Over the 10 years we’ve been teaching at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), we’ve learned a few things about helping middle schoolers thrive. Things like when to push and when to give space; how to be silly but not embarrassing (middle schoolers hate that); and how to help kids make healthy decisions, like not to vape.
Vaping may be trending nationwide, but not at Almond Acres. We are proud to say we have a 100% vape-free campus. There are a lot of components to helping middle school students buck this trend. Here’s how we do it:
Structured and Joyful Middle School
We know that engaged kids are often responsible kids who don’t want to get involved with drugs and alcohol. Almond Acres middle school is designed, both in philosophy and community, to keep students active, social, and engaged.
Our project-based learning gives middle school students control over the direction of their education. When students know the WHY, they become more deeply invested in learning. Inquiry projects allow our students to design the outcome and make an impact.
Accountability is at the core of our teachings. As leaders within our K-8 school, Almond Acres middle school students take a leadership pledge. Students have an awareness of the consequences for not showing up as the best version of themselves and they don’t want to test those boundaries. This sense of control over their lives helps them rise to the high expectations we set.
With so many options for extracurricular activities like performing arts, after-school programs and community service, AACA students don’t have a lot of extra free time to make poor choices. Our robust athletics program offers everything from competitive teams to intramurals and club sports, providing an outlet for social interaction, team-building skills, and risk-taking in a safe environment. When a trophy or a PR is on the line, it’s easy to see how vaping could derail your goals.
Embedded in our curriculum is health education that includes research-based information from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. We know that knowledge is powerful when it comes to helping our students make decisions that impact their lives. By providing students with the facts about the harmful effects of drugs on growing bodies and minds, they can make choices that will keep them on their path to a bright future.
Close Knit Community
When middle school students know they are cared for and valued for who they are, they respond in kind. Our strong community keeps our students connected within safe boundaries. And frequent communication with families makes sure there are no gaps between what occurs at school and what parents are aware of.
Almond Acres teachers and staff care for each student who walks through our doors and our small school ensures that everyone is known by name. Teachers know that relationships built on trust and respect are the most important part of helping young minds grow.
Our school-wide buddy program, which helps bridge the lower school and middle school, builds positive interactions between older and younger children. Our middle school students are well aware of their influence on younger kids and they truly desire to set a good example and be a role model.
Begin With the End in Mind
As part of AACA’s leadership curriculum, we practice using the 7 Habits of Mind to support social and emotional well-being. A student favorite is “Begin with the end in mind,” meaning to identify your goals and dreams and then make a plan to get there. Our students spend time envisioning their dreams and future and our school community supports their path to those goals. We talk about obstacles that may get in the path of their dreams, like vaping, and how to safely get around such challenges. Education is what helps us grow strong minds and strong hearts.
We invite you and your middle schooler to join us at Almond Acres and see the positive impact a holistic, child-centered education can have on your future. Enrollment for Fall 2022 is open now!
Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!