The Three Pillars of our Curriculum
When our community focus group assembled to discuss the state of education in our region, we created a profile of a graduate at each major educational transition. It wasn’t surprising that the group of business leaders, civic leaders, and educators in the room outlined the 21st century skills that are integral to workplace and career success.
The focus group wants students leaving 8th grade (the culminating grade level of our school model) to pursue excellence, to be critical thinkers, to be confident collaborators, to be creative problem-solvers, to have grit, to demonstrate resilience, to have solid academic skills, and to be excellent communicators.
Most of these goals can’t be measured in a test score, nor can they be taught in a traditional classroom setting. The Premier Arts Academy’s teaching philosophy combines strategies such as arts integration, challenge-based learning, and multi-age cohorts that are proven to benefit children, improve outcomes, and cultivate 21st century skills.
Our Teaching Strategies
Challenge-Based Learning is a strategy where multi-age cohorts of students will tackle multi-disciplinary long-term projects. Apple Inc. worked with teachers and leaders in the education community to develop Challenge Based Learning (CBL), an engaging, multidisciplinary approach that starts with standards based content and lets students leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve complex, real-world problems.
CBL is a Collaborative Learning Experience in which teachers and students work together to learn about compelling issues, propose solutions to real problems, and most importantly take action. The Challenge Hour projects will have multiple benchmarks, checkpoints, and rubrics that help the teacher to mentor and challenge their students toward measurable growth in each of these skills. See an example of Challenge Based Learning in a real classroom!
Small Group Instruction
The PA Academy intends to make sure all students get what they need from academic support to extended enrichment through an “all hands on deck” small group approach. All-school academic break-out groups for both literacy and math are already built into our daily schedule and will allow students to get the enrichment or extra support they require for success in the classroom and content standard mastery. Every day students will be grouped by skill level for a 30 minute book club and a 30 minute math group for targeted work on the skills they need most. In some cases, this will mean filling in gaps and reteaching content from the general classroom. In many cases this will be an extension of classroom concepts and a pushing forward to challenge what they’ve learned. For our high-ability students this time will be filled with extension and enrichment activities. Every teacher, paraprofessional, and administrator in the building will be responsible for leading a small group adding to the feeling of collective responsibility for the success of all students in the building. Learn more about the benefits of small group instruction here!
Art in Action
PA Academy students will also have the benefit of working with fine arts professionals daily during their “Art in Action (AiA)” period. AiA is a carefully curated survey of the fine arts that provides an in-depth study of specific art forms that rotates each quarter. Voice, Acting & Music Instruction is provided by Premier Arts. The Dance program is designed and taught by Epic Dance Studios. Once our students hit 6th grade, they get to choose an Arts Major (Theater, Music, Dance or Visual Arts) in order to begin to cultivate mastery of their chosen art. AiA is taught by local professional artists from Premier Arts and Epic Dance Studios. We intend to invite guest artists/teachers from Chicago and NYC regularly as well. We also look forward to creating immersive experiences for our students as they take advantage of the many arts and culture venues in our community. Many of these community treasures are very close to our school building and will serve as an extension of our campus. We will not be boxed in by traditional classroom spaces, instead, you will find our students interacting with arts and culture in the real world.
A hallmark of our school will be regular community expos and performances to demonstrate the work of students and in an authentic way that allows for analysis and feedback. Our quarterly community expo events will further help us in measuring academic and 21st Century skill growth. Students will publish and present the results of their Challenge Hour and AiA projects to the wider community. This also allows for more regular engagement from parents and the community and for students to act on the solutions they’ve been seeking in their projects. Parents will see growth in their child’s communication skills as the children present their work to the wider community. Anyone who wishes to see what Premier Arts Academy students are learning will be welcome to attend.