The music room at Aspen Academy is full of guitars and keyboards.
BY FREDA MIKLIN
An article from CNBC.com on April 26 said that, “businesses increasingly rely on cross-company collaboration,” which requires solid interpersonal skills, something lacking in far too many American employees.
The mission of Aspen Academy, a $16,000 per year private school in Greenwood Village for students in grades Pre-K to 8, states, “We inspire and develop excellence in academic growth and performance, character and leadership, and community strength and service.” They tell their students, “Our only rule: be kind.” Academic performance is paramount. Everything else the school emphasizes is about Aspen students’ interactions with others—other students, other people in the community, other people in the world at large.
Another way this school expresses its philosophy is by what it defines as its “three-legged stool,” which it says “must be in balance to stand strong.” Those legs are: 1) “academic growth and performance;” 2) “character and leadership;” and 3) “community service.” The message is the same. Academic achievement is the key to attaining educational goals, but growing into empathetic, compassionate adults who listen to, support and care about others is no less important for a successful future.
Walking in the front door, you feel the enthusiasm of the students, the faculty and the parents, each of whom are an active part of the fabric of the school. The overwhelming atmosphere is one of genuine concern and support—teachers for students, students for students, parents for teachers. Greetings are warm and authentic.
The audience of students and family members enthusiastically supported all the performers.
The Villager attended a bi-weekly all-school assembly called, “AMP’d,” apparently based on the volume of the rock music played leading up to and throughout the thirty-minute program. Unbridled childhood enthusiasm filled the auditorium. When students and staff were called up to the stage who had birthdays during April, they played the Beatles “Birthday,” followed by just enough bars of “Macarena” to get the kids in the audience on their feet.
You’d be fooled, though, if you thought the music overwhelmed or interfered with the learning the assembly provides. This was their spring performing arts gala, so it had an extra helping of singing and dancing, mixed in with plenty of academic content, including current events. We didn’t ask how students were selected to perform. It was soon clear that the kids on stage were not the most talented artists who bested others in tryouts—these children just wanted to participate in the activity and they knew they could trust their fellow students to support their desire and effort. Even the teachers sang and danced to, “We Go Together,” consistent with the school’s overall message. The audience, a full house of students, siblings of students, parents and grandparents, warmly and generously obliged them.
Many of the music choices followed a similar theme of encouraging students to find their own path and have enough confidence to pursue their dreams. A tour of the school with co-founder Lynda Sailor and middle school head Katie Becker demonstrated a consistent message. Academic achievement is the primary goal of the school. It leads to further academic opportunity. That is clearly imperative, but it isn’t the only thing that matters.
Aspen Academy touts its entrepreneurial focus. That word connotes business to many, and there are notable business-like aspects of the school, like having students fully in charge of a school store that sells spirit wear. Also, kindergartners receive tangible inexpensive little rewards as “pay” when they complete projects. Still, Aspen Academy is not about grooming future moguls of industry. This school is designed to give children an opportunity to freely explore and find their own path to success, then determine how to assemble the necessary pieces to achieve it. That’s the type of entrepreneurship they’re modeling and teaching at Aspen Academy.
Teachers sang and danced at Aspen Academy’s assembly, just like the students.
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