Almond Acres Charter Academy Breaks Ground in Paso Robles

North Coast Engineering recently featured the Almond Acres school construction project in Paso Robles on their blog.

February 10, 2021 – North Coast Engineering was selected to be part of the design-build team by Canyon Building and Design, LLC to prepare the Civil design for the Almond Acres Charter Academy project. The scope included:

  • Grading and drainage design that meets post construction stormwater control requirements from California’s RWQCB,
  • Utility design including a sewer lift station design
  • Frontage improvements including accessible curb ramp design
  • SWPPP development

NCE continues working on the project by assisting with construction administration and construction staking for the construction Contractor, Spurr Co.

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a tuition-free K-8, public school that has been known on the Central Coast since 2012. The school is currently located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. The construction of the new campus takes place on Niblick Road just west of Creston Road. The 32,000 square foot building will serve to support Almond Acres’ unique educational experience and add more functionality to the learning environment.

Via North Coast Engineering

Hands On! Minds On! Project-based Learning at AACA

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.

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a key component of our instructional program. We integrate PBS across all subject areas and in all grades whenever possible. Our PBL enriches student knowledge by utilizing themes, unit-based queries and a variety of hands-on methods. Our innovative PBL efforts also enhance community connections via field trips, guest speakers, and our highly rewarding service-based projects. Our project-based learning is always driven by a question.

project based learning trip

Service and project-based learning is a creative outlet for our students that also encourages partnerships with our broader community.  Last year we had 43 different  

businesses, both for profit and nonprofit, work with our school!  Here are a few examples: 

Our kindergartners visit Annette Lodge, and learn how to listen to stories, and learn how to tell stories.  Both generations tell stories and listen to stories. For our kinders, the PBL question here was, why are stories important

Another class, our third graders, spent time caring for the beach as they sought to answer the question, how can I be a steward of the ocean?  First they learned about the importance of waste — and what happens to it, how it can end up in our oceans. And they learned about caring for the wild animals who call the beach and oceans home. We were visited by experts from SLO County Integrated Waste Management Authority for this PBL experience. 

project based learning trip

Our third grade class displays their science project in the Paso Robles City Library  

and in Studios in the Park. They are excited to showcase their artwork and also support and serve our community by providing a beautiful 3D mural to different locations in town.

Our eighth graders enjoy PBL in several different spaces. Previously, they focused on entrepreneurship. They took a tour around Paso Robles City Park and visited about a dozen different businesses.   We asked what does it mean to be an entrepreneur,  

and how do you start your own business? Our eight graders met with different businesses, and practiced being interviewed by each other, too. Says our Executive Director, Bob Bourgault, “It was a beautiful dialogue to help kids understand the power of inspiration; to start a business or engage in entrepreneurial efforts.” 

Allegretto Hotel chapel

This year, our eighth grade students visited the Allegretto Hotel to understand the wide array of art on display here. Our middle school class will create an art piece for our new school’s atrium, and this visit was the first step to answering the question, how does art live on? 

For our fourth grade class the question was, what best tells the story of the California missions?  Instead of just researching a mission project in a traditional method, our AACA students investigate an artifact from the mission. It might be a stone, or a bell, or a cross. It might be a gravestone or a well. Our students research and share what they’ve learned about this particular object that represents life in the California mission. 

project based learning trip

Project-based learning is meaningful. It involves making decisions, solving problems, and interacting in or with something or someone that’s real. It’s always engaging and provides a longer-lasting impact on the students. We love PBL at AACA! 

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!

How Does Art Live On? 8th Grade Class Gift

The eighth grade class at Almond Acres is currently posing the question, “How does art live on?”  Throughout this project-based learning unit, the students have researched artists and their artwork to uncover the impact art has on our society and our souls.

Using a project-based learning model during this educational unit is more meaningful for students.  They have incorporated science, history, art, literature, English language, technology, and math while attempting to answer the core question.  

To help answer the question, “How does art live on?” students and their families toured the Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles.  This beautiful retreat hotel was designed with art as a focal point.  The tour was led by the site designer, Doug Ayers.  

Allegretto Hotel chairs

Every detail of the resort was constructed with the idea of bringing harmony to visitors.  The students saw collections from all over the world, with different mediums, from different eras.  From lighting fixtures to paintings, furniture, chapels, monoliths, sculptures, and water features, every piece had a story and a purpose.

We asked Charlotte Reid, Middle School ELA teacher at Almond Acres Charter Academy to share with us her insights as to what the eighth graders are creating and why — for the new AACA school in Paso Robles, opening in fall 2021. 

1. Why did you tour the Allegretto Hotel? Where did you focus your time and attention on the hotel grounds?
“Mr. B set up the tours with the owner, Doug Ayers, when he heard about our Art Unit in 8th grade. Doug Ayers has spent years traveling the world and visiting sacred places. He has also studied many different traditions of architecture and decorating, which he has used to create an aesthetically pleasing and peaceful resort. Much of the artistic pieces come from around the world (such as doors from India and a carved statue in the chapel), from the earth (many crystals and a giant slice of a redwood), and even local artists. He showed us the massive chandelier in the entry which he had commissioned – it represents the energy patterns/centers in and around the human body (also called chakras). We saw the beautiful chapel he designed to allow the sun to fall through specific windows during the solstices. The walls are specially made from ground marble or quartz which is mixed into a plaster – it is similar to plastering found in Italy and has a shimmer to it that is quite lovely. He has created several labyrinths for meditation. He has the first audio labyrinth which has different harmonious sounds that help balance energy during the walk through the labyrinth. Every small detail of this resort was intentionally created by Doug Ayers.”

Allegretto Hotel labyrinth

2. What is the goal of this family art tour? How did this time inform the 8th graders’ group project?
Originally, we would have gone on a field trip into Paso where we would have visited art around town and the art studios where students could talk with the artists themselves. However, because of Covid, we had to come up with an alternative. Mr. B arranged an art tour for families to attend that would give them some insight into different types of art, architecture, and design. Students have been researching different artists, art movements, and art forms as part of their unit which asks the question: “Does art enhance our lives?” For this unit, students will be developing a personal mission statement and then creating a piece of art which embodies this mission statement. 

Students will also use the information they have researched and learned from the Allegretto tour to create/develop a group piece of art for the new school. This will be part of their graduation/promotion from 8th grade.”

Kenichi Parkhurst, an Almond Acres 8th grader on the trip added, “It was really cool to see such a large collection and variety of art in one place. The pieces fit together so well that it was like looking at one big collage.”

3. What are the 8th graders going to build/create for the new PR school building? Can that be revealed at this time?Students have not started to design the art piece for the new school site. However, it will be in the new courtyard. “ 

Allegretto Hotel chapel

4. What else should we know about this fantastic undertaking by the ‘big kids” of AACA?
This will be their contribution to the new school as the first students who started at AACA in kindergarten and are graduating from 8th grade.” 

Because Almond Acres Charter Academy knows that learning is most impactful when creativity is involved, the eighth-grade class will use the knowledge they acquired while touring the Allegretto for an amazing project!  As their gift to future Almond Acres families, the students are helping design the atrium at the new school site in Paso Robles.  This beautiful expression of art will consist of many different features, providing a warm welcome to all who enter the school. Find out more about Almond Acres Charter Academy today! 

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!

New Almond Acres facility in Paso Robles under construction

Almond Acres Charter Academy, a tuition-free K-8 charter school, is currently offering open enrollment through March 15 as the school undergoes construction of its new 32,000 square foot facility, located at 1145 Niblick Road in Paso Robles, at the site of a former church facility.

Almond Acres has been teaching students in San Luis Obispo County at its original San Miguel location since 2012. The school will mark its 10-year anniversary this fall at its new Paso Robles location.

The new school is being built with an emphasis on “functionality to support Almond Acres’ educational model of educating the whole child,” a news release from the school says. In conceptualizing the design of the new school space, Bob Bourgault, director of Almond Acres, referenced studies showing that academic achievement thrives when teachers collaborate.

“We are extremely motivated to provide a learning environment that incites in our students a passion and desire to learn, and empowers them to be the very best version of themselves,” said Bourgault. “We are confident that our new school will provide the perfect venue for nurturing project-based learning, service learning, and meaningful educational experiences. These are the keys to unlocking outstanding learning and student success.”

Artist rendering of Almond Acres Charter Academy

The physical focus of the school building “emphasizes dynamic space usage to support teacher collaboration.” The design of the school’s classrooms will allow teachers to freely access classrooms, from one to the other, and interspersed group meeting rooms will allow up to four teachers to easily collaborate ad hoc or in scheduled meetings.

Special education services will also be seamless in the new building. This will result in special education students spending less time away from core class environments, eliminating any stigma with leaving class.

Almond Acres’ new internal courtyard opens skyward and includes fountains and natural elements. The multipurpose room serves varied needs, including a gymnasium for athletics and an internal collapsible wall allowing both spaces (the gym and central courtyard) to hold 500-800 people for events. Surrounding the gym is an atrium and hallway to buffer sound. Designing the gym to be inside the core of the building will also keep all K-8 children safe.

The intentional design layout for Almond Acres’ classrooms and where they are located within the school aligns with grade level and developmental milestones. The kindergarten and first grade classrooms are the largest, allowing plenty of room for young children to move. Classrooms for grades 2-3 and 4-5 will be located side-by-side, respectively, with shared collapsible classroom walls to integrate subject areas and share teacher expertise and passions.

Almond Acres’ middle school is housed in two wings at the front of the new school building. One wing will focus on the humanities – language arts and social sciences – and will include a college library-inspired space. The other middle school wing is for STEM and STEAM classes (science and art) and includes a creativity lab.

Outside of the school structure, the Almond Acres playground is lower than building-level which creates a natural amphitheater. The fields are completely ADA compatible and boast access on all sides. The entire school is circled by a drop off lane for easy pickup and drop off; though external classroom doors can only be opened from the inside. This design video showcases Almond Acres’ design, and this video provided by DLW Architects also illustrates the perimeter of the building along with outdoor spaces within the structure.

“It’s so exciting, and symbolic, that the groundbreaking and construction of our new school coincides with our open enrollment period,” said Ed Surber, Almond Acres board member. “The buzz and excitement is palpable and seeing the surge of interest in Almond Acres is proof that we are doing what’s right for our community. If anyone is considering joining the Almond Acres family, now is the best time!”

“At Almond Acres Charter Academy, student learning informs everything we do,” added Bourgault. “We even toured the nearby Allegretto Hotel with our 8th graders for inspiration on how to incorporate art into our building. They’re tasked with creating and designing our entry atrium welcoming one and all to our 21st century school designed with student learning front of mind.”

For more about Almond Acres Charter Academy and the new building in Paso Robles, opening for the 2021-2022 school year, call (805) 467-2095.

Via Paso Robles Daily News

Get to Know Mr. B!

Our Executive Director, Bob Bourgault, is fondly known by our AACA students as Mr. B. His mission is to help every learner discover the best version of themselves. Mr. B shares his gifts with the Almond Acres community — especially its students — in hopes that the children will share their best version of themselves right back to the family and community in which they live.. 

man in cowboy hat

Mr. B feels that when children believe in themselves they have confidence. This confidence translates into students being their most happy and successful selves. Students who are confident can recognize the beauty in almost anything — even old pieces of wood (another passion of Mr. B’s). Mr. B feels very strongly about the importance of kids being who they are. 

“Almond Acres Charter Academy is designed and dedicated to the true meaning of education. The word ‘educate’ originates from the Latin word ‘educare’ which means to nurture and draw out the learner, not to fill him/her up.  We help students become the very best version of themselves by inciting a passion and desire to learn. Project-based learning, service learning, and meaningful educational experiences within our community are the keys to unlocking outstanding learning and student success.”

Bob Bourgault

Another word Mr. B uses to describe students and their best selves is efficacy. When kids believe in who they are — they have the power and confidence to have a positive impact on their own life and the lives of others. 

school lunchtime

As for parents, the role of educating and influencing young minds is always in use. Parents are coaches, motivators, teachers and support systems for their children. In fact, the word educate and parent come from the same Latin root word…educare. It means to draw out, to nurture. Not to push in or fill up. 

Almond Acres parents are among Mr. B’s biggest fans 

“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 believed 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 encourage 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.”

“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.”

girls volleyball team

Our AACA student alums also found guidance from Mr. B to be truly inspiring. When asked what, as a middle schooler, they found most rewarding about their time at Almond Acres we received replies like: 

“All the leadership talks with Mr. B. “

“You will find yourself and make friends that last a lifetime.”

“AACA is a great place to slow down and learn about yourself. There are lots of day-to-day skills you learn that even adults have trouble with.” 

Mr. B helps Almond Acres students focus on the cooperative, not the competitive. Top down, every faculty member and administrative staffer helps each individual child recognize simple principles that help them maintain who they are. Mr. B has a genuine desire to help, and alongside his team, Mr. B honors kids for who they are

kids in space costumes

“The recipe to growing great kids is simple.  First, we affirm.  The strengths and struggles of each student are unique to them.  We acknowledge and recognize this in each learner.  Secondly, we stretch.  We guide students through the process of identifying opportunities for growth and set goals that are S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, assignable, relevant, and time-based).  Finally, we celebrate the awakening of creativityStudent achievements are regularly commemorated during our daily Shared Start assembly.”

Find out more about Almond Acres Charter Academy today! 

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!