Reimagining Middle School
Extraordinary people. Each focusing on a passion, learning at their own pace. Working hard. Playing hard. Mastering core skills while learning 21st-century skills through real-world projects.
WELCOME TO OUR EXPLORER STUDIO!
Where Our Middle School Students Take Control of Their Learning
At Greenfields Academy, we offer a fundamentally different approach to learning than traditional schooling. Our learners are challenged to become the hero in their own story and take control of their education. They have agency and a voice in how they want to learn and when. They aren’t asked to sit down and passively jot down notes in a lecture—no, our learners participate and co-learn with their Guides, empowering themselves to become leaders in their own lives.
At this age, young people are undergoing a lot of changes. They are more socially aware as cultivating and maintaining friendships becomes a top priority, as well as trying to branch out and gain more independence. Their bodies are beginning to embrace adulthood—and now they’re antsy to spread their wings on their Hero’s Journey and go out and slay some dragons. Therefore, our approach seeks to honor these changes and shifting priorities by offering them: bigger challenges, more opportunities to understand themselves and others, and a safe and supportive environment for them to grow.
Honoring our learners’ opinions, giving them authentic choices, and showing them that their actions matter are part of the foundational pillars of positive human development. Each learner at Greenfields develops a hero’s mindset and approach to learning. With the freedom to choose their own path, our Griffins produce more work, challenge themselves to dig deeper, and do all of this with joy, passion, confidence, and a love for learning.
The school year is neatly divided into seven sessions, each focusing on a unique class project that will culminate with a public exhibition for students to showcase their learning. Here are some examples of past projects:
Art-a-Palooza: We rented out an art gallery to display an exhibit of original works for the community. Older Griffins produced, marketed, and curated the event.
Predictable Projectiles: Explorers built projectile launchers and measured kinetic variabilities, and then showcased their findings by creating an animated movie.
Build a Business: Every year, all of our Griffins work together in groups to develop a brand, create a product/service, build a marketing strategy, and then pitch their “business” to hundreds of customers at the Chicago Children’s Business Fair.
Passion Project: Trav/Navs explored their curiosities and passions and worked on a performance piece to share their findings in a community workshop.
These projects are fun, collaborative, and help students broaden their horizons about what they can accomplish both inside and outside of the classroom.
Creating Leaders instead of Followers.
Explorers hone their leadership skills by guiding elementary book clubs, coaching younger students on setting goals, mediating peer disputes, managing studio maintenance teams, and facilitating Socratic-style discussions. As valued members of our ever-evolving community, they are entrusted to lead committees, determine policies, mentor others, and continually improve daily life here at Greenfields.
We firmly believe in the Hero’s Journey, and that anyone can adopt a proactive, all-inclusive approach to learning and become a successful leader in their own life. To nurture these important leadership skills, Explorers will practice:
Speaking up on important issues that matter to them.
Listening, understanding, and respecting different perspectives through Socratic-style discussions.
Reflecting on their strengths and area for improvement,
Making mistakes and learning from them.
Developing real-world skills and how to practically apply them.
Believing in themself and building more self-confidence.
We give our learners the opportunities to practice being human, take on more responsibility, and the freedom to choose their own path—all to ensure that they’re ready to successfully take on life’s next big steps.
Explorers become leaders at Greenfields, at home, with their friends, to themselves, and beyond.
There’s often a Catch-22 in life when you’re applying to get your first job, as young job seekers become painfully familiar with the words: “We were impressed by your resume, but we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate with more experience.” Except, how are young people supposed to get “more experience” if they can’t get hired in the first place?
Our Greenfields solution: We help our Explorers obtain apprenticeships with local entrepreneurs, scientists, and community leaders to help hone their skills and gain real-world experience.
Explorers take a proactive approach to learning and developing their passions, applying their knowledge in practical ways that are invaluable to them as future job seekers. Through this program, they may even discover that their apprenticeship is something they want to pursue in life as a career!
Cognitive science tells us that children learn best when they are in their Challenge Zone—that learning sweet spot sandwiched between being too comfortable and feeling panicked. We use small class sizes and technology to keep each Explorer in their challenge zone as much as possible. This helps our learners deeply absorb these skills beyond that of standardized memorization and move along their learning path at a quicker, intuitive speed.
Greenfields Academy uses the latest in educational technology, multi-age studios, diverse learning materials, and mastery-based badges in order to challenge students, foster a learning community, and help them develop their own unique learning paths. As self-directed learners, Explorers customize their reading, writing, and math goals based on their individual skills and interests.
At Greenfields, our learners earn badges, not grades. There’s also no assigned homework or high-stakes tests. We’ve found that grades, homework, and traditional test testing are limiting and discourage students from learning from their mistakes. On the contrary, our learner-oriented badge system allows Explorers to demonstrate mastery of important skills in a fun and unique way that celebrates all their hard work.
Personalized learning means that no two Griffins’ experience is the same. This adventure is all about discovery and growth, with your child leading the charge. They are exploring who they’re meant to be and we can’t wait to watch their journey unfold.
A day in our studios consists of large blocks of time for work and play with clear yet flexible guard rails in place to help Explorers manage their time, set goals, and track their progress.
Mornings are reserved for core skills, while afternoons are for hands-on projects with integrated time to reflect, think deeply, and connect with peers. Within each work block, Explorers choose from a broad range of work options based on their personal goals, passions, and commitments.
Arrival and Free Time
Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Civilizations
Outside Time and Lunch
(Community Time on Wednesdays,
Project Intensives on Fridays)
(After-School Programs Available)
Explorers celebrate the mastery of tools, skills, and character by earning badges, assembling portfolios, and taking part in public exhibitions.
Parents can review their child’s earned badges to track academic progress in core skills like reading, writing, math, science, and history, as well as character development in “Learn to Be” badges.
Electronic and hard copy portfolios capture rough drafts, photos, videos, and other creative work our Explorers are passionate about.
Public exhibitions occur at the end of most projects and allow Explorers to present their work to experts, customers, or the general public as a real-world test.
A Better Way
At Greenfields, we help young people stay curious, challenge themself, and strive to make a difference.
We want them to fall in love with learning and get started on the right foot. In our eyes, conventional schooling is no longer that “right foot” or relevant (if it ever was) to the world our children will inherit.
Are you willing to walk away from the traditional path and embrace a better way? Do you want your child to have an education that caters to their needs and prepares them for the real world? Do you want to see them thrive instead of survive?
Set up an appointment to speak with us and decide if you’re ready to embrace your Hero’s Journey.