AMA believes that learning best occurs in context that is authentic, relevant, personalized and structured. Our beliefs about learning are guided byt the research of Vygotsky who stated that learning occurs in a social and cultural context, as well as Dewey, who contended that teachers must recognize the demands of the discipline and the needs of the child to then provide learning experiences that engage students in inquiry-based learning of curriculum.
Four core principles will guide AMA’s work in providing these learning experiences in an environment free of walls to support the creativity of our learners. AMA's design for the use of space will not take on the traditional classrooms with four walls surrounding the students. The design concept calls for learning spaces that are open for collaboration and multiple use to create a welcome space for all. In addition, having students going into the community for job-shadowing and internships, AMA is also creating a space not typical of high school classrooms today.
The success of AMA's academic model is tied to having a facility that promotes Project Based Learning and Blending Learning. In efforts to prepare scholars for the future of work academic model the facility environment must encourage scholars to obtain that mindset. Scholars obtain that mindset by having a space that promotes collaboration while keeping the student-centered learning as the focal point, with the instructors serving as the facilitators. AMA scholars will experience real world learning through its facility alignment of companies like Google, Facebook, WeWork, Cross Campus, Uber. AMA's classrooms are arranged to promote student centered learning.
Authentic learning experiences promote the idea of learning by doing. Students will engage in real world, complex problems through project-based learning as it connects with the work they do in their new media electives. Each day at AMA, students will participate in multidisciplinary curriculum and activities that include, but are not limited to experiments, role-playing, case studies, challenges and simulations. Every class that is a part of the student’s day (except physical education) will integrate content into their project- based units of study with an underlying foundation of the student’s new media arts career pathway elective (e.g. music production). The goal is to ensure students are immersed in using the skills sets of 21st century learners.
Relevant learning experiences refer to two key concepts – contextually relevant learning experiences and culturally relevant learning experiences. Students must be engaged in both of these to promote connections and improve the way students absorb, retain, and apply knowledge to new situations. At AMA, students will experience learning in the context of authentic activities. For example, as juniors and seniors, students will engage in internships that create work-based learning that brings the classroom to the workplace and the workplace to the classroom.
Perhaps more critical is the realization of culturally responsive teaching pedagogy and practices that are committed to ensuring that students maintain cultural integrity as they gain academic success though a framework of social justice. AMA’s idea of recreating the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920 is geared towards examining and learning from the historic achievements of African American and Latino communities of that era and aligning those historic achievement to today’s innovators of the 21st century. This will promote the use of our students’ cultures, as a vehicle for learning – a critical tenet of culturally relevant teaching. Students will learn how to effectively challenge ideas and concepts that are societal norms or the status quo that do not align with their own cultural norms and personal way of life. Using a lens of critical consciousness, that is to say, intentional analysis and synthesis of how this impacts their lives, students can then become change agents within the school, their community and their workspace. They can be the creative innovators making a difference, as they work through project-based learning curriculum designed to address real world issues.
Personalized learning experiences will allow students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content in a flexible environment that adjusts the place and/or pace of learning. This will take the form of blended learning, dual enrollment, project-based learning and community-based learning. AMA believes that we can take advantage of learning opportunities that make better use of technology, that capitalize on teachers’ skills, those that occur outside of school walls, and those that deliberately target interventions to meet the specific learning needs of students. AMA defines blended learning as an instructional method which integrates technology and digital media with instructor-facilitated classroom activities providing students with more personalized learning experiences. AMA scholars will have dual enrollment opportunities allowing them to engage in college coursework with higher education partners (i.e., Otis College).
To better understand this concept of various elements that complement each other, we can take the real-world business model of Apple, Inc. Apple doesn’t just sell computers; they have a music subscription service, and a video streaming service in addition to their sale of cell phones. Depending upon the needs of the consumer, a person can purchase one, two or all of these products and services. While it may seem like a lot to incorporate in one’s life, the reality is that they all fulfill a need and they are all related to the goal of achieving enjoyment based on interest and necessity.
A student at AMA will naturally be engaged in project-based learning, as it is the major vehicle for learning experiences. They are also naturally engaged in blended learning due to the technology and platforms (e.g., MAYA) that are part of the new media arts courses. As they continue into their job- shadowing and internships, community-based learning comes into play and dual enrollment is an option for the student who may take a class at Otis College (a partner) or another who may transfer into AMA and need to take a class at a local community college to stay on track for graduation. These elements are not a menu of different or competing priorities that have to be balanced. They are instead complementary experiences designed to engage students and stimulate interest through his/her own personal choices and preferences.
In order to ensure that the personalization of learning experiences is fulfilled, all students will have an Advisory period build into their schedule. Their advisory teacher, in essence, becomes their guidance counselor and s/he is responsible for overseeing each student’s education plan. Each advisory teacher will have a cohort of students whom they will remain with throughout their 9th- 12th grade years through graduation. The advisory period will be used to address school culture, growth mindset, restorative practices and individual needs (academic, social, emotional and physical), as well as digital citizenship. Community Circles (class meetings) will be held on a daily basis to address these areas in an intentional manner with the flexibility to address issues as they might arise. Teachers will be professionally developed and supported so that they feel confident in their abilities to facilitate the Advisory period and students will know that they have a space in the day and a Charter School adult who will tend to their needs.
Structured learning experiences are critical to the implementation of our new media arts career pathways in 3D game design, music production, leveled design/architecture and computer science. AMA will provide experiential, supervised, and in-depth learning experiences designed to offer students the opportunity to explore career interest and possibilities, clarify their career goals, develop employable skills, and through community-based assignments, prepare for the transition between school and employment or further education and training.
To create this, every student will be introduced to the foundations of each potential career pathway as ninth grade students through an elective wheel (12 weeks of instruction in each of the three pathways) for one class period each day. In tenth grade, each student will select an area of concentration to continue through grade 11, where job-shadowing and mentorships will also occur. This specialized instruction and activities will also occur during one period block of the day for tenth and eleventh grade students. Finally, in grade 12, students will participate in a capstone course and community-based learning through internships, virtual apprenticeships and certification programs. The daily schedule provided later in this document provides a clearer illustration of the SLEs. This class period will be part of the students’ schedule and will not impact the necessary instructional time for A-G classes
In addition to our career pathways, students will engage in rigorous academic learning through the structure of the Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards and the CTE.