PICKENS, S.C. – The beauty of charter schools is the freedom for teachers and administrators to be more creative with the programs and curriculum they implement. Officials with the new Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) in Pickens, S.C., hope the STEM-based program they’ve set up for sixth and seventh graders will serve as a model for other charter middle schools in the state in coming years.

Pitsco Education math and science curricula give YLA students hands-on experiences through standards-based content. YLA Principal Patsy Wood Smith says the curriculum choice was easy when they saw what students would get in the Pitsco labs.

“When we started to study the Pitsco curriculum, it was like, if the Youth Leadership Academy could dream of a curriculum that pulled together the standards, the hands-on, the independent learning, the teamwork – all of the things we have said we feel are so important – it’s the Pitsco curriculum. It’s the perfect marriage,” Smith said.

As an alternative to other public schools, the YLA aims to give its current 48 students a unique educational experience steeped in STEM. Even the English Language Arts, social sciences, arts, music, and physical education courses will include engaging, hands-on, team-based approaches that integrate STEM concepts.

“Our academic focus is STEM. We want students to be well grounded in STEM curriculum,” Smith said. “We want them to understand that there are so many careers in the STEM area, and we want them to start at the middle school level, discovering what it takes to get into college.”

Eighth grade will be added in the 2013-14 school year, pushing enrollment to 72 at the school that has a waiting list of students whose parents want them to focus on STEM education in a small, more personal school setting.

Smith hopes this first YLA is only the beginning. “Our charter application allows us to replicate our school across the state.” The YLA was developed through the Youth Learning Institute at Clemson University. YLI is focused on innovative experiential approaches through which students develop 21st-century skills such as communication, problem solving, and cooperative learning. Part of this process is to shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student.

The student-centered Pitsco Education curriculum at the YLA includes:
o Sixth grade – Signature Math (Individualized Prescriptive Lessons [IPLs] and Culminating Group Activities [CGAs]); Life Science (team-based, hands-on exploration of key topics and whole-class blended science activities)
o Seventh grade – Algebra Readiness (IPLs, CGAs, and team-based, hands-on exploration of key topics); Physical Science (team-based, hands-on exploration of key topics and whole-class blended science activities)

To learn more about the YLA, visit www.ylaofsc.com. To learn more about Pitsco Education Math and Science, visit www.pitsco.com.

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Pitsco Education Curriculum is the leading provider of age-appropriate, student-centered K-12 learning solutions. Our standards-based K-12 curriculum promotes student success through positive and challenging learning experiences. Our curriculum combines relevant hands-on activities and a team-based, student-directed learning environment to deliver core courses and career skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

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