The old adage advises that when life presents us with lemons, we should make lemonade! This positive attitude has certainly been the case at Flagstaff Academy, which has had a successful start to the 2020-21 school year, and is moving into a hybrid model for the second quarter.
Celebrating its 16th year, Flagstaff Academy has provided an all student remote learning environment for the first quarter of school, with onsite Remote Learning Support from Dragon Flight, the school’s before and aftercare program. In addition, Flagstaff Academy Preschool has been meeting in-person with extra cleaning, social and physical distancing, mask-wearing, and working with the youngest Dragons on best safety and health practices.
“Even with the many challenges thrown our way the past few months, I’m incredibly proud of our entire community which has responded as Flagstaff Academy Dragons always do, with Dragon PRIDE: Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Dependability, and Empathy,” said Wayne Granger, Executive Director. “As we move forward into quarter two, we will continue to rely on our partnerships with Boulder County Public Health and our medical and educational partners to make the best choices based on science and data. Throughout these past months, our focus has been on communicating with our families and staff with transparency and with the priority on the health and safety of our students and staff.”
The plans for the second quarter look to be a full in-person return for K-5th grade and a hybrid model for the school’s award-winning middle school.
Creativity and Innovation
At every grade level, the Dragon community has embraced an attitude of innovation and creativity, from the remote workspaces families have designed for student success, to innovative approaches to the school’s Core Knowledge Curriculum, elementary specials, middle school electives/essentials, science, and the arts.
Flagstaff Academy’s Colorado Shines Level Five preschool program, led by Patty Quinn, recognizes the importance of social-emotional learning for this age. “The reduced ratio of 1:5 allows for the children to interact safely as they learn and play in these small cohorts,” Quinn said. “Parents and preschoolers are happy to be back to in-person instruction at Flagstaff Academy.”
“Leading a school through a pandemic certainly has its challenges, from when we first shut down last March to drive through continuations and graduations, to multiple scenarios for opening schools — we couldn’t have done it without our parents’ support,” wrote Elementary School principals, Gael Lester (K-2) and Abby Bok (3-5). “From those who have reached out with kind words of encouragement and support, asked excellent questions that have helped us with our planning, tuned in to various meetings and read communications, to all those who patiently waited for information, we are so grateful for our Flagstaff Academy community.”
At the Elementary School level, students are benefitting from the Core Knowledge curriculum, as well as the personable, synchronous learning with teachers. Elementary Specials (Science, Technology, Art, Music, Spanish, Physical Education, and Library Media Center) are providing fully asynchronous lessons that are of a professional and high caliber presentation, meeting grade-level content and standards. The lessons are creative, fun, and engaging, and the learning is highly accessible for all students.
Elementary Science has provided magnifying glasses for every student to encourage them to investigate the outside world. The school’s Library Media Center (LMC) will be starting a curbside library book checkout program, as well as providing video “read-alouds.”
Elementary Spanish is now offering “Intro to Spanish” mini-lessons to K-2 students. Online Elementary and Middle School music is allowing students to focus on skill-building, composing, listening skills, music theory, and practice assignments. Middle School music is also focusing on building personal and music connections with weekly Google Meet social hours and progressing toward a virtual performance.
Elementary School is working on building connections between students and teachers, as well as between classmates, focusing on the importance of community. Dragon Flight Before and After Care “Remote Learning Support” has provided on-campus daycare, which one parent has described as “life-saver for many working parents.” Students are supervised while accessing the regularly scheduled remote learning for their class.
Middle School is offering a very robust electives schedule including three art classes, three computer science classes, engineering, journalism, physical education, art, music, creative writing, languages, and more. Middle School Science has used this quarter to encourage students to become scientists at home, working on writing hypotheses, gathering materials, designing experiments, conducting tests, collecting observations and analyzing results, redesigning their tests to be more effective, and making conclusions.
Middle School Technology is focusing on research and building a general understanding of the engineering process, basic networking skills for cybersecurity, and introductions to robotics. The class is also teaching cybersecurity through what real adults go through getting a certification for a “real world” application and skill-building.
Middle School Computer Science is having students create sewable circuit bookmarks as a way to review Computation Thinking Skills.
Middle School Social Studies students are learning to hone their research skills through a “Me History,” in which students explore their personal family history, family names, and countries of origin.
Dragon Spectrum, the middle school student-run newsletter, has gone entirely digital with the student editorial and design team posting engaging articles about Flagstaff Academy on a daily basis. Middle School art is taking creativity into the “real world,” from photographing their outside environment, to creating “Flipbook” animations inspired by index card drawings and Tuesday Challenges, where students combine unlikely images for a fun and creative result.
Katie Gustafson, Middle School Principal, and the 2020 Colorado League of Charter Schools Educator of the Year, said, “As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ In the case of Flagstaff Academy’s middle school instruction, I’m so proud of the creativity taking place from our staff while keeping the level of rigor that comes from the Core Knowledge curriculum. The virtual learning environment is so positive and parents are sharing that their students are very happy to be back ‘in school.’ They are also sharing that they feel we’ve leveled up from the past spring.’
Acutely aware that virtual learning can make peer and teacher connections difficult, Flagstaff Academy has increased efforts to foster a sense of community, support, and attention to social-emotional learning.
“Right now, we are focusing on our students who are new to Flagstaff Academy, but we’ll be opening up new opportunities for all students to connect over lunchtime as well,” said Kevin Pugh, Dean of School Culture. “In addition, our focus on connections before content means that teachers are taking the time to connect with their students in fun and creative ways through technology. During this time of necessary physical distancing, the social and emotional connectedness of our students is vitally important.”
Flagstaff Academy has openings for the 2020-2021 school year. To learn more, visit http://www.flagstaffacademy.org.