by Connor Cummiskey
APG of East Central Minnesota
Classical Academy of Practical Education is a new private school aimed at teaching students more than how to pass a test.
The new school focuses on providing students with an alternative learning methods within a Christian framework. It was organized by GALS Technology recently to provide educational opportunities for local families.
“What we decided to do this past year was, because of how things are going on right now with the public education systems and a lot of parents wanting to find alternatives to better fit their child’s needs, we wanted to create a program — expand GALS Technologies programs — to include an actual 6-12 middle and high school,” Principal Nicholas Johnson said.
Johnson said part of why the academy is being opened is in response to a perceived lack of depth in students’ education as well as too few opportunities for vocational education in the public school system.
“We see that a lot of students are lacking the true depth of understanding of how to apply what they are learning to real life and getting a true, like I said, liberal arts education,” Johnson said.
He added that the school was not trying to undercut public education, but offer a different model for students who need something else.
“We see a gap for certain students who learn a little differently, need a little more engagement, practical education — things like that,” Johnson said.
The school’s mission is threefold, according to Johnson. It aims to assist in moral and ethical development in students, establish a liberal arts curriculum that teaches students how to apply their knowledge to other subjects and real life and lastly to prepare students for life, careers and higher education, he said.
“The goal that we have is not to create a system where the students try to cram and memorize a bunch of facts in three days and take a test and then forget it two weeks later,” Johnson said.
“The goal is to engage them and help them actually understand the material and how it’s connected to their life and everything else they are learning.”
While the academy is a Christian school, it does not align with any specific denomination. The only required religious instruction includes one class period a week that is focused on prayer, Bible readings, singing and other activities, according to the academy’s website. For students interested in delving deeper, the school offers electives that study a variety of theology and reading early Christian writers, according to Johnson.
There are three methods the school will use to instruct students. One is lectures with question-and-answer periods that most students may be familiar with. A second approach is applying the Socratic method, where the teacher will lead a discussion between students.
“The teacher will actually facilitate an active discussion among the students in the class,” Johnson said. “So this might be for some kind of innovation, a project or it could be curricular such as in philosophy or history where we actually take something, discuss it and debate it with a teacher facilitating over it.”
The third method is a more hands-on approach, including projects, labs and industrial arts classes. Not all classed will have the same proportions of each method. English may be primarily lecture-based, while business classes are more hands-on, but each should have a balance depending on what works best in the subject, according to Johnson.
That hands-on approach is partially provided through the academy’s relationship with GALS Technology as well as a partnership with Speed, Props & Pylons. That gives students a real business setting for internships and lessons, according to Johnson.
The school also partners with Flight Expo to teach students industrial arts skills such as how to use power tools and welding, according to Johnson.
“They’ll actually have the opportunity to earn their aircraft and power plant mechanic’s license, which will prepare (them) for a mechanical position in the aviation field,” Johnson said.
The school plans to sync up lessons across multiple subjects so students can apply what they learned in government classes to philosophy and history classes.
“The goal is to be able to analyze history through primary source documents and then be able to integrate, analyze and recognize patterns throughout history which affect human culture, society, government, economics, etc.” Johnson said.
Most students will attend their core classes in the mornings
Monday through Thursday each week. In the afternoons and evening students will attend the hands-on classes in industrial or fine arts if they elect to take those classes. Students also get some additional time in the morning between classes specifically to decompress as well as a longer lunch break that extends into a recess so students can socialize, according to Johnson.
Fridays will look a little different. Instead of the core classes, students will attend three of the peripheral classes like philosophy, finance or theology, Johnson said.
The school is not yet accredited. School leaders are looking at potential accreditation; however, they are concerned over how the requirements by an accrediting organization may interfere with the school’s mission.
“We are going to be looking at being accredited in the future as long as we don’t see it conflicting with the process we’re working with here,” Johnson said.
The academy is now accepting students and will begin classes next school year. The school is hosting an open house 2-5 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at its primary location (31340 125th St.) and at its industrial arts building (29563 144th St.) from 4-5 p.m. Another open house is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, at the primary location from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the industrial arts building 12:30-2 p.m.
More information can be found at classical-academy.org.