Selecting the right middle school for your child can be a daunting task for any parent. Alachua County parents have a variety of options with magnet programs, charter schools, private schools and online learning programs to consider. A new middle school in Gainesville, Resilience Charter School, is generating a lot of attention for its project-based learning curriculum, positive school culture and heavy emphasis on social emotional skill building.
Resilience is entering its third year in 2018-19 and serves grades 6 through 8. Project-based learning (PBL) is an educational approach that offers authentic learning opportunities and personalized learning plans, providing more autonomy to students in designing and driving their own educational experience. Resilience is one of the only schools in the state of Florida to implement a school-wide PBL methodology, and has a mission centered around innovation, social justice and environmental stewardship.
Many of today’s teachers are recognizing that worksheets and textbook-heavy curricula are no longer preparing students for life and work in the 21st century.
“Most of us are now carrying a computer around in our pockets all day,” said Jenny Hill, director of Resilience Charter School. “The teacher’s role is no longer to deliver the information to the student. It should now be to coach and advise the student on how to best utilize all the information at their fingertips to impact our world in creative and positive ways.”
Schools with fully implemented PBL systems work to empower students towards self-directed learning and community-based connections that take them outside the walls of the classroom.
One example of a high-quality project from the 2017-18 school year was the 7th graders’ study of the impact of development on the Santa Fe River watershed. Catherine Diaz, the Resilience science teacher, secured a Blue Schools Grant from the St. Johns River Water Management District to fund the project (Resilience was one of only two schools in Alachua County to receive the award). Students first developed a fictitious parcel of land along the Santa Fe River, acting as general contractors with an assigned budget. They researched the environmental implications of their development choices, wrote a research paper with their findings and developed hypotheses about Florida’s water quality concerns. They then took a guided kayak tour down the Santa Fe River to collect water samples for testing and analysis back at the science lab. They finally used the conclusions from their experiments to create multimedia community awareness campaigns and shared them with the public during one of Resilience’s quarterly project showcases.
Many schools are recognizing that a strong social emotional foundation is a prerequisite to long-term academic achievement. And many employers are reporting that their new hires are arriving with excellent technical skills, but without the necessary skills for collaboration, conflict resolution and relationship building needed in today’s workforce. Resilience provides a well-rounded and customized curriculum of social emotional lessons to help students navigate their school years and beyond. Topics emphasized include self-empowerment, diversity, communication and more. Teachers, staff and parents can see the impact of these lessons as students show significant growth in their relationships throughout the school year.
“At Resilience, he has found himself,” said AJ Richards, parent of a rising 8th grader. “He has found other students that he relates to. He looks forward to school every day. He has friends. He is thriving. He is happy, confident and feels safe at school to be himself.”
Hill said that some students come to Resilience feeling disengaged from their own education because of rigid or negative experiences in former schools where they felt unsupported or unchallenged. She said the most rewarding part of her job is seeing students rediscover their passion for learning and their love of school.
“No child should lose confidence in themselves or lose their excitement for school because their learning needs look different from their peers or because their courses are focused too heavily on prep for standardized testing,” she said.
“No child should lose confidence in themselves or lose their excitement for school because their learning needs look different from their peers or because their courses are focused too heavily on prep for standardized testing.”
An exciting new development for Resilience students in 2018-19 will be the addition of extensive technology resources to support student learning and project design. Because of a generous start-up grant administered by the Florida Department of Education, Resilience has been able to outfit the school with laptops for every student, a portable digital S.T.E.M. lab, class sets of iPads, graphic drawing and animation tablets, virtual reality headsets, music and podcast recording equipment, and video cameras. Resilience aims to prepare students for college and career success in the 21st century where advanced technological skills are increasingly important for graduates.
Resilience is now accepting applications for grades 6, 7 and 8 for the 2018-19 school year. Admissions is based on a lottery the first week of each month, and students are placed on a wait list once all spots are filled. Priority is given to residents of Alachua County, but residents of other Florida counties are eligible for admission as well. Applications can be submitted online through the admissions page of the Resilience website, www.resiliencecharter.org, or in person at the school, 1717 NE 9th Street in Gainesville. Resilience is an independent, tuition-free, non-profit public charter school founded by local residents with no affiliation to a charter management company.
Amanda Husband, parent of a former student, said, “Resilience not only provides a safe space for kids to find and be themselves but looks for ways to engage them in their school community and greater community. Resilience teachers and staff meet your child where they are and then provide whatever they need to achieve academically. My daughter’s teachers inspired her to do her best academically and achieve more than she thought she could in her core classes while continuing to captivate her love of learning in her electives. The experiences that she had there gave her a great foundation to move forward in life. She is more confident, knowledgeable, empathetic and well-rounded as a result of her time at Resilience.”