From integrating game design and language immersion and even using equine studies, teachers at charter schools in the U.S. are rethinking how traditional classrooms operate.
Despite limited funds, the visionaries and leaders of some charter schools are providing unconventional educational experiences for their students while taking learning experiences into new settings.
Education Dive looked at the curricula in 10 charter schools from around the country and broke down what makes them interesting. Here they are along with details about what they are doing differently.
ChicagoQuest is the second charter school of its kind in the U.S., modeled after its New York sister school, Quest to Learn, the 6th-12th grade institution prides itself on a unique approach to preparing students for college and beyond. Its “content-rich” curriculum is structured around systems-thinking and game design. The school’s courses or, “domains”, include “The Way Things Work” which integrates science with math, and “CodeWorlds” which integrates math with writing. With its highly interactive curriculum, ChicagoQuest prepares its students for professional careers in a digital world.
2. KEYES TO LEARNING CHARTER SCHOOL
The Keyes to Learning Charter School offers a personalized learning experience. Because the school “recognizes the home as the heart of learning,” teachers at KTL cater to students’ individual and unique needs. With small class sizes, students are able to get one-on-one attention, which, according to the school’s founders, is exactly what students need to succeed. Keeping with the theme of personalized education, teachers collaborate with other teachers, students and parents.
3. WASHINGTON LATIN PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL
The Washington Latin Public Charter School, founded in 2006, provides a “challenging, classical, and accessible” education for students in the District, placing special emphasis on the mores of Greece and Rome. With careful attention to democratic values, the Latin language, and oratory, this young charter school, which sent every member of its first graduating class to college, has turned out to be a powerhouse of classical education.
4. SEVEN GENERATIONS CHARTER SCHOOL
The Seven Generations Charter School, founded on the principles of “sustainability, creativity, mutual respect, cultural richness, integrated, academic excellence and hands-on learning,” aims to yield well-rounded students with a passion for environmental stewardship. With their EIC (“using the environment as an integrated context for learning”) curriculum, Seven Generations' mission is to increase academic achievement through an inter-disciplinary approach.
5. HARDING FINE ARTS ACADEMY
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Harding Fine Arts Academy’s primary interest is to integrate arts and academics. Students hoping to attend the school don’t have to audition for enrollment; all they need is interest. Encouraging art-related career paths for their students, Harding takes "students with an interest in the arts" and turns "the interest into skill.”
6. COLORADO CALVERT ACADEMY
While some schools aim to personalize the educational journeys of their students with small class sizes, others, like the Colorado Calvert Academy, literally bring the classroom home. As a “virtual charter school” Calvert provides a unique, flexible, and tailored online experience to K-8th-grade students. The Colorado Calvert Academy makes an especially strong appeal to parents whose children have struggled in traditional school systems.
7. EDUCATION STRENGTHENS FAMILIES PCS
Education Strengthens Families Public Charter School features a half-day program for 3- and 4-year-old students and their parents. Founded by a nonprofit organization in 2006, the school aims to get entire families invested in education. The program targets non-English speaking parents,providing language classes for them during the day while their children learn reading comprehension, math and interpersonal skills.
8. ARIZONA AGRIBUSINESS & EQUINE CENTER RED MOUNTAIN
At Arizona Agribusiness & Equine Center Red Mountain,students enjoy riding and observing horses as a part of their course requirements. The AAEC, a public and public-charter high school district with four campuses, fosters the interests of students pursuing equine and other animal-related careers. It is also known for its “Early College Program” which allows students to take college courses while still enrolled as high school students. AAEC students at the Mesa campus have opportunity to learn about high-tech agriculture and animal biotechnology, both growing industries.
9. UNIVERSITY PREP SCIENCE AND MATH SCHOOLS
University Prep Science and Math Schools encourage students to explore their mathematical and scientific curiosities. Its middle school, rated 7th best in the Detroit area, has small class sizes and prepares students to continue their studies at their high school campus. UPSM students are encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The school trains their students to think big picture, affording them the opportunity to take their engineer-focused studies abroad and become global competitors.
10. PIONEER VALLEY CHINESE IMMERSION CHARTER SCHOOL
The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School aims to graduate students proficient in Chinese language and culture who are globally competent and culturally aware. The school has received numerous grants because of its strong immersion program since its opening in 2007, including a five-year Foreign Language Assistance Program grant. Teachers use various teaching methods to immerse students in Mandarin from visual cues to body language, and encourage student-to student interaction and dialog.
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