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Inner Harbour school stresses success in education

December 6, 2010

The school at Youth Villages’ Inner Harbour residential campus is celebrating 30 years of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“We are the only residential facility in Georgia to maintain SACS accreditation for 30 years,” said Dr. Penny Honeycutt, Ph.D., director of Inner Harbour’s school.

Inner Harbour students make bowls to sell at Empty Bowls. Money raised benefits local food banks, and Inner Harbour school uses the project as an educational tool as part of its experiential learning curriculum.

Honeycutt has been the director of the school for 23 years, and has helped guide its transformation into a “21st century school.”

Young people are at Youth Villages Inner Harbour for an average of three months, which offers its own set of challenges for the school.

The school offers students a unique and innovative approach to learning and technology. New students are first assessed using computer-based educational software. Using this data, teachers create a specialized curriculum designed to maximize each student’s academic progress.

“In our school, knowledge is not memorization of facts and figures. It is constructed through research, and connected to previous knowledge, personal experience, interests, talents and passions,” said Ben Maynard, Inner Harbour school’s media specialist.

Inner Harbour teachers help students find success using an experiential model that integrates service-learning, artful expression, environmental awareness and opportunities for personal growth throughout the curriculum. Students participate in a therapeutic, West African-style drumming program, which exemplifies this approach to learning. Many students report reduced feelings of anger and depression during and after a drumming session. Through this experience, young people learn to work together, and improve their coordination and mental focus.

Learning is best achieved by incorporating information from all the senses.

“The 21st century school model teaches young people how they learn and how to figure things out,” said Bruce Glick, Inner Harbour teacher. “That’s where the arts apply – using your brain and your skills to create new meaning. We take abstract concepts in science and make them real.”

Empty Bowls project is an annual service-learning project where students make clay bowls to sell, benefiting a local food bank. In addition to creating bowls, young people learn chemistry and raise their self-esteem through pottery. Students feel they are contributing to the community when they see someone purchase their work benefiting a worthy cause.

For many students, it’s their first positive experience in school.

“Many young people at Inner Harbour’s school have experienced failure and embarrassment in the classroom,” said John Wilbur, teacher at Inner Harbour. “One of our primary challenges is to erase that disconnect by producing a successful outcome from their work.”

By supporting inquiry and investigation, students learn basic and complicated concepts through experience. They share a positive school and community experience with their peers. They become more prepared to participate and contribute to their schools as they reconnect with their community.

“We’re on the cutting edge of education,” Wilbur said. “Our primary goal is to help students find joy in learning and to reconnect them in positive ways with their families and communities.”

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