A parent of a 6th grader recently asked me to explain the Acera Upper School program. Here is a refresh and an overview, including some new upgrades for next year:
What are key components of our program, every year?
- Core Classroom: The community where students belong and are known best, with core teacher(s) who crystallize their unique ILP, and lead point on each of their students’ experiences. This is where thematic, interdisciplinary learning happens; in upper school, the focus for core classroom is on social sciences and humanities, including systems and trends across history and cultures which are built around essential questions and compelling ideas. Upper School core also includes close reading and analysis of complex texts and literature and deepened, individually coached development of writing skills.
- Ability Based Math Block: Watch a video capturing what Math Block looks like at Acera.
- Electives (Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts, Makerspace, Engineering, Woodshop, Technology)
- Inquiry Maker Passion (IMP) Projects
- Some sessions of Health education, led by Educa Health, based on topics uniquely a fit for each particular class; these sessions are preceded by a parent education session.
- Interwoven SEL social, emotional, collaboration, and conflict skills development concurrent with all else
- Differentiated and customized learning, in which teachers coach into student’s needs to support executive function, writing skill growth, critical thinking expansion, and more at a pace in a ways which fits with each students learning profile.
- Many students add on with after school enrichment, including Model UN, D&D, and more.
What is being upgraded for next year?
- Classrooms for grades 6+ will all be “Upper School.” We are phasing out the “Bridge” category.
- Electives will all be offered in the same time slots, expanding students’ choices across sciences, engineering, the arts, social sciences, and humanities electives.
- IMP Projects will all be offered at the same time, optimizing alignment between specialists and student interest areas.
- Restoration of chemistry/biology/life sciences offerings with the hiring of Tory, a PhD Chemist.
- George and Jamie are working closely together with our HS students, preparing pilot tests of dual enrollment in Acera HS + college, and selected opportunities for some students to take the AP exam in preferred topic areas, with customization of whole classroom projects, readings, and discussions to support individual learning goals.
- George and Viktor are working together to path a way for very high achieving mathematicians to try out math AP exams, if appropriate.
What are new aspects of our program this year, which we will keep and expand?
- Alison, our new engineering and makerspace teacher, has led many science experiences inside classrooms and within the Maker Space section of our Innovation Lab. She is teaching teachers how to best tap Makerspace equipment and materials to interweave new tools in their programs, through our Professional Learning Circles (PLC )groups.
- Viktor, who left a tenured college math professor job to come to Acera, is expanding our math program by raising the ceiling, expanding on our philosophy of how inquiry learning applies to math, and working with teachers to lead a Professional Learning Circle on math instructional practice.
- Alexis, who selected our job offer over others because of our focus on gifted students, brings physics to Acera, and has had filled-to-the-gills requests for her courses in physics, number theory, and more.
What are recent electives?
Students attend two electives each 10-week trimester, meeting 2x week for extended time blocks. Throughout their experience, we help assure a range of topic areas which honor student capacities and passions, while concurrently assuring exposure across topic areas with a liberal arts philosophy. Some elective topics evolve over the years to fit with current events, new innovations, teacher passions, and student requests! Watch a video on Acera teachers “pitching” their electives ideas to students.
Sociology | Ethics and Contemporary Issues | Philosophy | Leave a Mark | Speculative Fiction | Literature and the Child | US Government | Important Trials and Court Decisions in US History | World Geography: Geopolitics | Generative AI – How, Why, Why Not?
Video Editing & Filmmaking | Digital Audio, Mixing and Sound Design | Computer Programming | Boatbuilding | Collision Engineering | The Language of Prints | Visual Storytelling | Wearable Art | From Drawing to Sewing | Upcycled Art
Classical Physics | Astrobiology | Electronics & the Physics of Electricity | Exploring Sound | Statistics | Knitting and Math | Medical Specialists | Civic Ecology
There is so much more to share with you, like: what are all the different math classes? How do we continuously asses student learning without creating stress? What are ways that SEL topics are interwoven within all areas?
I am eager for us to restore our pre-Covid practice of an Upper School Info Session and Teacher Panel – open to all – as part of our Fall Open House! Stay tuned for George’s invitation to come in for an Upper School forum, where you’ll hear more examples and stories from this year, ask questions, and join the dialogue to share hopes and requests for the future as we continuously improve and expand our offerings in Upper School!
All the best,