Love Your School is pleased to introduce the next recipient of the A for Arizona Expansion and Innovation Fund Small Learning Communities (SLC) grant, Gowan Science Academy! At Love Your School, we’re all about celebrating the unique and individualized options available to families, including these new communities.
Gowan Science Academy is a STEM-focused charter school of the Crane School District in Yuma serving students K-7. Students are enrolled in GSA through a lottery process that emphasizes parental involvement.
What inspired this school to launch an SLC? Here’s the story.
Yuma, Arizona has been especially affected by COVID-19 with case numbers higher than average. For this reason, Gowan Science Academy (GSA) has been primarily delivering instruction remotely which has unfortunately caused increased student disengagement. GSA has experienced an uptick in absentee rates, discipline issues, and referrals to the administration.
GSA has a diverse, gifted student population with a majority of Hispanic students. GSA is located in the north end of Yuma where poverty rates are the highest, with some homes even lacking running water. GSA provides all students with free breakfast and lunch to help alleviate some of these burdens. These environmental conditions, along with the strain of virtual learning, did not contribute to student success.
GSA was looking for a quick solution to re-engage students, provide teachers with reassurance on in-person instruction, and a way to reinforce the idea that learning can take place anywhere. GSA recognizes that education is not confined to the walls of a classroom and sought for a way to teach students from a different perspective.
In response and supported by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund and the A for Arizona Small Learning Community grant, GSA is designing a Small Learning Community (SLC) with new outdoor learning hubs to facilitate lessons outside the traditional classroom walls. This dedicated outdoor learning space is a creative solution to Yuma’s remote region that reduces barriers to a time and place for learning.
Partnering with the Yuma Parks and Recreation Department, GSA will extend WiFi coverage and provide additional learning experiences in the new outdoor space. This SLC can also be used after school hours and on the weekends for working families.
GSA’s intention in designing this outdoor SLC was for it to be community-driven. Many teachers were concerned about virus transmission due to in-person learning but felt more comfortable in an outdoor setting that minimizes this risk. Research also suggested that outdoor learning was restorative and increased student engagement. GSA will be the only Yuma school with this type of non-traditional learning.
GSA is excited to provide this win-win solution to students and parents looking for in-person educational opportunities and to re-engage in programs after school and on the weekends.
Love Your School is inspired by the creative spirit of Arizona’s education leaders. Schools like Gowan Science Academy have stepped up to the plate during these challenging times to bring your family some of the best educational opportunities in Arizona. We look forward to continuing our work with outstanding organizations like A for Arizona and Governor Ducey to promote these unique and exciting SLCs.
Stay tuned for our final school – CASA Academy!