Friday, August 30, 2013

A Camping Trip at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School

In August, Cedar Ridge Academy Private Therapeutic Boarding School organized a camping trip for boys to attend.  The purpose of the trip was to build relationships and to create a great environment for therapeutic conversations.  I asked the students to write a bit about what they did while they were gone and what they enjoyed.  Here are three different student responses.

One student said:
The camping trip was definitely one of the best times I’ve had since I’ve been at Cedar Ridge. There were a lot of things I saw and did for the first time, such as seeing a moose and catching my first fish. It was really beautiful and peaceful up in the mountains where we were at and we were able to just relax and talk or play games in between meals and fishing. We built some really cool tarp shelters, which the kids from wilderness were pros at and all theirs looked awesome. We also managed to bring some pretty delicious food out there for some comfort
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Cooking in style
 camping. I can’t wait until we get the chance to do something like this again.
Another student commented:
Yeah, I had a pretty good time on the camping trip. At first I was a little worried when the first few minutes we got there, it began to rain. Frolicking in the fields was pretty dope, especially when I had the time to meditate and think about my life. The experience was pretty nature-like as I slept on the rugged floor under a tarp that was three feet off the ground. Fishing was great, even though I fell into the lake.  I am glad to have had the experience to get closer to Mother Nature and understand the environment in Utah.
This student had great success with the fishing aspect:
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Staying dry while camping
I had a great time on the camping trip. We got to build our own shelters (with the help of some of the kids who went to wilderness) and cooked our own food which tasted even better because we cooked it. I really liked the fishing. I caught around 6 fish, but nearly all of them were at the first lake. I really enjoyed the campfires we had and playing hacky-sack. I hope I can do it again.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Teacher's Perspective of Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School

As certified teachers, we help as many students at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School succeed in their academics.  Science teacher, Chad, reflected on what he does everyday to achieve these goals. (For further reading, see Kimberly's and James' perspectives on school)

I’ve been teaching for almost ten years at Cedar Ridge Academy. I teach biology, earth systems, environmental science, and health – and I tutor Spanish and chemistry. I taught textbook-and syllabus-based classes until about a year ago, when we started doing online school. As could be expected some things are a lot different with the online classes. For example, with the old system the primary source of information was the textbook, whereas now it’s the online lecture and accompanying information - and the notes the students type as they listen to their lectures.

Even though it would appear that things are significantly different now, the things I do day-to-day haven’t really changed that much.  I still spend a majority of my time tutoring students one-on-one in the subjects that I teach. I always have a bunch of scratch paper and a pen in hand so I can visually illustrate concepts for the students as I help them understand those concepts.

I also spend a lot of time grading students’ assignments.  The online multiple-choice and true-false questions are automatically graded, and the grades based on those questions are automatically recorded in the system - but I go through and look at the short answer and essay questions, and after that I change the grades for the assignments as necessary. Overall, I spend less time entering grades on grade sheets than I did before.

Excitement after a hands-on activity!
As with the book and syllabus-based classes, I still try to find ways to help individual students learn. I sometimes refer them to the text-books we previously used so they can see the books’ illustrations – including charts and graphs. Recently a biology student was having a hard time understanding the structure of DNA and how it replicates, and the process through which it is used to produce proteins - so I gave him guidance while he did a hands-on activity from a biology text-book using little pieces of colored paper. A few days later I had him play an online game where he learned about blood-typing. This boy is a kinesthetic, or hands-on- learner , and these activities helped him to better understand the things he was learning in his online class.

Each week each student at Cedar Ridge has an opportunity to participate in a supplemental science instruction. I have one period for girls and two different periods for boys (since we have more boys at our school). We do a variety of things during these periods, including natural history walks around the Cedar Ridge campus where the students learn about local flora and fauna. Some of the students have been learning about plant identification and have been putting together a plant collection, and some other students have been learning to identify animal footprints and have been making plaster casts of footprints. Students have also been learning about electricity and have been using an electric model to figure out how to fix a problem with the light switches in one of the buildings on our campus. The joy on the face of the first student (one of the girls) to successfully make the model work correctly was priceless.
Students enjoy learning about and handling our resident snake, Cedro the Honduran milk snake – and the science room also generally has a collection of other creatures (currently a couple of spiders and a scorpion). 

Part of my duty at Cedar Ridge Academy is serving as a teacher/mentor for a group of students. We have mandatory weekly percentages the students are asked to meet in their classes, and I keep track of which of my students are successful in meeting those expectations, and which students need extra time to work on school during “mandatory after school study hour”. Student weekly expectations used to be based on the number of assignments completed, and now they are based on percentages of classes completed - but other than that the processes are about the same. 

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Chad passes a beetle to a student to hold

I enjoy being a teacher at Cedar Ridge Academy. I enjoy getting to know my students, and I enjoy helping them learn about science and the other subjects I assist with; and I also enjoy modeling for my students the joy of learning and understanding things. I think the blended-learning model we use here at Cedar Ridge is a great way for students to learn and to prepare for the continued education and careers that lie ahead for them. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

FAQ about Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School

Being a private high school, as teachers we get a lot of questions about how we do school at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School.  Social Studies teacher, Kimberly, tackled some of the most frequently asked questions about our blended learning model.

Is Cedar Ridge Academy an accredited high school?
We are an accredited high school that focuses on assisting students to move forward towards graduation by assisting with credit recovery and competency.  All teachers require a grade of 80% to complete a course, and work with students to achieve this goal.

What mode of learning does your school use?
We have a blended learning model, which allows for students to work at their own pace.  As parents and educators, we understand that students learn differently, just like we all have unique qualities. Some students do not fit into the traditional public school model easily, whether they are a behavior distraction, need more time to complete and process work, or need to increase their learning. By allowing students to work at their own pace, the students have more control over how long they spend on the material.  

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Unexpected learning moments.
We achieve this individual-based learning with an online curriculum supplied by Edgenuity (formerly named Education2020 and Park City Independent). Their curriculum is also accredited, and over the last year that I have been using it is a great help to students who learn in different modes and in different ways.  A lot of educators will use the terms: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic to describe students.  This curriculum assists students in learning in all three ways.  They provide visual PowerPoints and audio lectures for each lesson material.  This also assist students who process a little bit slower because they can pause the teacher and take their notes.  Kinesthetic learners enjoy the games that are used to reinforce the material.  The assignments also require students to really dive deep into the text with short answer and essay questions along with multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and true/false questions.

However, not every student learns the material with just the online resources.  All students need review and practice to really get the material down and that is my main role as a teacher at Cedar Ridge Academy. I assist students when the material does not make sense as we pick apart a story together in English or I am reviewing a person in history to help fill in the gaps in their learning.  I also plan interactive lesson plans for direct instructions so that students can work together in groups, participate in discussions, and complete hands-on-activities.

But if it is all online, why should I send my student to your school?
The online curriculum is just the mode in which students first tangle with the material along with completing and submitting their assignments.  I still grade everything that they are doing, which is a great way for me to know how they are doing in their classes.  Teachers call this formative assessments, but we form a picture of what the student is learning.  When I read a student’s assignment, I understand what they learned from the material and see where they might be struggling still.  In addition, a computer can’t figure out what a student still needs help with in the class and that is where I come in.  Teachers call this differentiated instruction, but it basically means tailoring it to each individual student. Overall, that’s why I love teaching here—I teach the students each individually.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blending Learning at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School

At Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School, we believe in a rigorous curriculum for our academics. This curriculum translates into a blended learning model.  Math teacher, James, discusses what this looks like at our private academy.

First of all, we should talk about definitions. Blended learning is the process of delivering some of the instructional content in a given course through technological means, typically over some online applet on computer, coupled with face-to-face instruction by a teacher or professor.

The amount of technology delivered this way can range from full online instruction with fully-graded assignments and the face-to-face being mostly optional, to largely traditional instruction with the occasional online learning resources, typically used for homework (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Blending Learning
Figure 1: Blended Learning
At Cedar Ridge Academy, we follow a blended model that sits right in the middle of the continuum. The students meet daily face-to-face with teachers, and spend significant time with those teachers covering topics where they need either differentiated or supplementary instruction.

Further, here we have found a balance where students can move at a self-paced rhythm while still having access to the best parts of a traditional classroom. This lends itself to creating a good environment where the student feels empowered over his/her own education and can learn well in a non-threatening and non-competitive environment that still provides the highest standards for the child’s education.

The available research on the blended learning classroom (see Bolkan, 2012) suggests that while blended learning models don’t necessarily present a clearly superior model than the traditional classroom, with blended learning student engagement and self-reported enthusiasm are significantly higher than in the traditional classrooms.

In education, we learn that student engagement and application are the two best indicators for whether a student will learn and potentially apply a given lesson. The research shows that because technology-delivered resources tend to improve student engagement, for many students their performance increases as well. This is particularly true for students who have learning exceptionalities and students who come from challenging socio-economic circumstances.

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James assisting a student with their assignment
We see the proof in that pudding every day here at Cedar Ridge. We have seen students who struggle even to engage in any subject turn around and not only engage with school but excel in their classes, maintaining over 80% proficiency in their classes. The role of the teacher is crucial in making that a reality. Students often have questions or misunderstandings that a recorded lecture simply cannot resolve. In these times, the students have the opportunity to meet with a certified and highly-qualified teacher in their subject area to help them to resolve these concerns and overcome their roadblocks.

This is particularly true in Math. Many students, while they do perform much higher with the instant-feedback systems of online courses, still find that they need additional feedback in order to approach their online practice. I find that most of my day is taken up assisting these students and differentiating their instruction to fit them as an individual learner and help them to be successful in Math.

In short, the research shows what we see every day here at CRA: students who learn online with the help of a face-to-face instructor dramatically improve their scholastic performance and their confidence, which leads to long-term esteem improvement and further positive school performance. 

While these same outcomes may be possible through other means, the online portion of their instruction helps to track their progress, gives them individual pacing flexibility, and maintains the highest state, regional and national standards for all instructional units. With a small staff in a small school, we would not be able to deliver the variety of content that online materials allow, nor would we be able to offer them in a way that ensures students’ self-paced discovery of their potential. These benefits, among many others, make me a firm supporter and believer in the blended learning model we have adopted.

References

Blackboard.com. 2012. Blended Learning: Where Online and Face-to-Face Instruction Intersect for 21st Century Teaching and Learning. Eduviews November 2012. Taken on 7/22/2013 from http://ebookbrowse.com/blendedlearning-pdf-d413271210
Bolkan, J. 2012. School Reform Through Blended Learning. the Journal. Taken on 7/22/2013 from http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/06/07/school-reform-through-blended-learning.aspx

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Daily Life at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School

As a way to continue to improve academics, the students at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School practice writing different genres.  These genres include essays, short stories, narratives, reflections, and newsletter columns.  These newsletter columns are published to The Cedar Spectrum, the school's student newsletter.  These stories are also often published to the blog as well.  This column was published in our most recent issue.

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Girls decorate for the 4th of July.
The daily routine in the Ombu home Monday through Saturday is that we wake up at 7 AM to staff saying “Good morning ladies!” We come out of our rooms, say good morning and depending on the level you happen to be on, either ask to be watched in your room or you get to go back in your room to make your bed and get everything  you’re going to need that morning in order to get ready. Usually we have twenty minutes in the morning to get ready which can get hectic if you’re not used to it, especially when you’re living with nine other girls. Sundays are different in the sense that we get up at 8 AM however, you have the choice to wake up earlier than that allowing more time to get ready.
            
I enjoy living in the Ombu home for multiple reasons. The ones that stand out to me the most is that everyone in this home cares about each other’s emotional safety and well-being. The second reason is that these girls are supportive of one another’s progress with the program. Something I find unique about the foundation of building friendships with each girl is that we all hold each other accountable for actions and call each other out on our wrong doings and right doings. Feedback in the Ombu home towards one another is something that we value because it serves a purpose to better that particular person and help them become more mindful of the things they are doing right and the things that aren’t necessarily the healthiest for them to be doing in the first place. By far I believe that the relationships that I am making here will last once outside of Cedar Ridge Academy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Civic Service, and Leadership: Required Class for Cedar Ridge Academy Students

At Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School, a required course to complete prior to graduation is called Civic, Service, and Leadership.  This class requires ten activities to be completed for the course. This class is all a part of the rigorous curriculum at our private high school. These activities can be completed in a variety of different ways, mostly by talking to your teacher mentor here about different ideas and seeing which things would be the most likely possibilities or by participating in a project that another student has already organized.  Some of these projects have been done frequently before in the past, some of them are brand new, and others are new ideas from creative minds from the students here. Most of the projects that go on here are coed, which allows both the boys and girls to participate in the activity to get the service credits.

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Students also participate in highway clean-up.
Largely most of the Civic Service Projects that I've participated in here I was uninterested in participating in, although they have largely been on campus activities which enable most students to be able to participate. At least me personally, I was unable to find a reason that I should participate in these projects until I talked to our guidance counselor about how many credits I had and found out I was around 4-5 credits away from graduating high school, which was a huge surprise and gave me a huge spur in motivation to finish as many classes as I could before I left and tried to make graduating high school my biggest priority. After that I began talking to my teacher mentor Kimberly about different civic service projects that I could do to get that done with so I could graduate as soon as possible. Since that time I’ve participate in a few projects and organized my own projects as well so I could get my credits moving.

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Community service builds leadership skills.

The most recent civic service project that has been done was a project that I had organized to make bracelets out of paracord, which we would then send to active troops in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever they are stationed.  These bracelets would help them out if they ever needed to have a rope to tie something together or to help lower people down a cliff. I also organized another project to cut plastic bags into thin strips to send to women in Africa so they can then crochet them into purses to sell to help support their families. It has been great to make these items to help other people all around the world.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cedar Ridge Academy Students Attend Karate Camp in Arizona

On July 12th, Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School students attended a karate camp in Payson, Arizona.  These four girls had a great time learning new karate techniques.  Katelyn wrote about what they learned.

Our instructor was visiting from South Africa, as well as others from California, Washington, and other areas. The camp started with an instruction of the proper kumite, or fighting stance. Malcom, our instructor, was very adamant about getting it correct. We needed to make sure we were “coiled,” so we could thrust forward and get a very strong reverse punch in. After an instruction on the stance, we moved on to the actual punch; using torch, extending our reach all the way, and tensing our core.

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Practicing a kata

When Malcom believed we had gotten the basics down, we switched to controlled freestyle. With a partner, we took time to get into a correct fighting stance, and then we worked on the timing and spacing. Along with the fighting stance, the main point throughout training was having spirit. We learned that we needed to have an attitude of defeat. Malcom had us practice our “look.” He wanted us to look menacing, courageous, yet calm. We were practicing as though we were actually about to fight somebody. The whole point was to show the opponent that you are not intimidated, and feel it in you that though you weren’t either. Overall, the fighting stance, or kumite, a strong reverse punch, spirit, and freestyle were the main points of what we learned.

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Perfecting the stance

We did also get to watch kyu and dan exams for the different belt levels. This was exciting to see how skilled some of the black belts were, and how focused they could be. Another part I enjoyed about the camp was our instructor himself. He was very blunt, and very excited about what he was teaching. This made it easier to stay focused. Overall, I had a good time at the camp; I learned a good amount in the few days we were there, and improved my skills in the karate. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Current Events in a Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Boarding School Social Studies Class

Today at Cedar Ridge Academy Co-ed Therapeutic Boarding School, students in U.S. History and Government class discussed recent current events. As a private school teacher, I encourage students to form their own opinions. As I watch the news, I try to keep the students informed with what is going on in the world.  I bring in a variety of news channel clips so that we can receive different perspectives on the events of the day.  The girls and boys in class today wrote some of their opinions about the events of the week.
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U.S. History Students

The first topic we discussed was the George Zimmerman trial.  This case has fascinated the students and it has given us an opportunity to talk about evidence, jury duty, and the right that we have to a trial.  Last week, one of the jurors spoke out about what it was like to make the decision of not guilty.  We watched a little bit of her interview, and discussed the different implications that she brought out. Then I asked the students to write what they thought we should change in our country, if anything, and how we can move forward.  These were some of the responses:
Student #1: “Gun control needs to be stricter.”
Student #2: “I think from here on out after the situation with Trayvon is that neighborhood watches shouldn't be allowed to carry guns and I think that we should move forward.  I think his mom should keep speaking up though.”
Student #3: “Jurors should not only use the ‘law before your heart’, but jurors should be able to use their conscience and not only abide by the law.”
The second topic we discussed was the trial of Ariel Castro.  We had discussed this when the women had first escaped from the kidnapping, and I wanted to catch the students up with what ended up happening with Castro.  This opened up a great discussion on what exactly a plea bargain does in the criminal justice system.  After watching the statements in court and the news coverage, I asked the students to write down some advice that they have for Amanda, Gina, and Michelle as they move forward with their lives.  Some of them wrote:
Student #4: “My advice for the women are to continue in life and to not let some guy mess up your future.”
Student #5: “Forget all those years of pain and chase whatever it is you dream about.  Make up those 11 years and live as fully as you can. Stay out of the media, and spend time with your families.”
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Students share strong opinions with the class.


Finally, we caught up on the Edward Snowden situation.  The students watched coverage from yesterday’s news about how he is no longer in the airport in Russia because the authorities gave him papers so that he could leave.  We talked about how the U.S. has been trying to negotiate with the Russians so that he can stand trial in the U.S. I asked the students to write what they think this decision will do to the U.S.-Russian relationship.





Student #6: “I feel that it will affect the relationship with Russia because they are going completely against the U.S.’s request.”
Student #7: “This will affect our relationship greatly with Russia because they basically slapped the U.S. in the face and did what we told them to not do.  Also, this will be bad for our relationship because the Russians aren’t trustworthy to us.”
Overall, the students in my U.S. History and Government classes seemed to be very opinionated about the current events of the world and are able to apply what they are learning in class to these events. Click here for links to the videos we watched.

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