The Truxton Academy Charter School’s educational philosophy is a combination of Essentialism, Experiential Education, and Constructivism. Essentialism is the traditional approach in which children learn the basic content and practice reading, writing, math, science, and social studies skills. Experiential Education combines active learning with concrete experiences and reflection. John Dewey, the Modern Father of Experiential Education, believed that learning occurs through experience and requires hands-on activities that directly relate to the learner’s life. “All learning is dependent on the context of place, time, and circumstance. Teaching methods focus on hands-on activities and projects with students often working in groups.” Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky and other educators advocate Constructivism. Students are given problems to solve and responsibility within their zones of proximal development. Projects are inspired by student interest and local resources. Using scaffolding and other specific teaching techniques, teachers guide students’ educational growth within a strong framework of support.
These three educational philosophies informed the design of TACS’s Educational Plan. Essentialism supports TACS’s core knowledge curriculum with high academic and assessment standards. Experiential Education and Constructivism support the inclusion of Project-Based Learning, STEM, and the Rural Life Lab in TACS’s approach to teaching and learning. TACS’s Education Plan incorporates: place (living in a rural area), time (young children’s early years when natural curiosity is most evident) and circumstance (having multiple readily available resources to develop and satisfy this curiosity). TACS’s philosophy and educational plan support our unique mission to plant a strong foundation for future academic success. Our goal is to “grow” confident, productive, intelligent, caring students into responsible, successful adults.
“Rural schools fill an integral role as centers of the community and as a bridge for youth to connect with the broader society in fulfilling their dreams and ambition”. (Rural Vision Initiative, Fall 2006, p. 9)
Truxton Academy Charter School (TACS) will be located in Truxton, New York, a small rural town surrounded by farms and forest lands. Families, community members, and local business owners have expressed a need for a better education that is local, affordable, and unique, to better the future of our children and our rural community.
We will meet these needs by establishing a charter school that will actively engage students in meaningful hands-on projects where they will apply new knowledge and approach learning with excitement. Students will develop a sense of inquiry and self-confidence that promotes high academic achievement and lifelong learning. Incorporating positive aspects of two successful charter school models, Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center located in Walton, Kansas; and Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School in Syracuse, New York;
TACS will construct a STEM focused project-based curriculum involving the local agricultural community. Our innovative Rural Life Lab will be a unique, alternative classroom setting. In addition, a Second Language Immersion program will be introduced starting at the kindergarten level with support from the Hopkins School District in Minnesota.
Truxton Academy Charter School staff and volunteers will create an active and engaging place-based experience for elementary children taking full advantage of our rural upstate New York setting. Our School will anchor its instruction in the principles of Project-Based Learning (PBL) providing students with opportunities for in-depth, authentic hands-on research. Studies indicate that PBL builds deeper and more retained knowledge, problem-solving abilities, team collaboration skills, and higher-level thinking skills (Condliffe et al., 2015; Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009; Walker & Leary, 2009). The PBL-based curriculum will be aligned to meet the NYS Common Core Learning Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Social studies, fine arts, health and fitness activities will be seamlessly integrated into mathematics, science, and language arts curricula. Although a PBL focused High School (Seven Valleys New Tech Academy) will be opening in the area in the fall of 2016, PBL is only occasionally used in area school districts.
Environmental and Agriculture Focus:
The Rural Life Lab will provide students, teachers, and community volunteers the opportunity to integrate technology, agriculture, and environmental education into core academics. Our 5-year plan includes development of a greenhouse, chicken coop, animal barn and garden for students to practice skills and engage in hands-on projects. Each classroom will be responsible for part of the care and maintenance of our Rural Life Lab and will be partnered with an area agri-business. Students will benefit from this partnership through field trips, observations, guidance, and support in learning to understand and respect the value and rigor of farm family life. Second Language Immersion: Introducing a second language for our students (Common Core ELA Anchor Standards) and the evidence of success when introduced early in a child's education (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages - ACTFL), TACS will provide Spanish language instruction. This will assist the children in communicating with locally employed spanish speaking farm families and globally with many of the nations of our Western Hemisphere. The surrounding school districts do not currently offer language immersion programs at the elementary level.
Structures to Support School Culture:
Students will have opportunities to work and play in heterogeneous age and ability groups as they learn to respect and support one another’s skills and differences, needs and backgrounds. Flexible grouping (Proehl, Douglas, et al. 2013) (Harding, 2015) of students and after-school student clubs will be supported by school staff and community volunteers. TACS plans to involve parents, families and the community through regular family programs and activities for the purpose of sharing and supporting student presentations, culminating learning activities, civic engagement. Our programs will be augmented with frequent field trips to local businesses and colleges.
Students and teachers will work closely with higher education and professional advisors. The TACS Board has connected with faculty members from Syracuse University, SUNY Cortland, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Trinity Valley Dairy, New Penn Farm, Reakes’ Country Goods and Twin Oaks Dairy are a few of the local businesses committed to partnering with TACS, sharing resources and expertise. These colleges and businesses will be integral to expanding and enriching a meaningful place-based curriculum.
Rural community and culture is important to the Truxton Academy Charter School. Students who are educated in safe, structured environments that improve social-emotional competencies, do better academically (Bailey, 2015). School staff will receive training in Conscious Discipline (Bailey, 2015), a skill-based program to help educators, parents, and children resolve conflicts, achieve self-regulation, and build respectful relationships. Using Conscious Discipline (Bailey, 2015) skills, staff, parents, and students will work together to create a School Family that values positive character traits including honesty, kindness, and courage.
Instrumental and choral music, a variety of artistic opportunities and health and fitness activities will be provided for TACS students. Studies of these areas suggest that arts and physical education have favorable associations with students’ cognitive skills, attitudes and their academic achievement (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010; President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, 2015).
Truxton Academy Charter School will offer an elective extended school day. This elongated school day will be available for students of all academic need. Enrichment opportunities will include after-school tutoring, social, academic, and sports clubs as well as additional time in our Rural Life Lab. Truxton Academy Charter School will also extend our school year, through additional days for orientation and optional summer learning programs. The research on the benefits of afterschool and summer learning programs shows that “those students who regularly attend well-structured after-school and/or summer learning programs demonstrate higher rates of attendance in school, have fewer discipline referrals, are more prepared for the academic rigors of school, and demonstrate increased achievement in core academic areas such as mathematics, science, reading, and language arts” (Pray , 2011, p. 2).
Truxton Academy Charter School will create an elementary school of excellence and choice and provide New York State with an
innovative and successful pilot charter school for rural communities.
ACTFL, (2015). Alignment of the National Standards for Learning Languages with the Common Core State Standards. www/actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/Aligning_CCSS_Language_Standards_V6.pdf
Bailey, B. A., (2015). Conscious Discipline:Building Resilient Classrooms. Loving Guidance, Inc. Oviedo. FL. 328 pp.
Bailey, B. A., (2011). Creating the School Family. Loving Guidance, Inc., Oviedo,FL. 352 pp.
Cade. J.M. (1997). The foreign language immersion program in the Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools, 1986-1996 (Abstract) Dissertation Abstracts International-A 58(10), 3838
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). The association between school based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (2015.) Turnaround arts initiative final evaluation report. Washington, DC: Author. Available: http://pcah.gov/sites/default/files/Turnaround%20Arts_Full%20Report_Single%20Page%20Spread_Low%20Resolution.pdf.
Condliffe, B., Visher, M. G., Bangser, M. R., Drohojowska, S., & Saco, L. (2015). Project-Based Learning: A Literature Review. MDRC. Available at: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/ler/MDRC+PBL+Literature+Review.pdf
New York State Education Department (NYSED). (2014) 2014-15 school report card. Available: http://data.nysed.gov/enrollment.php?year=2015&instid=800000053609
Rural Vision Initiative (Fall 2006). A vision for rural New York. Available: https://www.nysenate.gov/sites/default/files/articles/attachments/ruralVision06lowRes.pdf
Pray, L. (2011), Big views forward: A compendium on expanded learning. Expanded Learning and Afterschool Project. Available:http://www.expandinglearning.org/docs/Pray_Final.pdf.
Strobel, J., & van Barneveld, A. (2009). When is PBL more effective? A meta-synthesis of meta-analyses comparing PBL to conventional classrooms. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 3(1)
Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School (2015). SUNY Charter School Proposal, Information Booklets, Syracuse, New York
Walker, A. & Leary, H. (2009). A problem-based learning meta analysis: Differences across problem types, implementation types, disciplines, and assessment levels. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 3(1): 12-43.
Walton 21st Century Rural Life Learning Center, (2007). Petition to Establish a Charter School. USD 373, Newton Public Schools, Walton, Kansas.