The curriculum is student-centered and allows for student voice and choice. It is structured to provide multiple exposures to content, using direct instruction, group learning, small group study, and individual work. Students may be involved in planning the projects, as well as assessing their success in reaching goals. This authentic involvement empowers students to become proactive about their learning; students bring their personal interests and curiosity into the development of their final products or performances. This allows them to use what they’ve learned in a way that provides a deeper understanding of curriculum content.
BVA thematic units may incorporate project-based learning, demonstrations, simulations, and/or community connections. The project part may use multiple approaches: inquiry-based, wherein students work to answer their own questions about a topic; problem-based, they work to solve a problem presented by the teacher; or service-based, wherein students work to help our community while showing understanding of the topic covered. However, the scope and format of a project is always designed to match the learning needs and developmental abilities of the students. BVA hires highly qualified teachers with grade-level expertise and an understanding of their age group’s developmental learning needs. Thematic units provide a sound learning environment wherein multiple teaching approaches can be employed, providing additional support for at-risk students and English language learners. See Thematic Units for School Year 2017-2018.
One of the Academy’s core commitments is to provide community-focused learning opportunities that are student-focused and encourage the study of student-identified questions and issues. Units and projects are planned to have relevance to students’ lives, drawing in or reaching out to community partners and local experts who provide a context for their questions and learning. Research clearly demonstrates that learning which uses the school’s community as its context results in significantly higher standardized test scores when compared to traditional approaches which use projects and field trips as mere accessories to a text-based curriculum.