Executive Summary

River Ridge Academy opened its doors in August 2015 and now serves 1,200-plus students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in Bluffton, SC.  River Ridge prides itself in its mission to meeting the needs of the whole child by being a Responsive Classroom school through addressing their social, emotional and academic needs.  Safety, joy and challenge are the key tenets in which our educators strive to meet each day as they set foot in the classroom.  We offer two popular school choices – Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and Montessori – that allow students to choose the instructional methods that fit their personal talents, interests and learning styles.  Our STEM learning opportunities exist across all grade levels and school choice programs.  River Ridge Academy is a one-to-one device school in which every student in grades K-8 has a personal technology device (iPad or Dell tablet) that they are interacting with on a daily basis for the purpose of research and mastery of content and skills.  In addition, we are supported by more than 200 volunteers and business partners, as well as 100-plus dads who are involved in our “Watchdog” program.

In our elementary school (PK-4th grade), our PLTW students are exposed to the PLTW Launch curriculum. These students have thrived in a STEM rich learning environment focused on the engineering design process in which the students are completing modules on an ongoing basis.  In addition, both our Montessori and PLTW elementary students are also exposed and highly enjoy attending their LEGO Robotics Lab class once per week.  Inside this weekly class the students are actively engaged in a collaborative learning process that strongly supports STEM learning, problem solving and continuously helps encourage 21st century learning skills.

At our middle school level (5-8th grade) students are exposed to a more traditional curriculum in the core classes where educators continuously collaborate to build lessons that inspire student collaboration and inquiry based learning in a cross-curricular approach.  One piece that is unique to River Ridge Academy, which separates us from most middle schools, is our requirement that all students are exposed to a minimum of one semester in our PLTW- Gateway to Technology sections during their encore classes annually.  We also offer Media Arts and Google Basics (.5 high school credit) as encore classes to bolster our STEM learning opportunities for our students.  In all classes, teachers provide a hands on approach for students to personalize their own learning through a collaborative approach which inspires a deeper understanding of content.

An area of ongoing development throughout the building is engaging our students in the engineering design process throughout lessons.  Educators continue to receive professional development on lesson schema to support the design process as an effective instructional method in any content area.  Students and teachers view the design process as a tool to think and learn without fear of failure.

Our teachers recognize the importance of students being STEM literate within all content areas to prepare them for a globally competitive future. Students are learning how to think in a logical and sequential manner, analyze text in words and numbers, see relationships, form questions from text, and develop hypothesis. Being STEM literate is also understanding global perspectives, point-of-view, and being able to read and understand primary and secondary sources.  Through ongoing literacy support specific to the various disciplines, our students have demonstrated a degree of readiness for the next level.

River Ridge teachers support STEM education through daily collaboration during their common planning periods.  Through the use of our district wide curriculum mapping of essential learning, along with following the scope and sequence of specific modules and units of study our teachers plan for integration across all content areas.  Teachers implement opportunities in all lessons for students to engage with technology through various tools to promote mastery of content and demonstrate student learning through performance-based assignments and assessments.  River Ridge teachers understand the value in creating collaborative STEM learning experiences that provide students the opportunity to think creatively and critically toward solving real world problems.

In summary, administrators and teachers at River Ridge Academy have designed an environment that supports the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students.  Our school community is dedicated to providing a rigorous and relevant learning environment focused on STEM principles and processes that will guide students into a globally competitive future.  We strive to fulfill our motto of, “Building a Better World, One Student at a Time.”