Enter the Sedona Charter School Middle School classroom and you will find an environment created and run by vibrant, engaged teenagers taking full agency in their education and surroundings. You may step into a debate about current political issues, a group building a roller coaster during a study of physics, or an organization session of the next visit with our elderly friends in a nearby assisted living facility.
Our garden may be in some stage of growth, planting or harvesting. We may be learning a Tanzanian polyrhythmic song for a study of African cultures, or discussing ideas from Lord of the Flies. These 7th and 8th graders utilize a bright spacious classroom filled with tools, supplies and resources to learn, create and grow as humans.
Our middle school day begins with movement…a walk together, some stretching or a trip to the playground. We then come together for a community meeting run by the students, where we share ideas and set up our day.
Each day students engage in short lessons in English Language Arts, Math, Science and Humanities, then have long periods of uninterrupted work time to complete assignments and projects. Some students take strings lessons and play in the school’s orchestra. Others take part in theater classes and perform on stage while others engage in diverse visual art classes.
Each project and most assignments are embedded with choices for students to make according to their interests and desires. There are many opportunities to work in groups as well as work individually. Teachers are careful to create opportunities that match their students’ interests while assuring that they receive a great amount of individual attention to academic growth and skill development.
Sedona Charter School is committed to protection and care of nature, and to education about environmental issues. Students have experiences with nature, agriculture and animals through our classroom garden, regular educational hikes in the beautiful and abundant red rock trails and regular inservices by local environmental experts. We have strong conservation practices in the classroom that include recycling and composting. We are mindful of our choices of materials and how we use and handle them.
We travel into the community often to both share with and learn from those around us. For example, during one quarter, we established a lovely relationship with elderly friends in a local assisted living facility, we visited the recycling center where some students volunteer, we recently went to the Musical Instrument Museum to learn more about our chosen land of study, Africa, and we visited a reptile sanctuary and released our classroom turtles into one of their ponds to give them a freer life than they had in our tank. These experiences and more keep students active and engaged with the real world around them, giving them a stronger sense of the happenings and possibilities of life outside of the classroom.
Everyone in our community learns how to be a responsible community member. We all have expectations of kind behavior, inclusion and support of each other. This naturally happens through the tone set by the staff, the many deep discussions that happen throughout the year as issues arise, and through reading, watching and observing kindness in action. We acknowledge that people want to be treated well, and our classroom is a strong example of how to work toward that safe and inspiring place. We practice kindness to others outside our classroom as well, through visits with younger students, field trips and thoughtful activities done for others.