Enrichment is considered central,
not peripheral, to the curriculum
at The Academies.
There are three ways that our curriculum is enriched to promote opportunity and growth for our students:
1) Academic enrichment
a. In Math, we use developmentally-appropriate teaching methods that develop conceptual understanding (such as hands-on manipulatives, class discussions of varying ways to solve problems, investigations, and small group instruction) and support the acquisition of academic language.
b. In English/ Language Arts, we will utilize engaging and effective strategies and tools (such as vocabulary and word work, guided reading, book talks, whole class read-alouds, comprehension strategy instruction, and fluency).
c. Subject areas are offered beyond ELA and math, including: history/social studies, science, visual and/or performing arts, physical education, and foreign language.
d. PBL units contextualize content and the subject areas integrate and inform one another within these.
e. A variety of lesson structures facilitate strong habits of mind and independence: for example, Curriculum-provided lessons, Concept attainment inquiry, Group investigation inquiry, Independent projects.
2) Creative enrichment
a. Instruction in the visual and/or performing arts is provided frequently to enrich core academics.
b. The arts are integrated with current topics of study, and are frequently applied in project-based learning.
c. Each element of art (e.g. line, shape, texture, etc.) will be taught each year with a different masterwork as exemplar, providing a spiraled curriculum and basic art history education to students.
d. Explicit instruction in principles of creativity (Substitute. Combine. Adapt. Modify. Put to another use. Eliminate. Reverse. – “SCAMPER”) will be provided, with an emphasis on the transferability of creative thinking to practical life and real world problem-solving.
3) Service-Learning enrichment
a. Students will identify local or global areas of need and work together to improve their community.
b. Projects will often relate service learning experiences to universal concepts/themes or to PBL units.
Each year, all students will participate in (at least) one service-learning project. Kindergarten students will participate in teacher-led community service, while students in grades 1-8 will participate in a community service project which is driven by student interest and explores an issue more deeply. Service learning is not just about bettering the community; it is about providing a valuable service and ensuring students have learned something in the process. The learning is intentional and achieved, in part, through student ownership of the project. This includes students researching areas of need or helpful agencies, and then planning and executing work toward alleviating the need or helping the worthy cause. Working together toward a common goal reinforces a culture of cooperation and demonstrates the value of synergy, that we are more than a sum of parts. Through service-learning, our students will mobilize their resources of intellect, compassion, and altruistic action to better the world they live in while learning about the power of proactive empathy. One way that The Academies schools aim to address the three aspects of our enrichment approach is through whole class projects. Students will participate in academic projects as a whole class, creating class books, models, and other academic products together. Students also contribute to artistic endeavors that reinforce the whole class learning experiences and themes. They collaborate to produce works for a collective art show, or rehearse and perform a class play or music recital. Finally, class projects will include service-learning endeavors to contribute to our local or global community. These three types of enrichment are embedded in the typical week and constitute substantial instructional minutes because we believe they are necessary to achieve our schools' Learning Outcomes and Mission. This enrichment is central, not peripheral, to the curriculum at The Academies.
The Academies charter schools offer students a broad course of study with the understanding that “it is the office of the school environment to balance the various elements in the social environment, and to see to it that each individual gets an opportunity to escape from the limitations of the social group into which he was born, and to come into contact with a broader environment.” (Dewey, 1916). By providing a broad course of study and a variety of learning experiences/lesson types, students gain access to differing cultures and ways of thinking, thus increasing their empowerment and potential for social mobility in their lifetime.