|856 Brighton Avenue
Portland, Maine 04102
The school currently enrolls up to 180 students from toddler through eighth grade. Its 18-month through 4-year old curriculum is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach and constructivist principles of emergent learning. The K–5 curriculum is progressive in principle and focuses on developmentally appropriate and responsive learning for each student. The sixth through eighth grade program is experiential and integrative, consisting of a series of 6 to 7 week projects completed over the course of the school year.
Breakwater’s mission is to engage students in an optimal learning experience that inspires them to live well on the planet, embrace their whole being, and realize their full potential. Breakwater believes that learning is most powerful when it is integrated, challenging, authentic and personalized - a philosophy aligned with the child-centered learning model of progressive education.
At Breakwater, this means "Education is not mere preparation for later life; education is life itself.” (Dewey, 1897) Breakwater readies students for success in the world they will inhabit as adults by providing extraordinary learning opportunities in the present. Students at Breakwater are supported by their teachers and peers as they actively try to make sense of the world around them. Children look, listen, and touch. They make, move, and innovate. They ask, answer, and deconstruct. All, conveniently, to the benefit of the higher order thinking skills (“21st century skills”) required to thrive in a rapidly changing society. But children at Breakwater are not simply practicing to become - they are. They are writers, historians, mathematicians, scientists, meaningful members of a vertically integrated learning community, and playful children. This is done in the safe harbor of a culture that celebrates individuality and interests, embraces change, and teaches kindness as a nonnegotiable value.
Breakwater highly values its intentional, inclusive community made up of dynamic educators and families that together engage students to thrive academically, contribute to society, and lead wholehearted lives.
While Breakwater classrooms are staffed by different teachers, and serve children of differing ages, Breakwater is a unified toddler through grade 8 program. The teaching approach of every staff member is informed by a shared philosophy and Breakwater’s core beliefs. Teachers meet and work together as a team to best address the needs of every student. As children move from the toddler and preschool programs through their elementary years into middle school they can expect to have similar relationships with adults, experience familiar language, have the same rich exposure to ideas and materials, and receive the same attention to their social and emotional needs.
Breakwater teachers guide students to explore the world confident in themselves, with a sense of purpose and compassion, belief in their own agency, and the resilience to embrace mistakes. The integrity of childhood is affirmed by placing high value on play, balancing the education of the heart and the mind equally. Breakwater's ability to succeed in this is made possible by a talented, enthusiastic, and loving faculty who live these same aspirations in their everyday lives. Teachers and staff are recruited and retained based on their professional skills, their willingness to model Breakwater's mission in every respect, and their commitment to professional and personal growth.
In addition to Breakwater's day school, Breakwater Learning offers after school Enrichment programming, Parent Education and Professional Development courses, and Community Programming.
Breakwater was founded as a day care center, named Playtime Haven, by Frank and El Costa in 1956 after their son recovered from a serious illness. As it grew, it moved to a series of different locations in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, until 1982 when it purchased its current location in Portland. Since then, the school has also been given a 21-acre nature preserve in nearby Cumberland which it uses regularly for field trips as part of the school's Science curriculum.
The Executive Director is David Sullivan, previously a Teaching Principal at the Brooklin School in Brooklin, Maine, and the Academic Director is Maggie Lyon.
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