There’s a new addition to the roster of independent middle and high schools in our area. TREE Academy (“TREE” stands for Think, cReate, Engage, Empower), a non-profit school “for the creative arts, new technology and social justice,” is being launched this fall by Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences and New Roads School founder Paul Cummins, and former Crossroads literature and ethics teacher Darryl Sollerh. The school will open its doors this coming academic year to students in grades 6-9, and will add a grade each year until it includes 6th through 12th grades.
As Cummins and Sollerh explained at an open house attended by about 75 people this past Sunday, March 13, at the school’s new facility at 5555 W. Olympic Blvd. (Olympic and Dunsmuir), TREE Academy is designed to offer an innovative school experience, with customized scheduling, a mix of seminar, one-on-one and independent learning in each subject, and an average of only 8 students per class (with maximum school enrollment capped at the deliberately small number of 200 for the entire school).
Students’ individual interests and passions will also play a strong role in the program. They will design “passion projects,” based on their own individual areas of interest, and most of their “home” work will be done during the school day in a “Learning Lab” session with a teacher present to provide academic support as needed. That way, students will take home little or no work to do after school each day, and they will have more time to develop and explore other interests.
At Sunday’s event, Cummins said the desire to eliminate homework, and leave students’ out-of-school time for family, leisure and other interests, was a key motivator for creating the new school (the sixth he has had a hand in founding). Quoting philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti (who said, “It is only when you have leisure that you can learn”), Cummins said his goal is for kids to wake up each day excited about going to school…and that they should also have time in their lives to do the things they like and want to do, because those are the passions that fuel their lifelong desire to learn.
According to the founders, TREE Academy’s program will fulfill all UC A-G requirements and common core standards, and will include arts, physical education, foreign language and a strong environmental studies component (via a school garden and a seed-to-table – and possibly to market – garden education program). According to the school’s recruiting brochure, TREE Academy is “designed for high achievers or students feeling disengaged, for students with burning passions as well as for those with alternative learning modes.” The school’s founders also stressed that another goal is to provide 40% of its students with full-tuition financial aid, to help ensure as diverse a student body as possible.
5555 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036