Fly Your Kite!

Bob Bourgault, Executive Director, at Almond Acres Charter Academy has invented a philosophical approach to raise the level of consciousness of self (and others) as we all journey on the quest to becoming the best version of ourselves. His model, used in all grades in AACA, is aimed at kids and for use in classroom and childhood environments, but also has specifics for teens and adults, and has been presented to businesses and organizations, too. 

The model is represented visually as a kite — with four quadrants and four colors, each representing a different aspect of our intelligences, temperament, personality and learning modalities. We are all a combination of learner and one who is learning. 

learning learner hands diagram

Bob believes every one of us is smart, beautiful, spiritual and talented. And this kite model helps us understand our unique abilities, learning styles, and existence —  even further. 

What is a kite? 

It is a simple system for children to categorize their innate disposition using colors, visuals, and words to help students recognize what kind of learner they are, and how they can use their unique set of intelligences to influence the world. While there are many personality tests for adults, such as Meyers Briggs or Enneagram, Bob’s system is unique because it is designed specifically for children, and adapted for teens and adults.

What are my strengths and struggles? 

Every school year each K-8 student at Almond Acres creates their kite: a visual representation of their individual strengths and struggles in heart, mind, body, and soul. These four unique sets of intelligences are represented by four quadrants and with four colors on each individual’s kite — red, blue, green and yellow. 

The question a child typically asks first is drawn from his/her personal temperament. There is a desire to seek answers that satisfy our inner curiosity. For example, a child with a strong blue kite has a dominant interpersonal intelligence and will likely be drawn to the ‘who’ question. A green kite thinks more intra-personally and asks why. The red thinker wants to know where and how because he/she is more hands-on and visually smart. The yellow kite considers logistics of a question and asks what and when. If we follow the natural questioning path that a child travels, we are likely to lead him/her straight to the correct answers.

It’s the difference between being given a toy car and given a model to build a toy car. And with this visual model — students can realize how smart they are because they understand HOW they are smart. It’s a paradigm shift. Students also create a class kite — to represent their group dynamic — and every AACA teacher shares their individual kite with the class as well. 

Asking questions like who, why, what and when or where and how helps to define an approach to thinking, creating and learning. Each of these questions represents two of the eight intelligences and the whole person:

Body: kinesthetic and visual/spatial
Mind: linguistic and logical
Soul: musical and intrapersonal
Heart: interpersonal and naturalist 

“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.”

At Almond Acres the kite is used in many ways including the school logo, uniform colors and on lunch tables. Kite cards, as they’re called, are round – to symbolize the whole person. AACA also believes we are all a whole person first. Once we affirm how everyone is strong — then every student and staffer can be stretched, and then celebrated as they grow, learn and fly! 

About AACA

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!

The Lowdown From Our Alums

Middle school is a bridge where students go from being big kids to teens. At some point, middle school challenges every kid  — academically, socially, hygienically. Biology has guaranteed that. So how does middle school impact this critical time of growth and development? What matters most — to achieve a satisfying middle school experience? How does a middle school prepare students for the rigors and demands of high school? And what is the right middle school for your child? 

We asked some ACCA middle school alums these questions and more. We figured, they’re as close to the experience as we are. Maybe even closer as they’re now in the throes of full-fledged teen life and high school. Read on for their reflections and sentiments — and maybe a little teenage cyber side eye. 

boys working on laptop

As a student, what did you enjoy about AACA?

Made some of my best friends ever!

I enjoyed the amount of one-on-one attention and education I received since the classes were so small. I felt like I could create deeper connections with my peers and teachers as well for the same reason. Despite what I thought while attending AACA, I found it beneficial in my older years to have thoroughly learned the Habits of Mind and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Small class sizes, everyone was friendly with each other.

The ability to work closely with the teachers and classmates. 

I liked how personable the environment was, everything was very collaborative.  Also, the play every year is what started me on the theater path and I am now in my second year as an Advanced Drama student.

All of my close friends at school. 

What did you find most rewarding during your time at AACA?

The connections I made. I found I was very comfortable talking to adults and having beneficial conversations and other kids clearly did not have those skills.

The field trips I got to take during my time at AACA are something I will cherish forever. During high school, depending on what classes you take, the field trips are minimal to none. I enjoyed every field trip I took at Almond Acres (even though the trips to the PAC were less than desirable, they’re fun to look back on). I got to experience different parts of SLO County and beyond that I would’ve never gotten the chance to by attending every field trip offered second through eighth grade. I appreciate the effort put into each one.

Learning how to do math —  it’s needed in the future. 

All the leadership talks with Mr. B. 

The friendships I made and being able to express myself.  

Opportunities to work on projects, such as painting the mural.

boys standing on a beach

What is one positive thing you would tell prospective students about AACA?

Almond Acres Charter Academy offers individualized learning for all learning styles and it’s an organization that focuses on doing what is kind rather than what’s right. The vision they have is unique and it’s apparent that they’re working on making it a reality each day. A safe environment is something you should expect when attending and the amount of support the staff provides is matched by no other. AACA does indeed grow great kids. 

AACA will give you opportunities to identify and use your own strengths to excel.

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

It was an amazing experience so don’t take it for granted! 

The teachers are super nice compared to high school. 

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.

Hearty thanks to these AACA middle school alums for sharing their feedback with us. Almond Acres gives 6th to 8th graders many opportunities to expand their sense of self — and to explore their place in this world. We love hearing directly from our students. If your family is seeking a middle school —  focused on the whole child — you have found it. We’re enrolling and we welcome your middle schooler to join our collective ensemble of great kids! 

About AACA

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!

Those Who Can… Lead!

Congratulations to our eighth graders who ran for student council president of Almond Acres Middle School! We are so impressed with your articulate speeches, your leadership skills and your dedication to your school. You all bring big ideas and enthusiasm to Almond Acres and we’re thrilled to showcase you even further. 

Below are the speeches and photos of each candidate for student body president of Almond Acres Charter Academy middle school. 

boy in blue shirt

Brandon McWilliams. 

Hi, my name is Brandon McWilliams, and I am one of five people in eighth grade this year that are running for Student Body President. 

When I was in 5th grade we had the same thing.  We had an eighth-grade student body president, and it really motivated me to become a leader and do things out of my comfort zone that I know that I can do, and to do the right thing. 

I have two years of leadership experience in the Leadership program through the school, and it’s really taught me to be fair, honest, kind, open to other people’s ideas, and organized.  I would use those same traits as Student Body President.   

One of my ideas is to have a Google Form or a virtual input box where students can type in problems or suggestions for middle school that they would like to change. So, this will allow students if they think they have too much work, they can fill out the form; and, the teachers, they aren’t looking through their email, looking for a certain email that a student sent them, they can just open up that Google form and they can see, “Oh, 75% think that there’s too much work.  Or, they would like to suggest this.”  We’ll know the majority, and we can go to the staff and change it so it’s more efficient.  So, that is one of my ideas to make Almond Acres Middle School more efficient. 

So, thank you for your time, and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend. 

Girl in denim shirt

Gracie Elliot 

Good morning, everybody.  My name is Gracie Elliot.  I am running for middle school president along with Hannah, Brandon, Troy, and Lucas.  I am really looking forward to possibly being your president.  I hope you are as well.   

As you know, the junior high president position will help make decisions for everyone’s benefit and work hard to make our middle school better.  My reasoning behind running for president is making sure you have a trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring representative you can all agree with. 

But I would also like to make this year fun for all of you. 

Speaking of fun, I would like to share my ideas on how to possibly make our distance learning or our upcoming hybrid experience a blast.  Especially for all the eighth graders that will be moving forward onto high school next year.  So, my first idea, which I know some of you agree on, is getting to interact with the younger students throughout the school.  We have done it before and I think we should be able to do it again. 

For instance, little buddies.  I do know that the sixth graders are doing something similar with Ms. Reid, but we could easily include all of middle school.  So, if I am elected to represent our middle school, I will happily work my hardest for us to have something like that again. 

Also, I do know, and you should too, that if I become the president I will try to encourage clubs, more interactive activities that won’t interfere with our schoolwork.  I also have ideas to include electives that will encourage students to do more with their education.  Imagine our school having virtual or COVID-safe music shows put on by our junior high.  And maybe even art shows, not just paintings, but small architectural structures, clothes, blueprints, crafts, designs, and much more put on by our very own junior high school elective system. 

We could have clubs, like debate teams, an art club, a bible study, made by us.  I have so many plans in mind, and the only way that all of this could happen is that I represent our middle school team with your help.  So, I proudly ask you to make the right decision and vote for Gracie as Middle School President. 

girl in green shirt

Hannah Bourgault

Hi, My name is Hannah Bourgault. I have been a student at AACA since it opened in 2012 when I started kindergarten. This is my third year being on the leadership team and I would like to be your middle school president and help us stay close while we are distant learning. 

You might be thinking,” Why do you want to be middle school president?” Well, I have an answer!  I want to be president because I’ve been at his school for more than 8 years and it’s done so much for me and I want to give back and give you more fun and enriching activities. 

And now you’re probably wondering why you should vote for me? Well, I have an answer for that one too! So as you already know, I want to make our school life more fun during this weird and tough time and I can only do this with your input. As your president, I will listen to your ideas and opinions. After I have your input, I will put your ideas into action. I will speak up and represent our middle school student body. 

I know how to be a leader, I am confident and respectful and I would be honored to serve as Almond Acres very first middle school president. My name is Hannah Bourgault and my mom and dad approve this message! 

boy in black shirt

Lucas Vertrees 

As many of you may already know, I am Lucas Vertrees, running for middle school president.  I am running because I  feel some things at school need to be changed, and I’m someone who can get things changed.   

Also, I think my personality fits the role because I’m not scared to speak up about things that need to be done, especially when it’s a teacher.  When a job needs to be done, I’m someone who can do that. 

If you elect me, I will strive to put more snacks of your choice into the Snack Shack, like maybe fruit snacks.  Whatever it is, you will be the one who decides. 

Another thing that I will set into motion is an electronic club that includes lots of soldering, 3D printing, and much more.  And in case you were wondering, “What’s soldering?”  It’s where you have this really hot pen and metal and you make circuit boards, and it’s pretty cool. 

And, finally, thank you all and have a nice day. 

Troy Dawson, Jr. 

Hi!  I’m Troy Dawson.  A lot of you might know me as T.J.  I’ve been to this school since I was in kindergarten in 2012. 

And as a candidate, I want to help my fellow students have a choice in what happens, and I want all of you to feel like you have a choice in what happens in your school experience.  I’m going to make your voice heard. 

I haven’t gotten much of a chance to talk to students about issues that affect us as a middle school, but one big issue I know about.  A vote for me is a vote for all.  One big issue is COVID-19.  How I want to fix COVID-19 is, I want to help students who don’t have WiFi, or students who would much rather have more hands-on work and activities by giving them more hands-on, physical work rather than online work in all subjects.  I want to create a sign-up sheet for physical work. 

A vote for me is a vote for all. 

Cheers to these amazing kids. Such courage, grace and wisdom! And now, a video interview with our newly elected student council president… Hannah Bourgault!

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!

A Unique Middle School?

What does it mean to be unique these days? What is a unique school? How are public schools different from each other — nevermind truly unique?  How do kids recognize when they are in a special, one of a kind environment for learning? 

Let’s focus on middle school. Middle school is often a very challenging time in education and schools. Not always the favored age or stage to teach, middle schoolers can get overlooked for quality, intentional, gratifying educational experiences. Elementary schools are full of earnest, cute, malleable young kids. High schoolers can debate, advocate, and conceptualize really large ideas, concepts and realities. But what about those kids — in the middle? 

students with hands in air

What if there was a middle school that truly embraced sixth to eighth graders as current AND future leaders, ideators, problem-solvers, and independent contributors to their schools? What if the students, teachers and parents actually love their middle school? What if it’s possible to attend a middle school that is a positive environment for growth and development as a tween and early teen? 

It’s possible. It’s here. And rather than have us tell you about us, let’s hear it from an AACA middle school teacher. And some parents. And a couple of our middle schoolers themselves. Let’s read their description of their realities as to why they think AACA middle school is the real deal in middle schools — unique. 

From AACA students: 

“I think AACA has such a unique middle school environment. Not only are students taught to be considerate leaders, but students are given many opportunities to show their initiative skills. Leadership and citizenship is exceedingly highlighted. And most of all Almond Acres stretches and educates students as a whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. Growing Great kids day-after-day!” 

“AACA Middle School is unique because everybody is free to be themselves, it is a great community to be in because everybody knows each other and everyone there is very welcoming. Middle school students also get to be in our Leadership program and get to vote for a Middle School President.”

“We are taught more than academics and we are also taught the seven habits of highly effective teens. “

“The Middle School Leadership Team is unique because it comes up with the BEST ideas for activities. It’s really fun and creative and so hands-on, even in this pandemic. When there’s a problem, they’ll solve it.” 

AACA is a very unique school because they are so encouraging and passionate about everyone.”    

three people on a beach in winter

From AACA parents:

Small classroom sizes offer a unique and individualized school day.  The teacher really knows where the student is struggling.”

“I believe that the following are what makes AACA unique: intense parent involvement, strong sense of community and shared values, an intimate, small school feel, as well as an emphasis upon the idea that education is more than about getting a good job — but about serving the community around us and forming the whole personbody, soul, mind and heart.” 

And from an ACCA teacher: 

“AACA Middle School is like a family – it is small and all the students know one another. Teachers are able to give more attention to individual students because the class sizes are smaller. The philosophy of Heart, Mind, Body, Soul is very unique for a school as it promotes teaching students foremost and curriculum follows. When we take the well-being of every student into consideration, it makes it much easier for students to focus and learn the curriculum.” 

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!

Philosophy to Facility

At Almond Acres, we grow great kids. Our new school in Paso Robles is going to be a beautiful expression of our teaching and educational philosophy in 4D. We are taking our educational philosophy and bringing it to life in our school building. 

How do we do this? With intention! And planning. It is our philosophy to facility. We will educate the whole child here  — heart, mind, body and soul — to the eight intelligences. Let’s visit the plans together. 

school room plan

Our focus is to create spaces that are dynamic — where collaboration can readily appear. This collaboration could be between teachers, students, and staff and will stimulate our project-based learning, while keeping every child safe within a self-contained campus. 

An interior classroom wall can open so two classes can join together. Teachers can co-teach students allowing them to augment and supplement their lessons with one another — and share ideas, talents and expertise. After all, the eight intelligences apply to our teachers just as it does to every AACA student. 

Distance learning has taught us how well our teachers collaborate and share expertise. We carry this idea forward by having grades adjoining one another so K-1 can collaborate, 2-3, 4-5, and middle school. We are shifting the siloed teacher/classroom paradigm into a malleable, flexible and collegial experience for all educators alongside our paradigm shift for their students. 

Studies show academic achievement thrives best when teachers collaborate. Our new adjoining classroom ideas not only allow teachers and classes to adjoin, we also have small group meeting rooms and shared teacher offices. Up to four teachers will share an office and our small group meeting rooms will allow specialists to push into the classroom more easily and kids to spend less time away from their core class environment and eliminate any stigma they may feel leaving their class.

school floor plan

Our internal courtyard will be open to the sky overhead.  We will have fountains and natural elements; it will be an inviting and peaceful welcoming. Our eighth graders are creating monuments to all eight intelligences. They could be sculptures, poems, rock carvings — we cannot wait to see what they design! 

Our multipurpose room will serve many needs including a gymnasium for athletics.. It also has an internal collapsible wall that can fold up and allow both spaces (the gym and central courtyard) to hold 500-800 people. By having the gym inside the core of the school building we keep all children safe. There is a hallway surrounding the gym and atrium to buffer sound. 

Our Kindergarten and first grade classes are at the north end of the building and have slightly larger classrooms. Our second and third grades and fourth and fifth grades will be side-by-side with the collapsible wall in-between to integrate subject areas and share teacher expertise and passions. 

Our middle school will have two wings at the front of our new school. These two areas will be academies that focus on humanities classes like language arts and social sciences. We will have a learning space here that mimics a college library. The other middle school wing will have STEM and STEAM classes — including a creativity lab. This project-based learning lab will be used for science and art classes. 

Outside, our playground is lower to ease some elevation changes. This creates a natural amphitheater. The fields are completely ADA compatible with access on all sides. Our classroom doors to the outside do not have door handles on the exterior;  our students, stuff and teachers re-enter through main access doors. The entire school is circled by a drop off lane for easy pickup and drop off. Our video below explains every aspect of our design. 

At Almond Acres Charter Academy teaching, supporting and stretching the whole child is always top of mind. With our new school facility in Paso Robles, we will bolster student retention while encouraging creativity. We can improve neurological strength in our soon-to-be engaging, dynamic and flexible school spaces. We encourage collaboration for teachers and students alike…and soon our school will enable this even further.  This is how we grow great kids. We cannot wait to share this new school with YOU!

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!

Keep Your Rudder in the Water

7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a well-loved book at our school. It is useful and thought-provoking in the best of times, but now perhaps more than ever it feels timely and even prophetic. 7 Habits thinking catapults us during tough times like these. Together, we are in a distance-learning-during-a-pandemic boat, getting bounced around. Our 7 Habits thinking can cut through the uncertainty and disequilibrium; it can be our rudder. 

There is an old saying that, “a man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” A ship floating in water —  without direction  — can easily lose its way. A captain with a hand on the rudder guides the ship to its destination. 

Our AACA rudder  — especially right now — is guided by our principles. We will not stray from our course to grow great kids and educate with care and intention. We have the end in mind. Using our rudder, we are moving through this crisis. We are riding the waves, we will not sink! We know our strengths  — our school benefits from the power of positive principles.  

These past few weeks have especially reminded our AACA family the value of 7 Habits thinking. Together, we recognize:

  1. Being Proactive: Bring students back to school safely and as soon as possible while managing the logistics and administration of the school. 
  2. Beginning with the End in Mind: The longer we stay in Distance Learning, the harder it will be for students to achieve academic gains.
  3. Put First Things First: Make decisions based on our highest values. 
  4. Thinking Win-Win: Make decisions that will support the families and faculty/staff. 
  5. Seeking 1st to Understand all perspectives (staff, families, and students) via surveys, staff feedback, engagement levels, and staff collaboration meetings.
  6. Synergy: Work together to create the best model for all stakeholders (especially students) based on current health guidance. 
  7. Sharpen the Saw: Collegial support and stakeholder synergy is helping to keep us strong!

“I am sure glad that I know how to practice the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Determining what is in the best interest of student achievement and what is most safe are too often at odds. There are many conflicting factors as we navigate the reopening of schools.” Bob Bourgault, Director, Almond Acres Charter Academy

We are extremely grateful to our board, families, staff, and students for the patience, persistence, and positive attitudes we have all needed during this very interesting time in our shared history. 

We will continue to do the next right thing to Grow Great Kids!

Did you know our middle schoolers have a 1:28 student to teacher ratio? Every great kid is known for who they are in grades six to eight. Join our small, caring school and enroll today

About Almond Acres

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. The school is located inSan Miguel and is open to all students in 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!