By: Ellie Laughinghouse, Tau Chapter
Monday, May 14, 2012
So I’m not going to lie, after a long day of traveling yesterday I was rather apprehensive when I was informed that we would be leaving our hotel for the day at 6:45am. I also thought Krista was loopy when she explained to us that Spark Students are in school from 7:15 am to 4:30 pm, six days a week! The whole concept seemed a bit extreme and a tad cruel to me. At least until we spent the day submerged in Spark Academy Culture…
Students or ‘Scholars’ at Spark Academy begin the day renewing their dedication to education. They sing and chant about what new information they can acquire during the day. Each song incorporates the different pillars of Spark in an interactive way! The school is currently servicing Kindergarten through Second grade with a Third Grade Curriculum to be introduced in the fall. Each grade level chants about being the high school class of 2022, 2023, and 2024. Going to college is not an option for Spark Scholars; it is an expectation!
Spark Academy does a wonderful job creating an environment that is conducive for active learning. Each of the vibrantly decorated classrooms is named after a certain college or university. The walls are painted in vibrant colors and have all types of fun facts, inspirational messages, and student work on display. They very much emphasize learning how to be successful in life. During classroom instruction, students are placed in scenarios where they must find a solution to the task before moving along. One would think that this would be frustrating, but that is not the case. Teachers are extremely patient and encouraging at all times. Positive reinforcement and positive punishment methods are used to correct misbehavior and lost focus instead of traditional methods.
Altogether, the classroom observation and tours were very much an eye-opening experience. To see how regular people can take under-performing kids and transform them in to scholarly individuals is phenomenal. I am very excited to work with my fellow corps members to help continue the work that Spark Academy is doing the Newark community!