Samueli Academy… Moving into the Future

There are only sixteen words in the following sentence from the Samueli academy website: “Samueli Academy offers educationally under-served communities a new choice for the high school education of teens”. If you visit the Samueli Academy you realize that those sixteen pack a powerful punch! How are they creating new choices for vulnerable youth? One example is the X Block; a time when all students are free to work on a project of their choice. Walk around campus and you see an array of learning styles unfolding. Over in a corner you’ll find students engrossed in a book enjoying some quiet time. Nearby, diverse packs of students armed with laptops gather around tables and there’s laughter, talking and work is definitely getting done. You get the sense that this is work they enjoy -work that that seems to matter. Walking down the hallways of the elegant and inspiring new academy building, you’ll observe students spread out on the floor or sprawled across the lounge seating. Move to one end of a hallway and you’ll hear the echo of student voices vibrating from under a stairwell where they’re practicing lines for their latest video production. .Continuing down the halls you are struck by the realization that “classrooms” look and feel more like workspaces in an innovative company like Google, Blizzard, Oakley, Space X. Observing students working independently and in teams as teachers move about asking questions, engaging in conversations you might find yourself thinking “so this is what creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication looks like”.

When the day ends what really strikes you is the look on students faces. They seem happy- not that sort of manic excitement that erupts when that final bell rings and students scramble to escape campus. No one seemed to be all that anxious to leave; you got the sense that for many, this was like home. What was the driving force behind this “New Choice”? The answer might reside in a set of core values that appear to be shared by everyone at the school:

• A learning environment that maximizes individual student attention
• A staff that cares about the “whole” student
• Work-based learning
• College Readiness
• State of the art technology for all students
• Project-based learning
• Exciting and fulfilling after-school programs

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