Seattle School for Boys offers a balanced curriculum that prepares students for a variety of high school learning and social environments.
SSB’s qualified teachers ensure that our students are challenged in the standard core subjects of math, science, language arts and the humanities.
Students also choose electives that engage in the arts, such as music, visual art, dance, martial arts, boxing, parkour, and other endeavors.
b.me Series/SSB Curricular Framework
Unique to Seattle School for Boys is our b.me series/SSB Curricular Framework is a research-based framework designed specifically for middle school boys. The b.me Series/SSB Curricular Framework is the critical underpinning of our entire curricula’s scope and sequence and is woven into our institutional fabric. The b.me Series/SSB Curricular Framework enacts our mission, values, and is our primary vehicle for genuinely and authentically speaking to, guiding, and educating our students to be the best versions of themselves. b.me/SSB Curricular Framework provides common language used by all faculty and students to ensure continuity and transparency in our values.
Implemented in *three to four thematic phases during the academic year, with each theme building off of one another throughout the three middle school years, the b.me Series/SSB Curricular Framework is part of daily life at SSB.
A key to the Seattle School for Boys curriculum is integrated learning. Beyond the homogenized curricula that lean toward the status quo and rather than simply tying various lesson plans together; our innovative and culturally competent teachers routinely collaborate to develop 21st-century cross-curricular assignments that help students discover new applications for their developing skills and knowledge. Authentic collaboration and a thorough understanding of the learning process are required to achieve desired outcomes.
Not only do our students gain a solid foundation in core competencies, but they also develop skills that will make them compassionate leaders and trusted team members. And all the while, our students stay engaged and interested in joyful learning!
Our program is based on the five pillars shown below, click to learn more about each.
- Early and often, students are taught about the functions and anatomy of the brain.
- There is a focus on a “use it or lose it” technique — a daily practice of building long-lasting and healthy habits of mind
- Research-based models that apply important neuroscience techniques
- Students learn healthy habits of mind that promote sound reasoning, thoughtful actions, and critical thinking
- Students engage in our iterative SSB Learning Cycle during our problem-based activities and during independent assignments
- Experiential learning focuses on creating new neural pathways to optimize learning and performance. Quoting neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, “Cells that wire together, fire together”.
- Anti-racist teaching and learning
- Teachers routinely engage in our Anti-Racist Challenge cycle to practice anti-racism daily
- Pedagogy is culturally inclusive throughout all subjects
- In problem-based learning, students study inequitable policies and systems of oppression, then work together to create solutions.
Social and emotional development
- Our partnership with One Love focuses specifically on boys’ social and emotional development during the middle school years
- We foster empathy, accountability, and openness.
- Curriculum is also utilized to support students through the rigors and challenges of the learning process
- Each grade level has specific and measurable social and emotional growth goals
- We eliminate labels and social stratification through routine student self-reflection and employ a narrative grading process
- A warm and inclusive learning environment supported by our SSB B.R.A.V.E. Matrix
- Building the foundation for life-long learning through our Bridges Program where collaborative skills become mutually rewarding between environments, cooperating organizations, and the public sector
- Preparing our students for high school and beyond
- Problem-based assignments directly connected with local organizations to give students real-world experiences
- Engage with diverse environments to heighten intrapersonal and interpersonal awareness
Why focus on boys?
While we know that the patriarchy harms girls, women, and non-binary people in acute ways, boys and men are also harmed by a patriarchal system. When boys are socialized in this environment, they are not able to explore their identity and simply be who they are. Oftentimes, boys are taught to prove their worth and to ignore emotional development.
As a result, boys often lack the skills to express themselves emotionally and socially, which can lead to depression, bullying, and substance abuse. Regarding education, boys are disproportionately held back or drop out of school, and are twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.
At Seattle School for Boys, we interrupt the patriarchy by employing educational frameworks that foster critical thinking, empathy, strength, accountability, and inclusivity. These values intersect to provide the foundation for boys to be themselves.
Doesn’t an all-boys middle school perpetuate patriarchal culture?
We live in a male dominant culture, and to create a more equitable society, we believe that boys and men must take accountability and be active participants in dismantling the patriarchy to create long-lasting social change.
Why middle school?
Middle school is a unique time when we see dramatic biological, neurological, social, and emotional changes happening simultaneously.
Aside from infancy, the middle school years are the most critical for human growth and development. During these transformative years, preteens tend to have new-found energy and curiosity because they are developing the capacity to open up to the world, think beyond themselves, and form mature habits of self-reflection.
At the same time, the developmental landscape of middle schoolers is like wet cement. During the early stages of puberty there’s an overproduction of fresh gray matter in the brain, allowing for an abundance of information to be absorbed. Once that information has been absorbed, it often serves as the foundation to their growth moving forward.
How we learn at SSB
SSB students learn to express themselves, challenge themselves, challenge stereotypes, learn from mistakes, care for others, and champion social justice.
With small classes, expert educators, and a caring community, SSB provides an innovative and rigorous interdisciplinary approach to the humanities, STEAM, math, and Spanish along with leadership opportunities, integrated arts, and movement classes including parkour, martial arts, yoga, and fitness.
Toward the end of each quarter, the boys at SSB present interdisciplinary keystone projects to highlight acquired skills and showcase flexible levels of understanding. The keystone projects are directly linked to service and are designed as the building block that solidifies the edifice of the learner’s work.
To promote interdisciplinary teaching and experiential learning, boys have four rotating 65-minute periods every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. We believe having fewer classes in a day maximizes deep learning opportunities and minimizes cognitive overload. Our schedule also allows for a 1-hour lunch (30 minutes for nourishment and 30 minutes for extracurriculars) and 10-minute passing periods between core classes to boost healthy socialization with teachers and peers.
Many teens have become more connected to their screens than their natural environment. We believe human interaction is key to building compassionate behaviors. At SSB phones are stored away until the final bell and technology is used to acquire and extend academic knowledge.
Transition time & organizational support
Advisory groups and highlighted strategies intended to support organization and executive function.
Athletics & After School Activities
After school athletics programs rotating in fall (soccer), winter (basketball), and spring (ultimate). Physical education programs and movement with outside vendors throughout the school year, addressing both physical and psychological components.
Discussions of various “isms” and social/emotional support and guidance.
Weekly meetings of the entire school community, allowing for open communication, understanding of various perspectives, and opportunities to hone public speaking skills in a comfortable, supportive, organic environment.
Instead of sitting on the sidelines of their education, each SSB student takes an active role in the progress of their academic journey.
Core subjects are centered around critical thinking, checkpoints, and creative solutions, which include lots of binary, factual information. Plenty of quizzes and tests are administered to provide teachers with accurate assessments of learning that align with individualized student growth goals. For the benefit of our students, however, our teachers go beyond the quantifiable, carefully articulating in narrative form the skills mastered, concept understood, and outcomes achieved for each student.
These narrative assessments are generated three times during the school year, following the culmination of each phase of the b.me Series/SSB Curricular Framework, with three mid-quarter check-ins between narrative assessments.
Connected with the three narrative assessments are student-led conferences. Each student prepares in advance for their conference, celebrating academic achievements, social and emotional growth, and intangible progress. Moreover, students weave their learning to mid-term and long-term goals.
Friday Bridges Program
In the Bridges Program, SSB students go out into their city and region to connect, serve, and learn. Every Friday, mixed-grade groups of students and their teachers leave the classroom with the mutually beneficial goal of learning about themselves and serving their community. These interdisciplinary, real-world experiences are created to have students build on the skills of communication, collaboration, and leadership. The Bridges Program allows students to better understand the city and region they live in from multiple perspectives and with diverse lenses, while building relationships.
The thinking behind the Bridges Program is simple: Students should not only experience their greater community during a final project or a special week at the end of the year. Genuine learning requires relevance and relationships.
On Fridays, students walk, bike, and take public transportation to different corners of the city to read, write, connect, and build. Each program that the students participate in has been designed to further the mission of supporting healthy maturation in a community committed to working towards a more equitable and anti-racist world.
A day in the life of a 6th grader
8:30 am: Homeroom
At the beginning of each class, everyone participates in a mindful minute to engage
8:40 am: Math
Today, Mr. McKenna’s math class is multiplying decimals to find cost of taxes on businesses the students have started. Midway through class, there’s a break to play kickball in the park
10:30 am: Community time
Community Time today is “Family Business” with Ms. Lou. This is a time for students and teachers to practice healthy, open communication around what’s on student’s minds
11:10 am: Lunch and Recess
Lunch is in the park, eating under trees, at picnic tables and in open fields. Then, time for recess — some play four square, others play basketball while another group shares their favorite Dungeons & Dragons moment
11:50 am: Humanities
Ms. Olson is leading a discussion about the class novel “New Kid” by Jerry Kraft. We’re looking at what the “new kid” might be feeling as a student of color in a predominately white school, then talk about sterotypes, prejudice and discrimination
12:40 pm: Science
In Mr. Reyes science class, we’re working on understanding the water cycle. Drawing on prior learning, we gather multiple perspectives, examine new information and revisit initial thoughts. We tie all this into actual water usage in the greater Seattle area.
1:40 pm: Enrichment
There’s three different activities today: One group goes for a cross-country run with Mr. Reyes. Another joins Ms. Lou and Ms. Olson to work on a one-act theater play. And yet another group is working on a visual art piece
2:50 pm: Dismissal
We gather to clean parts of the school together before being picked up at dismissal. There’s also an option to extend the day at SSB: play outside, get help on homework or just relax after a long day.
By the year
In four thematic phases over the academic year, our 6th graders learn how the brain works, how it changes during the learning process, and how it is impacted by nutrition, exercise, sleep, environment, and stress. Moreover, students learn brain hacks to optimize their learning as middle school students.
The SSB Learning Cycle is introduced. Students explore concepts of self-awareness and self-expression, with routine opportunities for personal reflections, realizations, and revised thoughts. Developing self-awareness evolves into thoughts and feelings around interpersonal awareness, and the study of and integration with various cultures and communities while making time for authentic connections. The year culminates with keystone projects that allow each student to creatively share their collective learning experiences from the year and how it has prepared them for next year.
Building from the previous year, our 7th graders begin the year learning to move beyond stereotypes and social messages around unhealthy masculinity, instead focusing on positive character development and a thorough understanding of respect and empathy. The next phase helps our students practice resiliency, manage stress, and overcome adversity, while teaching them appropriate language when met with unfavorable outcomes and allowing them to move away from stratifying labels. The study covers their own and others’ culture and history, broadening students’ perspectives and helping to strengthen their intrinsic motivation and motivation and a sense of invested interest in the environment around them. Connecting character, resilience, and culture, our 7th graders close out the year by collectively setting goals to address the global challenges we face.
Growing from the seeds well planted and nourished in 6th and 7th grades, the 8th grade year has a strong outside focus. Students grasp the importance of wellbeing through the sense of belonging to a greater community, fostered by empathy and compassion, helping students to become adept at building and sustaining healthy relationships inside and outside of the classroom.
As our students begin to think about high school, they strengthen their understanding of positive social circles, comparing and contrasting real-world versus virtual relationships.
Additionally, students tackle serious societal issues, current events, designing solutions and partnering closely with community groups. The final year culminates with the concept of choice and sound decision-making. 8th graders reflect on their middle school experience and collectively create a legacy that celebrates healthy communication, a balanced confidence, and a genuine commitment to community.
"You should try new things, even if you aren’t so sure about them at first. It’s important to be brave and explore different new activities. This is one thing I have learned about myself during my time at SSB.”
"SSB is a really special school. It’s breaking norms set by society, and encouraging and teaching boys how to be themselves.”
You know an SSB graduate by the way they...
Graduates grow in their ability to express themselves—emotionally, academically and socially. Emotionally, graduates learn to check-in with themselves and understand their emotions and express their needs. In an academic setting, graduates articulate claims with evidence while listening to multiple perspectives. When around others, Seattle School for Boys graduates learn to be aware of the space they occupy and work to promote other voices.
Graduates spend three years learning how to access their own strengths and prior knowledge, while understanding how to bring in new perspectives and evaluate resources. Through this learning cycle, graduates practice solving real community-based problems and build a resilience to set backs. Graduates understand that all problems can be approached with the support community members and understand how to ask for help.
After spending three years in a small, close knit community, graduates are thinking about the well being of others. As new students, they see older students and faculty members modeling the verbal and physical support that everyone needs. Through intentional activities that require each student to see where they need support, graduates understand that all students need support. Graduates practice active empathy to think of the needs of others, and listen to those that are most vulnerable. Every day students support friends, neighbors, family members and teammates.