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Why build a school?
The Evolution Institute believes that an evolutionary perspective can shed light on how instructional approaches, curricular materials, and educational context may be maladaptive for learning in contemporary classrooms. It can also teach us how to adapt the classroom for learning the way we evolved to learn.
Building upon the past successes of our partnership with Bible Truth Ministries, we plan to build a secular public school in the East Tampa area where the children will be in a learning environment built on a foundation of practical knowledge, experience, and science. The latter includes current research in brain development, literacy learning, and the development of social and emotional skills.
Why is it needed?
By third grade 80% of the students are failing in this neighborhood in East Tampa. Numerous studies have shown that kids who are doing poorly in school at this age are likely to continue to do so in high school and beyond. Bringing together the caring and supportive environment that our community partnership creates, with a sound scientific approach, will build on past successes to create a replicable and scalable model.
Who will we serve?
This early learning center will serve children from 3 years old through second grade. Instead of an 80% failure rate, the students will be at or above grade level by the time they graduate this program. Many will transfer to area public schools where they will arrive prepared for the rigors of traditional education and standardized assessment.
Why focus on this age?
These are the critical foundation years for kids. When the proper foundation is built, children are more likely do well in school for the rest of their school career and beyond. They will have developed the foundation for literacy and math skills; and they will have developed the basic social and emotional skills to work in teams and to address conflict.
How much is needed?
Right now we are raising $25,000 to complete the school building.
What is the timeline?
Phase I – ground broken in Winter 2016, with Kindergarten and 1st grades opening in Fall 2017
Phase II – opening of 2nd grade program Fall, 2018
Phase III – opening of 3 year-old and Pre-K programs in Fall, 2019
What is unique about this effort?
The current system has a relatively incoherent approach to these early years where no one agency is empowered to address the children’s needs. In low income areas, children frequently are in three separate education systems by the time they reach elementary school. While they may have success in one of the systems, it does not necessarily translate to success in the next system. We see by the data that many children are unprepared for school success. One of the unique aspects of our project is spanning this gap between early systems in order to assure continuity and success as they transition between systems.
“Children did not evolve to sit quietly at desks in age-segregated classrooms being instructed by unrelated and unfamiliar adults.” – David Bjorklund
A second unique aspect is the partnership between the scientific community and the practitioners. This is not always an easy task but one that we have extensive experience with. This creates a process that allows for translation of science into practice. Further, it helps advance the science through the feedback and information learned from the practitioners.
All of this leads to the most important aspect: the children will be in a learning environment built on a foundation of practical knowledge, experience, and science.The latter includes current research in brain development, literacy learning, and the development of social and emotional skills. The school will look different from other schools, especially as we get into the K-2 years. This marriage of on-the-ground practitioners and the academic world is a critical piece in creating a successful model.
What are our qualifications?
The Evolution Institute and Bible Truth Ministries sound like an odd couple. One is faith-based and the other has a perspective that many think is at odds with faith. However, we have worked together for years with a common goal – improving the lives of the residents of East Tampa.
Bible Truth Ministries is led by Daniel Dean, a Bank of America hero award winner. Reverend Dean, along with his wife Suzette, built a private faith-based school that serves children from birth through 12th grade. The students are almost entirely scholarship students (Step Up for Students, Florida’s plan to support low-income students in private school as an alternative to the public schools, and MacKay Scholarship for students with special needs). The school consistently outperforms the public schools in the same neighborhood.
The Evolution Institute (EI) was cofounded by leaders in their respective fields to bring scientific knowledge into practical applications to improve quality of life for people across the globe. The EI has sponsored four conferences on youth and education that brought together researchers from around the world. This has resulted in scientific publications, a book that is in preparation, and an applied program that saw students, who had been failing at least three of their core course, achieve grade parity within a year due to the redesign of the classroom environment around scientific principles. We have science advisors who are leaders in their field who have committed to assist with the project. Additionally, we have received endorsements from some of the leading scientists of our generation and worked with a Nobel Laureate in designing our prior school project. We bring individuals with extensive experience in school programming, administration, teaching, prevention programming, as well as research and organizational development.