Academics

Teaching Philosophy

Beacon Academy is dedicated to providing its students with a rigorous academic program. To this end, our faculty has designed a demanding core curriculum taught in flexible and innovative ways. Our academic program aims to give our students the ability to write clear, forceful English, a wide experience with literature, a thorough grounding in mathematics and quantitative analysis, and a historical perspective on human affairs. We emphasize problem solving, collaborative education, culturally inclusive learning and sensitivity to students’ cognitive styles. Our small classes foster a high degree of student-teacher interaction, and our teachers are committed to addressing the individual needs of each student.

Beacon Academy’s curriculum challenges the students to meet rigorous academic standards while at the same time offering essential cultural and social enrichment to prepare them to enter independent secondary school environments with confidence.

By the end of their extended year at Beacon, our students have read with insight eight novels, learned to write a convincing essay, mastered pre-algebra and algebra, discussed the Facing History curriculum, religion, and current events, studied the art of observation at the MFA, the ICA, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and exercised their bodies running, swimming, and rowing. They are prepared to compete—and succeed—in challenging secondary school environments. They have transformed themselves into eager, active, and responsible learners.

Beacon Academy surrounds its students with nurturing adults, supporting them in a variety of ways, including an academic advisory program, SSAT preparation, help navigating the secondary school application process, and secondary school placement guidance. We track and continue to support our graduates after they move on to their new schools.

English and Writing

In English class, students learn to read more alertly and comprehensively, write clearly and accurately, and use oral and written language richly and gracefully. Students also refine their learning skills, grasp of grammar, and appreciation of precise expression. Practical objectives are to write essays several times a week, increase functional vocabularies dramatically, and read works in several genres: novels, poems, and essays. Students read and discuss books including The Old Man and the SeaOf Mice and Men, To Kill a MockingbirdThe Bluest Eye, Romeo and JulietThe Catcher in the Rye, and The Chosen. Vocabulary development is considered primary: the accumulation of a vast number of words and their etymologies and connotations is stressed. Students also learn to conduct research effectively and cite sources properly while writing a research paper about a topic of their own choice.

Mathematics

The power of mathematics is in its application. Students learn how to think as mathematicians, become acutely aware of the myriad uses of mathematics around them, and utilize quantitative analysis to make sense of their world. Developing mastery of arithmetic and algebraic concepts is the explicit goal of the course. This includes–but is not limited to– number sense, fraction operations, proportional reasoning, linear, quadratic, polynomial, and quadratic equations, and much more. Students will use multiple resources, including Carnegie Math textbooks, graphing calculators, supplementary materials, and online resources to accomplish these goals.

Social Studies and Current Affairs: Facing History and Ourselves

Facing History and Ourselves (www.facinghistory.org) helps students to find meaning in the past and to recognize the need for participation and responsible decision making.

Students must know not only the triumphs of history, but also the failures, the tragedies, and the humiliations. Facing History believes that students must be trusted to examine history in all of its complexities, including its legacies of prejudice and discrimination, resilience and courage. This trust encourages young people to develop a voice in the conversations of their peer culture, as well as in the critical discussions and debates of their community and nation.

Community Service Learning

In the course of the year, Beacon Academy students will participate in several community service projects that are related to their academic curriculum. Civic action is an important component of the overall program, because it helps students develop a commitment to social responsibility and active citizenship. As they participate in community service projects, they discover how individuals can make a difference. They are encouraged to reflect on their experience and to develop skills of advocacy, both oral and written. Community service enhances and reinforces classroom learning and provides a needed service to the community. Relating academics to real-life experiences encourages students to appreciate the commonalities of the human condition, while fostering compassion, responsibility, and a lifelong commitment to service. Since social and environmental change starts at the individual level, service learning empowers students to find ways to connect and grow with a larger world.

Luncheon Speakers Program

Beacon Academy has a broad and diverse community of external champions who have expressed an interest in meeting directly with our students to share experiences and discuss ideas. To this end, Beacon Academy students host guests for engaging and lively conversations. Each month the Luncheon Series explores a general topic. We also recognize national, cultural, and religious holidays in order to deepen our understanding of important historical events, religious ceremonies, and cultural customs.

Science and Technology Program: Introduction to High School Science

Beacon Academy’s science program prepares our students to succeed in ninth grade science by helping them to develop specific skills and modes of thinking that are needed for scientific learning and inquiry. Science requires a discrete set of skills few Beacon Academy students have already acquired, while almost all privileged students have substantial backgrounds in science. Our program teaches these important skills, including:

  • Writing in a scientific content and/or writing lab reports
  • Understanding the conversion of units fundamental to science
  • Learning precise descriptive language
  • Learning how to think with clarity about sometimes “messy” experimental results

Course topics include mathematical modeling, precision and accuracy, graphical analysis, and error analysis. Activities include observation, data collection, analysis, and reporting. 

Nutrition

Daily student learning at Beacon is greatly strengthened when students eat nutritionally sound meals. We have found that we simply cannot achieve the mission of the school without (1) teaching students to eat better than they do when they first arrive at Beacon, and (2) supplying them with nutritionally sound breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.

Technology

We provide our students with their own laptop computers that they take with them to their next schools. Our formal instruction includes:

  • Facility with Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive
  • Strict formatting protocols to create word processing documents and basic spreadsheets;
  • The building blocks for creating blogs and websites;
  • Research skills, including appropriate use of the World Wide Web for gathering data.