3 Steps to Rest: Metacognition and More

We’re all enjoying a two week spring break this year. No time like the present to slow down, review and reflect on all that has transpired in our lives in the four months of 2021. Metacognition is our habit of the week sometimes, because it is just this. It’s the idea of thinking about what we’re thinking about.  We’re assessing what’s important and what we do everyday. 

At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) we take it a bit further for our students. We help our students and families to think about what they’re thinking about. Our kids are capable of metacognition, too and reflecting on what they are and like to think about. 

Thoughts to Destiny 

Attributed to multiple authors is the idea that thoughts become our destiny. Here’s the idea: 

Sow an act, reap a habit;
sow a habit, reap a character;
sow a character, reap a destiny.

First and foremost, kids and adults alike — do the things we want to do. This influences what we think about — or ‘sows’ our thoughts. Our thoughts become actions, and these actions become habits. Our habits inform our character — which ultimately drives our destiny. Destiny is key to who we are. In order to be and become the best versions of ourselves, we should slow down and reflect. What are we thinking about? Is this important to me? 

As AACA faculty, staff and administrators and as parents, we can model a thoughtful process for our kids. By detailing how we own our thoughts and ultimately our destiny, we take back some control of our lives. This can be very powerful for kids. 

Sharpen the Saw

Metacognition also bleeds into our ‘sharpen the saw’ learning.  We encourage our kids to sharpen their saw — in all ways that include their heart, mind, body, & soul. In order to stay sharp — we will all inevitably encounter obstacles.  When we use self-discipline to make it through these decisive and sharp moments, we reap great rewards. These difficult, pivotal moments include such everyday things as:

  • Getting up on time (“mind over mattress”)
  • Controlling our tempers and not saying the unkind thing
  • Disciplining ourselves to eat healthy foods
  • Sticking to our reading regimen when we are busy

Ways to Practice

Heart – Spend some carefree timelessness with family and friends.

Mind – Tell your brain what you want to do. Skip the “try” word. Use “will”!

Body – Say yes to a good walk, meal, and night sleep.

Soul – Enter the classroom of silence and have a nice chat with yourself.

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!

Technology: Love it or Leave It?

Feelings about technology are complex right now. 2020 changed our perspectives and our reality in so many ways. Technology is one such reality shift. As it pertains to our Almond Acres K-8 students, we use technology as a means for exploration, for research, and for responsibility. 

All AACA middle school students, grades 6-8, enjoy their own personal laptop, or school provided Chromebook, and the responsibility that comes along with it. Our youngest K-5 students enjoy iPads or Chromebooks and are experienced using them in class and with online learning. Some Almond Acres students are members of our AHA! — Almond Acres At-Home Academy. They’re using technology in many ways, everyday. Chromebooks are used across all curriculum areas. We, as a faculty team, use Google Classroom to manage school work.

women with three children wearing unmatched socks

We want to minimize the use of technology, because we heartily desire kids talking to each other…and to us, their adults.  We want our K-8 students reading books. We like to see our kids working and playing outside. We also enjoy our students building things with their hands.  We hope our students carve out time and employ space for creativity, for recreation, for thinking. Our students deserve unstructured downtime, as an end result in and of itself.  

So we’ll use technology as is appropriate and effective for teaching and learning, and we’re champions of getting kids doing things outside and off of screens, too. Our digital mission statement sums up and truly captures our thinking: 

Almond Acres Charter Academy will promote and model positive uses of digital spaces in every classroom. We will build a culture of digital health across our school by incorporating character building into our digital citizenship instruction.  

We realize that our children will be shaping the world of tomorrow through their online identity and digital footprint. It is our job as educators and parents to make sure they are prepared to share their voice with confidence and without regrets. 

We will ensure this happens by demonstrating the value of technology in enhancing achievement, improving students’ attitudes about themselves, and promoting the value of citizenship in the 21st century digital world.

boy working on laptop

We’re a Common Sense School

From the Common Sense Schools website, “Earning the Common Sense School badge is a symbol of a school’s dedication to helping students think critically and use technology responsibly to learn, create, and participate.”

Cory Houdyshell, Second Grade Teacher at Almond Acres, spearheads our Common Sense School initiative. He says:

“Being a digital citizen starts in kindergarten here at AACA. It is all about using technology responsibly and respectfully. This is especially important in the younger grades as our students begin to be exposed to different types of media and start to explore the world wide web. 

The earlier students can be taught about their “digital footprint” the safer they will be as they create their online identity. Common Sense Media’s “citizenship” lessons scaffold up each year with repetition of key concepts and core ideas. The grade level appropriate structure to these “digital citizenship” lessons will lead to lifelong habits by the time our students reach 8th grade.” 

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!

We Love Recreation!

Almond Acres Charter Academy is built on the philosophy that each child is unique, and that by teaching to the individual — every student achieves optimal levels of success and becomes a great citizen. The four pillars of our school mission to ‘grow great kids’ are heart, mind, body and soul. The body aspect of this quadrumvirate includes recreation — play, exercise, and movement. Plus nutrition, sleep, and healthy physical habits.  Our PE program is better known as our Recreation program because we want all of our Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) students to learn how to have fun and recreate.  

All AACA students have weekly recreation classes with our credentialed Physical Education Teacher, Sean Sommerville. Our recreation ethos focuses on grade-level state standards, as well as building stamina. By having ongoing walking/running challenges, we elevate collaboration and cooperation. Our students work together, set goals and practice recreational habits that can last a lifetime. 

Almond Acres middle school volleyball team

We offer elementary and middle school competitive sports, too, including cross country, volleyball, basketball, football, ultimate frisbee, and track & field. In addition, every year our school comes together for our much-loved Read and Run Relay and fundraiser. 

In a typical year, our collective K-8 school’s goal would be to: 

  • Read 100,000 minutes
  • Run 250 miles
  • Raise at least $30,000

This year, with the pandemic,  our Read and Run Relay goes virtual. On April 1st, students will be challenged to a 1-hour read-a-thon AND a 1-hour jog-a-thon. Every student will get to participate by reading and running on their own, but stay connected to each other through Zoom. Plus each year an Almond Acres student designs our tee-shirts for the event via a competition during our art classes. Monies raised go towards the purchase of books, digital reading apps, and equipment to enhance our Recreation program at Almond Acres. 

This event is wonderful because it is inclusive. Academics, athletics, and art are all brought together for families and the community to celebrate and support our students.” Erin Colegrove, the AACA Read and Run Relay event coordinator 

“By allowing students to show off their skills, whether they love reading, running, or a combination of both, we are honoring the whole student: heart, mind, body, and soul. By celebrating each child’s unique makeup, we get tremendous buy-in from the students, and that is how we are able to set and achieve such big goals.”

Bob Bourgault, Executive Director,  Almond Acres 

Every student has innate skills and talents, and it is incredibly rewarding for us to watch each child learn about, and become, the best version of themselves: heart, mind, body, and soul. At Almond Acres, it’s not just about physical education. It’s about learning how to recreate. 

Donations to the 2021 Read and Run Relay can be made using this link.

About Almond Acres 

Every child is unique. At Almond Acres tuition-free public charter school, we serve grades K-8 and we educate the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul.  Our focus on meaningful educational experiences within our community embraces service and project-based learning.  We also emphasize character development and strong citizenship standards alongside our robust curriculum. We are enrolling now. We grow great kids! 

Why We’re A K-8 School

Most of the schools in town are traditional elementary and middle schools — K-5 and 6-8. This format means students switch schools after fifth grade no matter what. Throw in preschool, and that’s three scholastic transitions before high school with the shift from elementary to middle school being the most significant and potentially jarring. 

Transitioning from school to school is disruptive and can impact students academic performance, social emotional health and sense of safety. At Almond Acres, the benefits of a K-8 education include specialized instruction, deeper student/teacher/community relationships, ongoing structure and routine, fewer transitions, and robust leadership opportunities. 

AACA cross country

Attending a K-8 feels more comfortable, relaxing and safe; students perform better academically than students at a traditional 6-8 or 6-12 school. As confirmed by a recent study from the AMERICAN EDUCATION RESEARCH JOURNAL, we agree that our K-8 school is beneficial to our kids academically and socially. 

“In a K-8 system, there isn’t that transition, and even better, our older kids become leader examples  to our younger kids, and they have a relationship  almost between different generations, and it  creates a much more family oriented experience.“

Mr. B, Executive Director, Almond Acres 

We meet our AACA kids where they are developmentally. Our K-8 model allows us to curate a challenging curriculum, but in the context of an intentional, safe school that nurtures. At this age, AACA middle schoolers are naturally developing leadership abilities. We introduce, encourage, and ignite the responsibility that aligns with being the oldest students in our charter school. 

And for students transferring into Almond Acres, at any time and grade, our middle school offers a true community.  It is possible to attend a middle school that is a positive environment for growth and development as a tween and early teen. Our middle school embraces sixth to eighth graders as current AND future leaders, ideators, problem-solvers, and independent contributors. Our students, teachers and parents love our middle school, an age and stage that can sometimes get overlooked for quality education, so much so we wrote a blog about it. 

girls in red shirts

Middle schoolers lead tours for prospective families, help with our Shared Start morning assemblies and more. Due to our small size, 1:28 teacher-to-student ratio — our middle schoolers can each be known for who they are. And as an example of what they can do together as a class — our seventh grade recently created a Family Forum where families came together to discuss issues pertinent to middle schoolers while playing games in a relaxed atmosphere. Family Forum created a casual platform for conversation about challenges our middle school kids are currently facing. Not only was the event well-executed, the middle school students showed tremendous maturity and willingness to both share and listen.

With our new school facility opening in fall of ‘21 in time for our the 2021-2022 school year, every K-8 kid will have an innovative and state-of-the-art academic experience. Our new school includes indoor and outdoor play spaces, collapsible classroom walls to invite collaboration and shared learning, small meeting spaces for faculty to collaborate, and a combinable gym and atrium to hold large events. Our middle school will have science labs and a college-inspired academic library. We can’t wait to celebrate learning together, for years to come, at this intentionally designed learning environment. 

AACA volleyball

Every year, another graduating AACA 8th grade class heads off to high school. It makes us very proud to see how our Almond Acres students find success beyond our walls  — as leaders, academics, problem-solvers, artists, athletes, ideators and good citizens. The only thing that eases melancholy as we see our beloved students move on, is welcoming each and every new student into our doors. We’re enrolling K-8 at our compassionate, dynamic K-8 tuition-free charter school. Join us!  

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!

What is a Charter School?

Charter schools started about 30 years ago for two main reasons. The first reason was to provide families with an alternative to their neighborhood public school. The second reason was to allow educators to do something different with public education — to be innovative and creative in ways that are new and distinct. 

How Charter Schools Are Different

Charter schools often have smaller classes and readily focus on the individual learning styles of each student. This is certainly the case at Almond Acres Charter School (AACA). Not only do we focus on growing great kids in our small classes, our highly qualified teachers bring unique and intentional lesson plans to our classes each day. Our K-8 charter school uses project-based and service-based learning to instill  a sense of self-confidence.  We help our kids unlock how they’re smart alongside meaningful ways they can contribute to their community. 

girls in front of lockers

Charter schools are public schools that are tuition-free and funded by tax dollars. Charters must meet academic goals in order to have their charters upheld and re-approved. At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), we have been chartered  since 2010. 

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

At AACA, our mission is to grow great kids.  As our Executive Director

Bob Bourgault, or Mr. B as he is affectionately known by our students, says,

 “Our kids are great. We need to grow them…to treat them with respect and dignity to become the very best version of themselves.”

students dressed up

Identifying How You’re Smart

Each AACA child has his or her own mind, their own way of thinking, and is smart in their own way. Almond Acres charter school enables every student (and faculty and staff member) to identify the ways they individually learn. We created our kite model; a visual, child-focused system to explore and explain how every individual is smart. 

We ask the question, how are you smart, not how smart are you?  We do this in three different ways: affirm, stretch, celebrate. 

Affirm 

We affirm how our AACA kids are smart and how they’re developing.  We help them establish their strengths and their struggles.  We give our students a sense of confidence that with both their strengths and their struggles  — they can learn. 

Stretch 

We stretch our kids. By using their strengths to stretch into their struggling areas, we help our kids to be a better version of themselves, and to learn the things they need to learn. 

kids in blue sweatshirts

Celebrate

We celebrate. We celebrate by high fiving. We celebrate by enjoying cake. We announce wins in our all-school morning meeting. We actively celebrate the awakening of creativity and its accompanying success. 

It’s a simplistic way to think about educating children and even parenting them. Affirm first, then stretch and then  —  celebrate!   

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

Moving to Paso Robles

Finding our new location and the space to create the facility of our dreams was no easy feat. Our tuition-free public charter school currently serves over 300 students in North SLO County. After the new site is built we will serve over 500. 

“I’ve been a part of the AACA facility team for five years. We’ve been actively looking for a home that we can call our own in which we can grow and thrive as a school.”  AACA Board President Samer Mohamed 

A  seven-year search for a property that met the school’s budget and safety requirements ensued. Our facilities team is now fully immersed in building and preparation for the fall 2021-2022 school year. Our state-of-the-art charter school will include indoor and outdoor play spaces, collapsible classroom walls to invite collaboration and shared learning, small meeting spaces for faculty to collaborate, and a combinable gym and atrium to hold large events. Our middle school will have science labs and a college-inspired academic library. 

At Almond Acres Charter Academy we believe strongly that when we affirm, stretch and celebrate — we create kids that are intelligent, confident, successful, creative, happy, and caring.  They become leaders in our charter school community  — and throughout their lives.  

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!

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!