What is middle school like at Acera?
The core ideals are the same as in our elementary program. New components (electives and IMP / Passion projects) make Acera rich in new ways that are appropriate for middle years learning and growth! An overall level of complexity and rigor of expectations increases throughout our program as students enter new stages of capability and development.
Core Classroom – deep thinking combined with academic skills growth in a community of belonging: The base for every student is their class group, with (a) core teacher(s) who lead point on their ILP and differentiated plan for academic, social, and emotional growth for the year. Core classroom thematic learning is designed by core teachers and built around something complex and compelling, engaging with high school level concepts, primary source material, literature, and articles. Students learn about societal patterns, historical events and key ideas of human society, while concurrently building their skills to write high quality analytic essays, relate ideas to complicated problems, learn to take the perspective of others, learn to organize, plan out and complete their work, and take on habits of getting input from others to improve what they produce. Expectations and support for writing and organization and output is deeply differentiated for each student, with the core teacher giving large and small group instruction and one-to-one writing coaching. Look for next week’s blog post on core classroom themes! Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel your child might benefit from special supports in addition to our highly differentiated middle school program or if you want to learn more about and consider adding a student support plan.
Ability based math block continues, in which kids are placed into a math class based on teachers’ assessments of their readiness. Each year, the classes planned are built around the needs of our students, with on grade, above grade, deeply enriched, and also highly accelerated placements available, like pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Geometry, Discrete Math, Number Theory, Precalculus, and, when appropriate, calculus or beyond. Here are our Upper School Math Course Descriptions.
Electives – in Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences, Humanities, Technology and more are rich academic offerings, with clear parameters of taking a strong program in the sciences, while also offering engaging social sciences and humanities courses. <Electives Catalog> for sample course offerings from the last two years. These courses include high school level content, reading, and project expectations. High, but supported, expectations for written output for social sciences and humanities courses enables students to continue to improve their writing skills across different disciplines and within different types of assignments. Average elective class sizes are 10 students. Curious about how selections are made? Look at the FAQ’s section of the electives guide. Over three 10-week trimesters, students get to take 6 different electives. These courses each occur twice weekly for the trimester, one as a morning elective and one as an afternoon elective, and include homework, and project(s) like research papers or other as is appropriate.
Creativity stations emphasize Visual arts, Theatre and Performance, Music, Woodworking, Woodshop and Maker Space topics. More recently, we have also used these stations to test some physical education types of offerings (hiking, ultimate frisbee, etc.) as we ponder what a future PE and/or sports program could look like. Like electives, program offerings evolve based upon students’ interests, teachers’ ideas and new classes they invent for our community. Here are descriptions of Creativity Stations offerings from the past few years. Typically students elect and then are placed into 2 creativity stations each Wednesday, and starting this spring in Trimester 3 we are restoring the norm of longer time frames for creativity stations with longer term projects.
Inquiry / Maker / Passion Projects enable students to define a project idea they wish to pursue, and get support from adults to bring it to life. The IMP process helps mentors lay out steps and an approach to move from pitching an idea to sharing out of a work in process or result in twice yearly IMP-posium. Check out this < IMP Projects Examples> link to get a sense of former IMP projects from prior years. Students meet with their IMP mentor during each IMP timeblock to get help, plan goals and next steps. Students sit in a zone at school which is proximate to the mentor, to others who may be working on related projects, and to the materials and resources they may need for their work (like in the tech hub, or maker space, science lab, etc.) All of our specialist teachers are IMP Mentors, and additional people join us part time for IMP and/or Electives to further flesh out content area expertise sets.
Learn more and look things up in the future – check out our updated <Program Overview Guide>
Our program evolves every year to fit the needs, interests and capabilities of the students who are part of it! This is a core part of who we are; teachers love to adapt and tune things truly to fit each student, and also love the creative opportunity to reinvent or imagine new offerings to tap our curious kids’ questioning minds!
Courtney Dickinson is Acera’s Founder & Head of School.