(Lander, WY) – Academy of the Winds will expand in the coming school year to include a Middle School. They are having a community information night for Upper Elementary and Middle School tonight, Jan. 26, at 6 p.m. Click here for more information.
This year, they have 70 students, ages 3-12. And have over 140 on their waiting list. The Montessori school, which started as a pre-school in 2019, will now go up to age 15 in the 2024-2025 school year.
The school is located on 7.5 acres, kitty-corner to City Park at 780 Von Bieker Street. The land and school were built and donated by an anonymous community member.
Their structure is vastly different than a public school. Their classrooms operate with three age groups in one classroom: ages three through six in one classroom, six-year-olds through younger nine-year-olds in another and then nine-year-olds through 13-year-olds.
“It’s kind of a beautiful thing, honestly,” said Founding Director Jenny Schucker. “The older kids can help the younger kids. There’s a definite sense of community.”
They believe that the kids have a spectrum of learning. Their mantra is “follow the child.”
“They kind of set the pace of their own education,” Schucker explained. “So they set goals every single day, even as young as three-year-olds are setting goals every single day for some sort of academic or extracurricular learning. And once they’ve mastered those goals, then we move them on to the next little piece of content. So, if you were to walk into our classrooms, you would see every single child working on a different skill. It’s very, very individualized instead of sitting in, you know, one age group in desks, they’re all moving around the classroom working on their own subject content.
“We’re traditionally used to, you know, (a) teacher up in the front of the classroom, giving a lesson. Then, kids are doing worksheets and then kind of regurgitating what they learned in the classroom on the test. And so we’ve kind of deviated away from that, and we’ve gone to all mastery-based learning, so the child has to be able to show the teacher that they’ve mastered that content and also be able to teach it to another child before they move on. So, every single kiddo is in a self-paced curriculum, and we give it to them whenever they’re ready. The next level of difficulty.”
Each classroom has one certified lead teacher who has a teacher’s license in Wyoming. Then also an assistant teacher in each classroom. The teacher-student ratio is one to 10 in the preschool room. And then one to 12 in the lower elementary and upper elementary.
“We follow the Montessori curriculum through our primary and lower elementary classrooms pretty exclusively,” Schucker noted. “Then, in our upper elementary classroom, we deviate a little bit from Montessori and go into more of a project-based curriculum. So our projects are based off of real-world skills that they need, and we base the projects off of that. With project-based learning, they’re given a problem that they then have to go research and solve. And we tie in writing and research and group discussions and things like that within that project. And then at the end of that project, they present it to their family. We have a family night, so they get to learn how to put together a presentation and deliver what they learned and the content that they learned and do a project around it.”
They still teach all of the common core standards, similar to what a public school would present. Allowing students to seamlessly transition into a public school if that is their next step. Similar to a homeschooler, they would just take an entrance exam.
“It’s so very different than what we would say is a traditional education,” Schucker continued. But what we’re seeing with the kids is that they just don’t fit into a cookie-cutter system. They really flourish and blossom here with their independence (and) their creativity. All of those kiddos who just don’t want to sit at a desk for six hours.”
The Middle School will hit on the core academic subject areas, have a huge emphasis on project-based learning, and get them out into the community for service projects.
“We’re actively seeking out organizations that can use many, many hands to help complete whatever their service objective is in the community. Part of this program is also going to be to run apprenticeship programs. So, figuring out what these middle schoolers are passionate about and what they potentially want to do with (their) life. And then my job on my end will be to connect with business owners or really anybody in the community that would be willing to have a young teenager come in and shadow them for a while and really give these kids the opportunity not only to understand what is needed for that field, but to really see if that’s really what they want to do with their life. It’s, you know, to really give them a leg up because I remember going into college and I’m like, I don’t know what I want you to do.”
For more information, call the Academy of the Winds at (307) 241-5775.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this stated that the school’s land and building were donated by Brandon Lee. That was incorrect. They were donated by an anonymous community member.