STARS Academy’s curriculum consists of core subjects (Humanities [Language Arts, Writing & Social Studies], Math, Science) and elective/ research times. We align our curriculum to the California State Content and Performance Standards, including the Common Core Standards, English Language Development (ELD) standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Our student learning experiences occur through research-based pedagogical approaches, specifically cognitive learning. For the last two decades, cognitive learning research has emphasized that student success occurs in environments that foster self-directed, inter-disciplinary learning, and problem-solving. When these are coupled with strategies that focus on these same facets, student learning is maximized. By having an integrated approach to learning, our students are provided with collaborative intellectual and artistic experiences within and between subject areas. This fosters inter-disciplinary discourse in which all students can take ownership, entertain a variety of perspectives, allow them to draw on each others' strengths, and help them explore and refine their ideas in the school community’s shared understanding of the world.
In addition to cognitive learning, in order to foster academic excellence in all subjects as well as powerful literacy, STARS Academy uses artistic discipline as an alternative gateway. Our arts, sciences, mathematics, and humanities curriculum is integrated so that is accessible by all. This leads to engagement by faculty and students and fosters ongoing intellectual inquiry. Our program is designed to emphasize the development of literacy in all subject areas. STARS Academy students participate in literacy through an in-depth study of musical theater materials, text analysis (in all subject areas), and all stages of the writing process. There is an inter-disciplinary emphasis on all subjects to deepen understanding of both specific subject content and broader conceptual themes.
For our main literary program, as well as a framework for our curriculum, STARS Academy chooses three musicals each year that span history in sequential order. In 2020-2021 we used Hamilton, Newsies, and Hairspray to tie together a common theme of "It’s the Revolution," and covered the years 1500-1970. This year was all about American history. For the 2021-2022 school year, we are using Les Miserables, The Sound of Music, and Evita to cover ancient civilizations all the way through 1980, and embody the theme “Raise your Voice.” This year's historical perspective was world history. Each year we use a different lens to approach history. This allows our students to obtain multiple exposures and perspectives to similar content. Additionally, we tie in current events to the history we are studying and show how events in history are relevant to today.
Ensuring that all students have independent access to texts of all kinds is the underlying goal of an effective literacy program at all grade levels. The program at STARS Academy ensures that students successfully transition from building a language to learning how to read, to reading to learn. This is specifically focused on during our language study time but is also interwoven into our daily humanities and writing curriculum. Explicit, systematic instruction that addresses individual students’ literacy needs ensures that all students become independent readers as quickly as possible. They then continue to build literacy skills through interest-based, information-based, and school-based reading experiences.
Our writing curriculum is connected to the historical lessons of the week/musical. We use all stages of the writing process, provide individualized support, and break into groups based on the need for support. We study all types of writing - persuasive, opinion, informative, narrative, informational, descriptive, and letter.
For math, we use flexible, mixed-age groupings. This allows us to divide groups by the content and needs of our students. The topics we focus on are taken from the Common Core standards. We use real-life applications (budgets, balancing a checkbook, re-doing your house) to teach. We teach problem-solving and critical thinking skills through a student-centered lens. Facility with numbers, abstraction, and reasoning is key to developing subsequent confidence and skill with mathematically more complex systems. We believe in students working through a productive struggle (the process of effortful learning that develops grit and creative problem solving; a state of engagement that enables students to work through increasingly challenging problems and new problems they have never seen before).
STARS Academy believes that every student is capable of acquiring advanced mathematic skills. In order to fully participate in today’s world of ideas, we believe that every student needs advanced mathematical literacy. By giving students strong foundational mathematics skills, their confidence grows in mathematics, and they see it as an integral part of their intellectual development. STARS Academy’s mathematics program integrates mathematics throughout the subject matter, giving students consistent, implicit, and explicit instruction in the language of mathematics.
Our science curriculum is NGSS aligned and involves project-based learning. It is an integrated program in which we present advanced and complex material directly to students, allowing them to develop comprehension of the topic at their own level over time. We teach in thematic units that involve group work, high-interest topics, and creativity. We connect the science topics to everyday life so that they see the relevance of what they are learning. In each flexible, mixed-age science group, students have the opportunity daily to explore their world and apply their developing literacy skills to the study of Life, Earth, Space, and Physical Science and Engineering. All students study the same concepts at their appropriate level. The integrated science program is structured in a multi-year, unified curriculum so as to build powerful science literacy over time.
Our faculty guide our students through Reciprocal Teaching, reinforcing what individual students know and instructing them on what they need to learn next while gradually helping students assume more and more responsibility for their own learning. We provide daily opportunities to interact with and utilize technology. This ensures students develop the skills necessary to independently learn to use technology as a method for thinking, problem-solving, producing, and communicating.
Through experiential and project-based learning, small group instruction and investigation, and content reading and writing, students explore phenomena, create investigations, communicate about their learning, and develop science and engineering practices outlined in NGSS.
Our social-emotional curriculum, Social, Emotional, and Ethical (SEE) Learning K-12 educational program created by Emory University, is taught in our Morning Meeting and Closing Circles. It helps our students develop into empathetic listeners. The purpose of the program is to enrich social, emotional, and ethical development in children. Our students practice empathy, kindness, resilience, and various coping skills so that they can be the best version of themselves. It focuses on attention training, compassion, and care, an awareness of broader systems, & ethical engagement. Additionally, it is about students learning how best to take care of themselves and each other, specifically their emotional and social health. The program is rooted in compassion: self-compassion & compassion for others. It provides a range of methods and provides a set of tools. We encourage our families to take an active role in the program as we send home outlines of the lessons. This program has been pivotal in addressing student behavior and has helped to change the culture to a more kind and positive one.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION CURRICULUM
Physical Education – the process of learning through movement – is a vital part of the total education of each individual at STARS Academy. Our Physical Education program teaches physical education through movement and dance. Students participate in 125 minutes of structured physical education activities each week. STARS Academy’s Physical Education program focuses on wellness while developing each student’s fitness including musculoskeletal strength, coordination and flexibility, and cardiovascular health. Instruction and participation in a variety of performance movement experiences enable the student to assess his/her own capabilities as well as stimulate self-discipline and develop healthy living habits.
All STARS Academy students must participate in at least one dance class per week. The schedule for physical education classes is as follows:
Monday/Wednesday (Volleyball or Hip Hop)
Tuesday/Thursday (PE Games or Jazz)
Friday (Yoga or Musical Theater Dance)