Defining Excellence: For Community

As we’ve been discussing for the last few weeks, Einstein Academy was created to be an excellent school; so far we have looked at what that means in the area of for kids and for families. This week we turn our attention to community.

Anne Frank (a young Holocaust victim whose diary was publish posthumously) once said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” And this is a concept we work to instill in our students -- anyone can make an impact and improve the world. You don’t have to wait until you are a certain age, have obtained a certain degree, or have a certain amount of money. At Einstein Academy, we empower students, of all ages, to make an impact on their community, and we help them do this through supporting them, enable them with the necessary tools, and providing opportunities through three main channels:

  1. A basis of social entrepreneurship. We work with our students to not only be problem-solvers, but also problem-seekers in the social, cultural, and environmental realms, with the aim of making the world a better place. Through this process, we cultivate empathy and kindness amongst our students as drivers of action, working with students to better understand each other and the world around them. We also work with students to identify meaningful ways for them to get involved and take action so that they are truly understanding the problem and engaging in a meaningful solution. Through the entrepreneurial aspect of this process, we foster student creativity and project-management skills, equipping them with valuable skills and experience.

  2. Real-world problem solving. While our curriculum is aligned with standards, a large part of our day is dedicated to interdisciplinary problem solving, during which time students work to identify problems in the community (whether that be the classroom, the local community, or greater Denver) and look through a variety of lenses to come up with a solution. As such, students learn much of the same content and skills as students in more traditional settings, but the framework of the learning allows for them to see the applicability and relevance of their learning immediately, leading to greater retention. Furthermore, students are empowered with the belief that they can make a difference, which impacts their thoughts and actions, building a sense of purpose and self-worth.

  3. Exceptional faculty. Ultimately, we recognize that our teachers are our most valuable asset, so our faculty consists of people who love kids and are open to growing and learning themselves. We support our teachers so that they are equipped to guide our students in making a positive impact of the community, working with them on student-centered learning practices such as design thinking, inquiry education, and project based learning so that they are able to better facilitate learning throughout the year, supporting and challenging individual students as appropriate in order to maximize growth (and engagement!) for each student.

As opposed to traditional entrepreneurship which measures success largely based on profits, social entrepreneurship focuses on the return to society and impact on the greater good, both much more challenging to accurately measure. As we aim for excellence in the area of community, our measurable data points include the impact we have as relates to solving identified programs. But for us, our success also relates to our student mindset and way of thinking. When faced with a problem, what do I do? What kinds of problems are important to me? To what extent do I feel equipped to make a positive impact on my community? Why is it important for me to have concern for my community and those around me? How can I use empathy to better understand the challenges others are facing? What is my obligation to others around me? These and other questions are really where we define success, aiming, as Helen Keller expressed, for students to be excited about the opportunity to improve the world.

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