A Summary of the La Paz Secondary School Experience
Vision: The La Paz secondary experience is the culmination of the students’ path to discovery of their self, family, and community in the greater context of the world. Graduating La Paz students will have internalized the La Paz Peace Practices and be able to apply them to their future endeavors in order to generate thoughtful, progressive change in an increasingly complex, diverse, and dynamic world.
ACADEMICS and EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
- Authentic:The La Paz secondary experience offers a balance between academically rigorous hands on classroom instruction in core/co-curricular subjects as well as complementary projects, internships, and excursions that enrich and authenticate the academic experience through place-based learning. The La Paz secondary accommodates the various learning needs and multiple intelligences of the students by offering authentic opportunities to apply specific subjects of interest through local internships, experiential excursions, and community focused projects.
- Service Learning Internships: These learning experiences chosen by the La Paz students with the assistance of their teacher mentor allow them to explore “curricular” offerings that aren’t necessarily within the limited curricular offerings of a typical small school. By interacting with and utilizing the community around them as a learning resource, students develop the skills necessary to prepare them for future academic and non-academic experiences. Some examples of potential senior internships could be with National Parks, Real Estate Offices, Hotel Management, Agriculture/Farming, Surf Shop, Local Fisheries, Restaurants.
- Advisory: Advisory consists of a meeting with 10 students of mixed grade levels (6th-8th; 9th-12th), twice per week for 35 minutes, and a staff adviser who provides academic and personal support and helps foster communication skills, cultural empathy, wellness, team building, trust, and individual self-esteem. The Advisory Program is the result of our conscious and deliberate decision to ensure that each child in our school has an adult advocate.
- Capstone Trip and Adventures: While students regularly involve themselves in learning outside of the classrooms, classes partake in learning “adventures” at the end of each trimester and a capstone trip at the end of the school year in order to engage in experiential learning, reflection, and personal growth away from the local community.
- In the Classroom:
- Bilingual: As has been the focus since day one at La Paz, the bilingual aspect of the curriculum is a priority. It is expected that students will graduate with the ability to read, write, and effectively communicate in at least Spanish and English. Spanish classes continue to focus on language and social studies throughout grades 10-12. The potential for the acquisition of a third language becomes more feasible as some of the younger students pass through the La Paz system because they will have achieved dual language proficiency at a younger age.
- Differentiated Instruction: Students achieve maximum knowledge and understanding of complex subject matter through small class sizes, self-motivated learning, and well trained teachers who know how to push students to perform at their maximum capabilities. Through multiple techniques in differentiated instruction, students have opportunities to master material by teaching others and learning from others, thus achieving a more comprehensive understanding of the material.
- Self-Motivated Learners: The cultivation of life-long learners who understand how to develop their own knowledge through multiple forms of inquiry based learning is an essential aspect of the La Paz Secondary experience. Beginning with a foundation of knowledge, students are expected to be able to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and subsequently create in order to demonstrate mastery of the learning process (as per Bloom’s taxonomy). The constructivist methodology is ubiquitous both in and out of the classroom where the teacher acts as a guide in the students’ path towards intellectual discovery.
- Extracurricular Activities:The coastal region of Guanacaste continues to grow and provide more positive and healthy social outlets for teenagers. The La Paz secondary experience complements these opportunities in a variety of ways.
- Athletics and the Arts: La Paz graduates will be well-balanced individuals who have an understanding of and appreciation for the various forms of art and athletics. Through in school and after school avenues, students have the opportunity to practice and demonstrate their expertise in extra-curricular activities through plays, performances, museums, and sport.
- Social Growth: Through evening events including competitions, presentations, social gatherings, and museums, the secondary program (with new facilities) seeks to create a community dynamic where students view the school as an enjoyable place to hang-out with friends in a comfortable setting.
- Thematic Approach: The La Paz secondary curriculum continues to utilize monthly themes as a unifying factor across grade levels to ensure that all material, regardless of subject matter, be taught in an interdisciplinary matter. Separating the day into focuses rather than distinct periods emphasizes the philosophy that no subject should be distinct and isolated from other subjects. By focusing on themes, the subject matter always has relevance to the big picture and aid students in the understanding of their place within the broader context of society.
PREPARATION FOR THE FUTURE
- Teacher Mentor and Post-Secondary Planning:Students explore post-graduate options and choices under the guise of a mentor jumpstart teacher through college/career research.
- local internships
- completing college/career applications
- writing the college essay
- college/career interview practice and planning
- required standardized tests
- college visits (local and perhaps abroad)
- Preparation for Multiple Life Paths: La Paz graduates will be well prepared for continued studies at universities in Costa Rica and abroad. When appropriate, students will be more than capable of exceptional achievement on the Costa Rican Bachillerato as well as any international exams that are necessary to continue their education. As they have developed the skills to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and life-long learners, La Paz students will be capable of adapting and contributing to post-secondary life whether in a Costa Rican university, foreign university, or the local/foreign work force.
- Stewardship: A graduating La Paz student is also aware of the delicate balance in nature and culture around them. There are no limitations to their positive influence on their surrounding communities and ecosystems due to the fact that by 10th grade they will be able to effectively communicate in at least two languages. Their academic career and extracurricular experiences will have prepared them to be active stewards of their local environment and culture.
- Final Exit Essay and Graduation: As a final assessment of and reflection on the La Paz experience, students are required to compose a final essay (in both English and Spanish) that demonstrates their developed understanding of their self, family, and community and illustrates how these experiences will be applied to their post secondary life in the “real world”. Upon successful completion of the essay (and senior project, etc.), students travel to the highest point in Costa Rica, Chirripó, as a representation of their arrival at the pinnacle of their secondary education. On graduation day students receive diplomas representing not only the completion of their secondary education, but also their continued responsibility to fulfill the Peace Practices learned at La Paz.
- International Baccalaureate (IB): La Paz Community School’s 3-5 year accreditation goal/plan is to adopt the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program (www.ibo.org) because the IB Program aligns with La Paz’s mission and objectives and parallels the dual language curriculum. Significant fundraising, curriculum development, and resource acquisition are all required in order to successfully meet the goals of becoming an IB accredited institution.