Explore Knowledge Academy is a unique educational institution that promotes deeper learning, community collaboration and the promotion of individualized learning opportunities for all students.
Founded by Dr. Joan Sando, Explore Knowledge Academy (EKA) received approval for a conditional charter from the Nevada State Department of Education in March 2001 and from its sponsor, Clark County School District, in April of 2002. Priding itself on creating leaders one project at a time, EKA’s goal is to open the world of learning and leadership to young people. At EKA, advisors, students, parents, and community members work together to create life-long leaders through the use of Project Based Learning methods and the integration of modern technology. Starting with only 309 students in its first year, EKA has expanded significantly to over 800 students. EKA now provides an iPad or Chromebook to each student from Kindergarten through 12th grade for their use while on campus. This technology allows EKA students to have enhanced engagement in the educational process and access to the world at their fingertips, preparing them for life in the 21st century and beyond.
Explore Knowledge Academy (EKA) expects all students to meet the requirements of the 21st Century Course of Study through technology infused Project Based Learning and direct instruction in core content areas. Seniors are enrolled in a year-long 120 hour Senior Project class in which they create a capstone project that gives back to the school community, or the community at large. EKA believes that all students must be prepared for the following post-secondary opportunities: University/Four-Year College, Community/Two-Year College, Trade/Technical School or the workforce. Curriculum correlates with the Nevada State Content Standards and the Common Core State Standards as well. Technology is a focus for EKA students and an iPad or Chromebook is available to each student while on campus, K – 12 wide to increase project and research depth. All direct instruction includes an integration of content knowledge and process skills through hands-on inquiry based instruction, research and experimentation. Students at all levels K – 12 create and present projects on various content topics in order to meet standards, share their learned knowledge and embrace the feeling of community.
In 2012, EKA united three small, separate campuses into one state of the art, centralized facility. With three buildings containing over 60,000 square feet of educationally focused space, the latest in engineering and architectural design provides EKA students with the required infrastructure needed for academic and personal success. iPads, Chromebook, Macbook Pros, Apple TVs and projection devices are now a part of the technology package available to advisors and students for presentations of learning, an integral part of the PBL process. Features of the buildings include presentation rooms and moveable walls to meet the ever changing needs of the school. New playground areas, athletics courts, and a grass field area are other welcome additions to the school’s new facility. In the near future, the school hopes that funding will be available in order to complete other phases of this transition, including the completion of a campus library, science laboratory, full service theatre, and the ability to provide Smart Boards for use in every classroom.
EKA is a project based school which means that the students learn through hands on, self directed research. The Common Core Standards and Nevada State Standards guide the curriculum, but it is the student’s interests and curiosity that determine the method and the type of project they create to show that they have met those standards. Because students drive the curriculum, teachers are called advisors, as they truly advise, and support student learning. Classrooms are in turn referred to as advisories and instead of rows of desks facing a board, advisories are fluid, adapting to the needs of the students at the time. Advisories are also multi-grade except for Kindergarten and 1st grade. This enables advisors to instruct and support students at their educational level rather than at a specific grade level. The moveable walls in the pods, or multi-advisory areas, allow for team teaching and group work. At the secondary level, some advisories span grades 6 – 12 for a collaborative dynamic that engages students and allows them to reach their own unique educational potential.
Projects at EKA are also different from the typical poster board that the word “project” usually connotes. A typical project at EKA consists of several pieces. There is first the idea and the essential question. Students must ask themselves what it is they want to know or research. Then, they must find multiple reliable sources to help them find the answer to their questions. Use of primary sources such as original documents, or people in the specific field is encouraged. At the older grade levels, the students create their own timelines, and schedules with milestones to help them stay on target. Students also track their time on projects, just as they would in a real world situation. There is a written component of a finished project as well as a visual. Depending on the age and capability of a student, this can be a paragraph to a 5-10 page paper. Visuals come in all different shapes and sizes from plays, drawings, models, songs and Keynote presentations. No matter how different the project though, at EKA all projects must have a presentation of learning. Even at the Kindergarten level, students present to their advisor and their peers the information that they have gathered through the learning process. Students become natural public speakers as they learn to speak out and answer questions about the new knowledge they have gained. The final piece of a project is the self reflection. This is a student’s opportunity to look back at the work they have done and look for ways to improve their methods and critically assess their efforts. Knowing how to evaluate one’s own work and to find methods to achieve higher learning the next time, is just one of the skills that students at EKA possess. In order to meet graduation requirements at EKA, seniors create a 120 hour capstone project that they must defend in front of the entire school. These projects must give something back to the school community or the community as a whole. This process prepares EKA students for post-secondary education opportunities, as well as becoming valued members of Nevada’s workforce.
Explore Knowledge Academy attempts to provide exemplary parent communication through direct contact with teachers, bi-monthly newsletters, teacher web-pages, Facebook, Twitter, parent/teacher conferences, individual conferences, automatic phone messaging, email and public meetings. Parents attend a mandatory orientation prior to enrollment so that they can be adequately informed of the school’s unique learning environment and its educational advantages. Website and Facebook pages are updated frequently and contain calendars, school events and links to school partners and educational support services. Newsletters are emailed directly to parents twice a month to give timely information on student happenings and activities. Monthly Board of Trustees meetings are posted and open to the public. The Parent Teacher Student Association also provides communication to parents regarding programs and events at EKA.