Our Culture of Learning: Empowering Students to Take the Wheel

“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

Dr. Maria Montessori
An Almond Acres Charter Academy student takes a huge leap into a sand pit

Just as parents know that each of their children is unique, we, too, know that each child that walks through the doors of Almond Acres Charter Academy is endowed with their own set of talents, skills, and dispositions. We believe the first step to learning is to honor and understand the individuality of each student: we affirm their strengths and struggles so that we can then stretch and grow them into the best version of themselves. 

A student who takes ownership of their learning is motivated, engaged, and self-directed. Is there a more perfect description of our AACA students? Our talented teachers know that learning isn’t imposed upon the unwilling, which is why we provide the opportunities and support for learning to flourish while assuring our students of their capacity to achieve. Here’s how we intentionally design our curriculum to create a learning environment that develops the heart, mind, body, and soul. 
From the start of our K-8 school, we put learning in the hands of our students through authentic project-based learning that is both meaningful and creative. Cultivating future leaders is also an essential part of growing great kids. Our students develop leadership skills based on Stephen Covey’s popular work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

We foster academic achievement by:

  • Hiring fully credentialed CLAD or BCLAD certified teachers
  • Adopting research-proven instructional strategies
  • Incorporating 21st century learning technologies in every classroom
  • Adhering to current state standards in all subject areas
  • Using service and project based learning units of study 
  • Wearing school uniforms to promote harmony among peers
  • Participating in California state mandated tests  
  • Supporting classrooms with paraeducators
  • Providing more one-on-one instruction
  • Integrating physical movement, visual and performing arts, and music to enhance learning

Destination Imagination Enrichment Program

Many of our students also participate in Destination Imagination, a competitive, international STEAM based after-school enrichment program.  Many of our teams have made it to the State Finals, and one team has attended the Global Finals! We are proud to offer Destination Imagination programs that are unique to North County schools.

Four Almond Acres Charter Academy students have the opportunity to touch a snake with the help of a community adult

We believe all children can learn and succeed

At the core of Almond Acres Charter Academy is the belief that all children have the inherent ability to learn and succeed. We help our K-8 students identify their individual learning styles and their innate intelligences, while providing settings in which they are most capable to excel. Our school is proud to offer Personalized Learning Portfolios (PLP) for every student, small class sizes in a small school environment, flexible spending, contemporary technologies, and a high level of family and community interaction.

We believe that a love of learning comes naturally in an environment that focuses on empowering students to be active participants in their own education. Join us and help your child grow into his or her best self!

About AACA

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. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. 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! 

A Simple Mission: Children First

At the heart of our small, intentionally built school is one clear goal: nurture the whole child, heart, mind, body, and soul. The simplicity of our mission makes decision-making easy. We put children at the forefront of our planning for all parts of our day from curriculum to our environment (including our new school building) to how we spend our time together. 

Almond Acres Charter Academy young student stands next to a magnetic board with the words heart, mind, body, and soul spelled out

Putting our values and priorities first in our lives lets us live the life we wish for. This is true for education and school-settings, too. This paradigm shift — to focusing on the individual and whole child — is needed in public education right now. We want every person to be thinking about each child – how to dignify them – before the academic and assessment goals. 

Here are some example of how we grow great kids, according to parents, AACA teachers and other care-giving grown-ups: 

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“ There are two things that stand out to me about AACA that makes them different from traditional education. First, they emphasize the importance of growing great kids that eventually turn into great citizens. One of the ways they do this is to teach them how to problem solve by finding the next right thing they can do. 

Mr B. shared a story with me of a former student who observed her AACA classmates walking away from a fight at the high school. He knew they made that good choice because they had the philosophies of finding the next right thing ingrained in them. 

The second thing they do that is different from traditional education is they find how each student is smart and encourages them in that direction. That is an out-of-the-box way to think about education and I know my son will benefit from his teachers working with him in that way.”

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“As an educator, I admired AACA’s educational philosophy of teaching the whole child. The staff truly believes that all students can learn and everyone is great at something. They build their curriculum and instruction around each child’s learning modalities as well as providing the rigor and content required for students. 

One of the things that sets AACA apart from other public schools is their instruction on the different intelligences: Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. Students, parents and staff get to know the best ways they learn and process information through these 4 intelligences. Students learn to advocate for themselves by knowing how they best learn, teachers and staff can create lessons and activities to challenge students in these areas and push them to learn and develop in other areas.”

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“My daughter, who will be in 2nd grade, started kindergarten at AACA after a year of kindergarten at a different school. Because of her genetic disorder, and being nonverbal she was made to feel different than the other students, didn’t connect with the staff or her peers, and developed major behavioral issues. As soon as she started over in kindergarten at AACA, everything changed. 

From the first day she stepped on campus she was made to feel a part of the school and her peers. After two years, and two of the most amazing teachers, she has friends, is learning and reading and truly loves school. The dedication, hard work and passion from the general education teachers, special education teacher, her aide and the school as a whole has created an environment that makes her feel included, smart, important and loved. 

She walks down the hallway and everyone says hi, students know her by name, not the girl who can’t talk. The idea that everyone is smart in their own way, and that you don’t have to do something one way for it to be right is a key component to AACA’s philosophy, and a reason that everyone in San Luis Obispo County should be honored to have this school within the county.”

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“Our youngest son at AACA needs an emphasis on social/emotional learning. AACA strongly emphasizes this learning from the top down. To share a personal example, when our son was struggling to control his emotions and impulses, we met with the administration to create a plan for his success. Right away we learned that he could take a break by flashing ANY staff member the “fist of five”. What does that mean? He can quickly and unobtrusively flash his emotional level on a scale of 1-5 over his heart and that will communicate to EVERY staff member that he needs a break because they are all trained in “fist of five” from the Principal to the Bus Driver! 

Our son has learned so much about his personal learning style and what makes him a unique learner and he can communicate that to EVERYONE at AACA because every year every student creates their kite; a visual representation of their individual strengths and weaknesses in heart, mind, body, and soul.

In short, AACA actively engages each child in their own learning process. AACA imbues a love of learning in their students. They are not just being taught how to succeed in the classroom but how to succeed in life and as members of their community.” 

Almond Acres Charter Academy teacher and student discuss work during a class conference

At AACA, we celebrate the differences that make every child unique. We inform our students how to self-identify the ways they learn best. We do not fit kids into molds. Every child is special and valuable. And this paradigm shift — when put into action and lived every day — both at home and at school — transforms how we parent and how we educate. 

In public schools today — 1/3 of kids thrive, 1/3 of kids survive, and 1/3 of kids take a dive. The kids who take a dive will find alternatives, so they can thrive. For example, they might go to a trade school. AACA wants to be a place for the kids who are just surviving at public school. These kids could thrive with AACA! 

AACA may be a fit for one of your children. Not every child in the family has to attend – some families have kids at multiple schools. We are here for one or all of the kids who want a different way to learn, a new approach.  At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we affirm the strengths and struggles of each learner, stretch their knowledge and skills, and celebrate their accomplishments, large and small.  We believe that a love of learning comes naturally in an environment that focuses on empowering students to be active participants in their own education. 

About Almond Acres:

Almond Acres is moving to Paso Robles. 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. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. 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!

Community Connection Spotlight: Echo Homeless Shelter

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a key component of our instructional program at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA). We integrate PBL as an articulated curriculum across all subject areas and in all grades. 

Our PBL enriches student knowledge by utilizing themes, unit-based queries and a variety of hands-on methods for every age and stage at our K-8 public charter school.  Starting with an essential question, our innovative PBL efforts, now led by Carrie Fiel,  also enhance community connections via field trips, guest speakers, and our highly rewarding service projects. One such community connection is with Echo Homeless Shelter. 

Almond Acres Charter Academy and example of a service project list about needs vs wants

Essential Questions

One essential question that informed this partnership was put to our first grade class, “How does knowing about the ABCs help others?” Together, we discussed the ABCs as words and books, and the impact of stories. And who tells stories? Sometimes our friends from Echo Homeless Shelter come to ACCA to share stories.

From there, we arranged for a scavenger hunt of what exists at a homeless shelter — do they have books? Or a TV? The minds of first graders are alive and curious! 

Almond Acres Charter Academy and students arriving at Echo Homeless Shelter

Once our students arrived at Echo Homeless Shelter and sourced what did and did not exist there, our students then interviewed the director to find out what else the residents could use. AACA students thought a book drive might help. Instead, what the shelter wanted was for students to come and read to the children residing there. In order to read to the children at the homeless shelter, we needed funds to buy books. 

Almond Acres Charter Academy and Valentine's Day flower sales

Empathy’s Role in Project-based Learning

Empathetic hearts and holistic views prevailed and the group decision was to sell flowers for Valentine’s Day and use those funds to purchase books for the homeless shelter residents, and enable our AACA students to go and read together. The flowers and supplies were curated by our AACA students, including a field trip to the Dollar Store. 

Almond Acres and field trip tol Dollar Store in support of community partnership with Echo Homeless Shelter

Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to learning. It encourages students to learn by getting hands-on and exploring content in a more interactive way. Our Almond Acres students acquire deeper, more meaningful knowledge by actively exploring real-world situations and challenges and imparting their ideas and wisdom to help solve or create a solution. We grow great kids! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating to Paso Robles. 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. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. 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!

Random Public DrawingThursday, March 25th at 6pm

Join us via Zoom for a random, public drawing to determine enrollment and waitlists for the 2021-2022 school year!