How Agora Prep is changing my life…

My son can spell and read!

I conceived of the idea in 2001 while writing my 4th year paper in Education on Engaged Learning. I was trying to conceptualize an alternative learning environment that will mobilize children’s imagination, empower their learning and apply their incredible vision for the future to the actual future

My project at the time was to envision and outline a “school” that encouraged learners to be engaged so fully and completely. A “school” that still gave instruction in the fundamental core subjects like arithmetic and literacy but also empowered students to learn at their own pace. Agora Prep was born in September 2001 and I had no idea then, that it would come to fruition 19 years later!

My essay was wholly based on an alternative way of perceiving learning. Shifting the paradigm of traditional schooling on it’s head. Allowing students to make the choice of what they want to learn and use this as a catalyst for their learning. I outlined my ideology and substantiated my argument with actual studies and ample statistics from various IBL theories (Inquiry Based Learning). I achieved perfect marks on those essays and I happen to have the essays with me at work for nostalgia and a reminder that once a dream is dreamt, it should be achieved.

I approached two amazing people in my life to present my idea in 2020. They understand business and education. They are educated, experienced and trustworthy. I pitch the idea and my heart is doing flips, my stomach is in knots, I am immobilized by my fear that they may not like the idea!!

They were silent for a moment and I was waiting for their reaction. They both smiled and almost simultaneously told me that they were envisioning something similar and that they wished this kind of learning was available when they were younger! I was eternally grateful and my heart leapt for joy. This was it, my chance to revisit, construct and implode an idea I conceived 19 years prior. Little did I know that this, too, was written in their hearts and minds as well. We are truly “equally yoked”

We decided to “pilot” the concept at my partner’s daycare centre in Mississauga. My son started senior kindergarten there in September 2020.

He is on the right with me and that is my partner and CEO of Angelic Treasures Christian Daycare, Angie Girgis with her grandson, Atticus. This was their first day at “school” which we decided to name Agora Prep.

So what makes this transformational and life-changing for me? It’s more than just a vision that came true or a dream that was realized; it was everything I ever wanted for my own children!

Agora Prep was built on the precept that children are capable of choosing their learning. It is constructed in a way that allows teachers to become coaches of learning. A concept that is outlined in 400 pages of Ontario Ministry Curriculum yet often times falls short of its projected inspiration. It is a learning environment built to encourage children to dream and ask questions. A place that allows the student to identify their areas of interests, no matter what those interests are. Based on their interests, be it Dinosaurs or Trains or Bridges or Buildings, coaches will use these topics as the launch pad into instruction of math, language, drama, science, music, finance, art and all other types of core subjects.

On his first day, my 4 year old son described the various parts of the brain including the cerebellum, frontal cortex and brain stem. In his second week, he was proudly explaining the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees. He was also counting to 1000 in French and adding 5 or 6 numbers together on the calculator. They were combining activities that allowed them to discuss velocity, angles, architecture and gravity. They experimented with fractions and measurement while baking cookies. He learned about the various states of matter while doing an activity with ice cubes and he astounded me with his new found knowledge about the various properties of suspension bridges.

My heart was full. I can’t describe the amount of learning that happens when you place accessible, educational activities within a child’s reach. When you ask them to lead their learning and expand on their interests. The incredible engagement and limitless ideas stemming from the child’s own imaginings and innate capacity for curiousity.

In our ongoing efforts to expand on this model, my wonderful partners, Wess Doss and Angie Girgis, have delved into this world of educational shifting with me and I can’t be more humbled nor grateful. They are both entrenched and equally passionate about this philosophy of learning. Now it has become a team of executives that wish to change the world one Agora Prep at a time and one child at a time. We are seeking a location that will see Agora Prep being offered to children in grades 1 to 8 and I am elated with the anticipated learning that will take place!

I feel like my dreams have taken flight. My son is completely engaged in learning and has exceeded his sisters in grades 2 and 4 with his knowledge acquired thus far. The coaches in the room are equally shocked at the amount of learning happening when it is purely child-led. They both have Masters’ Degrees in Education and they never realized how this model can be so effective.

This is no traditional school. This is a dream come true that will inspire life-long learning, functional skills, entrepreneurship and future global leaders.

I truly believe that if we build it, they will come. And now it’s your turn. Please reply to this one questions I have for you in the comments:

What kind of environment would you have like to have while learning in your early years? What would you have liked to learn?

With love, Smartignani

http://www.agoraprep.com (visit us to learn more about our learning environment)

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