroom environment. From ages 2 ½ to 12 years, students participate in mixed age classrooms, where older students support younger students.
Instead of the traditional grading system, the School of the Woods uses a mastery learning system, which requires a student to master the current lesson with a very high accuracy rate before moving onto the next lesson. Middle school students must demonstrate a 90% mastery of each subject through presentations, test scores, two independent study projects. Middle school students study a different elective each month. Older students also work as interns with handicapped students for two weeks and in local businesses for one week.
The high school integrates the Montessori Method and the Texas requirements of essential elements wherein students must earn more than 24 credits to receive a high school diploma. Credit distribution requirements are as follows: English (4), math (4), science (3), social science (4), foreign language (2), health (2), technology (1.5), fine arts (1), academic electives (1), speech (2), computer technology (2), community outreach (1), career education (1), and other electives (.5). Students must complete core classes with an 80% mastery of the material to receive credit for the courses with an Honors designation. Students may choose to challenge themselves in specific classes and complete additional assignments to receive credit for the courses with a Gifted/Talented Honors designation. Seniors may also enroll in a college level class to receive three or four college credit hours.
The majority of the student body at School of the Woods has a diagnosed learning difference. As such, accommodating the unique needs of these students is an integral part of the school’s curriculum and environment. All high school students have direct access to the principal, who serves as their counselor. High school students who need more time, alternative assessment, or extensive coaching in any course will receive credit for the course with an Academic designation, as opposed to the Honors or G/T designations.
Students may take Spanish, French, or American Sign Language (ASL). Spanish is offered up to level five, while French and ASL are offered up to level four. High school students must earn two foreign language credits in order to graduate.
Students may participate in before and/or after school art programs in addition to the school’s curriculum. During the school day, students can choose between art classes such as painting and drawing, industrial design, and photography. Students may also participate in drama, gymnastics, and dance. For an additional fee, the school offers after school music instruction in African drums, guitar, piano, and harp.
Students must bring a laptop to school with them. The school recommends a Mac, since the technology department employs a Mac specialist; however, students may choose whatever computer they wish. The school has strict usage parameters that students must obey while using their laptops during the school day. Students also have access to a library and media center.
Members of the school’s student council are called “Orchestrators,” and they are responsible for hosting events such as Prom and Homecoming. Other school-sponsored activities include Speech and Debate and Philosophy. In general, students may start any club that they desire, so long as they gain the school’s approval. Students also plan monthly socials where they may attend plays, movies, or dances. School field trips include trips to the symphony and museums. The school also allows older students to organize and present science, history and computer lessons for younger students.
The school fields interscholastic teams in four sports: baseball, swimming, track, and volleyball.
Parents may join the Parents’ Organization, which helps to raise funds, coordinate volunteers, and support teachers. Students also play a major role in keeping their parents involved, as they prepare monthly progress reports for their parents and also set up parent-student-teacher conferences three times a year. The students evaluate themselves in three areas: academic growth, individual “response-ability,” and group “response-ability.”