With autumn just around the corner, Baltimore parents are spoiled for choices when it comes to their children’s educations. Baltimore schools provide an array of programs — far too many to cover in one article — catering to students’ individual needs. From mastering modern technology to conquering learning disabilities, Baltimore schools are creating innovative curricula that enhance and stimulate their students’ learning. Here, iNSIDER takes a look at some under-the-radar schools, and others that while well-established, have undergone recent changes.
Arts and Ideas Sudbury School:
Sometimes, school can feel like a dictatorship. At the Arts and Ideas Sudbury School in Baltimore, power is given back to the students. Schoolchildren live out their educational dreams at the school, where they are able to choose how they spend their days and study only what peaks their curiosity.
“When students have an authentic say in how the school is run, they feel ownership and want to take care of their community,” says founder Caroline Chavasse. “Our school philosophy is based on how human beings learn. Other schools are wrapped around the idea of how to teach. We give students more freedom.”
With a democratic system of education in place, students learn on their own timelines, based on their own motivations. While one student is mastering the art of algebra, another might be devoting his time to music. Attending Judicial Committee meetings, students at Arts and Ideas make decisions on how the school is run, vote on school rules and even elect staff members.
“Our school believes that children should not be denied the rights and freedoms that adults enjoy,” says Chavasse. “We observe that children are capable decision-makers and by providing a school where they can practice independence and responsibility in a safe community, they become independent, responsible and successful adults.”
For more information, visit aisudbury.com.
Almost a century old, Talmudical Academy has been teaching young Jewish men Torah since 1917. Offering programs for preschool through Grade 12, the longtime Baltimore institution packs a rigorous curriculum of general studies and Jewish religious education into each full day.
This year, a new elementary school general studies principal is joining the team as TA brings Rabbi Zev Silver back to Baltimore to strengthen the core curricula after a 21-year absence. Devoting the past 19 years of his career to Akiba Academy in Dallas, Texas, Silver is delighted to bring his talents to TA in a quest to improve the program even further.
“I find TA to be a very engaging school and very child centered,” says Silver. “There is a strong commitment to excellence in education, and it is truly a happy place with happy students and exceptional educators who care deeply about each and every student. My objective is to reach and teach every child. I want them to get beyond their comfort zone. I don’t want any child to plateau.”
As the general studies principal, Silver will incorporate his passion for education into enhancing the school’s core academic subjects.
Already a fan of TA’s work, he looks forward to overseeing classrooms and working directly with students and staff.
“The teachers are empowered and want the students to learn and grow. I’m looking forward to improving an already strong program,” says Silver. “In addition to strong academics, I am impressed with the school’s inclusion of children requiring special education. The Shemesh program has really helped cater to students with special needs. It is just a privilege to be a part of such an incredible school.”
For more information, visit Talmudicalacademy.org.
Have you heard about Google Glass? At the Gateway School, students use it every day. The head-mounted computer that displays information in a hands-free format and responds to voice commands helps students with a variety of communication disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, developmental delay, hearing loss and speech-language challenges. Gateway School will utilize the technology to help students with both interpretive and therapeutic work.
Part of the Hearing and Speech Agency (HASA), Gateway is one of five schools selected from 1,300 applications to win Google’s prestigious Google Glass grant for the 2014-2015 school year.
“It’s very gratifying to be recognized by Google for our innovative spirit and we look forward to using Google Glass in the year ahead,” says executive director Susan Glasgow.
In addition to Google Glass, the Gateway School is expanding to accommodate children as young as 24-months in its Little Learners program. Younger students have already taken advantage of the school’s one-on-one speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and audiology. Now, educational director Jill Berie looks forward to inviting little learners into the classroom.
“Our mission at Gateway School has always been to establish a base for lifelong learning for children with special communication needs related to autism, speech-language delay or hearing loss,” says Berie. “Opening our doors to children at age 24 months allows us to establish that base as early as possible.”
For more information, visit hasa.org/school.
Located in Sykesville, the Legacy School, which opened in 2011, focuses on students with language-based learning disabilities. The school provides students with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other language processing difficulties with an environment in which to flourish.
“When I founded the school, I was working with several families that needed a place for their child to go to school,” says founder Jamie Caplan. “These families were essentially out of options because their children could not thrive in the public school setting.”
Accessible to students all over the Baltimore metropolitan area, the Carroll County-based school currently offers bus transportation to and from Baltimore County. The Legacy School’s many offerings include daily one-on-one tutoring, a 2:1 student/teacher ratio and a thematic multi-sensory curriculum.
“We create a safe environment for students with daily one-on-one reading and language tutoring to remediate their learning weaknesses,” says Caplan. “This way, students can succeed and learn at their own paces.”
Baltimore resident and Legacy School parent Elizabeth Malis says that more Baltimoreans should know about this institution. When searching for a school for her now nine-year-old daughter, Melinda, she struggled to find a fit in the Baltimore area and was thrilled to discover the Legacy School.
“When we adopted Melinda, she was a 4-year-old girl living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe,” says Malis. “It took years for us to realize she has language based learning difficulties, since English is not her native tongue. As we desperately searched for schools, we came across the Legacy School with help from a therapist. With one-on-one tutoring and in school speech therapy, Melinda comes home every day learning new words. We cannot believe how much she is learning and how much her vocabulary has grown.”
For more information visit legacyschoolmd.org.
The Auburn School:
The Auburn School’s Baltimore Campus is all about social interaction. The Lutherville-based school offers small class sizes and personalized instruction. Auburn specializes in improving communication, organizational skills and behavioral support for children with Asperger’s syndrome/ASD, PDD-NOS, NVLD, ADHD through social skills training and pragmatic language development. Auburn has high educational standards and is geared for students with normal or above normal intelligence. Students who may have felt ostracized in their public schools will benefit from the close-knit and accepting community environment at Auburn.
For more information, theauburnschool.org/Baltimore.
Baltimore Home School:
Homeschooling doesn’t always mean learning at home. Located in Pikesville, the Baltimore Home School is sort of like a home away from home, providing a gathering place for home-schooled students where they can enroll in classes, take part in group activities, interact with adults other than their parents, and perhaps most importantly, get to know other children and teens. Courses at the Baltimore Home School include creative writing, taekwondo, music, Spanish, English, science, wellness and more. From $1 movies to field trips to “homeschool” dances, folks at the Baltimore Home School are kicking the “home” out of homeschool.
For more information visit baltimorehomeschool.org.
Allie Freedman is a local freelance writer.