‘Guides instead of teachers’: New school looks to redefine the classroom

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A school with a non-traditional learning structure is set to open in Fort Wayne.

Wilds Academy will have “guides” instead of teachers and “heroes” instead of students. The school, a subset of the 280-facility strong Acton Academy, looks to redefine what classroom learning looks like. Acton brands itself as “the one-room schoolhouse of the future.”

They base their curriculum on a collaborative learning experience. That means while there are lesson plans, classroom discussions are driven by the students and what interests them about the topic. They also look to cut down on classroom boredom by keeping the classroom environment stimulating as often as possible. Business Manager Jason Kochenderfer said often, that will include taking students outside. Classwork will lean heavily on critical thinking as opposed to memorizing information. According to Kochenderfer, focusing on the natural curiosity that exists in children will better prepare them for life after school.

“When you get out of high school or out of college, you’re going to be faced with situations where you have to find a solution,” said Kochenderfer. “A lot of that is collaborative exercising, people that you know or tools that you’ve come across in the past and so our goal is to help people establish the rhythm of doing something like that.”

It is a skill that Kochenderfer said is not always easy for some students to pick up in traditional schooling.

“If your parents can keep you going and give you the inspiration to go through that experience that maybe you don’t particularly enjoy, or doesn’t resonate with you very well, then that’s great, said Kochenderfer. “But then there’s a lot of kids who don’t have that support, or they essentially just give up because they feel that it’s not an environment that to thriving inside. We’re just hoping to overcome that, but certainly, every educational institution has its place and I think it’s really just like selecting from a manual, what fits best for your family and for your kid. So we’re just trying to provide another venue option.”

For Kochenderfer and his wife Kaitlin, who are the ones launching the school, Wilds Academy was driven by their desire to find a classroom space that fit their son.

“Our son falls outside of the normal student, or the model student that you would think of,” Kochenderderfer said. “Really active, really curious, asked a lot of questions and wants to be up and around and really see things. So certainly I think there’s absolutely a place for normal and standard educational institutions but occasionally, you have a kid that just doesn’t quite fit right into the classroom environment and we would just hate to see him go through school and see it as a negative experience.”

Parents will receive weekly surveys to fill out with their children to measure how well they feel the children are learning from the program.

Wilds Academy is still nailing down a temporary location to hold classes this fall but plans to build a permanent structure off of Indianapolis Road, where they held an open house Wednesday night.

As a micro-school, they are not expecting to see large enrollment. The school will open on August 19 for the 2021-2022 school year only to grades four through eight with classes approximately ten to twelve students in size. However, the goal is eventually to open it up to grades kindergarten through twelfth grade.

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