Our middle school is designed to meet the unique challenges of the teenage brain. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until around age 25. This creates a challenge as we try to engage students in instruction. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part of the brain.
In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.
We have designed some specific elements to address these challenges and to leverage what we know about the teenage brain in order to make the most of this difficult stage of development. The teenage brain is highly emotional and very social. An example of how we address this need is to provide a school-wide 20 minute break where students can get a snack and catch up on what they think they are missing out on by being in class. This break allows the emotions and social worries to be relieved so that students can focus on academics when they return to class.
We also recognize the need for students to talk and have social interaction. Lessons are designed to allow students to collaborate, talk, and work together. Subjects are embedded as much as possible into real life situations and designed based on student interest in order to capture the emotions and imaginations of the students. If we don’t have their attention, we can teach, but students won’t learn. We strive for lessons that are engaging (not boring) and relevant to the real world.
Field trips are an excellent way to engage students, provide social opportunities, fun, and foster the connection between the academics in the classroom and how it applies to the real world. Field trips are planned for the year and a schedule and cost are provided to the parents. We strive for five to six field trips per year.
RULER Yale University Partnership for Emotional Intelligence
RULER is an evidence-based approach for integrating social and emotional learning into schools, developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. RULER applies “hard science” to the teaching of what have historically been called “soft skills.” RULER teaches the skills of emotional intelligence — those associated with recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotion. Decades of research show that these skills are essential to effective teaching and learning, sound decision making, physical and mental health, and success in school and beyond.
RULER creates schools that are true safe harbors for our children. It does this by developing emotional intelligence in students from preschool to high school and in all adults involved in their education: school administrators, teachers, and support staff. Parents also participate in training so that they can reinforce the emotional skills that students learn at school. Our approach gives a unique depth and consistency to social and emotional learning that empowers school leaders and teachers to create a genuinely safe space for students to learn and grow.
All students will attend RULER class once per week to work on their understanding of their emotions and actions and how their emotions and actions affect themselves and others.
Families are not required to believe in the Christian faith in order to attend Woodland Middle Academy. However, we will teach a Biblical world view in all areas of instruction and integrate faith throughout the school day. We believe that application is the highest form of Biblical knowledge and therefore our focus will be on the application of God’s word and living out the example of Jesus. Students will attend a weekly Bible class but will also have the opportunity to have mentors and support from the student pastors at Woodland Community Church.