Four years ago, educators at North Lakes Academy got together and engaged in conversation regarding what they could do to further ensure that graduates were as well-rounded as possible. The idea that was born out of those meetings spawned a new school curriculum called “Becoming.”
“This curriculum is totally organic and built from the ground up,” North Lakes Academy Executive Director Cam Stottler said.
“The focus is on emotional intelligence and speaks not only to how our students learn, but also how they cope with hard situations and how they get through tough times. This program has had a tremendous effect on our culture.”
The Becoming curriculum strategy is focused on helping students find a path and purpose, as well as prepare them for college and career in the 21st Century. Each grade level engages in specific courses meant to increase self-awareness, promote community, expand worldview, and stimulate leadership skills.
“Our mission at North Lakes Academy is to graduate skilled citizens and scholars, and this curriculum feeds into that,” Stottler said. “We started this as a pilot program for students in grade nine, and it worked so well that we brought it to the rest of the high school. Most recently, we are expanding Becoming to the middle school level as well so we can get those students on board early so that we are forced to expand the high school level offerings to keep up.”
Grade six students engage in a course built from the Sean Covey book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” The course, in part, focuses on owning individual choices and decisions. Grade eight students participate in a course titled “Thinking, Learning, and Communicating” which sees both students and teachers becoming aware of how thinking governs experience, learning from mistakes, moving outside of comfort zones, becoming more aware of roadblocks to success, and learning how to reduce self-limiting messages and beliefs. Grade nine students engage in coursework that seeks answers to questions like “Who am I?” “What do I want?” or “How do I get what I want?” The grade 10 “Possibilities” course examines envisioning the future, exploring college and career opportunities, evaluating passions, building writing and communication skills, learning how to interview, tracking progress toward post-high school life, and creating digital resumes. Grade 11 students participate in a post-secondary prep course that covers college admission process, essays, financial aid, scholarships, college life, and post-secondary opportunities. Senior students partake in a seminar that encourages them to think critically about the human experience through literature and philosophy, explore other walks of life through service learning projects, and continue developing leadership and life skills by shadowing career mentors.
“We are not trying to capitalize on this program for any personal gain; we just think this is appropriate, and we want other schools to take notice of it,” Stottler said. “We have spoken about this at a leadership summit for charter schools, and there was a lot of good feedback and interest.”
Educators from the East Range Academy of Science and Technology in Evelyth actually traveled to North Lakes Academy and spent a day shadowing teachers and observing students to see how the Becoming curriculum worked. Some proof of the program’s success is in the measured results.
“We had a student who was competing for an Act 6 Scholarship and made it to the final stages of the process, and the feedback we were hearing was that the knowledge she had obtained from the Becoming curriculum was a factor that differentiated her from other students,” Stottler said.
Plastic fabrication company Team Vantage has offered graduating seniors a scholarship for several years, and a North Lakes student has been a recipient four years running.
“What Team Vantage is telling us is that the answers they are receiving from North Lakes Academy students about where they are going and how they plan to get there are on a whole different level,” Stottler said. “That can be directly attributed to the skills they have gained through the Becoming curriculum.”
Ultimately, the goal at North Lakes Academy is to put students in charge of what they are learning.
“Once you get students to own their learning, then you are no longer selling it to them,” Stottler said. “At that point, you are simply providing content for them to eat up.”