Polaris Tech launches leading-edge learning model

Polaris Tech Charter School students will benefit from a different approach to teaching and learning when classes start in August, school leaders say, including Project Lead the Way and other applied learning projects.

"One of the things that students and parents will see when our school opens next month is we don't have the traditional boxy classrooms with desks in a row all facing the front," said Dr. Melissa Crosby, executive director for Polaris Tech.

"We have larger "learning labs" where students will work individually and in small groups to learn and grow," she said. "Project Lead the Way is an important piece of our middle school curriculum, and we have some outstanding teachers joining us who bring amazing successes to Polaris Tech, including a nationally-recognized Project Lead the Way trainer.

"Utilizing applied learning projects makes their schoolwork more realistic and applicable to actual careers," she said.

Project Lead the Way's mission is to prepare students for the global economy by providing guided instruction in engineering and math with real-life career links. The program offers a problem-based curriculum combined with a teacher training. It will be one part of the middle school curriculum at Polaris Tech to prepare them for the school's career pathways in high school.

As part of Polaris Tech's Lowcountry-unique approach with applied learning projects, students will research questions and then create and build their solutions. For instance, they may study the question "How do the principles of art, engineering design, math, technology, and presentation skills come together in the real world?" After completing their research, they could demonstrate their learning by designing and building a prototype for a bridge.

Or in math, the question might be "When will I ever need to use the math concept of a parabola?" After researching the math concept and equations related to a parabola and engineering design principles, they might apply their knowledge in real world examples such as predicting the arc and flight of a basketball shot, designing a modern bridge, or building a trebuchet or catapult and having a pumpkin-chunking contest.

Polaris Tech is a state-approved charter school to serve middle and high school students from Jasper County and the Lowcountry. It is a free school (no tuition), that will focus on preparing young people for successful work and college. The school expects to open in late August with about 280 students.

The Polaris Tech academic emphasis will be on six career areas: Aerospace, Health Science, Information Technology, Logistics, Advanced Manufacturing, and Business Management. The pathways will be phased in over the first three years.

"We were very specific in our intent when we applied to the state for our charter. We wanted to bring the most effective and proven approaches to educating young people for college and careers, and we wanted the model to address specific needs in Jasper County," said Sandra Chavez, chair of the Polaris Tech Planning Committee.

A series of parent information sessions are being scheduled for early August. School leaders will discuss the typical day schedule at Polaris Tech, how student tablets/laptops will be used, student dress code, lunch routines, after-school activities and other frequently asked questions.

On Aug. 16 and 17, students will attend mandatory "soft start" days where they will walk through their daily schedule, become familiar with the school layout, and meet the teaching and administrative staff. More details about these days will be sent via email to enrolled families.

The school earned its charter in May 2017 and the committee has met weekly to bring the school to reality.

The school is being built on land across from the Ridgeland Airport. It was founded by a group of Jasper County and Lowcountry residents who desired a fresh, more effective approach to educating students, especially those in middle and high school.

To keep updated about Polaris Tech Charter School, follow them on Facebook and at www.polaristech.org. For specific questions, email info@polaristech.org or call 843-645-0605.