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“This is what school should be. I mean, not to take anything away from what you’re doing – it’s so obvious that this is how kids learn. [Long pause]… thank you for doing this.” – Parent on tour at Headwaters Academy, September ’21
Ultimately, every tour is about answering one base question: ‘Why pay $17,300 for a Headwaters education when the school down the street is offering it for $0?’
The answer is the strength of our education. It goes well beyond what any other school can offer, and can be seen, without effort, in three main areas.
1) Traditional Values
Headwaters Academy students value:
– Hard work (“At Headwaters we always do our best”)
– Integrity and Character (“We are impeccable with our word”)
– Teamwork and Community (“We don’t make assumptions”)
– Humility and Trust (“We don’t take anything personally”)
The sayings in brackets are the promises that any Headwaters student will recite for you, but more than that, they will also explain them to you and they live by them.
You can see all of these values within your first twenty minutes on campus daily. Students know who is shy and slow to warm up to games in the morning – so they discreetly catch their interest and get them involved rather than leaving them to their selves. You will see them run with purpose on our daily run (usually just over a mile), and then turn around and go back to run with those still on course. Just today our oldest girl (13) took the time to gather small rocks of seemingly little value that she knew would be important to an 8 year boy who is new to us. The children smile. They interact with adults. And when it’s time to get to work they independently seek their books and pencils and are, more often than not, waiting for me as I change out of my running clothes to go teach my math class. This is, first and foremost, a learning community. What is equally obvious is that these children care for each other because they understand each other and value each other’s contributions – not because they were told to, but because they realize that a community truly is strongest when everyone is included.
2) A Modern Approach
This week our students tore apart three non-working Honda engines and are prepped, tomorrow, to make one working engine from the three. They will also start work on our snowmobile, lawn tractor, and three rototillers. From 6 years old through 13, they have all learned, in the past week, how to diagnose a non-starting engine as well as safely run a motor. They are beginning to master the differences between two stroke engines and four stroke engines. Next week they will learn about steam and be mentored by local ‘seniors’ who run a narrow gauge track near Owen Sound.
This approach of ‘learning by doing’ is not designed to create mechanics. Rather, it provides a canvas upon which we can hang our learning. The list of principles we talked about this week would take pages to print to exhaustion, but here are a few:
– The components of combustion.
– Fuel, it’s types, and it’s origin and production.
– Electrical circuitry
– Rates of speed (rpms) and gearing
– Vertical versus circular motion
– Using Kijiji, persuasive writing, and negotiations (they literally sold a half-eaten charcuterie board!)
This style of learning and mentorship is not new. Rather, it’s been lost as we sought the most economical means of education and forgot the value of experience.
3) Excellent Outcomes
Our returning students are, without exception, working above their grade level in mathematics. Their language skills are impressive and we will soon substantiate these claims as we participate in standardized testing (strictly for the purpose of substantiating these claims). But despite rapidly becoming known for academic excellence in this community ‘grade levels’ don’t tell the story of our outcomes. Rather, it’s in the eyes and heart of any Headwaters student you meet. They are resilient, creative, passionate, caring, and problem solvers. They are, as that visiting parent said to me, “just incredible human beings.” We invite you to come see them in action for yourself.
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