Courtney's Corner

First Week Back

By September 5, 2023September 7th, 2023No Comments

Our first days of school are filled with skipping smaller kids, staff reflections among ourselves about kids’ learning journeys over their years at Acera, and bringing new kids into the folds of our community!  

What are the focus points which we are aligned around this year?

  • Deepen and re-expand our emphasis on sciences education 
  • Deepen our focus on gifted students and gifted education 
  • Increase parent engagement and community of belonging and shared purpose 
  • Make the learning visible 

On the first day, as all students entered our newly renovated playground, we often heard collective gasps of “Grass!” which is nestling in its roots and will “open” on Sept 18!  Lower elementary K/1st grade students got to see the newly added zone of the playground, which will feature smaller scale play options; lower elementary kids already built Fairy Houses there! 

In Emily’s grades 2 & 3 classroom, Ms. Emily shared a mental construct of embracing failure, and kids conversed about how this is the way you learn.  All lower school classrooms have embedded specialists who had extended planning time during August collaboration week for teacher teams to build great plans for thematic, interdisciplinary, hands-on and science-rich learning for each lower school classroom.  

Upper School electives are the key way we engage students in 1) physical sciences and math  2) arts, hands-on, and engineering and 3) humanities and social sciences. All upper school students take two electives each trimester, which meet twice weekly in longer class time blocks than one traditionally sees in school. 

Yesterday morning, I sat in on teachers’ elective “pitches” to students. At the close of the session, students submitted their preferences, from which draft class assignments were made by George. Core teachers have a chance to cross check plans, assuring a breadth of learning for each student that both honors deep interests and talents but also assure appropriate topic exposure and skill development.  

Upper School students engage in high school level content, concepts, and reading of primary source materials, and assignment expectations for each course vary. Below are some of the details teachers shared during their “pitches” – to which kids were riveted!    

  • Neuroscience (Tory) “Who is curious about the brain?” Delving into a real world case study, students will study how the brain works, how memory is situated, how visual representation occurs, and how neural networks are connected.
  • Akin to, yet different from, Danny’s generative AI elective from last spring, his T1 elective is about the Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence. 
  • Using professional equipment, and generating a project of students’ vision, Ms. Jamie will lead Filmmaking
  • Classical Physics (Alexis) in T1 is similar to the T1 offering last year; T2 and T3 physics will be different from last year. Pre-req=Algebra 1. 
  • Sci-Fi and Medical Ethics (Renee) will include, as do all humanities electives, close reading and written analytical work. 
  • Makerspace Engineering (Alison) will be a combination of classical engineering thinking, combined with a chance for highly motivated students to become experts on the most complex tools in the shop… with a hope to “hatch” TA’s for future courses and to build up students’ skills to launch a “Maker Team” at Acera.  
  • Geopolitics (Ruma) will focus on how the world is interconnected, world conflicts and human rights, with an emphasis on being open minded across multiple perspectives.
  • Looking at US History and Public Education … Why do we have schools?  (student reply…. “The Government makes us!”) Vered response “Why? What is the purpose and goals?”  “How has it changed over time?” Vered’s question-driven faciliation made the discussion happen already, even during the pitch!  
  • Atmospheric Chemistry (Tory) In our current climate, there is a “doomsday mentality” about what is happening in the environment. But in order to propose solutions, we need to understand what is actually happening in our atmosphere.  
  • Inside the Creator’s notebook / technical drawing (Camilla) – In addition to emphasizing advanced illustration techniques – like shadowing and perspective – this elective will include coaching on helping students present their portfolios, much as they would in the real world.
  • Audio Production Design and Engineering (Linwood) – Using professional equipment, students can imagine and compose their own music.
  • Boatbuilding (Josh) – Expanding on the boatbuilding elective from last year, this elective will include making sails, and working as a team to build an even bigger vessel.

There is so much student joy in evidence this first week of school, as kids re-connect with their friends, seek out teachers they missed over the summer, and engage in their first math class. 

If you missed my parent update/ welcome back letter from August 25, please let us know by emailing us at  

Feel free to join us for parent coffees Friday mornings from 9-9:30am, and definitely come to Back to School night Wednesday next week, for round-the-Commons and Inno Lab access to meet our specialist teachers, custom discussion about how the core classroom program is designed this year for your child, and whole school overview on parent survey input from last June and – as always – ways we plan to continuously improve our program and community this school year!  

Welcome and Welcome Back!  Reach out any time !

All the best, 


Courtney Dickinson is Acera’s Founder and Head of School