Gone are the days when a student is expected to sit behind an uncomfortable desk for hours on end while the teacher scribbles notes on a squeaky chalkboard.
This is great news for kids, who love to move. In fact, kids learn better when they move their bodies. There’s this connection between the brain and movement that cannot be created in any other way.
Forest Academy in Kalamazoo knows the power of hands-on learning and has made hands on, STEM-based learning part of their mission.
This, along with their small classroom size and strong student-teacher ratio is what makes Forest Academy a unique learning experience in Kalamazoo.
Kids Thrive on Forest Academy’s Small Student to Teacher Ratio
To facilitate this hands-on environment, Forest Academy promises a small student to teacher ratio and class sizes no larger than 20 students. That’s pretty amazing, considering other schools can range from 25-30 kids in a class.
“I think the biggest thing that a lot of families are looking for is the small classroom size and student/teacher ratio,” says Principal Meghan Watters.
“Our class sizes are usually 10-15 (students), depending on the year.”
Teachers have more time for individual instruction, and more opportunities to tweak their methods according to student needs. Forest Academy also uses parapros to help support this student-teacher ratio.
It’s hard to explain the positive impact that this ratio has on not only the kids, but the teachers and administration as well. At Forest Academy, you are known. Known not just by your fifth grade teacher, but by that first grade teacher that had you. The secretary knows you. The principal knows you. And they know your family.
Students at Forest Academy are more than students – they’re part of a supportive mini community.
“I think the relationships are extremely strong between the teachers and the kids and the families,” says Watters. “I could tell you every kids’ name from every grade and the teachers can, too.
“It goes further than the kids in the classroom. These relationships have been built over years.”
Curriculum is Objective Based, Giving Teachers Freedom to Customize
Giving teachers objectives to cover, rather than a strict checklist, allows educators to customize learning plans for their students.
“We are objective based so teachers have more free reign,” shares Watters.
“They’re given the objective and they’re allowed to do more hands on activities. They can do more individualized instruction with the students and bring in more activities for the students,” she adds.
One of the unique ways Forest Academy does this is by having the teachers teach all the specials. Watters says that allowing staff to tie objectives into music, art and phys ed just gives them even more touchpoints for connecting lessons with their students.
Principal Watters says there are too many of these clever examples to name them all. “It’s done on a daily basis,” she says. Art, music, movement, science, math, reading – it’s all mixed together to keep the learning fun.
They’ve taken science experiments outside to really see how things work, used candy to teach math and incorporated art at any opportunity.
“If you looked up and down our hallways you’d see art posted everywhere,” says Watters. “And you’ll see the learning objective within the art.”
“They’re taking that extra step to make it more interactive,” says Watters.
Field Trips and Special Guests Build on Forest Academy’s Learning
STEM doesn’t just happen in the traditional classroom at Forest Academy. Guest speakers and field trips are a big focus for learning here.
“A lot of my teachers like to bring in people with real life experiences, or take students on field trips,” says Watters.
They’ve had the Kalamazoo Symphony bring in instruments so students could learn about them up close and try them out. They’ve taken trips to places like the Air Zoo, ArtPrize, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Gull Meadow Farms and Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
All of these experiences help students make deep connections with their learning material. It’s one thing to memorize how photosynthesis works. But to see it in action at Kalamazoo Nature Center takes learning to a whole new level. One that they won’t soon forget.
Middle schoolers can take advantage of Forest Academy’s connection to Grand Valley State University, the charter public school’s authorizer. GVSU is a great resource for them as they explore career planning.
“They also have a designated person who’s brought college students with them to talk about their experience,” says Watters. “And there’s a career fair that they’ve done through the expo center.”
And next year, they’re starting an after school science club with retired WMU professor, Dr. Richard Hathaway.
Forest Academy’s Unique Experience may be the Perfect Fit for Your Child
Forest Academy is an ever-evolving school that consistently looks for the best ways to engage students. The school’s administrative support, coupled with small classroom sizes, gives teachers almost endless options for engaging their classrooms and making each day a new and exciting adventure.
Want to know more about Forest Academy? Call 269-488-2315 or send them an email to schedule a tour today.