• B Day

A College-Prep, Independent Day
School for Grades 8-12

Innovative Learning

For decades, York has valued and developed creative abilities alongside logical and technical expertise. In A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, Daniel Pink asserts that in the 21st century's global economy the most valuable workers will be those who can design creatively. 

As we help students build their foundation of core academic knowledge, we also provide opportunities to develop abilities in leadership and creativity. From designing better tools and systems to dealing with civic issues and global problems, our students learn how to empathetically and intelligently shape the world. We need to help them develop the tools to create change. How do we put this idea into practice? With a series of innovative programs that demonstrate how York THINKS FORWARD.

Project-based Learning

York teachers go beyond the lecture. We know it's more engaging, and rewarding, for our students to get involved in their learning. Here are some examples of how our teachers structure active learning and guide students to make learning “stick.”  

Algebra I - Owl Box Project: Algebra meets biology, meets carpentry, meets owl.
Inspired by "design thinking," Math teacher Susan Neubert worked with her Algebra I students, parents, and biology teacher Kim Kiest to build houses for barn owls.

The students developed all logistics and strategies for the project.They had to get information about the correct size for the boxes, then figure out how to cut the templates from large plywood pieces with a minimum amount of waste. Most of the wood was recycled from an abandoned tortoise enclosure on campus. Parents helped cut the wood, then the students used drills, power screwdrivers, glue, and clamps to assemble the owl boxes in October, 2013.

For more on the Owl Box Project and other examples of Project Based Learning, click here.

20% Projects

In English III, students participate in the 20% Project – a major project-based learning assignment that spans the entire school year and encourages students to pursue a creative interest.  At the beginning of the year, students brainstorm a “product-focused” project, and then work on producing their product throughout the year, either alone or in small groups, culminating in a final presentation to show their work.  Learn more about the 20% Project here.

Design Shop

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth. In the summer of 2014, York is creating a dedicated space designed to encourage hands-on learning, creativity, and innovation. With items such as laser-cutters, soldering irons, routers, and 3D scanners and printers, York students studying all subject areas – from science and math to history and art – will be able to apply what they learn in the classroom by creating things in the Shop.

Faculty members are brainstorming ways for students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to hands-on building projects. Teachers are encouraged to push the way they think about the space, to be creative, and to consider interdisciplinary uses. One group imagined taking the historical study of Carnival, engaging deeper in the topic in French, and then using the new space (and their math skills) to create floats or masks for a mini Carnival in the Commons! Stay tuned in the coming school year for more on the ways York teachers are engaging students now AND preparing them for the future.

York Outdoor Laboratory

The York Outdoor Laboratory provides education and research programs in field biology, ecology, natural history, geosciences, and the history of land use practices for York students and the Central Coast community. Get all of the details here.


Every day at York, we witness remarkable ideas morphing and thriving in the minds of this community. Without a doubt, they are ideas worth spreading. One way to distribute them: TEDxYorkSchool, an annual conference for students and community memers featuring a line up of speakers who bring new ideas and creativity to the world. 

Learn more about the event here.

Global Connections

We believe that exposure to multiple perspectives and cultures is a powerful educational force that prepares students to be leaders in the global society. Our students are exposed to the world’s diversity through a number of global programs, in addition to the diversity of cultures, religions, languages, and family backgrounds represented on the York campus.  

Global Programs
World Languages Requirement
International Students
International Excursions
Summer Study Abroad Experiences with CIEE 

For more details on our global programs, click here


Opportunities for student-centered learning models and learning by doing are an exciting part of the York curriculum. Interdisciplinary STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics – projects support inquiry-based and challenge-based learning. By making, inventing, designing, and tinkering, students develop hands-on experience with innovation, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving.

Design Thinking

York has been a leader in bringing a design thinking approach to education on the Monterey Peninsula. Design thinking is a methodology for creative and human-centered problem solving that empowers students to collaborate across disciplines and tackle authentic challenges while developing leadership skills. Recent events that address or incorporate design thinking include:

  • A presentation to students April, 2013 followed by a student workshop, led by Molly Wilson of the Stanford d.school

  • A public Think Forward Forum April 2013, featurning Molly Wilson, lecturer at the d.school at Stanford University; three York alums – Dan Long '98, entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and arts advocate; Dan Brehmer, Ph.D., '83, engineering physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Dr. Kimberly Stone, M.D., '99, surgical resident at Stanford University Medical School; – and Kevin Brookhouser, English and history teacher at York School. 

  • A screening of Ralph King’s documentary film, "Extreme by Design," in Sept. 2013 

  • The iLead & Design summer programs offered by Lyceum of Monterey in partnership with York instructor and Academic Dean Sean Raymond and the Monterey Institute of International Studies in the summer of 2013 and 2014.

  • A design-thinking workshop in March 2013 for 8th graders. 

Students are encouraged to acquire the mindsets and basic tools for each stage of the design thinking process:

  • Empathize: understanding the needs of those you are designing for.

  • Define: framing problems as opportunities for creative solutions.

  • Ideate: generating a range of possible solutions.

  • Prototype: communicating the core elements of solutions to others.

  • Test: learning what works and doesn’t work to improve solutions.

Science Fair

Each year, students in the 8th and 9th grades complete a research project based on the scientific method, enabling them to make their own scientific connections to the real world. They present their projects at the York Science Fair in late February. Participation in the fair is a requirement in 8th grade science and 9th grade biology classes; students in grades 10-12 may also take part. It’s less about competition--there are no awards given--and more about learning. Dozens of local judges with scientific backgrounds come on the day of the Science Fair to constructively evaluate the students’ work.

Biology teacher Pam Durkee organizes the fair. Students gain valuable insight about their projects and the process of science from experts in the field. They also have the opportunity to view the work of their peers and to learn more about the diversity of projects that were completed."

The judges also suggest changes students can make if they want to enter the Monterey County Science Fair. York students have a long record of high performance at the County Science Fair, earning multiple spots at the California State Science Fair in May each year. In 12 of the past 15 years, York students have earned the honor of presenting their work at the prestigious Intel International Science Fair.

Aside from hands-on science experience, our students also gain valuable public presentation skills when they discuss their projects and answer questions from the judges. It’s another way we consciously integrate communication skills (and practice!) into the full range of curriculum at York.

Sophomore Speeches

Sophomore speeches are part of York's emphasis on helping students develop strong communication skills in both written and oral presentations, along with confidence and courage. Throughout the school year, students in English III compose, rehearse, and deliver a brief memorized speech to the School community. The students are greeted with warm applause, even before they speak, in a demonstration of support and camaraderie. The sophomore speeches have become a cherished York School tradition.

Service Learning

Our students identify a social issue or community need--literacy, hunger, animal welfare, health, etc.--that they wish to address with their service and either work with an existing non-profit or create their own activity to address the issue. Students investigate the roots of the issue, design projects and solutions,  and report on the ways their service helps solve the problem, as well as on how they grew as individuals due to their service. Many students ensure the longevity of their projects by recruiting younger students to work on the projects in subsequent years.

The emphasis is on what students learn by doing service, rather than just providing manpower without thought or reflection. Ideally the project also overlaps with academic courses and helps students learn life skills.

This project motivates students to learn more about specific community needs, fosters a deeper understanding of how their efforts can make a difference, encourages students to share their discoveries with their classmates, and promotes an appreciation of service that could continue throughout their lifetimes.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy

We require all students come to school with a functional laptop computer, charged for use during the school day. We are committed to having our students use technology in the classroom to help prepare them for college and the work world.

Our BYOD program respects the diversity of opinion at York. While we don’t require a particular type of hardware or operating system, we do ask that the device run a desktop operating system such as Chrome OS, Windows, OSX, or Linux. The device should also be in the form of a laptop with a keyboard and trackpad.


As always, we stress a balanced approach of technology use for teenagers. These devices provide student access to a seemingly unlimited amount of academic information and creative tools, greatly enhancing the classroom experience. We also recognize the importance of “screen down” time for face-to-face discussion and interaction. At home, we recommend that technology should not interfere with essential sleep. A good strategy is to have devices plugged in outside of the bedroom during sleep time. This allows both the student and device to be well charged for the school day!

Asus Chromebook Flip 4GB ($239 on Amazon-price subject to change) This computer is possibly the best Chromebook for under $1,000 and our top pick for most York students because of its quality, ease of use, durability, battery life, and price. The touchscreen can be easily converted into tablet mode. The frame is sturdy with quality hardware. We recommend the model with 4GB of memory as 2GB may not be sufficient for student’s use. This device is not recommended for digital art students or students who want to pursue deep-level computer programming; however, computers are available on campus for those classes.

Macbook Air (starting at $850) This is a very high quality computer at a very high price. Many students and teachers find that the quality is worth the cost. This is a popular machine on campus, but no family should feel pressure to purchase one. No classes require students to own a Mac.

Surface 3 with Surface 3 type keyboard cover accessory ($639 on Amazon) There are many options for Windows users, but we have found Windows machines require more maintenance than Chromebooks or Macs, and York is unable to provide tech support for these machines. Windows machines made by Microsoft (such as the Surface 3) are generally easier to maintain and do not come overloaded with unnecessary 3rd party software. One can easily find an affordable Windows computer, but we advise against it. Chromebooks are the best inexpensive computers for York students.


Tablets such as iPads or Android tablets are nice to have as secondary devices, but they are not necessary nor suitable as a student’s primary digital device. We’ve found that mobile operating systems like iOS and Android are great, but do not meet the demands of tasks assigned to our students. The Surface 3 is technically a tablet, but it runs a full version of Windows 10, and for York use, should be purchased with a full keyboard and trackpad.

We love our phones, and students are welcome to bring them to school as long as they don’t distract from our academic program. In fact, with their cameras and microphones, these devices can be used for many academic assignments. That said, they should NOT be a student’s primary digital device. No one should endure writing an entire essay on a smartphone.

To facilitate the BYOD process, families may purchase an Asus Chromebook directly from York School at cost this summer ($269 plus shipping and tax). Please note that these are estimated prices and are subject to change. If you would like to participate in this program, please contact Fana Oldfield in the Business Office 831.372.7338 x135 / fana@york.org. We ask that interested families make their decisions by July 10 so we can order the appropriate number of Chromebooks and have them ready by August 1 for pickup. The total cost of the equipment will be confirmed at that time.

If purchasing a laptop would cause a financial hardship for your family, please contact Fana Oldfield by July 1 to discuss your situation. The School is prepared to assist families with payment plans or other accommodations for the purchase of a suitable machine.

All York students are required to sign and abide by the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and manage technology with respect, responsibility, and honesty. The AUP is included in registration materials sent to families each summer.

If you have questions concerning technology, please email Kevin Brookhouser at kevin@york.org.

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