by Adam Beeson, M.A.
When we talk about learning at SIGA, it is often tempting to throw out the word non-traditional to describe our approach to high school. After all, while SIGA values the holistic nature of human existence and development - by offering college prep classes that complement, rather than dominate, the rest of a student’s life - the traditional college-prep high school often prioritizes course content, academic skills and test scores over experiences, relationships and growth.
But what if I told you our approach to learning does come from a long tradition? What if our new school is, in fact, quite old school? Let’s go back to Ancient Greece.
Plato’s (427-347 BC) contributions to the philosophies of education are well documented. Greatly influenced by his teacher, Socrates, Plato founded a school he called The Academy, a name SIGA and so many other schools across the globe still use today. Looking a little closer into life at Plato’s Academy highlights an important link to the type of learning community offered at SIGA.
In their essay, “Ancient Greek Perspectives on Experiential Learning,” Professors Paul Stonehouse, Pete Allison, and David Carr from The University of Edinburgh tell us more:
“Academy is the Greek word for leisure, which in Latin is scola, in English is school. For the Greeks, the re-creative activities of reflection, exercise, and study were the epitome of leisure...the Greek ideal of leisure is more than a mere vacation (literally to be unoccupied); it is a disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion - in the real.”
Just how are we making learning leisurely at SIGA?
After traveling and learning in four or five countries, mastering the eight facets of global citizenship, and exploring and developing their passions and skills, SIGA students reflect, process, apply and present their unique, individualized perspective on their own identity, relationships, learning experiences, and projects implemented throughout their high school career using an innovative Immersive Citizenship curriculum and Multimedia Portfolio program.
Life on a 1,200 acre campus offers ample opportunity for exercise. Whether it is mountain biking on one of the many trails at Blue Ridge Assembly, rock climbing in the indoor climbing gym, joining a game of basketball or soccer after class, or simply walking the wooded trails to reflect on the day, SIGA students take advantage of a beautiful mountain campus to ensure their physical well-being compliments their study.
Finally, students at SIGA are empowered through a rigorous, problem-based and experiential approach to learning to solve authentic, real world problems, making study more meaningful and complex than simple content mastery.
Perhaps “SIGA: where learning is leisure” is not the best motto for our new school. But in the old-school, Greek tradition, it is absolutely true!