Skybridge is a private Austin junior high and high school offering academic and project-based classes. Our innovative courses are grouped by academic disciplines into the following departments.
The Arts and Media department at Skybridge Academy aims to expose its students to new ideas, processes, and tools that will support their creative development. Through hands-on learning projects, the students are encouraged to step outside of their comfort zones, fostering a spirit of confidence and openness that carries into other academic subjects, as well as into their greater lives.
Art classes at Skybridge take an experimental approach to mark-making using traditional and nontraditional materials. This classroom embraces openness, innovation and play, striving for that rich moment when they allow themselves to be amazed by their own creativity.
Media classes take a similar approach, valuing play while teaching organization, collaboration, and real-life technical skills that will assist students with futures in multimedia design.
As our students go off into the world, it is our goal for them to be able to employ their creative problem-solving skills as they are confronted with the obstacles and challenges that await them—and in the meantime, to provide a supportive, nurturing and challenging space where their imaginations can take root.
COMPOSITION AND LITERATURE
No matter what your goals—to go to college, to open a business, to go into non-profits—clear communication is essential. Skybridge Academy’s required composition and literature program equips students with the tools they need to articulate their great ideas clearly to the world.
Composition classes are taught through the lens of literature, steeping students in written language while granting them the opportunity to try on diverse new identities, challenge original and established ideas, and experience the breadth of the human condition across millennia.
The essential goals of both the junior and senior high programs in composition and literature are the same: to challenge students to think critically and to build students’ confidence in themselves as writers. No matter when students enter the program, they’ll find a classroom with a bar set high and a nurturing environment to help them reach—and exceed—it.
Junior High School Program
Focuses include clear, persuasive writing, introductory analysis of texts, and personal identification with character. Students engage daily with new vocabulary and fundamental building blocks of grammar in the classroom, and begin to grow as critical readers through seminar-style discussion. On average, we read two books per semester and complete three projects: two academic (2-3 page papers) and one creative.
Past books include: the Odyssey, Hatchet, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Senior High School Program
Continuing the work of the junior high program, senior high composition focuses include clear, evidence-supported writing; complex textual analysis; and drawing links between concepts encountered in literature and the wider world around them. Students continue to engage with SAT-geared vocabulary and advanced grammatical concepts in the classroom, and refine their critical engagement with texts through spirited seminar-style discussion. Readings draw from a mix of classics and relevant contemporary novels as students continue to bridge literature and the real world.
On average, we read two books per semester and complete three projects: two academic (4-5 page papers) and one creative.
Past texts include: the Odyssey, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Brave New World, Feed
The creative writing program at Skybridge supports students who want to explore creative avenues of writing, and who want further writing instruction outside of their academic writing and literature classes.
Junior High School Program
The junior high creative writing program will focus specifically on helping each student begin to explore his or her individual voice as a writer. Classes focus on helping students acquire the skills of organizing their thoughts, building plot and setting, creating multi-dimensional characters, constructing strong dialogue, reading critically as a writer, and beginning on the path of finding their individual voice as a writer. Classes are offered in many different areas of creative writing, from poetry and fiction to fantasy writing and interdisciplinary classes.
Senior High School Program
The focus of the senior high creative writing program is to continue developing each student’s individual voice as a writer, and to give them more advanced writing tools. The high school classes will help students further their ability to develop detailed plot and setting; explore situations through well-rounded, interesting characters; and create dialogue that goes beyond the basic and is both believable and essential to plot. Students will also strengthen their ability to read critically and, as a writer, will be expected to be more daring in their exploration of their individual voices. Classes are offered in many different areas of creative writing, from poetry to fiction to fantasy writing, as well as a range of interdisciplinary classes.
The aim of the Skybridge math program is twofold: to promote understanding of mathematics and instill a sense of comfort and confidence. Confidence and anxiety naturally have an inverse relationship, and the Skybridge math classroom aims to maintain the balance integral to that success.
The math classes, representative of the school’s philosophy, help students discover their learning styles. A typical class is comprised of students from different age groups, and maintains reaching all standards for that subject level. This self-paced program uses online math software paired with a focus on content mastery to target specific learning goals.
Junior High School Math Program
Students enter our program with varying degrees of math background, ability, and confidence. Most school structures insert the child into a certain grade level based on age, not math skills. Because of this, math anxiety quickly builds and ruins perceived ability in the subject. Placing students in a classroom based on skill level rather than age eliminates this anxiety and prepares the student to move forward into high school.
Junior high classes are taught following a traditional model, where lessons are taught to the class and students work cohesively in groups to discover solutions. We keep the class moving along each topic, but we can work individually with students when they struggle, making sure to keep the class competition-free. Here is how each year in the program is designed:
Year 1 – Pre-Algebra
Year 2 – Elementary Algebra
Pre-Algebra covers all of the fundamentals of number sense, just shy of diving into the world of variables. Rather than emphasizing strict memorization, the Skybridge math program believes that students must understand how numbers work in order to have success in the future. In Elementary Algebra we work with variables, touching briefly on concepts they will encounter in high school math.
The program is treated as a path, rather than a compartmentalization of mathematical concepts. Assessments are sporadically given to ascertain areas of struggle, as well as to mark progress.
High School Math Program
A large part of this program hinges on the philosophy of self-direction. In the inverted classroom model, it is crucial that the student is focused and self-driven in order for their learning to be effective. Here is how each year in the program is designed:
Year 1 – Algebra 1 OR Geometry
Year 2 – Geometry OR Algebra 1
Year 3 – Algebra 2
Year 4 – Pre-Calculus OR Trigonometry/Math Model Project
Year 5 – Calculus (if applicable)
In their first and second years of high school, students can elect to take Algebra 1 or Geometry in any order they see fit, as we believe neither is necessarily a prerequisite for the other. Algebra 2 is taken in the third year to reinforce concepts and brush upon advanced topics that could come up in later math curricula, should they choose to progress in that direction. Pre-Calculus is the standard math class for the fourth year, but students may elect on a case-by-case basis to take one semester of Trigonometry and one of a Math Models–type project for the last half of their senior year. Calculus is available to students who enter the high school program earlier.
Units of topics are pre-created for the students, organizing the information into a linear, scaffolding structure that builds upon previous knowledge before moving to the next concept. These units incorporate exercises from Khan Academy, outside resources, self-created problems, and online sources. Assessments are sporadically given to ascertain areas of struggle, as well as to mark progress.
The aim of the Skybridge science program is to foster an enthusiasm for understanding the world around us, to develop the skills to conduct active investigations, to think critically, and to solve problems. While knowledge is important in an ever-changing world, even more important is the gaining and mastery of tools necessary to evaluate, manipulate, and test it.
Science is an excellent arena in which students learn to both fail and self-evaluate, adjust and adapt to move forward positively. Kate and Dan’s department fosters in their students the ability to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability in the face of challenges.
Having looked at a range of international options, Kate and Dan have settled on a curriculum based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Adapting the model to be tackled through cross-curricular science modules which are designed to absorb and excite interest in scientific investigation.
Through these modules, students will develop their understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and ecology—not as simple, discrete subjects, but as living breathing parts of the entire system that is our home planet.
With an emphasis on critical thinking and logical reasoning, science at Skybridge employs wide-ranging methods of investigation to develop students’ skills in observation, comparison, experimentation, and the presentation and manipulation of data. In so doing, the student will exhibit effective communication skills in addition to evaluating and managing information in an efficient, effective, and critical manner.
Through inquiry, our science students are able to view science as an interdisciplinary study applicable to larger society. Possessing a myriad of practical applications, science must be understood in its wider cultural context. While Junior High emphasizes skill-building and the discovery of unique interests, High School courses are necessarily more content-rich. Developing a confidence in themselves as competing, questioning, and testing scientists through hands-on projects, the Junior High student will attain comfortable familiarity with the scientific method, in High School our children will draw together knowledge from across the breadth of their studies and interests.
In so doing, our students will master a number of skills necessary to succeed wherever life may take them post-Skybridge. Through our innovative department they will learn how to think critically, creatively solve problems, and demonstrate mastery in their ability to gather, analyze, and evaluation information.
The overarching aim of the department is to provide students with an enthusiasm and interest for science while also preparing them, if they choose, to undertake SAT 2 examinations in science-related subjects as part of their transition on to/application for college.
Finally, in reflecting Skybridge’s core values, Kate and Dan’s courses will provide your children with a number of the skills central to being a mindful global citizen.
Should you wish to discuss the structure or content of the science program further we would be delighted to find time to do so. Please get in touch via the details listed on the contact page.
Social Studies is more than just memorizing names, dates, people, and places. At Skybridge, we use social studies as a vehicle to understand the world around us, and in effect, ourselves. Our goal is to develop students’ critical thinking abilities through student-led research, teacher-student collaboration, and Socratic dialogue. By cultivating students who are their own self-advocates and are able to think independently, we are creating future leaders and upright citizens. Rejecting the notion that history should be taught from one perspective, we use a multitude of resources to give our students the ability to connect to the world in a way that best suits them. Learning and growing together, we transcend the limits of the traditional classroom, creating a community and an educational culture that is both fun and exciting.
A primary objective of social studies is to create students who are enabled, capable and interested in expanding their knowledge. Research has shown that students are more efficient and engaged when they have an interest in what they are learning, which is why we are strong advocates of student-led research. For example, in our Current Events and Media Literacy class, I teach students to look at media in a critical way. Letting the students choose what issues and topics they explore, we work together as the students grow into citizens who are able to independently recognize hidden agendas and biases while becoming informed about the world. Students are encouraged to take a hands-on role in their learning, encouraging them to be more engaged and responsible learners.
Capstoning our educational philosophies is education through Socratic Method. We give students a topic for research — climate change, free-trade, genetic modification of food — then we come together as a class to explore each other’s opinions through discussion, broadening our horizons and allowing us to think critically. This technique develops public speaking and listening skills, opens us up to dissenting opinions, and forces us to back-up our opinions with sound reasoning.
Students in traditional classrooms often feel so removed from their teachers that they become disconnected from the learning environment. In contrast, our classroom is run as a community that thrives on mutual respect from both students and educators. Working together, the class will form bonds of trust and work in partnerships, bringing out the best in each other as we foster the next generation of informed, aware, and engaged world citizens.
At Skybridge, our theatre department is guided by the principle of learning-by-doing; most of what we do involves making theatre, usually from scratch. We believe that theatre can be fun - and it can be art.
Whereas most theatre departments are run by acting teachers or directors, Skybridge Theatre is led by a professional playwright. While most school theatre departments produce canonized plays and older, established works, thus reproducing traditional, mid 20th-century values, Brian takes an active role in writing and helping students create fresh, meaningful plays. And when we study theatre texts, we go beyond the canon to include diverse, current voices.
The department is anchored by production classes. In the fall semester, using devising techniques to generate material, we create the mainstage high school play with and for the students; high school students are often commissioned to write a play for the junior high. In the spring, Brian writes the semester’s play along with junior high students, while the high school program focuses on student-generated works. Thus much of what the Skybridge theatre department does is created with, for, or by the students.
The theatre department partners with other classes to create the technical designs for each semester’s plays; students taking theatre can learn backstage skills such as basic carpentry, sound design, painting, sewing, lighting, and prop-building. Students work together and independently to solve technical problems. As we create the tech for the department, we begin with the student’s skills and interests and build from there.
Similarly, two popular classes we often offer are Devising and Improv, both of which place the student at the center of creating theatre. In these classes, students start with their own imaginations, abilities, and comfort level, and then challenge themselves to grow.
Because we tailor classes to the students in the room, we believe Skybridge students discover great inner strengths through projects and materials that reflect their sensibilities. As they create theatre, our students develop an array of skills that can be applied to other academic disciplines as well as to life outside the classroom. Through active participation in theater arts, Skybridge students learn valuable skills in project management, critical thinking, and leadership.
Last but not least, our Theatre Arts program helps students develop their unique voices and, because performing for others requires courage and vulnerability, it aids in instilling in our students a sense of self-confidence.
The goal of the World Languages Department is to foster cultural understanding, build students’ relational skills, and make communication with countless others possible. The ability to speak a second language is highly relevant and grows increasingly significant in our economically globalized and culturally diverse society.
Academically, the study of foreign language has become a requirement for most four-year colleges and universities. Professionally, those who are bilingual prove more competitive, successful, and effective on local and global scales, with access to more and higher paying career opportunities. More practically and universally, however, knowledge of a foreign language and culture facilitates human social and emotional connection in truly profound ways. It is this valuable experience foreign language proficiency can provide that the department holds most dear and strives to make a reality for our students. Ultimately, it’s about enhancing quality of life.
The best part about studying a foreign language is that it is genuinely fun! Stepping outside one’s comfort zone to process and express thoughts and ideas as never before is all of challenging, intriguing, and empowering, not to mention the gratification that comes from successfully comprehending what someone else is saying in another language. Students soon see the doors that open up when an entirely new means of communication has been acquired.
For the Skybridge Technology and Media Department our goal is to prepare students to participate in the ever-changing technological landscape of the 21st Century. Students in our tech classes are taught skills of adaptation and experimentation to prepare them first to be citizens and second to be professionals. Technology will change in their lifetimes, but the ability to adapt to these changes will remain crucial.
We prepare our students for this future through hands-on exposure to the powerful tools used by professional developers, designers, and programmers. For example, Alex teaches classes where, through the use of languages like C# and Python, students apply their logical skills combined with their understanding of computer code to create applications and solve problems. A student may be tasked with making a simple playable blackjack game, or they may be challenged to make sheets of animated characters in the Unity Game Engine. At the time of this writing, students are creating 3-D environments using professional grade modeling tools.
Alex believes that students learn through experimentation. Most of his classes are based upon giving the students the opportunity to sit down with a tool and discover what it’s capable of.
In a traditional computer class, students often are asked to absorb information via lecture after lecture. Although we know there is a place for this traditional model, at Skybridge we don't believe this should be the cornerstone of learning. We emphasize applied concepts. “I believe in having a focus on practical learning over ‘lecture learning’,” says Alex. “We focus on what technology can do, and then we .” This means that instead of talking about the games and seeing pieces of them from a distance, students bring the pieces together and prove that the concepts work.
In effect, this translates into seeing what the technology can produce, tweaking it and making something new. Students are given guidance in learning the building blocks, and then challenged to figure out what they can make with them.
By interacting with complex systems and learning how computers think, students are better equipped to use their imagination to adapt to a future where literacy in technology is a valuable tool.