The Seattle School for Boys has started its inaugural school year with a curriculum focused on real-world problem solving and social and behavioral growth.

Founding teacher Jerome Hunter has lived in Seattle the past 14 years, teaching middle school for seven of those, first in Federal Way, and then at McClure Middle School in Queen Anne.

He said he was tired of the misconceptions about boys with too much energy being deemed as disruptive or uninterested in learning, and a lack of positive engagement to help them meet their potential.

Hunter worked with Drew Markham, a corporate attorney who has served on multiple nonprofit boards, including the Seattle Girls’ School, to create the curriculum and establish the Seattle School for Boys. They brought on Nick Creach as the nonprofit’s first head of school.

There are just 10 students enrolled for the first year of the Seattle School for Boys, which includes sixth- and seventh-graders, with eighth grade to be added in 2020-21.

“The general thought is to start small and work toward growth,” said Creach, who previously served as Seattle Academy’s head of middle school.

A University of Washington graduate, Creach got his start in educational instruction at Cardigan Mountain School, a New Hampshire boarding and day school for boys in grades 6-9.

“When we came back out, I was shocked to see there wasn’t an all-boys, nonreligious school,” he said.

Prior to his work at Seattle Academy, Creach was dean of student life and middle school athletics at University Prep, a co-education private school in Wedgwood.

He said the Seattle School for Boys will challenge attitudes about what it means to be a man, encouraging students to embrace their sensitivity and find better ways to express themselves.

“Behavior is a skill set,” Creach said, “and we need to teach that.”

The Seattle School for Boys is operating out of the basement level of the Ebenezer AME Zion Church, and Creach said he’s looking at what space the school could grow into as time goes on. The school has five tiers of tuition based on financial review, and can be as high as $10,000 a year or as low as less than $2,500.

“We’re going to need funding and we’re going to ask for donations and we’re going to apply for grants,” Creach said of sustaining and growing the new independent school.

Accreditations come from the National Association of Independent Schools, Northwest Association of Independent Schools, the state board of education and its AdvanceED program.

Hunter said the “Challenge Cycle” learning model will involve students circulating through stations as they work with teachers through exercises that involve addressing real-world problems, gathering research to support a thesis or claim, and eventually taking action. There will still be core curriculum, such as math, science and humanities, Creach said.

“We are going to build fundamental skills,” he said, “and at the end of the day there will be some kind of call to action.”

Seattle School for Boys is partnering with a local construction company to teach students how to design and build a tiny house in September, which will then be donated to a local nonprofit.

Each year will have a different theme, and the first for the Seattle School for Boys will be around healthy communication and social development, Hunter said, and that includes students regularly meeting in circles to share their interests and feelings.

“A lot of what we’re going to do, to be honest with you, is [conversational] code-switching,” Creach said.

Hunter said staff is working on a health and wellness collaboration with the Seattle Girls’ School, addressing everything from puberty to getting enough sleep. It will also provide an educational opportunity to learn about how to interact with the opposite gender and address topics, such as consent. The health and wellness series should last about six weeks, he said.

“As a cisgender female I’m going into an all-boys space, and I don’t know how the boys there will identify, but I will be a female in that space,” said Hannah McHugh, SGS adventure and wellness teacher.

McHugh has spent 10 years in an all-girls environment, and said she’s excited for the opportunity to work with students at the Seattle School for Boys addressing puberty, relationships and boundary setting.

“I’m excited to be able to bring what I have learned from the girls and with the girls over the past 10 years to the boys and learn from the boys and what they bring and take that back over to the girls’ side,” she said.

McHugh said it’s great that the new school is thinking about ways to provide boys with social and emotional tools to help them be future world leaders, much the same way SGS has done for girls.

The Seattle School for Boys will also have partnerships with the Meredith Mathews East Madison Branch YMCA down the street, the Coyote Central youth arts organization and Kong Academy.

More information is available at seattleschoolforboys.org.