Region’s first micro school opens its doors as Zealous Schools launches in Eagle Ranch
What’s a micro school?
The micro school movement started in Silicon Valley and is gaining momentum across the country. They don’t have to be private schools, but most micro schools have a few things in common:
• They’re smaller, from around 10 to a few dozen students;
• Multiple ages learn together in a single classroom;
• Teachers act more as guides than lecturers;
• There’s a heavy emphasis on digital and project-based learning;
• Education is highly personalized;
• They can meet five days per week, the worldwide paradigm for school scheduling, but don’t have to;
• Classes tend to be hands-on and activity-based.
EAGLE — The region’s first micro school, Zealous Schools, opened Tuesday, Sept. 4, with massive smiles and a 5-to-1 student-teacher ratio.
Geoff Grimmer, former headmaster of the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, launched Zealous Learning Solutions, an education consulting firm in Eagle County. He co-founded Zealous Schools with Brent Drever, an international educational consultant, founder and CEO of Acuity Institute, an online education provider in the business community with more than 10,000 clients in 100 countries.
Zealous Schools is for middle school, grades six through eight. They’ve filled 19 of their 20 spots for students, who will be led by four academic coaches who specialize in mathematics, science, English and social studies.
“I wanted to design something that would significantly improve the learning experience for middle-schoolers in our community,” Grimmer said.
Their Eagle Ranch location, next to the Capital Theater, has been empty for four years, so when they started looking around for space, they didn’t have to look far.
Actual individual curriculum
Curriculum and programs are individualized, Grimmer said.
“To have these kids with the energy finally in school is amazing,” said Cary Anderson Rash, Zealous Schools admissions director.
Their first day opened with students introducing their parents in an all-school meeting. Then the students strolled down the street to a local park for some get-acquainted time.
Generally, a student’s day opens by going outside and getting active. The students voted, and for the first six weeks, they’ll mountain bike and longboard the first hour of their school day. Then they’ll settle in for a day of project-based classes. Fridays they’re in the field somewhere, maybe a local river or maybe a museum in Denver, Anderson Rash said.
Grimmer said multidiscipline projects will promote “real world” critical thinking and problem solving, supplemented with traditional academic skills such as reading, writing and mathematics, as well as virtual reality stations integrated with 3D printing, robotics and other technology.
“If we’re studying climate change, why wouldn’t we have the kids do a community project as a teaching tool and benefits the community?” Grimmer said.
Along with getting the blood pumping, they get the creative juices flowing with a two-hour weekly art session. If the middle school Michelangelos want to go longer, then they can.
The local school is the first Zealous School in the country, although it’s part of a growing micro school movement. Zealous Schools is not being operated as a profit center, unlike many micro schools around the country, Drever said.
“The plan is to grow this one and then branch out,” board member Kathy Boyse said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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