Peak outperforms the local district in all subjects, including science, which Jill Fischer has taught for five years at Peak and 17 at National Heritage Academies (NHA). The model was incorporated in all subjects by Principal Steve Pond when the school opened in 2017.
It was a bit of a transition at first for Fischer to fit science lessons into the workshop model, but she found a rhythm. Students begin in mixed ability groups but then branch out to ability groups based on where they are with the concept and receive personalized instruction. A heat transfer lesson, for example, includes an introductory video station that provides an overview, an illustration station where students draw different types of heat transfers, a reading station where they read a passage, a hands-on station, and a writing station for questions about the subject.
“I think they enjoy it a lot more because they’re moving around. They’re not always working with the same group, so they have that flexibility,” Fischer said. “They know that these groups, they’re not fixed, they’re constantly changing. Maybe someone doesn’t know a lot about heat transfer, but they do know a lot about matter and how matter changes. I can facilitate around to the groups and I can see the kids taking ownership for their own learning.”
By having stations for reading, writing, and vocabulary for a small experiment, demonstration, graph, or mapping activity, Peak students exercise multiple skills in a lesson. In 2021-22, Peak outperformed the local district and the state in every grade/subject combination. Peak’s state test proficiency returned to pre-pandemic rates in science at 96% and exceeded pre-pandemic rates in math, from 80% in 2018-19 to 84% in 2021-22. Also, in 2018-19 and 2021-22, Peak earned the highest school letter grade of A.
“The workshop stations in my science station help scholars to practice their science skills while supporting strategies they can use in their math and ELA classes as well,” Fischer said. “It works out to be a win-win-win scenario for our scholars.”
Fischer encourages students to come up with their own ideas about science and draw their own conclusions. Instead of giving out notes and vocabulary for a heat transfer lesson, they watched a video about a store that tested which cooler held ice the longest and determined what factors into each cooler’s performance. Once the introductory lesson concludes, students learn more about conduction and convection and how coolers and insulated cups work.
Lessons like that show kids that science is everywhere. And when kids realize that science is everywhere, they begin to learn outside the classroom, which gives Fischer the most satisfaction.
“I like to hear how they take that knowledge they learned in the classroom and apply it to their real life,” she said. “That’s what really makes me happy.”
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Fischer!
Check out a school near you!
Peak Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Apex, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
Visit Peak Charter Academy's blog to read more stories like this.