Life Learning Academy Charter School651 8th Street, Bldg.229 San Francisco CA 94130
Life Learning Academy is modeled after the guiding philosophies of the Delancey Street Foundation, the nation's leading adult self-help residential education center for former substance abusers and ex-convicts. LLA operates as an 'extended family' where everyone is both a giver and a receiver. Older students help newer ones and everyone works together. Students are held to high expectations and standards and the underlying premise is that everyone has unique talents and strengths that will be discovered and developed. Also integral to LLA philosophy is the principal of 'reciprocal restitution.' Students make restitution to society through community service and personal accountability, and society restores to them genuine opportunities to enter mainstream society successfully and legitimately.
Located on Treasure Island, a former Naval Base that sits in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, LLA is uniquely situated to remove youths from their neighborhoods while remaining proximal to the City and all it has to offer. Students are regularly exposed to the rich cultural resources of the San Francisco Bay Area through both off-site excursions and on-site performances and programs by community-based organizations.
Life Learning Academy students participate in rigorous academic and vocational learning. The Academy operates from 9:00am to 6:00pm, affording students the time they need to hone their academic skills and engage in a wide variety of classes. Academy curricula and course requirements are aligned with school district requirements. The current class offerings include mathematics, laboratory science, English, history, Spanish and physical education as well as ecology, culinary arts, gardening and a variety of performance and fine arts. A small class size of one teacher to six-to-eight students ensures that each student receives the individual attention that he or she needs. Life Learning Academy employs a rich mix of teachers, vocational trainers, mentors, a special education consultant, and support staff to meet the intensive needs of its students and the demands of an extended day program.
Life Learning Academy's curriculum is organized around academic and vocational projects that span disciplines to demonstrate the integration of learning required in the real world. For example, the Academy utilizes a commercial kitchen where students work under restaurant and catering chefs to prepare daily meals for the school, as well as the commercial Crossroads Cafe by the Bay, a cafe built and operated by LLA students. The cafe and academic classes teach computer programming for inventory control, advanced math for bookkeeping and communication and speech for sales along with the culinary arts. Researching the history and traditions of a given culture to determine menu and ingredients becomes a lesson in history and cultural diversity requiring literacy skills and research skills including library and the internet. Students learn to grow and harvest herbs and vegetables and plan meals with an emphasis on health and nutrition.
In addition to Crossroads Cafe, Life Learning Academy has a range of other entrepreneurial and school-to-career components that involve students in real-life projects integrated with academics. These include:
* Building Trades: students have an extensive and immediate opportunity to develop contractor skills through the design, renovation and repair of their school site and Crossroads Cafe by the Bay, as well as the construction of school furnishings.
* Photography and Digital Imaging: a professional photographer teaches the photography curriculum and students benefit from an on-site darkroom.
* Computer Literacy and Professional Skills: students have access to a state-of-the-art computer lab and internet access. Computer training includes word processing, web design, and PowerPoint presentation.
* Youth Fire and Police Science Program: designed to imprint in the students a sense of citizenship, civic pride, discipline, responsibility, self-esteem, confidence, self-respect, and an appreciation of the importance of community service. The San Francisco Fire Department's Regional Training Center located on Treasure Island is utilized for site visits and demonstrations. Curriculum also utilizes the local full-use San Francisco Fire Station located on the island, Students also learn about various careers in law enforcement, the criminal justice system, emergency response methods, and common criminal statutes (Street Law). Upon completion of the Youth Fire and Police Science Program, students have gained experience that will be helpful in applying to a variety of jobs in the Fire and/or Departments.
All of Life Learning Academy's courses and activities fall within one of the four environmental majors. The majors are focused around the elements, fire, air, earth, and water. Within each major is a set of vocational and academic activities that become a student's area of focus. For example, students who chose the water major spend a percentage of their time participating in lessons in which water is a central theme. They participate in swim class, scuba diving and other water sports while studying marine biology and oceanography, and the importance of water to California's development is covered in history class. Students majoring in fire study the past, current, and future technological uses of fire. They learn fire science and apply it to their culinary training. In English class, students examine the mythological and symbolic uses of fire in world literature. Earth majors spend their time working on landscape architecture projects, including the cultivation of the LLA's urban mini-farm that produces much of the fresh vegetables used in LLA meals and is home to 10 chickens, one turtle and two wayward ducks. Students in the air major study astronomy in the LLA's portable planetarium and have the opportunity to go on stargazing camping trips where, outside in the night sky, they observe the constellations they studied in the classroom using a high-powered telescope.
One of Life Learning Academy's main goals is to provide students with life skills, including accountability and responsibility, the ability to trust and be trusted, and the skills necessary to be a contributing member of their family, community and society. LLA has a Student Council that holds students accountable to the rules established for LLA under the supervision of the Principal. Council students also act as mediators and role models in their classes, teaching classmates the importance of personal accountability. LLA encourages peer leadership to help new students adjust to its culture and programming, as well as an emphasis on community service, both at school and in the outside community as well. LLA's faculty and staff are available to spend time with students on a one-to-one basis to address personal and behavioral issues that arise throughout the day. Interpersonal issues are addressed in groups that meet weekly and facilitated by Student Council members and the Principal. Moreover, each student has an assigned mentor who spends tutoring, recreational and personal time with that student.
Since Life Learning Academy students present a wide range of abilities, it is essential that teachers are able to create a positive learning environment that is also academically challenging. LLA teachers boldly create cross-curricular activities and learning tasks that support conceptual understanding for students. Teachers participate in personal academic enrichment and staff development trainings throughout the year. They have been selected on numerous occasions to present their innovative curricular advancements to other interested educators at seminars and conferences across the state.
Support for Life Learning Academy has come from public sources at the federal, state and local level, as well as private corporations, foundations, and individual donors. Support has included both capital and programmatic support, and has helped to provide LLA with the school site, equipment, and unique programming and curricular development necessary to realize its mission.
Feedback from students supports that Life Learning Academy is a positive experience. Kids who had previously dropped out of school altogether now come every day ready to participate in their education and become contributing members of their school and home communities. They are proud of their work and their success.
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Life Learning Academy Charter School (San Francisco, CA)
Life Learning Academy Charter School (San Francisco, CA)
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