November 4, 2016

Presentation Day, Halloween, Spooky Movie Night at ISLA Academy, October 2016

 ISLA Academy wrapped up its first six weeks of the 2016-2017 academic year with the completion of the first Unit of Inquiry. Presentation Day was held to showcase students’ work, and student assessments were completed. Each presentation is assessed on the ability of the student to show deep understanding of the unit’s central idea.  At ISLA, students spend each unit working on investigative projects.  Students propose an idea and then meet with their teachers to develop project calendars, grading criteria, and a method of presentation. A high importance is placed creativity and planning.  Sample presentations included a philosophical debate between two students acting as Rene Descartes and George Berkeley, a ‘Shark Tank’ agro-business proposal, and a Guide to Healthy Living pamphlet.   

To celebrate the autumn season and Halloween, ISLA Academy held its 2nd Annual Spooky Movie Night Extravaganza on the lawn, on Friday, October 28. This year we showed the kid's Halloween classic, Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride. This fun, family event was complete with a bouncy house, campfire and S’Mores, delicious snacks, fun activities, and even a ‘Thriller’ dance performance.

Halloween has grown in popularity along the north coast of the Dominican Republic throughout the years, and ISLA Academy happily joins in the fun. Encouraging children and staff to wear costumes to school, ISLA Academy celebrates Halloween in full glory. Students were invited to partake in trick or treating in the nearby communities of Sea Horse Ranch and Perla Marina after school, as well.

ISLA Academy continues with its academic mission of serious education as the students embark on their second Unit of Inquiry. A unique offering to the private schools of the Dominican Republic, ISLA Academy supports a child’s natural curiosity through inquiry and project based learning, maintaining a student’s love of learning while enjoying creativity and fun in a distinctive educational environment.

October 21, 2016

Presentation Day was held at ISLA Academy on Thursday, October 13th to present and celebrate the first six weeks’ Units of Inquiry. Individual students and class groups gave presentations for friends and family, highlighting their investigations. There are six Units of Inquiry covered in the academic year, each lasting six weeks.

Representative work was chosen from each grade level, and included song and dance, philosophy, and health and science.  Student work was on display around the campus, with teachers and students offering their unit projects for discussion.

Presentation Day takes place on the final week of each Unit of Inquiry and is a wonderful opportunity for parents to see the work of their children and other students, while learning more about their day-to-day studies and projects.

This fun and dynamic gathering at ISLA Academy provided an opportunity for families to learn more about inquiry and project-based learning and share in the excitement of their children’s education.

More about ISLA Academy

ISLA Academy offers high-quality education for Preschool to Grade 12, at their campus located in Cabarete-Sosua on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. ISLA Academy provides a rigorous, inquiry-based curriculum taught primarily in English, with an experienced team of internationally certified teachers from eight different countries.

A unique offering to the private, international schools of the Dominican Republic, ISLA Academy is the only institution that offers an exclusively inquiry-based method of learning. By connecting with a child's natural curiosity, an inquiry approach creates a culture of investigation and active learning that encourages students to be participants in their own education, not only in childhood but also throughout life. 

September 29, 2016

We enjoyed the support of so many families at both of our recent Curriculum Nights at ISLA Academy. The incredible turnout underscored how parental involvement is a crucial factor for the academic success of any student. Reading to your child, participating in activities that stimulate and challenge them, spending quality time together for meals and recreation, and taking an active interest in their education all support their development in positive ways. We are so grateful that the students at ISLA Academy enjoy the care of such wonderfully invested and engaged families.

During both of our Curriculum Nights, we talked about common terminology found in our unit planners.  From its origins with Socrates to the founder of modern education, John Dewey, inquiry-based learning is the posing of questions, problems or scenarios and investigating answers, rather than simply presenting established facts.  A subject may be taught as a process and way of thinking – not presented solely as facts to be memorized, which can dampen the love of learning.

Inquiry has been used as a teaching and learning tool for thousands of years, however, the use of inquiry within public and private education has a much shorter history. Becoming increasingly mainstream, inquiry-based learning is commonly used in STEM Magnet schools, and academic research has continually shown that students at all levels of education can successfully experience and develop deeper level thinking skills through inquiry-based learning.

At ISLA Academy’s Curriculum Night, we previewed the six Units of Inquiry to be covered this year and discussed the stages of the Inquiry Cycle that each class will move through during a six-week unit.  More importantly, ISLA Academy teachers and staff were happy to speak to parents in person about ways to support their own child’s learning while they are outside of the ISLA campus.

ISLA Academy is a unique newcomer to the current offerings of private, international schools available in the Dominican Republic. It is the only learning institution in the area using an inquiry-based method of teaching. ISLA Academy, located in Sosua-Cabarete, offers a high-quality, rigorous and personalized curriculum taught primarily in English.

September 15, 2016

International Teachers & Campus Expansion

The 2016-2017 school year is off to amazing start at ISLA Academy. We have nearly ten times as many students as we had at last year’s opening, and most importantly, there is an abundance of positive energy from students, teachers and staff that are ready to make this a truly special year. With 86 students in grades ranging from preschool through high school from 27 different countries, and 14 teachers from 8 different countries, our campus is uniquely diverse.

ISLA Academy is proud of our incredible team of educators.  With experience teaching in more than 20 different countries, our team is highly-qualified and truly international.  In addition, we feel confident in saying that they are one of the most skilled team of educators in the entire Caribbean. To learn more, you can see their bios here: Our Team

Our new Preschool is an addition that enjoys the attendance of our youngest students ages 2-3, led by teachers Anne Goosens of Belgium and Sandra Peralta from the Dominican Republic. The children have the opportunity to enjoy supervised play and exploration on our campus, and delight in a newly built casita and tranquil garden play-space created just for them.

We have expanded our ISLA Academy campus by opening an annex learning center which provides additional classrooms for our high school students.  After School Clubs are a vibrant elective to our academic school offerings (and are open to students from other schools, all are welcome to register and attend). After School clubs at ISLA Academy include Soccer, Guitar, Art, Cooking, Chess, STEM, Tennis and more.

ISLA Academy is a unique newcomer to the current offerings of private, international schools available in the Dominican Republic. It is the only learning institution in the area using an inquiry-based method of teaching. ISLA Academy offers a high-quality, rigorous and personalized curriculum taught primarily in English.

We welcome you to visit us at ISLA Academy!

August 19, 2016

Complete with a swimming pool and lots of green space, the ISLA Academy doesn't look like an ordinary school. Actually, it strives to be anything but ordinary.

Housed in what had been a two-story home in the Playa Laguna community of Sosúa, the school serves approximately 50 families, primarily of North American and European backgrounds. The parents don't want an old-school approach for their children, says ISLA Academy co-founder Sean Bennett.

"The community is small but interested in new models of education," says Bennett, a lifelong educator originally from Brunswick, Georgia. "The parents are open to putting their kids into the 21st century. It's exciting to be an educator and to be able to do that. We're taking parents by the hand and walking them to a new form of education."

Students don't memorize. Rote learning is out. "That's how to kill the love of learning," said Bennett, who has taught in the U.S., Asia and Africa. "We favor concepts, the big ideas.  We focus on helping students ask the right questions, investigate to find those answers, and then communicate their understanding."

The learning at ISLA Academy is personalized.  Teachers use the inquiry method in their classrooms, with each student working at their own pace and learning the skills necessary to become a truly independent researcher. Every six weeks, the students work through a fully integrated transdisciplinary unit that incorporates not only all major academic areas, but also creative arts, self-management skills, and character traits.

In building the school's composting bin, for example, students incorporated math and geometry to determine measurements and angles. Through science they learned the process of composting—and what to do about the fruit-fly problem that often comes with composting.

"You can't just build a box and walk away," Bennett explained. "We get the kids building, presenting, communicating, collaborating."

Nature and protecting the Earth figure prominently in the curriculum, which emphasizes fun, hands-on, progressive and challenging learning.

"Children are powerfully affected — cognitively, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually — by their interactions with nature," Bennett said. "We sincerely believe that nature is the greatest teacher that inspires creativity and positivity."

ISLA Academy's physical education takes advantage of the same conditions that have made the North Shore an international watersports destination. The school offers surfing classes and hopes to add other watersports later. There's also kickball, soccer, hiking and capture the flag. Swimming lessons, starting at infant and toddler level, take place out front in the school pool.

"Being physically healthy is such an important part of living that it must be a central part of education," Bennett said. 

Students will also be skilled users of computer technology while being "keenly aware of its dangers, opportunities and pitfalls," he added. 

In addition to school faculty, volunteers share their knowledge with students. A professional musician from the US volunteered during the second semester to enhance the music program. A Russian biologist is working to develop an aquaponics system for the school garden.  A retired U.S. expat involves kids in cooking in the school kitchen, the ISLA Café, which also serves up delicious vegetarian lunches for students and staff.

Bennett and his wife, Juliette Verville, also an international educator, opened ISLA Academy in 2015, offering preschool through high school. First-year enrollment reached 30 students, with an additional 20 in after-school clubs.  In just its second year, enrollment has increased to nearly 75 students, with a waiting list for many of the classes. 

The academy works closely with the fully accredited Clonlara School of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a pioneer in the home schooling movement. Bennett submits a plan for each student, communicates on his or her progress and assesses each student using U.S. Common Core standards.

Given some of the parents' transient lifestyles, the school ensures the children are at grade level should they return to their home country. 

Bennett began teaching at age 16 as a youth mentor in his hometown. His career took him to South Korea, Vietnam and Tanzania. In 2012, he moved to the Dominican Republic and spent two years as head of the English Department at the country's first STEM magnet school, the Liceo Cientifico in Salcedo.

"Teaching and guidance were a part of me before I ever knew what I wanted to be when I grew up'," he said.

Bennett spent two years looking for an ideal site before choosing the 2,500-square-meter house with its inviting pool and spacious yard as ISLA Academy's home.

"It doesn't look like a traditional school, but it's just the right feel for us," he said.

Registration is open for the 2016-2017 academic year, for ages 2-18, classes begin August 29th.  http://islaacademy.com.

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