What makes The SAE School innovative? Here are just a few examples that set our school apart:
Academic Families are a cohort of students, teachers and support staff who remain, grow and learn together for 3 years at a time (see example diagram below).
Our kindergarten family of students have and share the same group of three teachers who remain as a “family” until the end of their 2nd grade year.
At the high school level, our ninth grade students will begin with a cohort of teachers who will remain with them and see them through their Senior year to graduation. Within our Academic Families, both the individual teacher as well as the “family” of teachers is/are able to fully understand students’ individual learning styles, capacity for growth and how to overcome any academic challenges to better assist in their overall development. This approach allows the faculty to develop communicative and trusting relationships with the parents as well. In addition, it allows for more opportunities to tailor the curriculum to an individual student’s needs. A culture of accountability is created with all stakeholders (teachers, students, and parents), in part because of the sustained period of time that all spend with and get to know each other.
Effects of retaining a teacher for several years have been studied in depth, and as David Burke outlines in his article in Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education (Eric 1997) the benefits include the following:
- improved student achievement
- increased time-on-task with the assignment of high interest reading and project activities
- more time for slower students to learn basic skills without the need for retention
- more opportunities for bonding between teachers and students, and teachers and parents
- diminished apprehension about a new school year
- more time to establish positive peer relationships
- increased support for students who require school as a social safety net
- an enhanced sense of school and group as a “community”
- increased opportunities for shy students to develop self-confidence
Within an Academic Family, teachers continuously organize students in the most effective and efficient manner according to the content that is being taught and learned and to maximize students individual learning preferences. Within our Academic Families, students are able to move fluidly and learning will not be stagnant. In essence, our Academic Families insulate each cohort of students and provide them with a safe and nonthreatening academic environment in which they will feel motivated and secure to take educational risks and academically achieve beyond what they thought possible.
Furthermore, by connecting themselves with the same group of students for 3-4 years at a time, each individual child find common bonds with one another and positive, trusting and nonthreatening relationships are built and maintained that allow our students to feel safe in our school and with each other.
Imagine a classroom where students feel comfortable and motivated to learn because they have the opportunity to:
- Sit in chairs that bounce, swivel and/or rock back and forth
- Lay on a throw rug in the middle of the reading pit to do research
- Stand up at counter-height table or easel
- Receive instruction with students of the same gender
- Learn through doing in large, creatively designed project areas
- Learn at their own pace by working in an independent learning center
- Hold technology in their hands as it serves as a vehicle for learning
Imagine a room where teachers, working together as a team can plan student groupings and space usage based on the needs of children that they are teaching. This is the type of room we are designing. By focusing on our core teaching team, we are rethinking what a classroom needs to be. Our teachers control these spaces and are encouraged to develop furnishings in such a way as to best serve the students.
The SAE School uses the Flipped Classroom as a key instructional method. Flipped Classrooms invert the traditional use of classroom time for lectures and instruction with the traditional non-classroom time for homework and activities. Students watch video lectures during traditional homework time, often supplemented with group chats with instructors or fellow students. Students are encouraged to write down questions after reviewing video lessons, which allows for personal teacher follow up and discussions. During class time, the teacher is able to jump into a practical application of student knowledge and mastery.
The Flipped Classroom increases interaction and personalized contact time between students and teachers. It is an environment where students take responsibility for their own learning. It is a blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning. If students are absent because of illness or extracurricular activity they are not left behind. Class content is permanently archived for review or remediation as needed. In a Flipped Classroom, all students are engaged in their learning and students can get personalized education.
A Preschool – Grade 12 Campus
Students at The SAE School remain in the same stable, structured environment from the time they enter our school to the time they graduate high school. This distinct advantage allows teachers to continue to be connected with each student for several years via our Academic Family structure. They have continuous experience and insight into each returning student’s developmental, social and educational needs at the onset of each academic year. This reduces the learning curve that typically comes with the “getting to know the students” phase. SAE staff and educators work alongside each student while they learn to read, while they learn world history, while they learn Calculus and everything in between. Instead of students outgrowing a school, our school will grow with the students!
Additionally, through our Preschool-12th grade Campus, parents become immensely invested in, devoted and committed to our school. Having a child potentially attend the same Preschool-12th grade Campus for 13+ years is an immeasurable draw to keeping parents engaged in a school for the long-term. This leads to more parents who become partners in the educational development of their children. Parents grow to understand our expectations for their children and learn how they can support our school’s mission to become the most exceptionally Safe, Innovative and Rigorous school in Georgia.
A Chinese proverb says: “Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember, Involve me, and I’ll understand.” The effectiveness of hands-on learning is undeniable. Project-Based Learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups.
Because Project-Based Learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both team-based and independent work.
In the process of completing their projects, students also hone their organizational and research skills, develop better communication with their peers and adults, and often work within their community while seeing the positive effect of their work.
Because students are evaluated on the basis of their projects, rather than on the comparatively narrow rubrics defined by exams, essays, and written reports, assessment of project based work is often more meaningful to them. They see how academic work can connect to real-life issues — and may even be inspired to pursue a career or engage in activism that relates to the project they developed.
An ever-growing archive of projects demonstrating instructional methodologies may be found at http://projects.hightechhigh.org. SAE models our school after the highly successful High Tech High framework. Please see the video below to gain a better perspective of the very cool school we are creating.
As high school teacher teams develop projects that engage student interests, they are mindful of content standards for grades 10 through 12. For example, a chemistry teacher may have each student create a documentary about the harmful effect of illicit drugs on the human body. The unit addresses many standards in chemistry, such as functional groups, bonding, periodic table, and molecular structures. At the same time however, such a project integrates well with math and humanities and achieves real world relevance as students use technology to create educational videos that can be shared with other schools as part of a broader drug and alcohol abuse prevention initiative.
Throughout our school, our students engage in real-world projects that enable them to learn while working on problems of interest and concern to the larger community.
Mixed Martial Arts
As part of our students’ everyday learning process, they attend Mixed Martial Arts instruction learning self-discipline, self-motivation, self-awareness and self-defense. Self-discipline and respect are core values for our school community and are critical to developing the ability to make good choices and promote the independent thinking that is integral to a college prep curriculum.
Our Master instructor teaches a discipline/style called “Mikio Surai” which is composed of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Hapkido, Aikodo, Kenpo, Kick Boxing, Boxing, Kung Fu, Judo, Mauy Thai, Samurai Art/Kendo, Krav Maga and so much more.