PEAKS®: Personalized Education for the Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills®

(Note: Because Cardigan recognized the value and innovation in this unique department, the PEAKS® brand was trademarked in 2009.)


The PEAKS® Department, located in the Stoddard Center, was created in 2008 to support Cardigan's overall academic program and enhance the experience for the boys. Before the PEAKS® Department was established, Cardigan offered a fee-based academic support department that served approximately 10 percent of the student population in any given year. In the creation of the PEAKS® Department, Cardigan sought to provide a non–fee-based academic resource that would benefit all students and expand its scope beyond the general academic curriculum. PEAKS® serves 100 percent of our students.


Guided self-development is the cornerstone of the department, and its focus lies in helping each student become a reflective, efficient learner and self-advocate from a holistic perspective (mind, brain, wellness, and education) no matter his skill level. In particular, the PEAKS® Department is responsible for a progression of courses taken by students each year. The courses are geared to helping students understand the interrelated factors that impact learning and wellness, with a particular focus on applying this information to the discovery of how they learn best. In these unique PEAKS® classes, students identify their individual strengths and challenges, and they learn to advocate for themselves.


PEAKS® is taken by every student (grades six through nine). Students attend their PEAKS® core class four days per week and, with the help of their PEAKS® coach, explore ways to employ effective strategies for leading more productive lives—in their academics and beyond. The curriculum focuses on the skills students need in order to be successful at Cardigan, including study skills, technology, and wellness. In addition to teaching classes, PEAKS® coaches act as secondary advisors and mentors. Whether it’s working one-on-one on a math problem or providing an opportunity for students to express their feelings, the role of the PEAKS® coach outside of the classroom manifests itself in numerous ways. In addition, PEAKS® coaches observe their students in other classes and in other areas of school life, and they actively communicate with the other adults on campus regarding students’ accomplishments and concerns. PEAKS® coaches also support the Cardigan community in a professional development capacity, and the department serves as a sounding board for ideas.



What is the Philosophy Behind PEAKS®?


We recognize and believe that every student learns differently. As each boy comes to an enhanced understanding of himself and his style of learning, he will be better equipped with more-personalized tools going forward, enabling him to find success as a lifelong learner. The PEAKS® Department helps students become aware of how they learn best, and helps to provide students fundamental study, organizational, and technological skills necessary to become academically self-sufficient—in and out of the classroom.


Building close and healthy relationships with each student is the underpinning of the PEAKS® coaches’ role. Strong relationships allow the coaches to observe, listen, and ask questions in a way that helps them understand each student’s experience. Coaches use knowledge of students’ strengths and challenges to facilitate the development of personal competencies and to encourage students to use this information toward a commitment to action.


Relationship building doesn’t happen on a set schedule, nor does learning happen on demand. PEAKS® coaches are widely available to students around the campus during various times (during the day, at night, and on weekends). In addition, the coaches are available during set hours in the PEAKS® Suite, which is a safe, secure, and fun learning environment.



What is the PEAKS® Mission?


PEAKS® helps to lead the Cardigan Mountain School community to achieve its full potential by integrating and supporting habits of learning.



What is Learned in PEAKS®?


The PEAKS® Department is responsible for courses geared to helping students understand the interrelated factors that impact learning and wellness, with a particular focus on applying this information to the discovery of how they learn best. The PEAKS® curriculum is aligned with the school mission statement and is designed to enhance the Cardigan experience.


Grade 6: The youngest students require a good bit of “close shepherding” in all areas of Cardigan life. PEAKS® coaches actively help these students to better acclimate to boarding school life by teaching emotional intelligence and social skills, in addition to the essential skills in time management, study methods, and organization that all Cardigan students receive. Emphasis is placed on close observation of these boys in order to quickly assist them when challenges arise. A primary goal of sixth grade is the development of study and organizational skills.

Sixth-Grade Habits of Learning:

  • Questioning and problem solving.
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision.
  • Thinking about your thinking (metacognition).
  • Striving for accuracy.
  • Reflecting on self.


Grade 7: The seventh-grade PEAKS® curriculum is a continuation of that of sixth grade. This allows for natural maturation (certainly at the beginning of the academic year) by taking more of an “observe and wait” approach to see if the application of instruction from previous years is initiated by the students. The acquisition of a sense of personal responsibility is a goal for this grade.

Seventh-Grade Habits of Learning:

  • Metacognition.
  • Striving for accuracy.
  • Taking responsible risks.
  • Thinking independently.
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations.


Grade 8: Typically, eighth grade is a turning point for the boys. As they develop a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world, Cardigan boys are assuming more responsibility for their academics and their lives. PEAKS® helps to cultivate this new self-awareness, while fostering collaboration through peer teaching of skills and appreciation of learning differences. Students are strongly encouraged to develop a habit of self-advocacy with teachers.

Eighth-Grade Habits of Learning:

  • Following directions the first time given.
  • Self-advocacy.
  • Peaceful and productive coexistence with peers.
  • Articulate one’s voice in written form.
  • Appropriate use of technology and tools to complete a task.
  • Ability to creatively problem solve.
  • Taking ownership of one’s own education.



Grade 9: Ninth graders, while in a middle school environment, are essentially high school students. Early in the academic year, they gather portfolio materials that demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses, progressing to their final PEAKS® Senior Project at year-end (an individual student document communicating how they learn best). Attention is given to students new to Cardigan using the eighth-grade “peer teaching” model. A fundamental goal of the ninth-grade curriculum is a focus on student demonstration of various skills and how students can best advocate for themselves in and out of the classroom.

Ninth-Grade Habits of Learning:

  • Time management.
  • Discovering learning identity.
  • Effective communication.
  • Self-advocacy.
  • Productive and creative use of technology.
  • Communicating with clarity and precision.
  • Applying past knowledge.
  • Crafting critical questions.
  • Reflecting on one’s self.
  • Striving for accuracy.
  • Taking responsible risks.
  • Listening with empathy and understanding.
  • Persistence, determination, and resilience.



Habits of Learning for All Cardigan Students:


• Learning Identity

            Identifying and understanding one’s strengths and challenges in order to be successful in different learning environments.

• Applying Past Knowledge

            Transferring knowledge beyond the situation where it was first learned.

• Self-Advocacy

            Knowing how and when to appropriately address a need to benefit oneself and/or a group.

• Time Management

        Using skills, tools, and techniques to meet appropriate deadlines.

• Striving for Accuracy

Understanding and meeting expectations. Understanding what skills need to be applied when. Checking work and constantly finding ways to improve.