By Joseph Robertia
Growing up in Alaska is not like growing up in Florida, Texas, California or any other place in the Lower 48. It is a unique experience to live and mature in the 49th state, so why shouldn’t the educational experience of this area be as individualized and specific?
That is a question that Greatland Adventure Academy, a new charter school opening in Soldotna in the fall 2013, hopes to address. Its aim is to enhance middle school-aged children’s learning though “experimental learning,” which includes more emphasis on place-based education, and more focus on movement, music and time outdoors.
“What we are hoping to do here is not new; it’s being done elsewhere. We just want to open another opportunity for a different learning model than what our district currently offers for seventh and eighth grades,” said Teresa Moyer, a GAA academic board policy member.
Enrollment for the charter school was held earlier this month and 42 students signed up, near the maximum capacity before rolling into a sign-up lottery. There is also potential for the school to expand to encompass grades six through 12 in the future.
GAA will provide concentrated academics in the four core areas of math, science, language arts and history during the morning hours of operation. The school will be staffed with full-time certified teacher/facilitators and GAA will focus on differentiated learning.
The primary component of this, Moyer said, is in planning an educational program that will be most efficient to maximize each student’s potential, providing learning experiences using research-based models to promote integrated learning for all students, providing time to pursue excellence.
“It’s setting them on a course that meets exactly where they are,” Moyer said. “Students will be assisted in determining their interests and skills, and provided opportunity to be exposed to, and enriched in, those components as they emerge. This model will also allow them to explore a subject or interest deeper, rather than the stop-and-go, stop-and-go of going through classes based on when the bell rings.”
Another aspect GAA is committed to is place-based education, Moyer said, “Such as, learning what was here on the peninsula before it was settled, how the Native populations functioned, what the resources include, how our timeline meshes with the history of the world and the U.S., (and) interviewing homesteaders and elders.”
Afternoon sessions will be devoted to providing artistic, musical, athletic and wilderness programs and motivational sports psychology that will help students reach and exceed their goals, according to Moyer.
“We intended to be physically active and outdoors a lot, and there will be a lot of involvement in music. It is undisputed that active kids and kids involved in music programs tend to test better,” Moyer said.
She added that the curriculum will include things that inspire and motivate learning, including Project WILD (a wildlife and conservation-focused education program), outdoor and wilderness training, and opportunities in fine arts.
“GAA will draw on the knowledge and skill of highly qualified educators, athletes, musicians and experts to set up and implement this charter school model,” she said.
Education doesn’t fall with just teachers, though. GAA believes education should be encouraged within the family as much as in the classroom.
“Another component of operation unique to this charter is the opportunity for family involvement,” Moyer said. “We believe that in order to help a student succeed, the family unit must be strengthened, as well. GAA will work with a certified family counselor to set up programs to encourage and strengthen the families of our students.”
For more information on GAA, email GreatlandAdventureAcademy@kpbsd.k12.ak.us.