What do we look like?

At CAA, we believe that genius is made, not born.

We believe that all students are gifted with an almost unlimited potential for learning and creativity.

CAA looks different. CAA provides an aesthetically uplifting learning environment with a focus on asset building. We know that sensory impressions from our daily environment act as a kind of “food” for our brains. This belief is congruent with psychologists who have known for years that the quality of stimulation provided by the external environment is crucial to brain development in the early years of life.

Upon entering the school, you will be aware that the space is different. The outside of the building demonstrates that Calgary Arts Academy is an Arts School. Student murals depicting the Arts and their role in education are on the walls of the school.

You will feel that CAA is a warm, happy, collaborative environment. The school demonstrates collaboration, personalization and active participatory student learning. There is color and warmth. Classical music plays throughout the day. CAA is an aesthetically pleasing environment. There are plants, fish tanks, flowers, etc. to make the environment more pleasant, fragrant and alive.

The office area is child friendly. Attention is given to the celebration of life, to the celebration of seasons and the celebration of learning. Students share their learning successes with office staff, including the principal. The school office is a safe place. Authority does not threaten students.

Classrooms nor walls define the learning environment. The entire school is a learning space. There are learning centres throughout the school. The learning centres are created for students by students. Learning occurs naturally and students have the opportunity to take meaningful “brain breaks” three times per day, or as required. Activities to enhance the development of positive assets, focusing on emotions and communication are readily available for the students during structured breaks from learning activities. At CAA, students are given the opportunity to participate in brief relaxation and exercise sessions to discover greater mental and physical flexibility, as part of the physical education and structured break program. The purpose of this type of exercise during the learning day is to shake up old patterns and liberate energy. It also awakens the possibility of making new connections.

You will see students actively involved in each of the five arts. Students are intensely involved in creativity. With further observation, it becomes clear that students are involved in active learning, the content being the Alberta Program of Studies.

Flip charts are plentiful, with plenty of colored pens for creating. Art easels with paints are spread throughout the environment. There are all types of manipulative tools available to enlighten the sense of touch.

Walls are painted in rich colours and display copies of masterpieces. Students create meaningful learning displays and are given ownership for the school. CAA is a joyful and engaging place.

The process of achieving learning outcomes is significantly different. As per the school act, teachers are responsible for teaching the Program of Studies, which is through Arts Immersion. Artists, parents, professional staff, elders in learning and our partner organizations and individuals are actively engaged with students in teaching and learning throughout the space. You will see non-discriminatory participation of all stakeholders.

Each day begins with students working in teacher assigned groupings. Learning is generative and accommodates learning styles and provides for remediation and enrichment. In the multi-aged learning teams, students are given the opportunity to know the purpose of instruction and are actively engaged in setting learning goals and objectives for the day. Students are involved in the creation of learning contracts that include parents as partners.

The research component of our school greatly enriches each learning experience. All stakeholders are actively engaged in the research process. Students participate in the research process and develop capacity to document research in all forms. Students maintain portfolios as part of this research.

Senior citizens share their life experiences through story telling and participate in the learning process themselves, as together, learning outcomes are achieved.

All students are the responsibility of all adults working within CAA’s learning environment.

Evaluation of learning is accomplished with teacher direction and student/parent choice of assessment instruments. Learning contracts are part of the school setting and part of the home learning experience. As students complete the learning objectives for a particular period of time, role definitions are inter-changeable; students and teachers are experts at different points of time. Learning is shared with fellow students and teachers. This is done informally each day amongst students and is also highlighted in scheduled sharing sessions, facilitated by professional staff.

At CAA, the environment focuses on harmony with nature. Students “study the science of art and the art of science”.

At CAA, we know that students are different today than yesterday. We know that students are now more right brained than ever before. We address that issue by identifying that students are now more “culturally creative”. At CAA, students who belong to the ultra left-brained group have the opportunity to work with students of the ultra right-brained group, and vice-versa. This allows for the effective creation of balanced brain teams. Daily, students who show a preference for right brain thinking are given the opportunity to tackle history lessons by acting out scenes of the past and sharing with students whose left brained preference allows for the completion of a beautifully created written report. If the child’s orientation is more left-brained, their learning experience is highlighted through working with students to develop balance through art, drama, music and dance.

Learning is not divided up into pre-scheduled time periods. Collaboratively, teachers, artists and parents plan to deliver the Alberta Curriculum based on student need, rather than on timetable. Students have extended learning periods to focus on a particular curriculum component. As mastery is achieved, learning groupings and curricular focus change, coordinated by the teachers.

Throughout the day, flexibility of timetable allows for students to work and observe partner organizations and individuals located in the building. Having the opportunity to observe artists in all disciplines earning a living and completing their day-to-day work provides a unique experience for our students.

At the conclusion of each day, all stakeholders have the opportunity to share their learning and successes. Evaluation of student goals, teaching goals and parent involvement is discussed. This provides all stakeholders with a sense of accomplishment.

At CAA, students are taught to be the captain of their own ship. All is possible. Students fix their course to a star and navigate through the storms and around uncharted waters to achieve their goals.

CAA does not close its doors at 4 p.m. Professional development opportunities are provided for our learning community. Students have the opportunity to see their parents and community members actively engaged in learning. There is a community choir, whose mandate is to share love of music with the community and the students of CAA.

CAA facilitates community learning. Celebrations of learning take place frequently. Community members have the opportunity to participate in classes on a cost-recovery basis. We are presently planning our Winter program.

This service has not previously been provided in Calgary City.

Calgary Arts Academy looks different, is exciting, is innovative and is in the business of changing the way education is delivered.