Sierra Crest hosts open house

Sierra Crest Academy is having an open house Thursday so Carson Valley residents can get to know the students and the charter school's educational philosophy.

Amy Sando, English teacher and a founder of the school, describes Sierra Crest as a project-based learning school.

"This kind of learning isn't for everybody," said Sando. "The projects are topics the students have interest in. Other schools are curriculum-based. For example, in teaching biology, part is covered by teachers but the student has to personalize the lesson.

"We currently have 55 students and our capacity is 80 students. We're recruiting for next year," she said.

As an independent public charter school, Sierra Crest Academy is sponsored by the Douglas County School District. Any student from Nevada may attend.

Charter schools are not private schools, don't charge tuition and may not "pick and choose" their students.

"We're 'advisers' here, not teachers," said Sando. "I have a group of kids I'm with every day. It creates a relationship and we use their interests to bring in academic rigor."

There's one adviser for 15-20 students and each student has a personal learning plan, work area and computer. Math is taught every day but time is allowed to develop projects and to complete Nevada high school standards.

Sierra Crest's open house to promote enrollment for grades 7-10 for the 2006-07 school year is from 5-7 p.m. Thursday.

The event is open to the public and refreshments will be served.

Rotating 15-minute programs will be presented by the students and administrators to teach the public about charter schools as alternative education.

A few of the proposed presentations include information about project-based learning, FastForWord learning program and Renaissance math learning. Information will be given about the Great Basin Outdoor School trip June 13-16 and Sierra Crest's participation in Carson Valley Days.

Students will demonstrate projects in a Shakespeare drama presentation, computer technology, music and a tools and building project.

Sierra Crest Academy is at 1701 Lucerne St. in Minden. For more information, call 783-9002.

"Sierra Crest Academy is a very different school. But despite what people say, different isn't bad...I like SCA because you can do a projects about almost anything. For example, I am doing a project on sound recording. For this project I am working with a professional to get a full-on professional recording studio at our school. Now you tell me, in what other school can that be done?"

Andrew Solomon, ninth grade

"I play the piano and African drums. I like the small student/teacher ratio of SCA because we get more one-on-one attention from the teachers....

"Currently, I am creating a Zen/Meditation Garden with my friend Lexi Brennecke. We have done extensive research on Nevada's climate, our soil and have carefully selected plants and flowers that are visually appealing and will grow in our area.

"We have met with water quality specialist Mark O'Farrell and selected the most effective watering system for our garden. I would not be able to do such extensive projects at a traditional school."

Sierra Montana, seventh grade

"Projects open up an endless variety of choices and learning opportunities. You're in control about what you learn. Also, these schools introduce you into what it's like in the real world. These schools are awesome."

Sasha Renfro, seventh grade

"This year I got to do a project on chess. I like chess because it is a good strategy game and I hoped my project would get people at this school to start playing chess.

"I am in a math program called Accelerated Math. They access my skill with a diagnostic test and then I get a practice sheet that helps me learn my weak points.

"This school has many differences for the better."

Chris Lawrence, eighth grade

"A group of 12 students and three chaperones went on an educational trip to Washington, D.C. On the trip we got to see Sen. Reid and many historical sites. We went on a night tour of all the memorials in a Hummer limo!"

Katie Kelly, eighth grade


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