Will it take a village to teach Lakewood Ranch area students?
The Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy says yes.
The principals of the new K-12 charter school that will be located on White Eagle Boulevard say their classes will look different than what someone might expect for public education.
Unlike a traditional classroom, Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy will have learning villages. A team of teachers will have a group of students, or a village, to do communal activities that will provide more opportunities for socialization. These learning villages will have modular classroom areas with flexible seating and breakout areas.
“It’s a more cohesive philosophy of collaboration,” said Bradley Warren, the principal of the charter school's lower school, which is expected to open in August. “In a lot of schools, if you had four third grade classrooms, they’re each doing their own silo education. They’re doing their individual thing and every student gets the prescribed third grade curriculum that every other student gets. What we do is we have a village where they all work together so the four teachers are collaborating and planning every day.”
Teachers will work together to have lessons with flexible grouping based on student needs.
Read more: Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy projected to be built by mid-July
For example, there might be a group of 30 students learning multiplication. A group of 12 students might be exceeding in multiplying double digits and are ready to move onto the next lesson. Another group of eight students could need some assistance, and the other 10 students could need additional resources and support because they haven’t grasped the lesson yet. Teachers will take each group to a different part of the classroom to do different activities to meet them where they are in the lesson and work with them to improve or move onto another lesson.
“It’s not a one size fits all,” Warren said. “It’s flexible throughout the day.”
Classes will be hands-on and immersive to capture students’ attention and allow them to find answers to their own questions.
Warren and Cendan said students will master the same standards as students in traditional schools.
“Dr. Cendan and I both look at those standards as a minimum, as a launching point, and so they’re not only going to match those standards, but we’re going to provide even more challenges for them so they feel the sky’s the limit,” Warren said.
The new K-12 charter school will follow the WISH model. The education model focuses on wellness, innovation, science and health.
Warren and Cheryl Cendan, the principal of the school’s high school, said the WISH model is meant to focus on each individual student as a whole, meaning they are excelling academically, emotionally and socially.
Cendan said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in social-emotional learning.
“We’re excited because we have an opportunity with our school, with our WISH model and our personalization (of education) that our students are going to be well rounded and balanced,” Warren said. “They not only will be academically competent, but they will be emotionally confident as learners. They are going to have a personalized learning plan that they have a choice and a voice in creating, and they’re going to feel excited about the fact that they’re empowered to lead their own learning.”
Students will have a say in their education through personalized learning plans. For example, as freshmen, students will have a discussion with staff to see what their interests and passions are and where they see themselves in the future. That will help the staff guide them to courses and internships more relevant to their interests and future plans.
“Typically ninth graders have an idea of what they want and their interests are,” Cendan said. “This way, when they apply for college, we know through advising which courses they should take. It’s going to be that personal touch that will set us apart because we’ll handpick not only their scheduling but those internships."
Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy also is focusing on the partnerships it can develop with people, organizations and businesses in Lakewood Ranch that can provide a variety of opportunities for students.
The partnerships will give students different experiences whether it’s watching live or recorded surgeries or other health procedures, or visiting an organization or business to get a behind-the-scenes look at what they do.
Although the school’s curriculum will include health and science focused studies and pre-med electives, the school will provide opportunities for students no matter what industry they wish to pursue.
The school already is working on partnerships with the Brain Health Initiative and LECOM.
“We've already talked to the people at the Brain Health Initiative about creating what they’re going to certify as a brain healthy environment,” Warren said.
A brain healthy environment means a look at the lighting, color of the walls, noise abatement, healthy lunches, flexible seating, and more. Students and teachers will be taking breaks for physical activity and mental breaks throughout the day.
Cendan said teachers might take a few moments to have their students do yoga or meditation. Others might have their students walking around the indoor track. Students could need a few minutes to simply stand up and stretch.
“Our teachers will have the autonomy to know when their students need a break,” Warren said. “We’re not going to be ruled by a schedule.”
At the high school, students will have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses and be a part of the Cambridge Assessment International Education program. The Cambridge AICE program provides courses that are rigorous and emphasize higher-order thinking, written and oral skills, problem-solving and other skills.
“To accelerate and take those college-level courses in high school, you have to do that in middle school so our middle school students will avail themselves to as many high school courses as they are able to take," Cendan said. "When they get to high school, they’re able to have a exploratory, rigorous balance of college coursework.”
By the time students graduate, Cendan said students will have the opportunity to receive up to 45 college credits.
Students also will be able to participate in internships and externships.
Teachers and staff members will work with the students to keep them on track.
“Our students might do lunch and learns, and they might have a life coach come in and talk to them about that vision board and about goal setting,” Cendan said.
Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy will strive to have its students become leaders in the school and the community.
Warren said many roles that are typically held by teachers or school leadership will be in the hands of the students. For example, the morning announcements will be written and produced by students. Assemblies will be led by the students rather than the principals or staff.