Fitting together the pieces of a life well-lived
Not just what you learn but who you are
Exploring and developing one’s intellectual and academic capabilities is an important part of a fulfilling life journey, but it is but one part of any child’s life-lived experience. The richness of that experience as a whole depends on skills that are all too often left to chance in traditional educational environments, including the ability to identify our passions, find common ground with others, build fulfilling relationships, identify and foster community, appreciate and express our own emotions and monitor and manage our body needs.
At Cajal Academy, these skills sit right alongside reading and math as primary components of our curriculum. We start by understanding each child’s current strengths and weaknesses across their entire profile, including a separate and specific assessment within each of six pillars of our “Whole Human” curriculum, including Academic Scholarship, Community & Leadership, Body Sense, Social & Communication, Emotional Health and Agency. Scaffolded curriculum standards within each of these core pillars are individualized for each child’s specific needs. These standards are then integrated across the various pillars into core academic and classroom activities, using the standards-based Project-Based Learning framework developed by the Buck Institute for Education.
Find out more about the six pillars of our curriculum below.
The 6 Pillars of our “Whole Human Education” Curriculum:
Academic curriculum from research skills to understanding world history are integrated into cross-disciplinary projects that require students to deeply and critically engage with the content by collaboratively solving real-world problems. Outside content experts are brought in to the process to ensure that no child runs out of runway to grow, and instruction is personalized through our data-driven process to allow each child to experience their gifts while increasing capacity in the areas that threaten to hold them back, through therapeutically-derived strategies that leverage the concept of neuroplasticity. Across all subjects, content is mastery-based, allowing each child to move at their own pace and offering the runway that inquisitive learners need to pursue their own passions and explore their own gifts.
21st century leadership starts with knowing how to foster a true sense of community, based not on the services you get, but the service that you give, and a recognition that with our gifts come the opportunity to use them to benefit others. Within our Community & Leadership pillar we will develop the skills needed to foster diversity of thought and inclusion within our within our school, region, nation and globally. Skills will be scaffolded to meet each learner’s level of readiness, from managing the sensory aspects of community participation to public speaking.
From sensory processing disorder to the cognitive distraction of poor postural control and beyond, there are a myriad ways that basic physiological functioning impacts our cognitive availability for learning, social and emotional experiences. And, there are an equal number of ways that the human body can be used to improve that readiness. These occupational and physical therapy-informed insights are built into every element of our program design, including our Body-Informed instructional strategies, which are tailored to the full spectrum of movement profiles from the highly sensory-averse to the hyperkinetic. Personalized Strategies, individualized to each child’s needs, make these tools actionable to help our learners improve their abilities to self-monitor, self-regulate and self-advocate.
Effective social communication and the art of forming healthy, long-lasting relationships are far more complex and, for many children, complex tasks than pop culture would have us believe. As with all others of our pillars, our Social & Communication curriculum is scaffolded to meet each child where they are, from discerning nonverbal communications to public speaking. Consistent with our Body-Informed Learning approach, our social skills curriculum integrates an appreciation of social expectations with a focus on the sensory and other strategies required to be available neurologically to meet those expectations in the moment. These come together through Personalized Strategies each child can use to self-monitor, self-manage and self-advocate, and our Neurologically- and Trauma-Informed Approach to leveraging behavioral events as critical coaching opportunities.
From anxiety to depression, it is well-understood that our emotional health directly impacts not just how we feel but how we think, act and communicate. What is less well known is that myriad physiological functions from immunological reactions to sensory processing to hypermobility impact our emotional state, in an inter-related circuit. Our approach to emotional health integrates these two understandings into integrated toolsets that are not just applied in the classroom by our therapeutic experts but taught to the children so they can have agency themselves, through coaching in how to apply their own Personalized Strategies.
Our ultimate goal as educators is to give each child agency over their own learning, social and emotional experiences. Achieving that goal requires a mix of academic, social, emotional and physiological learnings, along with the executive function skills required to bring them all together not just in a therapeutic setting but in the moment, in real world settings. Our sixth and final pillar of our curriculum recognizes this reality, and infuses all that we do, from the design of our Project-Based Learning experiences to our data-driven individualized instruction to coaching in proactive Personalized Strategies to our Neurologically-and-Trauma-Informed Approach to addressing behavioral events. It is the core of our commitment that don’t just regulate or support our students, we give them agency through concrete tools they can use to do it themselves.