On a recent spring Saturday morning, parents and a couple of kids gathered in a room at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, to hear about a new venture in education, the British American Alternative School.Diane Elliott, director of the Alternative School, explained that she wanted to start a school for families who travel as well as for those families who want to try a unique approach to learning known as the IPC (International Primary Curriculum) program. As she has two sons, ages seven and nine, “I have an invested interest in the school.” Originally developed for the families of Shell Oil employees, IPC is now used with success in 50 countries. Rather than using a traditional three R’s system or a graduated system of linear knowledge, IPC is internationally oriented, thematic, and cross-curricular.Students in IPC-curriculum schools study in “units” between 5 and 10 weeks in length, with each unit devoted to a theme such as “Saving the World: The Rainforest”, “Holidays” (ie: vacation trips), “Inventions and Machines,” “Money and Trade,” and “Time and Place: Time Zones.” By working on projects in these areas, students get to learn the basics through actual experience rather than simply memorizing facts.“Children are leaving school with academic knowledge but they have no idea of what to do with their lives,” said Elliott. She believes that the IPC curriculum will prepare children for a future that will require different approaches to problems than those that have been used in the past.Elliott has brought in two teachers to start up the school, which is temporarily housed at the First Presbyterian Church, but is not affiliated with it. Class sizes will have a 12:1 student-teacher ratio and students between the ages of five and 12 will be accepted. Classes will be 90 minutes long, with main lessons in the morning and a more creative and flexible time in the afternoon session. Also, “There’s no homework! Families need to have time at home together.”Elliott plans to eventually offer an International Baccalaureate program that prepares students for college. She did not give details of assessment methods for the achievements of the students at British American Alternative, but noted that students in IPC programs tend to “be ahead” of students in regular curricula in both the U.S. and the U.K.The school will offer a multi-cultural viewpoint, with all faiths and nationalities accepted, said Elliott. Tuition however, is $15,000 a year, a price that may have to go up for next year.The British American Alternative School opens April 6 and will run through the summer for its first year, after which it will keep a more typical American school-year schedule, although Elliott says she’d like to offer a year-round program. The school will also be moving to a more permanent location when its enrollment increases.For more information go to bas-la.com.
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