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Education in Broken Arrow: More Than a Classroom

Here, you can find experiential and project-based learning designed to prepare students for the in-demand jobs.

By Teree Caruthers on March 14, 2022

Vanguard Academy in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Ashley Spencer

When 10th graders Topher Ewing and William Kruse applied to Vanguard Academy of Broken Arrow, the teens were thinking well beyond sporting events, proms or even high school graduation.

Ewing, who wants to pursue a career in engineering, says he was “bored with traditional school” and believed the project-based learning model of Vanguard would give him the skills to tackle engineering courses in college.

“We learn about different careers, and that helps us find what we are interested in and what we might want to focus on for future opportunities,” Kruse says. “For instance, one might want to pursue woodworking after high school or business, but the thing that is so cool about this place is that you can learn all of the stuff you want plus more and still have the ability to know what you want to do before you leave.”

“I just find it really cool how Vanguard is able to take stuff we are taught in standardized school and make it so that we can retain that knowledge better and learn it more thoroughly.”

William Kruse | Student

STEM-based Education in Broken Arrow

Jason Jedamski, director of Vanguard Academy, loves to hear statements like these because it means the school’s teaching methods are working. Opened in fall 2021, the STEM-based public high school uses projects and experiential learning to introduce students to local, in-demand careers as well as help them prepare for college and beyond.

“Our goal is to be a place where students can solve problems that they’re passionate about and discover that thing they’re really passionate about and then go pursue it,” Jedamski says. “We’re focused on growing students’ knowledge, skills, creativity and mindset.”

The school’s curriculum features three components: a part-time program for Broken Arrow High School students, where they can earn elective credit at Vanguard, and two full-time programs, XPO and BAd Lab (Broken Arrow Design Lab), for Vanguard students.

The XPO program allows students to earn credits engaging in an experiential project that spans their junior through senior years. Students choose from nine focus areas, including food, shelter, water, sanitation, energy, space, cybersecurity, medical and data information.

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iStock.com/LeoPatrizi

Cultivating Knowledge Through Projects

One example is a community-based garden project that, when completed, will tell the history of Oklahoma through horticulture.

“My science students are incorporating what they are learning about ecosystems in biology, but they are also learning budgeting skills and incorporating what they are doing on the algebra side,” says Parker Tredick, a science teacher at Vanguard. “Then they are also learning how to research history and problem solve to come up with a way that they can incorporate that history using plants. Then on the English side, they’re learning how to communicate their plans for the written portion of their projects as sophomores.”

Prepping for College and Beyond

Tredick says his hope is that students, such as ninth grader Peyton Lemon, learn to think critically and are able to adapt to an ever-changing world.

“I think one of the most important things I’m learning is how to prepare and work in groups,” Lemon says. “One of the major things at Vanguard is community, and building that community helps you in the future by preparing you to deal with people. Preparing is incredibly important in day-to-day life, but is often overlooked. At Vanguard, they are teaching us how to prepare in a very beneficial way.”

Jedamski says Vanguard is also committed to equipping students with skills to help them succeed outside the classroom and in all aspects of life.

Focused on the Future

The school’s advisory program features a way-finding aspect, which helps students define their purpose in life and learn how to belong
and live with purpose.

“We also have what we call the adult springboard that teaches them life skills like how to change a tire, how to tie a tie, self-defense and mindfulness. These little opportunities help them really connect with people in the business world and interact in a different way with adults,” Jedamski says.

Tredick says the students who will eventually graduate from Vanguard will have the adaptability, leadership and teamwork skills, flexibility, and the social and emotional skills that will make them sought-after employees in whichever profession they choose.

“What we’re doing at the school is giving students the opportunity and equipping them with these skills,” he says. “We’re helping create a very talented and diverse workforce that’s able to respond to all those challenges.”

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