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Schools can link science learning to real world innovations through hands-on labs and authentic engagement, fostering systems-based, interdisciplinary and critical thinking capacities. Unlike the humanities, life sciences innovations continue to manifest and transform the landscape every day. We need a way to keep the learning happening in schools current with the changes in this field. Acera has developed and pilot-tested a nine-unit biology curriculum that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards and offers lab activities such as gene editing with CRISPR and cultivating c-acnes using students’ own skin microbiome samples. Our Life Science Change Agent Teachers series and curricula tools are starting to change the face of high school biology in Massachusetts.
Reinventing High School Biology: Skin Microbiomes from Acera School on Vimeo.
Short for “Science, Engineering, Esthetics, Design, and Storytelling,” SEEDS uses low-cost tools and materials to help students “find their voice” and tell their stories through creative making and design. Featuring curricula like “Hacking Toys” and “Choreography of Matter,” which merges circuitry, programming, and chemistry with activities like crafts, art, and cooking, SEEDS is emerging as an innovative gateway for increasing the number of girls in STEM.
Welcome to SEEDS StudioLab! from Acera School on Vimeo.
Tech Hub enables students to emerge as community-minded technologists able to solve problems to benefit the whole school. More a philosophy than a place, Tech Hub can start as simply a cart in a cafeteria with one student fired up to be a knowledgable, technically skillful community member. Concurrently developing emotional intelligence skills and a wide array of technological abilities, Tech Hub members model and spread an attitude of fearlessness at using STEM tools to solve real problems.
Small children can understand big ideas, and computer science is no exception. Acera’s hands-on “Computers and Me” curriculum introduces early elementary students to computer science concepts, and is one example of many creative ways computational thinking and technical fluency can be developed throughout K-12 education, starting at age 5. Pilot-tested and ready to translate for adoption by public schools, these computer science learning approaches help students become facile and fearless.
What if math classes are organized based on what each student is ready to learn, rather than by age? This frees students to learn based upon readiness and ability, without constraints due to age or curricula. Because there is always more than one way to solve a problem, flexible thinking and growth mindsets are valued over timed math tests, dispelling the notion that “speed” is the same as “intelligence.” Our approach to math unlocks the computational thinking skills that develop a student’s capacity for decision making, risk analysis, and connection between math and the world.
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Emotional intelligence is a core capacity that we need to proactively develop concurrently with academics, patterning habits which will set students up for success in school and in life. Skills like regulating reactions to challenging situations, developing a tolerance for frustration, and experiencing “failure” as part of the iterative process of learning are mindsets we can build into the educational experience of every child. These habits enable students to take the perspective of others, work as effective team members, and act as leaders who can galvanize groups to achieve results.
How can educators unleash the initiative and creativity inherent in all children? Passion Projects give students space, permission and a path to initiate solutions, creations, and projects, and empower them to galvanize their drive around things are meaningful to them. At the same time, we provide the support it takes for students to stay productive and be increasingly able to actualize their goals, while learning habits of systems thinking, problem solving, and creativity.
Each student has a learning path uniquely tuned to their capabilities, needs, and interests. Age norms and curriculum frameworks are reference points, not the goal. Start of year assessments, combined with differentiated instruction, independent projects, and flexible groupings, enable a customized learning experience for each student. This occurs concurrently with students learning as members of their classroom community. Providing this runway for learning – which can begin by simply offering kids more choice and voice – empowers students to develop into the best versions of themselves.
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At Acera, we believe a school’s success can be measured far beyond its standardized test scores. How happy are its students? Do they feel a sense of purpose at school? Are they developing a capacity for perspective taking and problem solving? Can they stick to something even when it’s hard? Acera’s Education Innovation team is working to change how we measure education to include students’ wellbeing, habits of mind, and feeling of belonging at school.
Games are an incredible way to develop systems thinking, perspective taking, problem-solving and collaboration skills, which can help mold a generation that sees the forest, not just the trees. Out of a desire to teach social and economic cooperation, Acera faculty designed “Minali,” a game in which the cooperative and competitive elements increase in complexity and challenge as students succeed in sustainable ecosystem and economy management.
Survivor: The Goldfish Edition from Acera School on Vimeo.