October 2019

Benefits of a PK3 - 8 Independent School Education

I cannot think of a better symbol to illustrate the benefits of a PK3 - 8 (prekindergarten through 8th grade) independent school education than the Camperdown elm trees which grace our campus at Harford Day School. The tree is sometimes referred to as an umbrella elm due to is unique shape and form. It provides shelter from the rain and shade from the sweltering heat. It grew from a shaky sapling to a sturdy tree, with a strong foundation whose roots receive nourishment from the sun and soil.  Harford Day School’s outstanding teachers provide our PK3 to eighth grade students with the same nourishment: support, sustenance, comfort and care, and the foundational skills that will help them grow and thrive.   

As clinical psychologist, Michael Thompson, notes in his book Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children, “If I could design psychologically safe schools, every elementary school in America would go from K through grade 8 and would be no larger than 400 children.” He goes on to say, “every school needs to ensure that every child has one adult who looks him or her in the eye and shakes hands every day. That’s a more effective security measure than any metal detector.” “What all children want is a safe environment where they are known and appreciated.” Our teachers have watched their students grow from toddlers to teenagers and have developed special bonds of trust and understanding with them along the way.  

The development of foundational skills in the PK-8 years has a notably positive impact on student learning and subsequent achievement into high school, college and graduate school. Anecdotally, HDS graduates often give examples of how their early learning helped them develop the communication (both written and oral), problem solving and collaboration skills for future success. Research supports the notion that academic achievement is higher in children who experience early learning at a PK-8 school versus individual schools for elementary, middle and high school. (West, et al. “The Middle School Plunge.” Education Next. Spr 2012). 

Finally, students attending a PK-8 school like Harford Day have a distinctive opportunity to develop leadership skills and form lifelong relationships with fellow students and teachers alike. Students grow and mature from tiny tots, who may have experienced fear and trepidation in their earliest years, into confident young men and women: leaders in the classroom, on the stage, and on the playing fields. 


Susan Bond Kearney

Head of School