The four cornerstones of the Hoboken Charter School — academic, artistic, personal, and civic growth — are unified by two basic educational practices: learner-centered education and service-learning. This work is done via a lens of social justice. Key terms and definitions and corresponding icons that are used universally in our community are as follows:
Social Justice Education
Social justice education engages students in exploring identity, diversity, equity and justice in their community and the world. Through this approach, students are empowered and prepared with the skills to promote equity, challenge injustice and become agents of change.
K-4 Student language: I can do my part to make this world equal and fair for everyone.
Service-learning engages students in experiential learning as they tackle real-world problems through service while reinforcing academic standards, content and skills.
K-4 Student language: I can use what I’m learning in school to help others in my community and world.
Learner Centered Education
Learner-centered education engages students in active and personalized experiences where students take ownership of learning with teachers as facilitators. This approach enables students to explore academic content while gaining the skills needed to become responsible citizens, independent problem-solvers and self-directed, lifelong learners.
K-4 Student language: I can be an active learner to keep growing in the way that is best for me.
Interage Experiences /Bridge between Divisions
A K-12 experience unites students of all ages in collaborative work that is driven by the unique talents of all of its members. Younger students gain role models and mentors while older students gain a sense of pride and accomplishment, develop leadership skills and deepen their understanding.
K-4 Student language: We are a K12 community learning and growing together.
Across disciplines and at every grade level, students engage in multiple learning experiences through which they explore concepts of identity, diversity, justice and action. Often lessons are cross-age and/or interdisciplinary. Service-learning experiences often intersect with social justice education and allow for students to further engage in the academic content while reinforcing critical life skills and instilling in students a sense of social and civic responsibility. Service-learning is inherently learner-centered. Students engage in interactive, hands-on work where they carry the heavy load of learning. They set goals, problem-solve and work collaboratively toward a common goal through authentic work. Professional development has been critical to this work as we as a school team assess our own biases and analyze our school practices and policies to further support mission alignment.
Although there are mission connections in every course, unique coursework, such as our Middle School Mission Labs and Upper School Foundations and Social Justice Activism Electives allow students to more deeply explore the mission. Middle school students elect six different cross-grade mission labs per school year through which they explore a social justice issue and end with an action project they plan with peers. Research, public speaking, writing and collaborative problem-solving skills are reinforced. Some recent courses have included craftivism, world drumming, improvisation, art journaling, Podcasting-Stories of the Other, Environmental Justice Pioneers and International Marketing. All ninth graders as well as any new students between 9th and 12th grade take Foundations, a course that provides students with a fundamental understanding of the key principles of social justice education, as well as direct instruction in executive functioning skills that support overall academic success. Additionally, students participate in cross-age Social Justice Activism Electives every year through which students study and master activist tools such as Speech Writing, Flags and Protest Signs, Social Media, Podcasting, Microlending, Film as Activism, Spoken Word Poetry, Fashion as Activism, Music of Change and Government- Solving the World’s Problems.
Student voice and choice and personalization is an important component to a learner-centered school. From the workshop model in K-4 where students select their texts to reinforce literacy skills to frequent options for choice-based learning to differentiated instruction by content, process and product, our students develop autonomy, have their voices and passion inform their learning and engage deeply in coursework at a young age. Middle school students elect cross-age artsbridge coursework, mission labs and enrichment electives each trimester and develop ideas for culminating projects. Upper school students are regularly surveyed for interests, and coursework is planned to provide a more personalized experience in core curriculum classes, beyond the electives mentioned above. Besides these opportunities to express their voice, students also participate in Explorations courses – Sophomore Passion Projects and Graduation Project Seminars. These courses allow students to delve into a personal interest and find connections to Social Justice and Service-Learning, all while learning research and presentation skills as well as opportunities to connect this learning through real world experiences and internships.
Older students also have the opportunity to explore their interests in more depth through dual-enrollment courses and independent studies. Students are encouraged to enroll in college courses and apply to receive dual credit (high school as well as college credit) for these courses. Some courses are held at HCS (at no cost to students) through a partnership with Fairleigh Dickinson University. Recently, this has included Intro to Education: Teachers of Tomorrow and Intro to Criminal Justice. Others are held offsite at other local colleges including HCCC and St. Peter’s University Students may choose to take courses related to an area of interest, elective courses, or courses that are not offered at HCS. Recently, students have taken American Sign Language, Intro to Biology with Lab, Business Law, and Introduction to Psychology. HCS has a strong scholarship program to ensure equal opportunity to these courses. The class of 2021 Valedictorian graduated with an entire semester of college credit completed. Juniors and Seniors may also apply to take an independent study course. The independent study program is intended for an individual who seeks intense study in an academic area not currently offered in our curriculum or further depth in an area. These students propose a topic and work with a mentor to develop the program of study. Recent independent studies have included Anatomy and Physiology, Creative Writing, Fashion Design, Wildlife Conservation, 3D Computer Animation and World Languages such as Japanese and Korean.
All of our courses are designed to incorporate elements of collaboration, hands-on, experiential learning experiences and opportunities to connect with the real world making coursework authentic and relevant thereby creating an inherently engaging environment. These principles serve as the foundation for service-learning as an instructional tool to reinforce academic content and skills through action.
Interage learning engages students in learning experiences that unite students of all ages in collaborative work that is driven by the unique talent of all its members. Younger students gain role models while older students gain a sense of pride and accomplishment, develop leadership skills and deepen their understanding.
Continue reading about our four cornerstones…