The power of the FBRA program is in the intertwining of our academic, outdoor, and social emotional programming. Statistics in math class comes to life when students calculate the flow in cubic feet per second of the French Broad River at our riverfront campuses, or when students predict the winning times for an upcoming Green Race– a local kayak competition in which several of our teachers and alums participate. Relationships solidified in advisory and community meetings become the supportive foundation for collaborative projects in Humanities and dances and plays in Spanish. Knowing that our students practiced facing a fear by skiing a challenging slope, we ask them to lean on that determination when presenting in front of the school, competing in the regional Science Fair, and analyzing a difficult text.
Academic Program Overview
We use the North Carolina State Standards as our baseline of skills and knowledge to master. We believe in the importance of strong academic foundations as a springboard for future success in any realm, whether in or out of the classroom. We nail down the basics, like computation, grammar, and habits of strong learners, while providing opportunities for students’ curiosity to spark with relevant, challenging, exciting content.
Middle school is the perfect time to build metacognition in students, helping them set goals, track progress, and reflect on their learning. The adolescent brain is primed to strengthen executive functioning to help them take ownership of their learning, and we intervene quickly when students need extra support.
Our students take four years of math in three years, moving through middle school math to Math I in 8th grade. Most of our students move directly into Math II in High School. FBRA mathematicians know that real math is slow; that making mistakes is active learning; and that struggle, conjecture, and perseverance are foundational skills.
We build confidence in the classroom through:
- Practicing risk taking through public practice
- Building supportive habits: using resources or examples and checking over work
- Mistake analysis and correction
- Inquiry to determine shortcuts, rules, and multiple methods
- Real world projects that come from student curiosity
FBRA mathematicians build competence through extensive practice, projects, quizzes, and tests. We use time during the school day as well as homework time to meet each of our students’ needs. One student might be in MathCounts for competition-level math, while another student practices to close gaps using ALEKS, an online learning program. All of our students move through our accelerated Math program; different pathways allow us to differentiate for each students’ needs.
Our Humanities department aligns social studies and language arts courses to offer students an integrated study of literature, history, religion, and culture. These courses are rich in critical reading and analytical writing to help students interpret the world around them.
We know that middle school students are uniquely poised to start developing their authentic voices. Our scholars build confidence as they find their voices through speaking assertively and writing with reason, support, and coherence to effectively express their thoughts and ideas. They learn to value the voices of others, and they approach texts with empathy, curiosity, and criticality.
Our students build confidence through:
- Storytelling and Poem presentations
- Book Clubs, where students manage their reading collaboratively
- Research Projects
- Current Events presentations for the entire student body
Our students build competence in Humanities through:
- Learning and practicing 21st century research skills
- Writing in multiple formats inspired authentically by our field experiences in weekly Field Journals
- Writing literary essays, argumentative essays, poems, allegories, critiques, historical fiction, and personal narratives.
- Presenting historical research projects.
- Reading at least 6 books a year.
- Writing and presenting a graduation speech.
Our students take earth science in 6th grade, physical science in 7th grade, and Biology in 8th grade, culminating in the Bio EOC. Most students earn high school Biology credit. FBRA’s unique structure and location allows science classes to take what is being taught theoretically in the classroom out into the world. Classes use experiential methods to apply the scientific process in all three years at FBRA.
The 6th and 7th grade curriculum encompasses earth science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences, which prepares students to take a high school level Biology class in the 8th grade. Individual and group projects teach students in the 6th grade research and public speaking skills. The scientific method is thoroughly explored in the 7th grade through the science fair. Our 8th grade biology class takes a hands-on deep dive into biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics.
In three years, students move through the Spanish I curriculum. They focus on authentic Spanish that gives them the ability to communicate with native speakers, which comes to fruition during the annual Costa Rica field experience. Students build confidence in their speaking and communication skills through Total Physical Response (TPR), a method of teaching a language or vocabulary concepts by using physical movement to react to verbal input. Students engage with Spanish confidently through dance, song, games, presentations, and plays. Students have real world opportunities to practice their Spanish in home stays in Costa Rica.
Twice-weekly physical education classes during academic days provide a chance to build confidence and body positivity and develop lifelong habits for healthy living. It’s also a time to learn to play and work as a team.
Swimming is integral to our program to develop water comfort as an essential life skill and to make whitewater canoeing much more fun. Other P.E. units include soccer, flag football, ultimate frisbee, yoga, dance, basketball, lacrosse, canoeing, cross country, bouldering. Kung Fu, and strength/conditioning.
Arts & Electives
In music, our rock band program equips our students with foundations in guitar and piano. Students later specialize in an instrument of choice and the chance to fulfill rockstar dreams on stage. Frequent performances lead to comfort being on stage and the capacity for increased self-expression and leadership. The music program culminates in performance at The Orange Peel with professional lights and sound for an authentic experience.
All students take visual art as well and can explore high-interest topics through electives, including Wilderness First Aid, Cooking, Video Production, Advanced Art, STEM, Drama/Improv, and Appalachian Crafts.
Assessment & Accountability
All FBRA students take MAP Growth tests twice yearly to track academic progress and inform instruction.
Our 8th graders have the opportunity to earn high school credit for Spanish I by scoring at a proficient level on the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages’ “Assessment of Performance towards Proficiency in Languages.” They can earn high school credit for Math I and Biology by demonstrating proficiency on the North Carolina End of Course exams.