Typical School Year
The school year is organized into seven “sprints,” with each sprint lasting five to six weeks. During each sprint, heroes undertake a Quest: a series of challenges, connected by a narrative, leading up to an exhibition of the completed work. The Quests are project-based in nature. Each sprint also focuses on a specific character trait, which is tied into the Quests and daily Socratic discussions.
Work is focused on the core skills of math, reading, communication, and civilization. These form the basic toolkit that the young heroes need to master in order to become lifelong learners. Other subjects are taught during the sprints via the Quests or specific learning sessions.
Developing Math Proficiency
Basic math skills can be delivered by any one of a number of game-based adaptive programs like Khan Academy. Because parents (and Guides) can find it overwhelming to keep track of individual, self-paced progress, students may learn on any program, but must prove their proficiency on Khan Academy.
Encouraging the Enjoyment of Reading
Our goal is to have young heroes who love to read. We do not assign books or readings, but instead allow the heroes to start by reading anything they enjoy. Over time, the heroes naturally begin to read more and more challenging books – if they care about the subject. We encourage the heroes to keep track of what they have read and reward them when they “pitch” a book that another hero decides to read.
Experimenting with Communication Forms
Our primary communication focus is on writing, but the heroes will experiment with film, photography, speech making, sales pitches and many other forms of communication. On most days, the heroes will journal at least a page, which they will share periodically in a journal contest. The journal question of the day often is chosen by the heroes, and will have some tie to a core skill goal, a quest or an issue involving the learning community.
Learning from the Past to Create the Future
Civilization encompasses history, geography, social studies, and economics. The overarching question for Civilization is: “How can the lessons of the past help us make decisions for the future?” Heroes explore why some civilizations rise and others fall, investigate the reasons behind turning points in history, and study the men and women who made difficult decisions.
Art and Physical Education (PE)
Opportunities for Physical and Creative Energy
Each day we have a “fit-15” where we get our hearts pumping for at least fifteen minutes. The sport or activity done during that time depends on the time of year, with input coming directly from the students. The approach is creating a foundation for: fit for life. In addition to our Fit-15 time, we periodically use larger chunks of time for activities like climbing at Junction Climbing Centre, snowshoeing, or playing sports over at the YMCA field.
Our students also have between two and three breaks each day for free time outside (weather dependent). Breaks are important because they allow an outlet for built-up physical energy.
Art is incorporated into every Quest (designing art for a game or website) and at times is scheduled separately for explorations of music, the visual arts, and theater.
Quests (Project-based Learning)
Interactive Group Challenges
Quests are a five to six-week-long series of socially interactive group challenges, connected by a narrative and leading to an exhibition of the completed work. Quests are designed to deliver 21st century skills, including learning how to apply Core Skills to develop something useful to an individual hero, a community or civil society.
An important part of Quests is that almost all have some way to measure and track outcomes in a way that mirrors as closely as possible the real world. For example, if building a bridge, the costs are calculated based on the time and materials required to build the bridge; the benefits are calculated based on the span of the bridge, how much weight it will bear and for how long; and the aesthetics can be based on feedback from citizens or a panel of experts.
Setting Targets & Ensuring Progress
Heroes set daily S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Tough) for what they would like to accomplish each day. As heroes decide upon their goals, they think through whether or not they meet these criteria. Students make session-long goals as well as daily goals to ensure progress towards their long-term targets.
Earn Badges to Prove You've Mastered New Skills
Young heroes celebrate the mastery of tools, skills and character by earning badges, assembling portfolios and taking part in public exhibitions.
- Parents use badges to track academic progress in Core Skills like reading, writing, math and spelling and character development in “Learn to Be” Badges.
- Electronic and hard copy Portfolios capture rough drafts, photos, video and other creative work.
- Public exhibitions at the end of most Quests allow young heroes to present work to experts, customers or the public for a real world test.