South Korean Sam Keonha, 15, wanted a balanced school life in all aspects. Cardigan Mountain School, a boarding and day academy for boys in grades six to nine – nestled in a 525-acre lakeside campus in beautiful Canaan, New Hampshire – ticked all the right boxes.
“I wanted to thrive inside the classroom and as an athlete. I thought Cardigan was a place where I could do all of those things with great support,” Keonha explains.
Today, he could not be any happier at Cardigan. One of the reasons why he is thriving is because his school recognises that boys in middle grade years are in a crucial growth and learning phase.With this understanding, Cardigan – with a strong focus on individual growth and emphasis on values such as compassion, integrity, respect and courage – has innovated a curriculum encompassing academics, athletics and boarding life. This in turn enables students to process what they are learning, develop leadership skills, sharpen talents and master the skills to learn for life.
Many classes – averaging 12 Cardigan boys and with a low 4:1 student to faculty ratio – last just 40 minutes to maximise their attention span. Academic classes finish at midday so that students can take part in athletics and activities in the afternoon – which enhance the already strong sense of community among the boys.
The unique Personalised Education for the Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills (PEAKS) programme allows all boys to identify and nurture their hidden strengths. By using technology, and harnessing healthy habits, the programme coaches boys to be better learners while focusing on a holistic perspective that includes mind, brain, wellness, and education. For example, students build skills in their core academic classes, from learning to conduct research and take notes for a history paper to how to prepare for a mathematics exam.
The dedicated PEAKS Department helps boys explore which learning style fits them best; PEAKS coaches are also available after school hours for mentoring and guidance. Cardigan is one of two middle schools in the whole of the US to offer this programme, making the learning experience all the more extraordinary for boys here.
At the same time, the Gates Invention & Innovation Programme – an annual competition between fall and spring – challenges students to put on their creative thinking caps to research and present practical and entrepreneurial solutions for everyday problems. This acts as Cardigan’s flagship programme which demonstrates the school’s commitment to hands-on, minds-on learning.
It is not all hard work at Cardigan, though. Sixteen exciting sports – alpine skiing, rock climbing and basketball, among others – keep the boys physically active on top of their academic studies. In fact, back in 2018, Cardigan was one of 24 schools nationwide and the only Junior boarding school to receive the “Quality Programme Award with Exemplary Status” from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
Boarding life at Cardigan is equally rich. With Dorm Olympics, the latest editions of multiplayer games on three televisions with an X-Box, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch, an arcade console with 135 different games, a movie theatre, tasty treats and countless weekend activities, Cardigan boarders are never short of activities to occupy their free time.
Keonha vividly remembers how on his first day, he was nervous but thanks to his dorm leader and other students helping him to unpack his luggage, he soon felt reassured. When he faced challenges during mountain biking, his team’s captain always supported him with kind words.
Such caring and helpful students are the norm here, and Christopher Day, Head of School, cannot be prouder of this fact.
“We choose to live our Core Values and actively live our lives in those ways. We work hard at our academics, athletics and in the community. But we’re a place where it’s important to be kind to one another and ‘help the other fella.’ We take that seriously here,” he says.
That is why Cardigan strongly encourages and nurtures their boys to become leaders – whether in classes, athletics or extracurricular activities as well. Student leaders are traditionally selected from the ninth-grade class every year; both pupils and faculty elect senior leaders, and athletic team captains are considered leaders too.
Prior to joining Cardigan, Keonha was often shy and felt embarrassed talking to new people. Now he has blossomed into a confident dormitory leader.
“In the dorm, I try to talk to everyone and make sure they know I am here for them to always talk to me and support them. I have learnt to be more responsible, and became more extroverted,” Keonha enthuses.
Altogether, Cardigan’s dedication to giving their boys the best all-round boarding education possible means an impressive 85% of their graduates progress to one of their top three secondary schools, including several of the most selective high schools in the US. Your son can be the next Cardigan success story.